Graphic designer and gallerist Holly McCauley, and her cabinet maker husband Nich Zalmstra had lived in the ‘rainbow region’ (Northern Rivers of NSW for the uninitiated!) since 2010, and are committed fans of the area. After initially seeing this place on a drive-by scouting mission, the pair both agreed ‘it wasn’t worth even going to the open house, it was such a dump.’ It was only once they realised the limitations of their budget, that they reassessed the property, and saw the potential of making this humble shelter into a home.
Placing an offer – without even seeing inside – was also hastened when the couple learnt they were expecting their first baby! This excitement was a little dampened once they received the keys, as Holly describes ‘we hated the look of it!’ Over the past 3.5 years, thought, Nich has put his apprentice cabinet making skills to the test, transforming this gloomy 80s fibro kit home into a place the whole family loves.
The initial tasks were taming the garden, dismantling a rotting backyard yurt (!), adding a fresh coat of white paint, creating a new deck and removing the old carpet. After that, Nich arduously polished the concrete slab with a hand grinder (!), added new kitchen storage and a new bathroom, and paneled all the interior walls with VJ board. While the family hasn’t made any major structural changes yet, with baby number two on the way, they are hoping for a loft bedroom in the near future.
At 60sqm, the small footprint of this home makes it more like a granny flat than a family house, but Holly explains that is it ample for their living style. The interiors balance the simplicity of plywood, white paint and concrete with the couple’s vibrant collections of mexican blankets, artworks, surfboards and special trinkets. Holly highlights ‘I don’t know what kind of category it fits into, but I like to think our home reflects us, where we have been and how we like to live.’
After a childhood of moving about and many years hovering in share-houses, it took Holly a moment to feel settled in being settled! But she describes that the sense of home is ‘now what I feel most grateful for.’
The family definitely feel fully settled here, both in their small home, and in the region as a whole. Holly concludes ‘There is something pretty magical about this part of the world beyond its pretty beaches and easy lifestyle – and we try to embrace all of it, as often as possible. We met each other here and are raising our kids here – this pocket of the world certainly has our hearts.’