With family connections to the Central Coast region of NSW, Interior Designer Xanthe Highfield and her husband, restaurateur Sam Clayton (of Woy Woy Fishermens Wharf) spent the better part of 2015 house hunting in this area, before taking the big leap and moving their family here permanently.
‘When I saw the place it was the first home I wanted,’ Xanthe recalls. ‘The backyard was so big and felt rambling, and it was a walk to the beach. No one else bid on it so we lucked out!’
After securing the charming but run-down property, the pair had some work to do. They initially moved in, and spent some time getting to know the place and making plans for a future renovation. Then, they moved out, and rented it out for a few years whilst living above Sam’s restaurant, to save money for the necessary upgrades! Eventually, after undertaking renovations in late 2020, the family (with kids Ace, now 8, and Clover, now 5) moved back in for good.
A key driver of the renovation was to make the home more energy efficient. ‘It was a really cold house, so we insulated underfloor, walls and ceiling,’ Xanthe explains. The re-design also opened up the home to the morning sun, via double glazed windows/sliding doors, and the addition of a generous deck adjoining the living area and main bedroom. They also covered the roof with solar panels – another fortuitous forward-thinking investment!
The couple worked with architect James Fraser on the re-design, with breezy, coastal-inspired interiors designed by Xanthe, and the upgrades were completed in record time by builder eBuild and Consult. All up, the renovation took just six months.
When it came to the interiors, Xanthe approached the design with a sense of restraint.
‘As I mainly work in hospitality design (at Fabric Architecture), my brain is filled with vibrant and varying references and styles all the time. I wanted a home that didn’t compete with the visual noise, and felt natural and timeless,’ she explains.
The result is a joyful, relaxed home that sits comfortably within its natural surroundings. The interiors seem to spill out onto the deck, framed by a backdrop of towering trees that can be seen from almost every room in the house. In the main bedroom, this lush green view is complemented by Abbotson bed linen from Sheridan, in the perfect shade of ‘cactus’.
‘The Sheridan bed linen is a soft green that ties in the layered views of trees over the mountains, my favorite part of the home,’ Xanthe says. ‘They have a soft organic feel that creates a calmness, which was exactly what we wanted for the bedroom’. Above the bed, a sentimental painting by her late father, Robert Highfield, depicts a serene ocean scene.
Interestingly, Xanthe has actively avoided the idea of creating a ‘finished’ home. ‘I’ve always admired people’s homes that tell a story of their life,’ she muses. ‘A home that is filled with pieces that they have found over time and curated, rather than bought all at once.’
This sentiment is echoed in the family’s mix of old and new pieces, furniture handmade from salvaged materials, and artwork by friends and family. On surfaces and shelves, the ephemera of family life is on display – kids creations, seedpods and beach-scavenged treasures sit happily alongside pieces by local creatives – such as decorative candles from Twinkling Tabletops (Xanthe’s ‘latest love’), and her prized possession, a paper owl sculpture made by her cousin, artist Anna Wili-Highfield.
For Xanthe and Sam, home is a sanctuary. ‘Especially after covid I think the whole world realised the importance of creating a home you love to be in,’ Xanthe says. ‘When I come into our home, I feel calmer. It feels like an escape.’
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