Home of the Month

A Family’s Dreamy Sea-Change Home + Coastal Garden

Ocean Thinkers founder Sally Smith and Natural Elements horticulturalist Stuart Fahey long dreamed of living by the water, so they made a permanent sea change from inner Melbourne to the Mornington Peninsula in 2017.

They eventually purchased a half-renovated home in Rye, and worked with Georgina Jeffries to make the interiors more light-filled, calming, and appropriate for their young family.

Indoor and outdoor spaces were given equal priority in the renovation, creating a cohesive and generous family home, and mostly native garden that’s made for entertaining!

Lucy Feagins
Editorial styling

Annie Portelli

Supported by Dulux

Sally Smith, Stuart Fahey, Charlie (7), Rose (5), and Lulu (1) in their Rye home.

Jardan armchair and ottoman. Mark Tuckey coffee table. Mia Taninaka artwork on wall. James Needham artwork on shelf. Amy Leeworthy ceramics. Dulux Natural White paint on walls and ceiling. GlobeWest sofa. Woodcut Pale Oak floors.

Pittella cabinetry knobs. Life By Shades blinds.

Warm Nordic light.

Tsé & Tsé light. Købn hand towel.

Jardan mirror. Nemo Lighting  Linear Standard cabinetry handles.


Jardan mirror. Nemo Lighting  Linear Standard cabinetry handles.

Stuart used his plant knowledge as a horticulturalist and founder of Natural Elements to enhance the garden.

The entrance to the home.

The garden features a mostly native palette to suit the Mornington Peninsula climate.

In winter, warm outdoor showers after surfing and football become a weekly occurrence.

The outdoor fireplace, inherited from the previous owner.

Lucy Feagins
Editorial styling

Annie Portelli

20th of December 2023
Interior design
Garden design + horticulture

Sally Smith and Stuart Fahey moved from the city to the beach after the birth of their first child, and never looked back.

‘Throughout our 20s, we would always spend weekends at Flinders and Rye, sharing beautiful meals with friends and family on sun-kissed decks, jumping off piers, exploring the beaches and walking the tracks,’ recalls Sally.

‘We both knew we wanted to raise our kids close to the ocean, and give them the opportunity to explore and learn more about the coastal environment in their backyard.’

The couple rented for several years as their family grew, before purchasing their current home in Rye, and embarking on a major renovation.

Sally and Stuart didn’t want to expand the existing home, but the floor plan needed reworking to better suit their growing family. ‘We didn’t want a big house, and our outdoor spaces are just as important as our indoor, so we decided to take up the verandah space and rework the rooms inside,’ says Sally.

The couple worked with Georgina Jeffries to achieve this vision.

While simple in theory, due to the sloping site, the renovation required demolishing and rebuilding almost half the home to achieve the desired ceiling height in the front rooms. ‘While drastic at the time, I am so glad we did it and of course it was a no brainer that we would reconstruct the original ceiling feature,’ says Sally.

Originally a circa 1970s house, the interiors had already been significantly updated before Sally and Stuart bought the place. With a brief to create a more light-filled and neutral aesthetic, Georgina Jeffries specificed Dulux Natural White walls, new timber floors, glazed ceramic kitchen tiles, crazy paving on entry that blurs indoors and out, and light green joinery throughout.

Attention to detail has been applied even in the most practical spaces, including the mud room on entry. ‘We shifted the door and designed the window to ensure the garden became part of the mud room,’ says Sally. ‘I regularly sit on the bench seat reading books with the kids or talking about their day while taking their shoes off.’

The previous owner of the property was a landscaper, who had already completed significant works to excavate and update the front garden, including the installation of large concrete floating steps that allow plenty of moments of pause.

Stuart used his plant knowledge as a horticulturalist to enhance these outdoor spaces, choosing plans appropriate to the Mornington Peninsula climate.

‘We wanted a garden that could thrive without irrigation. Plant selections have been mostly native, with the introduction of some hardy exotics that can withstand sandy soil and our dry summers,’ says Sally.

‘We move around our outdoor spaces throughout the seasons, which we love. From January through to Easter, our outdoor deck and table become our main dining area. In autumn, we find ourselves by the outdoor fireplace for afternoon drinks; and in winter, warm outdoor showers after surfing and football become a weekly occurrence.’

Sally loved the process of renovating their home alongside their design and construction team, including Rawlinson. ‘All our trades were a pleasure to work with, and we came to miss speaking with them daily after we moved in!’ Sally says.

This group of people are part of the Peninsula community and environment that the family have embraced, inspiring Sally’s new project, Ocean Thinkers — a community initiative dedicated to fostering ocean conservation awareness among youth.

‘We are extremely lucky to have incredible beaches and nature reserves at our doorstep,’ Sally says. ‘Our love for the area has only grown more.’

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