A Character-Filled + ‘Unpretentious’ Forever Home In Fingal Head

The brief behind this renovated house in Fingal Head, NSW, was to create a comfortable, functional, and ultimately ‘unpretentious’ forever home for a Sydney couple.

Symbiosphere Architects peeled back the layers of unsympathetic additions, to reveal the enduring charm of a 1940s timber cottage.

With styling help from Eco Interiors, the renovation has turned this beachside abode into the perfect canvas for the owners’ sentimental collection of art and quirky objects.

Christina Karras
Interior Styling

The renovation blends original timber details with reconfigured, airy spaces. Bark paintings by Mickey Dorrung.

Cutouts and new windows ensure every room has a view to the outdoors.

The owners — a pair of medical professionals who were moving to Fingal Head from Sydney — bought plenty of personal touches to the eclectic interiors.

‘They had worked and lived in remote Aboriginal communities and had a love of the outdoors and cooking on fire,’ the architect Rob explains.

Rice paper pendants add to the home’s pared-back atmosphere.

An exposed hardwood stud wall features a glowing light box above the Night Heron painting by Peta Hinton.

Plywood lines the kitchen walls and ceiling.

Painting by Freddie Timms.

An impressive collection of artworks adds colour in every room. Painting by Amy French and Lily Long.

One of the light-filled bedrooms. Camel painting by Aaron Pie Pie.

A long internal veranda on the north side was reframed as a multi-purpose room, overlooking the branches of an enormous Poinciana tree.

The terracotta tiled bathroom.

The entrance of the home.

One of the home’s spacious decks.

Bushfire resistant hardwood shiplap boards, hardwood posts and reused galvanised iron roofing features across the exterior.

All the finishes were chosen for their rustic qualities.

The view of the home from the driveway.

Christina Karras
Interior Styling
25th of January 2024

Fingal Head, NSW/Bundjalung Country

Fingal Head is a village on the far northeast coast of New South Wales that feels more peaceful than the nearby areas of Tweed Heads and the Gold Coast.

It was here that the Sydney-based clients of Symbiosphere Architects decided to make a sea change, after falling in love with the area on their visits.

‘They found a house that resonated with their love of places that are unpretentious, original, and quirky, and made of authentic materials,’ director Rob Norman says.

Originally a 1940s timber cottage, the property needed some love before it could become their forever home. A series of ‘unsympathetic additions’ over time had concealed most of the original timber, while the ‘extremely dysfunctional’ floorplan had made the interior dark, poorly ventilated, and mouldy.

‘But there was good in the bad waiting to be uncovered,’ Rob added.

The masonite was stripped from the interior to reveal the original single-skin timber walls with their diagonal cross braces. Removing the ceilings exposed hardwood collar tie beams and the rake of the roof meant taller and airier spaces could be created in the core of the house. And beneath the lino and carpet, they found rustic timber floorboards that were full of character.

The ultimate goal of the project was to build on these features, retaining a connection to its origins without becoming a complete heritage restoration.

‘Authentic materials that have visual character and age well were to be prioritised; plasterboard was not allowed,’ Rob says.

They wrapped the exterior with a raw-looking fibre cement sheet, using hardwood cover battens to cover joints, while the new zincalume roofing offers a similar rustic look to galvanised steel.

Inside, the existing timber panels have been painted a coastal, pale aquamarine hue, and paired with plywood lining across the new and extended rooms. The eclectic interiors were driven by the owners themselves, who had an ‘incredible’ collection of quirky ceramics, colourful art, and patterned furniture — which Eco Interiors’ Sally Stent styled to inject personality into the pared-back renovation.

‘My influence was to showcase how the owners really live: casually, communally, and playfully,’ she adds. ‘This house is a testament to keeping all the things that you love with a personal story.’

This careful curation has made the living room a calm oasis at the heart of the home, with cut-outs that allow glimpses of the gardens from almost every direction. Every effort has been made to ensure the transformed abode feels ‘at home’ in Fingal, capturing the character of the area’s vintage beach houses in a whole new way!

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