Crowning this Sydney beach house are a bar and balcony in hot demand — from parents who love to entertain and kids who enjoy a separate entrance.
Jun 06, 2022 5:50am
Who lives here: Nicki and Jack Kalaf with their children — Archie, 21, Joe, 19, and Maggie, 17 — plus dog Billie, a long-haired German shepherd.
Style of the home: A renovated five-bedroom house featuring new external architecture and a cantilevered balcony with views of Bronte Beach.
Location: Sydney’s eastern suburbs, land of the Bidjigal and Gadigal people.
Timeline: The couple reached out to interior designer Jillian Dinkel in late 2019 to discuss carrying out a pre-approved DA plan. Interior-design work commenced in February 2020 and the build began that October. All work was complete by September 2021.
With independent rear access, a dedicated first floor and a location that’s just a hop, skip and a jump to Bronte Beach, any young adult would be hard-pressed to leave the nest. And for the three Kalaf teenagers, the new floor plan of their family home means that their bedrooms are right by the top-floor bar and balcony, arguably the best position in the house.
However, it’s a space that can be difficult to access when their parents, Nicki and Jack, are hosting.
“We often claim this as a ‘members only’ area when entertaining – password required! The teenagers can get quite creative when trying to bypass security… which would be me!” jokes Nicki. But on a more serious note, it’s a welcoming home the couple love to share. “The door is always open for their friends to come and hang,” she says.
When the Kalafs bought the house in 2016, it was in dire need of help. Built as a red-brick bungalow in the 1930s, it had been given an unfortunate 1980s renovation, complete with faux Federation accents, terracotta painted surfaces, mismatched leadlight windows, glass bricks and dated spa baths. But the biggest design crime of all was the tiny juliet balconies barely looking out to the 180-degree ocean views.
Initially, Nicki and Jack did a small renovation that included a new ground-floor kitchen, living room and bathroom. It was during this period that Nicki first met interior designer Jillian Dinkel and the two hit it off immediately. In 2019, Nicki and Jack asked Sydney firm Smyth & Smyth to do a Development Application process for the larger works, and then Nicki reached out to Jillian, who took the reins in conjunction with architect Maryanne Taskovski and carried the project from DA approval right through to construction.
Their brief was relatively simple: to lose the Eighties vibe and turn the house into a modern Australian beach house. Jillian’s scope involved finessing the interiors, adjusting the spatial plan and managing all the fixtures, finishes and furniture. At this point, all the heritage features of the house had been stripped.
“I specialise in redesigning period homes, but this project was interesting because it already had a modern exterior,” she says. “I wanted to balance the outside form by introducing a softness and homeliness inside.”
Jillian tapped into some Spanish Mission style with arched and panelled timber doors, as well as dark flooring. Taking her cues from the home’s facade and curving, cantilevered top-floor balcony by architecture firm Smyth & Smyth, she introduced cut-out arched niches to the house and placed elements such as shelves and bench seats inside them.
Lighting was key to Jillian’s design, with the many sconces and pendants she chose differing from room to room. From Articolo glass ball pendants to the rattan light (Jillian’s favourite) in the stairwell, the mix was intended to give each area a unique personality.
In terms of space, the ground floor was already large so there was no need to expand it. (In the kitchen, Jillian just updated the existing island bench with a thin steel frame and new V-groove timber boards painted Dulux Klavier). The areas running along the western side of the house remained in position, but on the opposite side of the hallway a bathroom, two bedrooms and a powder room were demolished to make way for a spacious main-bedroom suite.
“Moving the main bedroom downstairs and away from the view was met with a few raised eyebrows, but it meant we could use the upstairs living area and balcony as a communal space,” says Nicki.
On this level, the timber floorboards were stained black Japan and, for a seamless look, matched with a uniquely engineered black floorboard in the ensuite that can withstand water.
As for the first floor, it was a case of gutting and starting afresh. Though this level can be accessed by an internal staircase, part of the home’s appeal was its rear stair entry.
“It was a huge drawcard because it enables the kids to come in without disturbing us. Although Billie [the dog] lets us know when they arrive home,” laughs Nicki.
In addition to the kids’ bedrooms, there’s a bar area with a dish drawer and sink, and a huge family room that opens to an expansive deck.
“Maggie’s room has a great built-in bench seat and French doors with a balcony, Archie’s room opens directly onto the big deck, and Joe’s room has an integrated desk with ocean views,” says Jillian. “All their rooms are incredible for different reasons. Why would they ever want to leave?”
“Trusting the designer and spending money on high-quality fixtures and finishes is worth it,” says Nicki Kalaf, homeowner. “We lived in the house before embarking on the major renovation, partly because we wanted to see where we spent the most time and how the seasons dictated the light in all of the entertaining areas. I’m so glad we did. And even though we tried not to make any adjustments mid-build, we did change the exterior timber cladding and joinery in the laundry during the process. However, Jill handled it effortlessly.”