Home Decor Interview: Sarah from “A Beach Cottage”

Admit it: part of you has always wanted to get up, leave your house and family behind, and set up a new life on the beach in some foreign country.

Our guest today, Sarah, had the courage to do just that. Not only that, but she has never looked back. And she writes all about her adventures in A Beach Cottage, a neat little blog that makes us all wish we could do what she did, but are too afraid to do.

We admire Sarah for changing her life and chasing her dream, and for those who have ever considered doing the same, please read this special interview from someone who has been there and done that. Let’s begin the questions!

1. Hi Sarah, thank you for joining us today. Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your blog, “A Beach Cottage.”

a-beach-cottageThanks so much for inviting me. I am the owner of an old cottage on the Northern Beaches of Sydney Australia.

We found the run-down place at the end of 2007 in a terrible state of neglect and have renovated, updated and decorated it on a budget.

I began to document our journey of our cottage by the sea in my blog abeachcottage.com in 2008 to keep me focused on my projects, I didn’t realize that I’d meet lots of people interested in our home and lifestyle. I have met some great friends from all over the world and I receive many emails from those who, like me, were disillusioned with not having the right budget to decorate their homes but after reading my blog they decide to have a go and make the best of it.

2. It takes a ton of courage to do what you did: leave a very good life in England and head for the unchartered waters of Australian beach life.

a-beach-cottage-2What was the final breaking point that made you decide to finally make the move? Was it an accumulation of being tired of the British life, or was it one thing in particular that made you decide?

There were lots of reasons why we left England but the main thing was we wanted our kids to grow up by the ocean in a warm climate and enjoy the benefits this lifestyle brings.

We didn’t feel like it took courage at the time because we were all ready and raring to go off on an adventure, looking back now I think we must have been crazy! We arrived in Sydney, via San Francisco after a long grueling journey with 5 suitcases and a holiday apartment, no schools, house or anything and we knew not a single soul.

3. In your blog, you hinted that after you moved to Australia, the beach life wasn’t always what you expected. What were some of those initial challenges you faced, and how did you overcome them?

The beach life was exactly what we had hoped for and much more, we love incorporating being by the sea with our day-to-day life but we had under-estimated the realities of moving to the other side of the world – we have had to work at building relationships, support networks and have found business opportunities challenging.

We have overcome these by taking time and allowing ourselves room to find our feet, this has sometimes been a bit tough.

4. You definitely bought a fixer upper, and you’ve done a marvelous job in making it over. When you moved to Australia, what made you decide to buy a fixer upper rather than a newer or upgraded home?

a-beach-cottage-3Our main reason for buying a fixer-upper was mostly budget.

We wanted to be near enough to the beach but still be able to commute to the city and we wanted an older style house – all these variables meant the price would be high so for us to afford it and maintain our home in England we knew we would have to look for an Australian home that was needing some love and therefore meant the price was a bit lower.

5. A lot of people dream of living on the beach, but never do. To those who dream or who are thinking about it, what advice do you have for them before they make the big plunge?

a-beach-cottage-4If you dream about living in a beach house it will be everything you want it to be, I wish we had done it so much sooner, we love living by the sea and our kids very quickly fell into the beach life, loving being in the water and outdoors.

My best advice would be find an area you love and go for a vacation and check it out, then immerse yourself in that area and research all you can. Or do as we did, and jump right on in!

6. Your decorating style is obviously vintage coastal. What is it about this style that attracts you to it, and where do you get most of your decorating sense from?

a-beach-cottage-5I love the vintage look and had started to incorporate it into my decorating style in England, though it was more chintzy and colorful there. Once we were here I felt the color didn’t work with all the amazing vibrant colors that abound outdoors in Australia so I began to pare down the colorsand used the neutrals of the seaside – putty, sand, grays and mostly white.

I love old pieces of furniture with their faded patina and knew this look would co-ordinate well with a coastal feel so I scoured thebeach sidesuburbs for interesting pieces that would give the pale palette some texture and depth. I love this look because it is unfussy and unstructured and it provides a great retreat at the end of a busy day.

I get a lot of inspiration from blogs and websites and not always in the ‘style’ that I like, I look for ideas on how to do things without spending too much money and then adapt them to my look. Oh and I can more often than not be found curled up on the deck or in the sitting room with a home decorating book and a huge pot of Australian tea!

7. How often do you visit back home in England, and do you ever miss your home? Have you seen how the renters have decorated it, and if so, how have they decorated it?

We haven’t been back to England yet though we are planning to this year. And yes we have seen the renters’ style in our home in England and it is, ummm, shall we say not quite how I would do it! Not being one to like purple that much…

8. You’ve already written a great article advising readers how to achieve a beachy, coastal look for their homes, so we won’t ask you about that.

a-beach-cottage-6But we would like to ask you how that style makes you feel when you sit on a quiet day, look around your home, and soak in all the decor. In other words, what does beachy do for the soul?

The beachy look is certainly relaxing and easy maintenance – wood floors and pale colors are simple to look after and easy to keep clean and despite what some might think with three kids it works well as long as you buy things that can be thrown in the machine!

When I sit in one of my reading spots, to be totally honest I look around at it all and count my blessings a million times…living by the sea just somehow makes life all the more easier, soothing the soul.

9. Sarah, thanks again for the interview. For this last question, please tell us your three favorite things about living near the beach in Australia, and if you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?!

a-beach-cottage-7I’m an outdoors girl so the laidback Australian lifestyle suits me perfectly, I spend lots of time walking and playing sport and hunting out old wares but my favoritepastimeis bumping into friends down the beach. The wonderful climate and the opportunities this provides mean we get to enjoy the fantastic nature which abounds all around for most of the year, at the weekends we go for picnics and BBQs at the beach or to one of the many beautiful National Parks.

If I had to do it over again we would probably rent an apartment right overlooking the sea, rather than renting a large house further away from the sea and looking back it would possibly have been a good idea to sell up our house and cut all ties so we could start living our new life right away but then again that wouldn’t have led us to this tatty old cottage and the adventures in renovating it.

Well if that doesn’t want to make you change your life and leave for your favorite vacation spot permanently, I don’t know what will. Sarah is a real life example of the HGTV show, “International House Hunters!”

Thanks so much to Sarah for sharing her life with us and giving us hope that we really can achieve our dream beach life if we set out to do it. Kudos to Sarah and her family.

Please check out A Beach Cottage today, and then go book that next resort vacation!

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