From 70s Brick Box to Timeless Beach House

I love Perth. But in my humble opinion, the rugged NSW coast has to be one of the most beautiful and special parts of Australia. A few years ago my sister-in-law relocated from Sydney to live in a beach house in a small town a couple of hours south of the city (just near Berry, if you know where that is) so I’ve been lucky enough to have an excuse to spend a bit of time over there. It’s heaven for me – so many beautiful renovations! The first time Mr Nerd and I visited, we were blown away by how pretty it is – to that point where you’re on holiday but find you’re musing or daydreaming, “Could we move here?”

I love how diverse the scenery in coastal NSW is, how you can go from idyllic coastal town to dark Wuthering Heights type hills to dense rainforest to Enid Blyton rolling countryside to mountain ranges in what seems like the space of an hour. But what I also really love are the houses. While many are similar to what you’d find in WA, I find a lot of marked differences in them, too – comparing, say, a 70s beach house here in Scarborough to a 70s beach house over in Gerroa. But I’m also intrigued by the way east coasters renovate them – the layouts, the materials, the styles, the interior styling and the paint colours (there’s a whole lot more duck egg blue, sage and black over there than you ever see here… the kinds of beautiful colours I wish we’d see more of in WA!) I go full House Nerd every time I’m over there, drinking it all in greedily, mentally renovating fixer-uppers I pass on jogs and creepily Instagramming houses that aren’t mine.

So while most of my House Nerd home tours are WA-based, today I’m sharing a NSW coastal renovation – one with a gorgeous beach house look that I think would actually translate really well to the coastal homes we have in WA houses too. This house was renovated by Kyal and Kara Demmrich, of The Block fame.

Kyal, a builder, and his wife Kara, a physiotherapist turned full-time renovator, met back when Kara was 16 and Kyal was 17 through mutual friends and have been married for ten years. They’ve now worked on an estimated FORTY renovations – and this is one of their latest, a 1970s fixer-upper in Toowoon Bay. Some of you would have no doubt seen photos of this home on the internet before (Kyal and Kara also made a show about the home’s renovation journey) however I think it’s just too inspiring a transformation not to share here! Look how much nicer this looks now.




Kyal and Kara had been looking for a renovation project close to the beach for a year. “We were looking for a house with good bones, in a good location close to beach, shops and cafes, and a block that could either handle an extension or a second dwelling,” says Kara. Almost every day she searched online, looking at the price ranges of houses listed in suburbs they wanted to buy in, and they checked out auctions whenever they could.

Then this house turned up – a four bedroom, two bathroom home with a garage that had been converted into a rumpus room. “The home was essentially a 1970s red brick box that had been somewhat neglected after an agreement with tenants had gone sour,” says Kara. “There was no hot water, no lighting, no benchtops, no tapware – pretty much anything that could be taken had been. Internally the house was in such a state of disrepair that most other people looking were going to knock it down and build townhouses.”


But Kyal and Kara could see its potential, with the house’s strong 70s bones lending itself to a classic new look. “Given the amazing location, we wanted to create a timeless family beach house that we could hold on to, either to live in or eventually holiday let,” says Kara. “In regards to design, we wanted to create a ‘classic beach house’ – nothing too modern that would date. If we were to sell the property in 10 years’ time, we wanted the house to still have that quintessential beach house look.”

They moved into the ground floor of the beach house and began work on a nine-month-long top-to-toe makeover. There was one slight challenge with the renovation – Kara was pregnant with their first child through the whole renovation! “Having morning sickness when you’re living in a renovation is not ideal,” she laughs. “There’s nowhere to hide and put your feet up!” (It’s a feeling I know well… this whole past week I’ve been painting the outside of our house muttering to myself I will never, ever renovate pregnant again!) But renovating with a bump once hasn’t put Kara and Kyal off… they are now parents to their super-cute boy Ziya, 16 months, and already have another baby on the way while working on other projects!)

HEART OF THE HOME: Even before they had a family of their own, Kyal and Kara said they always gravitated towards houses that had a family-friendly vibe. “We’ve both always loved homes that have a ‘family’ feel,” says Kara. “A lot of this centres around having an inviting kitchen/living/dining space that the whole family can enjoy.” With their coloured cabinets – something I feel a lot of Australians are scared to do – and use of wood and white, I love the kitchens in this house. “We love the colour of the kitchens,” says Kara. “Upstairs is Taubmans ‘Midnight Hour’ and the studio kitchen is Taubmans ‘Iron Gate’.” Sandblasted oak floors add beauty and texture throughout the home.
FAVOURITE ROOM: “The upstairs living area receives northern sun all day long – it’s a calm, relaxing space to be in,” says Kara. She says sometimes she wishes the kitchen, living and dining were on the ground floor. “However that would mean we wouldn’t enjoy as much of the North Sun as we currently do – so perhaps we wouldn’t,” she says. I personally love it when the main living area is on the upper floor – I think it often gives an added feeling of retreating away from the world. The key pieces in the upstairs living room are from Oz Design Furniture.
ABUNDANT STORAGE: Fitting out the house with ample, well-considered storage was a priority. “We love a neat and tidy home – both Kyal and I feel like we’re more productive and just generally in a better mood when the house is clean,” says Kara.

Inside, they wanted to focus on creating a healthy living environment and made it a priority to choose allergy-smart building materials. Gyprock Sensitive, a hypoallergenic plasterboard, was used throughout the main house and studio to line the walls and create high sweeping ceilings. Being moisture and mould resistant, it is the first and only residential plasterboard to be approved by the National Asthma Council Australia’s Sensitive Choice® program as a better choice for asthma and allergy sufferers.

For the same reason, Kara said they also opted for floorboards instead of carpet throughout the beach house (choosing beautiful sandblasted oak). Living with an asthma sufferer myself (Mr Nerd) I know well how important having a house that decreases the chances of asthma playing up is – it can literally make a difference between a family being happy at home and feeling miserable!

Large casement windows and Velux skylights above the kitchens fill the spaces with natural light and aid in ventilation. The house now has a large main house as well as a studio – both spaces with the most beautiful kitchens with coloured cabinets.

What I love about how they have styled the interiors is that instead of buying absolutely everything new from the latest ranges, Kyal and Kara spend time working on incorporating the old and new, like finds on Gumtree (such as the pool table Kyal had always wanted!) “Having a mix of old and new pieces when it comes to furniture is important,” says Kara. “Our coffee table was passed on from Kyal’s mum – Kyal actually learnt to walk around it. Now, our little one is doing the same! It’s pieces like this that have history that really make a house feel like a home.”

CORNICE LINES: Gyprock Trio cornice was used as the finishing touch to the walls and ceilings to give the more traditional home a subtle, contemporary update.

THE DECK: “We love sitting on the north facing deck with friends and having drinks, it receives gorgeous sunlight and a nice ocean breeze,” says Kara. “We love Toowoon Bay – the beach is so beautiful and it’s a great community. We love relaxing here with family with the close proximity to beach and cafes – so a stroll to get a coffee and do a beach walk is always nice.”

Their end result was a rescued house that has given them a lot of joy. “The before and after of the overall exterior is what we’re most proud of,” says Kara. “We also love the self-contained studio layout –the perfect example of beautiful small space living.”

With so many big renovations under their belt, I ask Kara for she and Kyal’s number one tip for other renovators. “When it comes to time management and scheduling for a renovation, our secret weapon is writing a daily list (typically the night before) of everything that needs to be achieved the next day,” she says. “If you do this with the calendar in front of you, you’ll find the pre-planning will come naturally.” Maya x

Kyal Demmrich, a builder, and his wife Kara Demmrich, a physiotherapist turned full-time renovator, their toddler son, Ziya, and their kelpie Jonah
A contemporary, fully renovated 1970s brick house by the beach with studio
Toowoon Bay, NSW
Kyal and Kara designed the reno and did the work themselves
6 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 2 living areas and a garage that had been converted into a rumpus.

Oz Design Furniture
Beaumont Tiles


Author: Maya Anderson

When Maya Anderson was thinking of a name for her homes and design blog, nothing seemed more fitting than House Nerd. Obsessed with everything to do with houses, renovating and interior design, Maya is a features journalist by training with a background in print and a focus on homes and real estate. She has been renovating her 1970s house since forever, loves dogs and can eat her body weight in dumplings.

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