coastal chic

22.6.15

The ramshackle Aussie surf shack is an icon of beachside living but, in reality, not many of us want to live with sand-covered floors or squeezed in between surfboards. Instead, a sophisticated new style of coastal living is inspiring Aussies to embrace beachside charm and, according to stylist Tim Neve, it can be translated to suit most decorating styles.

In his book Sandcastles: Interiors Inspired By The Coast, Tim has identified five beach-inspired design styles — from the whitewashed finish of a style he calls Beachcomber to Islander, a leafy, woody scheme inspired by a tropical island and the nautical styling of Seafarer.


“Beachcomber is a favourite of mine as it actually works as a base palette for the rest of the looks,” says Tim. “In terms of colour, it’s full of sandy neutrals inspired by the beach itself and once you get this right you can build upon it with the other styles.”

Tim says the styles in the book are inspired by different beach locales around Australia. “I took inspiration from the balmy tropics of north Queensland, to the serene fishing villages of Tasmania and everything in between,” he says.


Why do you think coastal style is so popular in Australia?
Actually, what has surprised me is that “country style” has been more popular in Australia over  the past decade or so. It’s only in very recent years that we have gravitated back towards coastal style with fresh eyes. I guess it involved shaking off that 1980s Australiana version of it, and trying it in a new way. It makes more sense than country style given most of us live on or nearer to the coastline itself. Now, it’s more of a relaxed, organic approach that has lead the way.

How can someone incorporate a coastal look in their home without it looking like a surf shack?
That’s something I really struggled with when I started my own coastal decorating journey. The last thing I wanted is table lamps with sea shells hot glued to them. I guess the most important thing is to bring it back to the core inspiration — the coast itself. When you’re inspired by the real thing that can only feel authentic. That is, I didn’t want to rely on dated, mass-produced nautical wares to get an authentic look. In saying that, you can also have fun with kitsch — in a couple of chapters of the book I embraced some otherwise daggy objects like lawn flamingoes and pirate flags to create fresh looks. It’s important not to take it all too seriously.


What do you think is the number one mistake people make when decorating their homes?
I think the most exciting part of the process — imagining and designing a home — is way too insular. We all pick up a magazine and point to a picture saying “that's the room or house I want” without necessarily considering the important factor of functionality, or scale of your own space. I guess if you can live in your own space first and see how it works, and then take inspiration from what is truly important to you personally you’ll end up with a much more honest interior.

Does interior decorating always mean a complete job or are there quick solutions that can have a big impact?
My mantra is definitely redecorate over renovate. I’m always one for a quick weekend DIY that can make a major change to your living environment. If you’ve been thinking about changing that wall colour, just pick up the paint brush and do it. There’s other non-messy jobs that can make a huge difference too: a quick re-arrange of the furniture or what’s on your walls will jolt you out of your comfort zone and perhaps inspire further decorating ideas too.


What inspires you?
I’d have to say the sea itself. I swim in the Newcastle Ocean Baths daily, and it’s my constant reminder of the freshness I aim for in my own styling. Depending on the time of day I visit, it’s also a virtual colour palette to draw from — warm colours over the horizon at sunset, or even the stormy hues on an overcast day never fail to inspire.

Where’s your favourite place to look for unique pieces for your home?
In Sydney I love Seasonal Concepts in Redfern. Ken has an amazing eye for the unique, as well as Doug Up on Bourke — I could easily spend a whole weekend exploring in their huge space of wares. In my hometown of Newcastle I have my own shopfront in a great little vintage district in Islington. Some of my neighbours include Auld & Grey, who specialise in the kind of rustic, one-of-a-kind things that really get my blood pumping. Plus, Crab Apple Vintage who are a pleasure to hire from for events and photo shoots are great too.


Sandcastles: Interiors Inspired By The Coast by Tim Neve (Murdoch Books) $49.99

First published Home, Daily Telegraph 21 March 2015.

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