Graphic designer and gallerist Holly McCauley, and her cabinet maker husband Nich Zalmstra had lived in the ‘rainbow region’ (Northern Rivers of NSW for the uninitiated!) since 2010, and are committed fans of the area. After initially seeing this place on a drive-by scouting mission, the pair both agreed ‘it wasn’t worth even going to the open house, it was such a dump.’ It was only once they realised the limitations of their budget, that they reassessed the property, and saw the potential of making this humble shelter into a home.
Placing an offer – without even seeing inside – was also hastened when the couple learnt they were expecting their first baby! This excitement was a little dampened once they received the keys, as Holly describes ‘we hated the look of it!’ Over the past 3.5 years, thought, Nich has put his apprentice cabinet making skills to the test, transforming this gloomy 80s fibro kit home into a place the whole family loves.
The initial tasks were taming the garden, dismantling a rotting backyard yurt (!), adding a fresh coat of white paint, creating a new deck and removing the old carpet. After that, Nich arduously polished the concrete slab with a hand grinder (!), added new kitchen storage and a new bathroom, and paneled all the interior walls with VJ board. While the family hasn’t made any major structural changes yet, with baby number two on the way, they are hoping for a loft bedroom in the near future.
At 60sqm, the small footprint of this home makes it more like a granny flat than a family house, but Holly explains that is it ample for their living style. The interiors balance the simplicity of plywood, white paint and concrete with the couple’s vibrant collections of mexican blankets, artworks, surfboards and special trinkets. Holly highlights ‘I don’t know what kind of category it fits into, but I like to think our home reflects us, where we have been and how we like to live.’
After a childhood of moving about and many years hovering in share-houses, it took Holly a moment to feel settled in being settled! But she describes that the sense of home is ‘now what I feel most grateful for.’
The family definitely feel fully settled here, both in their small home, and in the region as a whole. Holly concludes ‘There is something pretty magical about this part of the world beyond its pretty beaches and easy lifestyle – and we try to embrace all of it, as often as possible. We met each other here and are raising our kids here – this pocket of the world certainly has our hearts.’
The view into Holly McCauley and Nich Zalmstra’s house from the deck. The paper daisy flower garlands strung up here were saved from their wedding in March. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.
Ready to hit the surf. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.
Holly McCauley at home with daughter Della May Plum. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.
A serene palette lets their belongings shine. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.
Bifold doors out to the deck made the whole space feel so much bigger – the family have them open all the time when they are at home. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.
A cosy kitchem, with stools made by friend Martin Johnston, who Nich now works with. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.
The Horses photograph above the couch is by Kara Rosenlund, who’s book Shelter Holly designed in 2015. The Joshua Tree print was bought in the US after Nich proposed to Holly in Joshua Tree. The coffee table is made from the piece of wood that used to be the kitchen benchtop before renovations. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.
A surfboard in every corner – including the bedroom! Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.
The photograph here is by LA photographer, Nick Green, who’s solo show was hosted in the gallery Holly co-runs Yeah, Nice in Mullumbimby. The Ed Templeton print is an old fave of Holly’s from my uni days. (Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.
Bassinet from Worn Store ready for baby number 2! Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.
The shelf above Della’s bed is dulled with special trinkets including a flower lai from Holly and Nich’s wedding, and Ozzy Wright print, clogs from her grandparents and a water colour paining by Lily Johannah. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.