Vanessa Kidwell’s Beach House
It’s a little bit Caribbean beach house, a little bit tribal luxe, a touch Aussie coastal. There’s a lot to love about Vanessa Kidwell’s Coogee abode, but top of our list is that this enviably located home is proof that renting need not equate to an interior wasteland.
At the end of a quiet cul de sac perched above the Pacific, a long staircase leads up to an unassuming beach bungalow, its façade giving little hint to the interior treasure trove within. Welcome to the home of Vanessa Kidwell, stylist, mother, wayfarer and proprietor of homeware and furnishing emporium Livedin Coogee.
Vanessa and her family – husband David and daughters Aaliyah (14) and Zalli (11) – have called this rental property home for four years. In contrast to its world-class views, the house itself is a modest three bedder with small kitchen and bathroom. Yet thanks to Vanessa’s skills as both stylist and hunter-gatherer the home abounds with her trademark tribal luxe style, creating an enviable showcase for the eclectic homewares found within her Coogee store.
“The house was a blank canvas when we moved in – a true beach house with wooden floors, white walls and a great view. We introduced soft white linen curtains to obscure the view of the property next door and wicker blinds to allow us to filter the beautiful, but sometimes intense, morning sunshine,” explains Vanessa.
We love the homes’ juxtaposition of sleek modern pieces, such as the white semi-gloss sideboards and the marble topped table and white dining chairs, against unique antique finds such as the Indian and Indonesian cabinets displaying Vanessa’s collections of rare blue coral, turtle shells and giant clams. Vanessa explains;
“It’s a fine balance achieving a true tribal luxe look and I always urge my styling clients not to go overboard. Too many unique pieces, no matter how beautiful, compete with each other and the room can lose impact. By introducing a few functional, understated and streamlined pieces you create a beautiful canvas for your special finds and allow these to be the focal point of your room.”
Vanessa cites “trusting your gut and inner self, not being pulled into what’s in but staying true to your look” as the foolproof approach to honing and developing an eclectic interior style. As for her tips on how to recreate a tribal luxe / Caribbean beach house style living room:
“This look is actually very understated, very paired back, with clever use of accents to create an authentic beachy, tribal vibe. Start with the basics – a jute floor covering or berber rug immediately brings texture to the room. For soft furnishing, a neutral or linen lounge suite of a very simple design is all you need. My lounge is a recycled Freedom piece I sourced on Gumtree and had reupholstered. Timber consoles or coffee tables of either Indian, Indonesian or African descent such as a natural Bamileke from Africa become the key ‘tribal luxe’ pieces and add interest to the room.
“I’m a huge advocate of bringing the outside in, so think green! Palms and succulents are perfect, and for decoration, coral or tribal pieces that have cowrie shells attached create great accents. Avoid traditional beach items to make sure your room doesn’t look too cutesy or predictable. Instead, hunt for unique pieces that have history attached or an authentic nature to them.”
Vanessa’s knack for hunting and gathering is evident throughout the room. Her vintage cane chair was rescued from the side of the road during a council clean up and various pieces on display throughout her home have been sourced from Ebay and Gumtree.
“I have always been drawn to beautiful objects with a past life, a story, and anything of an ethnic nature, it’s in my blood! My style has continued to develop since opening the store which really opened my eyes to the amazing, authentic pieces that are available across the globe. Travel is a constant inspiration for me – I love to draw from exotic and coastal locations when selecting items for my home and for the store”.
Words Bly Carpenter
Photography Steven Foster