The first time Daisy Symonds made the arduous trip to the hidden beach east of Patonga, it was awash with wildflowers. The day we made our way towards the home she built there must have been at a similar time of year – we too saw a riot of splashy pink boronias and acid yellow wattle.
When Pearl Beach was first subdivided by Charles Raymond Staples in 1926, Daisy, her sister Rose and brother John, were among the first to purchase blocks. It was on Daisy’s block, just under 1800 square metres, with views across the beach and to Brisbane Water, that they set about building a holiday cottage.
A builder was hired for the major building work. He camped on the block and felled trees from the property to form the piles upon which the cottage still sits today.
It was a basic dwelling of fibro, timber weatherboard and a corrugated iron roof, comprising a living room, bedroom, kitchen and front and back verandah. A small washing and dressing room opened off the bedroom, and a laundry and shower were under the house. Typically, the “out-house” was behind the house.
You wouldn’t suspect it today, but ‘Noonameena’, as the home was officially christened by Daisy’s niece, was the first home built in Pearl Beach, completed by the end of 1927. The name is an Aboriginal word, meaning “a sleeping place in the bush” and at night all you could hear was the crashing of waves and the noises of the surrounding bushland. By day, I suspect the noises were a little different as more of these simple holiday shacks were hurriedly erected around Noonameena.
By the 70s the home had fallen into a state of disrepair, unloved and forgotten until it was given a spruce up in the 80s. More recent owners executed a major renovation in 2008, restoring the home and adding a new extension to the rear.
The brief for the renovation was to add a new living room and master bedroom to the back of the house but not to disturb the aesthetic or layout of the original home.
The visual inspiration for the extension was that of a typical Australian wool shed, so that it would be distinct from the original weatherboard and fibre home, but blend aesthetically with both the house and the surrounding bush.
Inside, the extension features off-form concrete walls, polished concrete floors and high banks of louvred windows. Outside, the concrete walls are clad with corrugated iron on the upper sections. The rawness and honesty of the materials, and the simple shape, blend perfectly with the tall angophoras at the back of the property.
From inside the home, the two sections are very distinct but combine to create a harmonious space.
You enter from the side of the house, the front door wedged into the space where old meets new. A low ceilinged section runs the length of the original cottage’s back wall – a clever way to join the two rooflines. It also visually creates an entrance hall with doors and rooms opening off it. A vestibule from which you can choose the light-filled extension or the cosy glow of the cottage.
The footprint of the cottage has changed very little since the 1920s – the main rooms of bedroom and living room (now used for dining) are mostly as they were, and the kitchen, while having been updated, remains in the same location. The front and back verandahs have been enclosed, the former to create an inviting sunroom, the latter a small “sleep-out” style bedroom. The dressing room became a full bathroom some time ago, accessed via the sunroom, with the little wooden door from the bedroom sealed up but still in place.
The new section is about pared-back, modern living. Simply, yet comfortably, furnished it fills with light from the high glass louvres along the back wall and glass doors opposite. The unfinished concrete creates a soft palette which absorbs the colours of the surrounding eucalypts, its thermal mass ensuring the extension is energy efficient and comfortable year round. Pops of colour with a retro feel echo some of the touches in the older rooms, with simple furnishings and built-in storage.
The bedroom is a space of monastic calm, sparsely but comfortably furnished. As with the living room, it includes generous built-in storage and soaring louvred windows giving a view of trees and sky.
Part of the success, and appeal, of this renovation is its modesty. By adding only a bedroom and living room, an extremely liveable home has been created while avoiding the trap of unnecessary space for the sake of it.
The rooms of the original cottage are well utilised and completely adequate for modern life. By the standards of most new homes the kitchen might seem small, but its galley style, raked ceilings and ample storage make it perfectly practical.
A large deck wrapping around the front and down one side of the home has been added living space without compromising the cottage. This space is perfect in any weather, providing a warm sun trap in winter as well as a large undercover area. An built-in dining area keeps the space uncluttered and timber and glass doors provide access from both the cottage, via the dining room, and from the extension through the living room.
In many ways, life at Noonameena has changed little over the almost-90 years since it was built. The current owners are still lulled to sleep by the sound of crashing waves, and Pearl Beach’s status as a heritage-listed community ensures that little will change in the years to come.
I’m sure it would make Daisy Symonds extremely happy to know that the future of her beloved little shack, Pearl Beach’s first, has been secured, and that new generations enjoy Noonameena and Pearl Beach as much as she and her family did all those years ago.
Noonameena is available for holiday rental through Pearl Beach Real Estate (02) 4341 7555