An airy, light-filled coastal cottage cushioned between the striking Illawarra Escarpment and rugged ocean landscape is the place interior stylist Jessi Deakin calls home.
This article first appeared in Issue 2 of our home and interiors magazine, ele HOME.
WORDS: Katy Holliday IMAGES: Amani Lindsell
The northern beaches of Wollongong are dotted with iconic ocean pools cut into the rock and lashed by surf. The dramatic stretch of coastline, just over an hour south of Sydney, has been famously dubbed the “Coal Coast” by local surfers in a nod to the region’s industrial past.
Nestled in the beachside suburb of Woonona, Jessi Eve and her partner Adam Blackmore moved into their charming three-bedroom 1960s beach house four years ago with their dog Bindi in tow.
Leaving the clamour of the big smoke behind to be closer to family, the couple joke that they bought the home just for Bindi to enjoy all the dog-friendly beaches and parks. “We’d say Bindi owns the house,” laughs Jessi.
“She takes over every room. She’s in your spot on the sofa, hogging your side of the bed, eating off your plate when you’re not looking. Just calling all the shots really, and we absolutely allow it!”
The talented couple set to work turning the cottage into a bohemian yet contemporary coastal, light-filled oasis. “We have done a fair bit to the home aesthetically, but mostly DIY work,” she explains. With an extensive background in interior design, Jessi was no stranger to the process.
After studying at the International School of Colour and Design for two years, she then spent the next year interning for various companies and gaining work experience in different facets of the industry. Developing her spatial, planning and styling skills as a property stylist, Jessi then started up her own successful interior styling business, eponymously titled Jessi Eve.
Jessi and Adam chipped away at their home project over time with the help of family and friends. “We really just did what we could, when we could,” Jessi says. “It wasn’t an efficient, time-sensitive project. Just a passion project that we both dedicated time to when we could and without a whole lot of pressure! There were challenges but nothing too intense.”
One problem they had to overcome in certain spaces of the home was when they took a knife to the carpet believing there were floorboards underneath to instead find particle board.
Unfazed, Jessi leaned on her personal motto: “If it looks a fright, paint it white!”, and did just that. “We painted the ugly particle board white, added massive area rugs to cover the floor and got on with it. Now it’s created a bit of a Mediterranean vibe, which fits with our aesthetic.”
Outside, they wanted a comfortable and inviting alfresco space to entertain in, adding bamboo screening to the pergola roof to filter the harsh sunlight that Jessi tells us creates a beautiful linear light pattern as the sun streams through.
It’s now become one of her favourite features of the home, along with the ocean and escarpment views. To accentuate the tropical vibe of the backdrop, they landscaped along the fence line with yuccas, agave and other greenery.
Styling the home was where Jessi put to use her natural talents. Describing her style as contemporary coastal with subtle bohemian and Mediterranean influences, she scoured local second-hand furniture stores and op shops for unique pieces and created texture and dimension with accessories made from organic materials. The stunning rattan sideboard residing in her office is from Vinnies.
Jessi also has a penchant for scouting old books and unashamedly admits she judges them by their cover. “Behind the old, torn paper covers, often you find beautiful canvas or leather spines in some incredible colours. This can be a really affordable way to add books as styling pieces to your home,” she says.
Other favourite pieces include the combination of the nude leather bedhead in the couple’s bedroom mixed with the white concrete and timber bedsides and rattan lamps. Jessi says the 10-seater recycled teak outdoor table gets better with age and holds many wonderful memories shared with family and friends.
It’s also complemented by the oversized palm fibre pendant lights. “The ambience of an evening is quite beautiful. It makes you feel like you’re on an island holiday!”
Accentuating the bright sunlight that enters the cottage, Jessi and Adam used Dulux Natural White to paint the interior giving it an airy, spacious feel. Adding rattan furnishings with accessories in muted tones and pops of greenery throughout the home, they’ve kept the palette calm, crisp and clean.
Since Jessi largely works from home, it was essential to create a relaxed environment that takes advantage of the ample natural light. “I love our home and I love being in it,” she says. “I love the simple things, like lighting my favourite candle while I wait for the kettle to boil, opening the windows and doors to get good airflow, having an intentional playlist in the background to suit the mood, or reading a book in the bath.”
When asked about what the couple like to do in their spare time, Jessi says, “We’re at the beach most days walking Bindi, and Adam surfs. If the local markets are on, I might head there with friends for a look around.
the evenings, we love getting fish and chips and heading to our favourite little picnic spot overlooking the beach in Austinmer.
Bindi comes too (of course) and we throw the ball for her. When they’re on, we go to comedy shows and listen to live music at Anita’s Theatre – it’s a wonderful venue.
Life on the Coal Coast can be like taking a step back in time but for Jessi and Adam, they’re right where they want to be in a place where old charm is embraced with new inspiration.
Best interior design tip?
Ignore trends. Buy pieces you love regardless of what’s flooding social media or magazines. Be the decider of your own unique style.
Favourite places to eat and shop in your region?
South Sailor in Thirroul for a ladies lunch, Pará in Thirroul for a romantic dinner, Two Sisters Garage in Bulli for a light meal and yummy beverage on a sunny day, and Kneading Ruby in Wollongong for great food and group dinners.
Pretty Eclectic and The Native Nest in Woonona for fashion and homewares, Nest Emporium in Thirroul (it’s been a favourite for homewares even before I lived here), and 55 Parrots in Bulli for furniture and homewares.