SUMMER 23/24

Forresters Beach


Mitch Giffin and Chanelle Gillespie hadn’t intended to buy a rundown cottage in Forresters Beach but after visiting a friend one weekend, they fell in love with the area and thought they’d ‘just take a quick look at houses for sale online’.

And that’s where they fell in love with a two-bedroom, 1950s’ fibro beach house on a good-sized block in a lovely street … in Forresters Beach. They bought the cottage, moved in and chose their builder friend to help with the major makeover. The cottage may have been small, but it was no small undertaking. Asbestos meant all the outer walls were torn down, to be replaced with James Hardie cladding, then painted white to suit the beach cottage look. With the first good downpour of rain, it became evident the roof needed replacing, too.

While the renovations on the house were awaiting approval, Chanelle and Mitch cleared the big block that was almost entirely overgrown with lantana. A deciding factor in buying the house had been that there was room for a granny flat for Chanelle’s mum. So work also got under way in planning a generously sized,two-bedroom granny flat at the rear of the property. Chanelle and Mitch didn’t want to increase the footprint of the main house and were able to reconfigure the interior walls to make the space much more liveable. The entry door and lounge area became the master bedroom, keeping the open fireplace that had been the cottage’s main heating source in winter. And a third bedroom found a home where the kitchen had been.

‘We didn’t want to borrow too much to cover the cost of the renovations,’ says Mitch. ‘We both have full-time jobs so our weekends were spent making the interior more liveable and doing what we could ourselves.

‘The floors were all at different heights,’ says Mitch. ‘So Frank from Narara poured concrete with a polished epoxy finish over the top of the floors to level it all out.’ The result perfectly suits the clean and simple style throughout the cottage.

‘We chose kit-kat tiles, or finger tiles, on the mirror wall in the bathroom, contrasting with the grey slate look floor tiles. ’Stylish simplicity is also evident in the Loughlin Furniture bathroom vanity and mirror, dining table and benches.

The economies they were able to make on important purchases meant the couple could afford to add stylish designer touches throughout the house.

‘Mitch is very good at stretching our budget by finding what we can on Gumtree,’ says Chanelle. A striking feature, countering the high, pitched ceiling in the main living area, is a very big, west-facing, louvred window that Mitch found for $200 on thenorthern beaches. ‘We probably saved around $1,600 on that alone,’ Chanelle says.

They also made room for an additional guest bedroom by converting the single-car garage at the side of the house into a charming, airy guestroom, en suite, and home office.

The dragon tree and Bismark palm take pride of place in the front garden.
The master bedroom was once the lounge and entry to the house, and retains the cosiness of the open fireplace.
The old garage has been converted into airy guest accommodation and a home office.

While the build progressed over a 12-month-period — at apace to suit their budget — they lived in whichever part of the house was least affected by the renovations. And then Chanelle discovered she was pregnant (with Billie, now 12 months old ). ‘That added a slight urgency to our completion date,’ says Chanelle with a touch of understatement. ‘Then at 23 weeks pregnant I fell through the old decking timber, and we had to quickly add a new deck to the budget.’

Although landscaping the garden and the addition of a concrete pool have been left as the finishing touches to the renovation, an early purchase for the front garden was a beautiful dragon tree.

‘Mitch found that on Gumtree, too,’ says Chanelle. ‘He looked for months and then found one in a front yard in Charmhaven. We had to dig it out, bring it home, and now it has pride of place, but still anchored with ties until its roots are more established.’

In contrast to the dragon tree, a grey-blue Bismark palm has now also been planted nearby.Now, all that’s left to do are the grey and white Artisan stone tiles for the swimming pool, the glass balustrade, and final pool landscaping. But already, Chanelle, Mitch and Billie are loving the cottage, inside and out.


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