Story by Sarah Swain
I just walk in here and immediately relax,” says Deborah Hutton of her beach house, about an hour-and-a-half’s drive from Sydney. “I find this is a place where I can just dag out! And the people I invite are really good friends — it’s just a matter of completely relaxing. It’s not a place where I dress up and entertain as such. And I like it to look beautiful but I do it not so much for anyone else, I do it for me.”
And look beautiful it certainly does. Though the three-bedroom, Spanish-style home is not grand or expansive, it’s charming and decorated in calming neutrals with a contemporary twist.
The hub of the house is the open-plan living area, kitchen and dining room. It opens onto a rustic verandah, which gives way to a small lawn with steps down onto the beach. This area is painted with Dulux Beige Royal, which blends perfectly with the oversized off-white sofas, white kitchen, timber floor and accessories in cream and brown.
The TV star chooses to bring flashes of colour into the home using bright fresh flowers. “Because of the position of the house, I think the focus is really on the beach and the ocean and because of that I wanted a calming environment,” says Deborah, 45, who recently became the face of Oil of Olay Regenerist, almost three decades after she first appeared on the cover of Cosmopolitan.
“I really wanted to keep all the colours very soft and yet warm at the same time. When you sit in that room and you throw yourself into the couch, it’s just like that great sigh of relief! And I love it. I come up here as often as I can and I always bring fresh flowers with me, even if I’m only here for one night and even if I’m by myself.”
The house, on the NSW Central Coast, is also the perfect backdrop for Deborah’s own homewares collection, Living with Deborah Hutton, which she launched two years ago.
Like her weekender, her pieces are simple, co-ordinated and timeless. A pair of her hurricane lamps are placed on the timber dining table, the range of neutral crockery is arranged on the kitchen shelves and her towels adorn the home’s two bathrooms.
The two spare bedrooms have very special bed linen: “These sheets are called Miller. I named them after my ex-boyfriend and manager, Harry M Miller!” she says with a laugh. “He gets a few mentions in products.” So from model to PR representative (she spent 13 years working for Grace Bros/Myer) and then TV presenter, as well as spokesperson for Holden, ambassador for Qantas and fashion, home and style expert, how did she get a brand of her own?
“I have always had a great passion for my home and I was doing these home shows for Channel 9, so I had a bit of an association with the home anyway,” she says. “A friend of mine, who’s a very savvy retailer, said to me, ‘I want to build a brand, a homewares brand and I want to do it with you’ and I thought all my Christmases had come at once!
“The aim was achieving the look for less. Why spend a fortune if you don’t have to? I think that’s the key for me — it really just melds together. You can have a beautiful sterling silver tea pot and you can serve it with my lovely little mugs, and things like that work really well.”
This idea is carried through in the home’s decoration. Investment pieces from designer stores such as Coco Republic are placed with inexpensive, and even free (in the case of the red chair in her bedroom, discovered on the street and reupholstered) finds. The striking bamboo art on the wall of the guest room was made with a friend over a glass of wine and shows that, with a bit of creativity, you don’t always have to go shopping to create an individual and stylish look.
“I think, well, it’s a weekender, and I do think it’s worth investing in things that you actually really get value from, such as a good couch. I think these couches will last forever and I don’t mind investing in something like that. But when talking about plates, for instance, when you look at ceramics you can get some really good examples that don’t cost a fortune. The little pieces up on the fireplace are from my range, the white vases, and I just love their freeform shapes and that they cost nothing, like $9.99 a vase, but the look is great.”
If Deborah tires of the ocean, where she likes to swim when it’s calm, she can retreat to the home’s courtyard, a vision of Spain with its tumbling pink bougainvillea and olive trees. Both the guest and the main bedroom have French doors, which can be thrown open to welcome in the morning. Other parts of the 1960s-built home also have a Spanish feel, including the barbecue, which is built into its own alcove complete with a white chimney poking out of the terracotta-tiled roof.
Listing cooking as one of her favourite hobbies, along with golf and reading (“though I never get time”), Deborah says that, in true Aussie style, much of the time here is spent around the barbie. “I’ve had the odd party up here but it’s a bit of an ask to get people to travel up. For instance, my birthday’s soon and I’ve got eight people coming. I’ve got a bunkhouse out the back so you can sleep quite a few people — it can sleep 12 at a push — excluding the couches!”
So has she hosted any celebs here? After all, she’s worked with some of the world’s top models, photographers and personalities including Michael Caine, John Travolta and Greg Norman in her career, which began when she was just 16.
“They’re more friends. I haven‘t had Bono out here for lunch if that’s what you are asking! I wouldn’t mind throwing a chop on the barbie for him — I’d be more than happy to do that! But people just really appreciate getting away. It’s a really different vibe from Palm Beach, which is very social.”
Indeed, this home is very different to the flashy abodes owned by many TV stars and it’s testament to Deborah’s creativity and style. Maps of the area, as well as simple black and white prints, hang on the walls — including some taken by Deborah herself. Design books and magazines are piled on the tables and shells collected on holidays fill vases.
Though her favourite place is the living area, her bedroom is also a welcome retreat. “I’m an early riser, and I don’t ever do it at home but I go and make myself a cup of tea and I’ll come back to bed and do a bit of reading. It’s just such a luxury and it’s so pretty — you look out here out at the olive trees and it’s cute.”
She took a while to settle on the grey shade (Dulux Raku) for the walls, going through beige and green before discovering the dark colour really worked. It has an Oriental feel. Accessories include a pair of Chinese vases she had made into lamps and a couple of antique Chinese chests from Bandsaw in Alexandria. On the wall are Florence Broadhurst pieces from Signature Prints.
Deborah’s fitted wardrobe is hidden in the pure and clean white ensuite bathroom. It’s a very Australian, beach-style home, but if Deborah could live anywhere, where would she choose? “I wouldn’t live outside Australia! I just love it. I’d like to buy something in northern NSW or Queensland just because of the weather — I’m directed by the weather, I have to be around warmer temperatures. I love the sun! It’s part of being a Queenslander, I suppose.”
Get the look
Love Deborah’s beach house? She revealed her top five design tips for creating your perfect abode to Luxury Home Design
• Avoid overhead lighting if possible. Create the right mood in a room by keeping it softly lit. Indirect lighting and the proper use of floor and table lamps is much kinder on people’s complexions and creates a warm and inviting mood in any room.
• Choosing the right interior paint colour can be tricky. For lasting durability, it’s best to stick to warm tonal colours that are easy on the eye. Beige, ecru, stone and vanilla are great choices for living areas. For added interest, inject shots of colour through new-season accessories such as cushions, throws and collectables.
• Invest in good, solid pieces that last the distance of time. Don’t be tight-fisted and scrimp on pieces of furniture that you’ll be using for years to come. Invest in a comfortable and well-made couch, a cosy chair and gorgeous cabinet. Every day that you admire the piece or feel the comfort, you’ll be pleased you made the investment.
• Add your personal touch to a room. Whether it’s photographs, miniature statues, glass spheres or whatever takes your fancy, it’s great to start a small collection of loved items. It adds personality and puts your own stamp on a room. Remember, a collection starts with only three things.
• To bring a room to life, fill a vase full of fresh flowers. I always have my favourite flowers in the most frequently used rooms, even if it’s just a single tall blossom. And at night I light candles for warmth and to make my home feel welcoming … and don’t just do it for visitors, light them even if you’re by yourself!