Luxe travel meets hippy chic in this family abode. Overlooking Australia’s Byron Bay, the building’s style draws influence from Greek, Moroccan and Indian architecture.
In Byron Bay on Australia’s east coast, the mercury rarely dips below 20 degrees Celsius, even in winter. Visitors are drawn to the area’s long beaches and warm seas. This sunny, open house, set within a forest of palms just a short drive from the ocean, is a year- round family home – its cool, white walls, stone floors and wide doorways are perfectly suited to its extraordinary tropical setting. ‘We have macadamias, sugar cane and 2,500 palm trees growing here,’ says homeowner Genola de Jong, a painter. ‘The palm forest is a great natural habitat for wallabies and bandicoots.’ The grounds also have tennis courts and a swimming pool.
Genola lives here with her partner Simon Fitzpatrick and their two children – Kato (seven) and Rio (three). Genola has a studio at the house and Simon, a businessman, commutes to Sydney, an hour’s plane flight away. The couple were attracted to the bohemian vibe of this beachside town, which bustles with yoga studios and surf shacks, and is in habited by well-heeled, free-spirited creatives.
Although they bought their 1,000-square-metre plot of land more than a decade ago, Genola and Simon only moved to Byron Bay from Sydney in 2013. Once they had decided to relocate permanently, the couple set about designing a new home to replace the existing small abode that stood in the grounds. ‘We took a lot of time, nearly 18 months, to consider the design of the house,’ says Genola, ‘and I think it paid off.’ Modernist in style, the villa is inspired by Greek architecture. Genola spent four years living in Greece, where she fell in love with the flat roofs and terraces of its simple, airy buildings.
Inside, the walls are a bright white canvas for the couple’s collection of antique furniture and accessories, many of which were sourced on their travels to far- flung parts of Africa and Europe. ‘Most of our possessions have been collected over the years, before we had children,’ says Genola. Exotic architectural details, such as the Mughal arched windows in the bathroom and the pair of slim, antique Chinese doors in the living area, were incorporated into the blueprints of the building from the beginning of the project.
The space is mostly open-plan, with a split level accessed via a stone staircase beside the kitchen. In the central living space there is a soaring double-height ceiling, the scale of which is highlighted by a bank of vintage pendant lights that hang above the kitchen worktops. The bedrooms are almost monastically simple, featuring white linen, one or two simple objects, and muslin curtains that waft in the breeze.
‘The house is modern, yet rustic,’ says Genola. ‘I don’t miss the city now but I did for a long time – the buzz, the people. Now I have good friends here, and old friends come to visit for long spells so that we get to spend more quality time together’ .