Featured in Inside Out Magazine - Words Joanne Hawkins
Photography - Derek Swalwell
A family adapts their timeless Dutch aesthetic to suit an Australian approach to beachside living.
Ursula's Beach House Edit
Frankie Bunk Bed
“ A Frankie bunk bed was a natural choice for accommodating the many friends that come and stay.”
“The table really forms the centre of the home.”
Wicker Pendant Light
“A wicker HK pendant light stays true to the coastal vibe of the home.”
The Netherlands forms a big part of Ursula van Schoonhoven's life. It's where her father was born, where she met her husband Hans - in the middle of a 10-year stint living and working in Amsterdam - and is the backbone of their business, House Of Orange, which specialises in furniture with a distinctly Dutch aesthetic. Step inside their Edwardian house in Melbourne's inner-city Prahran - which, like a lot of Dutch houses, is a long-term rental - and you could almost be in Amsterdam with its gracious high ceilings, obligatory white walls and unadorned windows. "That's very much a Dutch phenomenon," says Ursula. "No-one closes their blinds if they have them in the first place!"
When the couple decided to take on a weekender in Sorrento, on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula, their signature style would follow them there, too. But, as St Kilda-born Ursula insists, it also needed to reflect its surroundings. "I can proudly say it has an Australian touch to it, too," she says. "'It's important to embrace the environment you're in."
Ursula, what prompted you to look for a holiday house?
The Mornington Peninsula is a huge market for our business. Over the years, Hans has made what seems like a million trips down there: quoting, installing furniture, giving advice. We decided it was time we had something there, too. We wanted to put our stamp on it and it would be a platform to show how we pull together a look.
What appealed to you about this property?
This house was a light, bright weatherboard with a great exterior: it had a front verandah and a deck on the back with gorgeous views of the surrounding area. Inside, it had good natural light, especially in the main living area thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows, plus wooden floors, open-plan living and two bathrooms, which was essential with our two daughters and all their friends who come to stay.
What was your aim with the house?
We wanted to have a crack at changing a space without an extensive renovation and on a budget. The major thing we did to freshen the house up was to paint it white. There's only so much you can do in a rental, but painting walls white is very much our thing.
Are white walls a bit of a thing in Dutch interiors?
Dutch light is very different to here - it's quite muted. Plus there's a long, dark winter, so they bring the light in however they can. It's also why the Dutch pay so much attention to their interiors because they have to spend a great deal of time in them!
Do you have a 'go-to' white that you used on the house?
We've tried a lot of whites and a lot of them miss the mark because they are too cold, or have overtly pink or yellow undertones. Our favourite is Haymes Paint Magnolia Moonlight, which is a lovely pure, warm white.
You seem fond of using white with black and grey?
Completely! It's also the palette we use in our work. It works well because you never get tired of it and it's easy to live with.
Are there any tricks to using white in an interior?
A lot of people are scared to layer white on white, such as pairing white furniture with white walls. The key is getting the actual white tones right: they need to complement each other and be from the same 'family' of whites. And adding texture with rattan, wood, a wall-hanging or a rug prevents a white scheme from looking sterile.
How does the house work for your family?
We encourage our girls to make their friends feel welcome here, and there are two living areas - one is more of a teenage space, while we use the other one. We do like to hang out together, but the kids want to do their own thing sometimes! We go down most weekends, as well as extended stays during the school holidays.
How would you sum up life in the house?
Relaxed and filled with people, which is really the point of a beach house. It's lovely to have it as a retreat and I can't tell you how nice it is sometimes when there is no-one around but us, but most of the time it's there for people to come and share it with us.
Ursula and Hans loved the process of putting together this beach house
so much so that they've now moved into another seaside home.