Seaside Sanctuary; Tina Clark overcame many obstacles with this beachside house

Set on buying a home with a decent-sized garden

Sometimes you have to ignore the advice of others and go with your gut instinct. That’s the lesson Tina Clark learnt after she bought a dilapidated house in the beachside Sydney suburb of Tamarama seven years ago. After years of living in apartments during her stints working as an equity trader in Paris, New York and Hong Kong, she had her heart set on buying a home with a decent-sized garden so she could have dogs.

Buying a home with a decent-sized garden

But most of the places Tina liked didn’t have much in the way of land size. Then she found this place. “Because of the difficult access and the terrible condition of the house, no one could see the potential, so it was quite a bit cheaper than a lot of the houses in the area,” Tina says. “Friends of my mum’s – both real estate agents – tried to talk me out of it on the day [of the auction]; they thought I was completely mad.” But she bought it – “the location sealed the deal for me”.

House Renovation and Obstacles

Once the initial excitement of the purchase was over it was time for hard work – lots of it. The plan was to make the house habitable so Tina could rent it out. Fortunately, her mum, Muffi Barbour, is an interior designer so had lots of great contacts. “We had to replace the ceilings and the roof – in the kitchen you could see the sky,” she says. “The kitchen basically fell apart when you touched one cupboard so my friend Anthony Churchill from Arc Cabinet Making built me a kitchen.”

replace the ceilings and the roof
replace the ceilings and the roof

The house was rented out for three years, until Tina moved in. “I then decided to renovate the bathroom as the cracked tiles were not only ugly but becoming dangerous,” she says. “I started in June 2007 and just kept renovating until December 2007. I had breast cancer that year and found that the renovations were a happy distraction from my treatment. I didn’t really have any overall plan – it just evolved as the months went on.”

The garden also needed a lot of work. “It was basically a few hills of cement and overgrown bamboo and weeds,” Tina says. “It took two guys about three weeks just to get the rubbish out.” Then Anthony Clarke of Grow Landscape Design wove his magic and spent a month putting a new garden in. While Tina had a core team led by her builder – who was a “gem” – she had a few tradie problems, too. The man who was supposed to install the slabs of marble in her bathroom was famous for never turning up, and the guy who built her stainless steel fence twice lied about it not rusting out.

During the build Tina didn’t have a clear idea about what the place would look like. “I just wanted it to be a relaxed, comfortable space without being too precious. It’s a bit difficult with two big dogs to have anything fragile,” she says. Tina has always loved the minimalist mid-century houses of LA and Palm Springs, so they were used loosely as inspiration. “I wanted a casual Aussie beach house but still wanted to include my old favourite artworks and furniture,” she adds. Due to Tina’s illness and, more recently, study, she has spent a lot more time at the house than she expected. “I am at home a lot – it’s a complete sanctuary for me,” she says. “Now I don’t want to leave!”

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