Casey and Sara live with their two young sons and dog, Alfie, in Bangalow, NSW. Casey, a builder by trade, built their small, sleek house “La Casa Black”, amidst lush jungle-style landscaping that gives it a hideaway feel. Working on the house was a real labour of love for Casey and Sara, who did almost everything themselves. Naturally, not long after finishing the build, they began planning the next one.
Below, we speak with Sara, who shares a bit about their life in Bangalow and what it was like to build their own home.
SHOP THE LOOK
What inspired the design?
La Casa Black was inspired by our love for southern California. Before moving back to Australia, we lived in Los Angeles and spent our days surfing every break from Malibu to Laguna. We loved the crisp mornings in canyon towns like Topanga and Ojai. The homes had this rustic Spanish charm and felt remote, yet the beaches were only 20 minutes away. We wanted La Casa Black to be an ode to our life in LA, and Bangalow reminded us of those canyon towns we used to visit. Our kitchen benchtop is concrete and made in this beautiful rust colour that reminded us of the Terracotta tiles we had in our home in Santa Monica. We wanted open trusses to store and display our surfboards and white floors to act as a canvas for colourful artwork, rugs and furniture. Anytime we had to make a design decision, it always came back to ‘what do we love?’ – there was no brief, it was just “let’s have fun” and all the decisions became easy after that.
What have you enjoyed about living with your young family in Bangalow?
Our favourite routine would be walking to the Saturday farmer’s market, grabbing a chai and a babycino and taking our boys down to the park. There are so many family-friendly places to visit around here and the boys get to be out in nature every day, which is all we ever dreamed of for them. The suburbs around Bangalow have so much to offer, we love venturing out to Clunes for family pizza nights, or Federal for a wander around and some delicious Benilato Gelato. We’ve enjoyed finding the feeling of home here.
How did you find the building process? Was it different to what you expected? Any good lessons learnt?
The building process was a lot more physically and emotionally taxing than we anticipated. I was pregnant with our firstborn, and so finishing this home in time for the baby’s arrival was a mission. La Casa Black is only 60sqm, so it wasn’t a difficult home to design and execute but due to budget, we couldn’t really afford to hire help. Casey is a builder by trade, so he was always going to be building it himself, but what he went through to get this home off the ground is something that I will never forget. He was digging trenches, cementing in posts, building frames, plastering walls and literally putting a roof over our heads. I am in awe of what he has done with his own two hands – working alone, coming home covered in mud, sweat, blood and even some tears. I would say to myself, “this house is going to kill him”, but then he would be up the next day before sunrise and out the door. I would say the greatest lesson learned was in the materials we chose on a budget. Some things you can skimp on and other things you want to invest in quality. I think the most creative we got was with the flooring, which is made of ply. Casey stripped the boards down to 150mm planks, so they have the look of floorboards, and then we painted them white and sealed them. We invested in the timber French windows and doors, but also saved money by buying them second hand; they were salvaged from an old Queenslander. We also had a lot of great Facebook Marketplace finds, such as the pink concrete sink we found for the bathroom.
Do you have a favourite corner, nook or room in the house?
The Shed would have to be one of our favourite places in the house. It has such a different vibe from the main house, it’s moody and dark but also homely. You feel like you could be anywhere in the world when you’re lying on the bed and looking out into the jungle. The Shed was a space for us to test some new ideas and design elements, and we were really pleased with how it turned out, as the style isn’t something we’d normally do. I love the lime-washed walls, it gives the room so much texture, and the funky terracotta-coloured concrete tiles just pop next to the charcoal colour. It’s a really fun space to be in.
What are some of your favourite Pampa pieces, and what drew you to include them in your home?
Our Pampa rug and floor cushion were some of the first items we bought for our home – even before we had a kitchen! Casey had just painted the whole house white – floorboards, walls and ceiling – it looked like you were walking into heaven, it was so bright. We wanted pieces that were going to add warmth and a Pampa rug and cushion do exactly that. These beautiful pieces have seen a lot of love over the years, we are all drawn towards them. Our son, Venice, loves jumping off the coffee table onto the cushion and when Ollie was a baby, I’d set him up on the rug with all his toys as he was learning how to crawl. Most days end with us having a cup of tea on our Pampa pieces, talking about our day, what we wanted to do that weekend, they are the centrepieces of our home.
What can you share with us about your next project, The Kingy House?
The Kingy House is a 1950s beach house in Kingscliff that we are about to start renovating into our new family home. We’ve always wanted to live near the beach, and to be able to do that in Casey’s hometown is a dream come true. It’s a very old house, but it has the best energy and will definitely have a similar essence to La Casa Black. We’re keeping the original home intact, just changing up the floorplan to a more open plan. It has three sets of different timber flooring throughout the house that we’d like to keep; we love the idea of mismatched floorboards that tell a story over time. We’re doing an extension of 2 bedrooms behind the house that will be a modern contrast to the original house and with a lot of inspiration from ‘The Shed’. I’m also looking into doing some stone feature walls but applied with an over grouting technique that will make the walls look centuries old and full of character. It is daunting taking on a project that is probably a ‘forever home’, but we have the same design brief as we did building La Casa Black, which is simply “let’s have fun”.
What does ‘home’ mean to you?
Home is where you can truly feel at peace. Even if it’s manic and you’ve got kids screaming and running through your legs, or the dog barking and eating leftovers off the table, home is the only place where the world can turn upside down, and you can still feel safe and sound. Our days are mostly filled with chaos, but there is no better place for the dust to settle than on our sofa, cuddling our boys, with the dog at our feet. Whatever you fill your home with, whether it’s kids, or lots of things, or the bare essentials, as long as they bring you peace, then that’s what makes a home perfect.
Follow their journey here
Photos: Victoria Aguirre
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