An off-grid log cabin with a colour scheme inspired by the bush
The owners of this off-grid cabin used nifty renovating tricks to create the ultimate escape — from Melbourne city life and the after-effects of the 2020 lockdowns.
Who lives here: The cabin is a rental property owned by interior stylist Emma O’Meara and her husband Simon, a plumber.Style of home: A 1980s kit home on Victoria’s Otway Coast, resembling a traditional American log cabin.Timeline:Emma and Simon purchased the cabin in May 2020 and began renovating in August. The first guests arrived in late December.Budget: The renovation and new furnishings cost about $40,000.Freelance stylist Emma O’Meara and her husband Simon were crushed when the onset of the coronavirus pandemic forced them to cancel a long-dreamed-of trip to Italy with their young children. But the pair soon turned the bad news into an opportunity.”It gave us the push – and extra cash – we needed to buy a little holiday house close to Melbourne,” says Emma.
The pair loved the idea of purchasing a fixer-upper that she could revitalise and Simon, a plumber, could tinker with. Emma, in particular, was keen to find something with a true off-the-beaten-track feel that they could rent out on Airbnb.”I started Googling ‘Log cabins for sale in Victoria’ and quite quickly came across one in the Otways,” she recalls.”We had never been to Johanna, but knew it was a surfing destination. Looking at the listing, we immediately felt a connection with the place.” While the building itself was nondescript, the location was enticing.”The cabin sits on three hectares, with a fern gully in the back and a mini-orchard; the beach is only minutes away.”As the property was already being rented out, Emma was confident their plan would work. “But we wanted to change the name and face of the house, to put our stamp on it.”
Although the cabin was already functioning as a holiday home, the interior was ready for an update. “It needed a lot of love,” says Emma. “The place was half-furnished, but we had to get rid of almost everything.”The exterior was similarly tired.”Out the front, there was a really terrible, overgrown garden bed, which was full of old ferns.”
To make the situation trickier, the budget was limited.Emma figured they had just enough money to replace key furniture pieces, but not enough to rip out features they weren’t keen on, such as the kitchen island and bathtubs.In order to fulfil her dream of creating a rental home that she herself would love to visit, Emma realised she needed to work with, not against, the building as it currently stood.
Emma identified the elements she was happy with – namely the rustic wooden walls and relatively new grey-brown carpet – and used them as the starting point for her redesign.”I worked up a palette of dark, earthy colours that matched the existing vibe of the cabin, and would also help conceal the wear and tear that inevitably occurs in a rental,” she says.
One cost-effective move was using bold shades of paint, rather than expensive furniture or artwork, to help set the mood in each room.Blues and greens feature prominently – a nod to the cabin’s location between ocean and rainforest.
Where possible, Emma left existing fixtures in place.”In the kitchen, we just painted the old cabinetry, because it had only been updated a few years prior and had a good solid base,” she notes.
However, the bathroom did need new cabinets. And, while replacing the bathroom vanity and aforementioned kitchen island wasn’t an option, their aged laminate surfaces desperately needed to be refreshed.”Normally, if you’re doing a budget rental renovation, you go with laminate for those things. But we decided to use tiles so that those surfaces would stand out and last longer.”
Although they hired a painter and a cabinet maker, the couple’s budget didn’t stretch to other tradespeople, such as tilers or gardeners.So, both Emma and Simon decided to roll up their sleeves and get to work. “Simon soon became very handy at tiling, even though he had no experience,” says Emma, proudly.
“The bathrooms and kitchen look like they were tiled by a pro.”Meanwhile, Emma concentrated on the front garden, ripping out those old ferns and creating a new mini-rainforest of her own. By the time the work was finished, the couple and their kids had all but forgotten about their planned trip to Italy.
And though the cabin now functions as a holiday rental, Emma says her family will continue to visit when they can.”We’ve all fallen in love with the area,” she explains. “It’s this unique pocket where the ocean meets the country meets the rainforest. For us, it’s the perfect escape.”