While searching for the right environment in which to raise their two young daughters, Damien and Rebecca Leijer—the husband-and-wife duo behind the design studio Leÿer—knew that a relaxed coastal lifestyle would be key. So, for the benefit of their children, the couple moved back to the seaside town of Torquay from Melbourne and built their forever home from the ground up in just five-and-a-half-months.
"My husband managed the project so well, and it was entirely down to his pre-planning, attention to the tiniest detail, and his incredible work ethic that we completed it in that timeframe," shares Rebecca, noting her husband’s 15-plus years of experience in the building industry and his background as a qualified carpenter. "It took its toll on him physically, however, and it’s not something we would recommend!"
The 2,153-square-foot, three-bedroom home is named Project Felix after the street it sits on. While Damien handled much of the construction, the couple worked together closely on the design. Rebecca, an interior stylist, focused mainly on the interior. Drawing inspiration from Scandinavian design and the simplicity of the New Zealand bach, the design duo came up with a minimalist cabin-like dwelling that prioritizes a sense of warmth and efficiency over square footage.
"We didn’t see the point in building a big house for the sake of being big— for example, having an extra living area just for in case we ever needed one," says Rebecca. "We feel this often comes to the detriment of finishes selected due to budget constraints caused by building such a big floor plan. We chose to build a smaller-sized house and to use our budget on the finishes instead."
To bring the laid-back charm of Torquay indoors, the couple crafted the home with clean lines and a natural material palette in muted colors that reflect the surrounding landscape—from the dramatic limestone cliffs to the nearby Fisherman’s Beach.
Timber is also a predominate material both inside and out. "We believe that timber has an unmatched aesthetic and softness," explains Rebecca. "The colors and patterns you get in the grain are things you can’t manufacture."
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"My husband is a carpenter by trade, so utilizing timber assisted us with the budget by reducing the number of outside trades we needed to engage. We knew the look we were after, so it was a lot easier to create it without having to try and convey our ideas to others who might not be on the same page."
Damien also used his carpentry skills to create custom Victorian Ash furnishings, which include the dining table, island bench, and half moon headboard in one of the bedrooms.
"We love how it’s already aging—like a lot of materials and finishes in the house, this was a key design feature for us. We wanted the house to age gracefully, and we love watching everything change as we use it—like the tapware, which is already developing a beautiful brass patina."
Draftsman: Jon Van Druhen of Technodraw
Structural Engineer: Sphinx Consulting Engineers
Cabinetry Design: Grayson Design
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