How a Couple Built the Forever Home of Their Dreams in Less Than Six Months

How a Couple Built the Forever Home of Their Dreams in Less Than Six Months

By Lucy Wang
Along Victoria’s Surf Coast, a minimalist timber dwelling combines Scandinavian charm with the laid-back vibes of a New Zealand bach.

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.

The home is located less than a quarter mile from Fisherman’s Beach. "The reason we bought the property was purely for the location, it’s in a beautiful little pocket of Torquay that is close to everything, and we can walk everywhere," says Rebecca. "The neighborhood is very special, and we were drawn to the relaxed coastal lifestyle we knew we wanted for our kids growing up."

"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!"

Located on the eastern end of Victoria’s Surf Coast, Project Felix replaced an old asbestos-filled fibro beach shack that had come with the property. "Although we toyed with the idea of doing a renovation, we eventually decided to knock it down as we knew this was going to be our forever home anyway due to the location," says Rebecca.

For a playful touch, the front door features a MadeMeasure Stacked door handle.

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."

The couple selected high-performance, modified Accoya wood—a durable, sustainable material—for the cladding and decking. The hidden downpipes help achieve a streamlined look that has earned the home the nickname "The Cabin."

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.

To continue home’s minimalist, Scandinavian-inspired theme, the couple purchased Plyroom bunks for their kids. The bedding is from Society of Wanderers.

The light-filled kitchen is outfitted with MadeMeasure leather pulls and handles, Maximum Australia Porcelain Panel countertops in Bright Onyx, and IE Francis leather pendants that hang above the Victorian Ash island bench.

"The terra-cotta backsplash in the kitchen is probably most people’s favorite feature. It was such a simple way to tie all the colors together in the house," adds Rebecca.

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."

The raked red cedar ceiling is one of the couple’s favorite aspects of the home. They are particularly enamored with "the small shadow lines we created in the junction between the raked ceiling and the plaster bulk heads…it’s such a tiny detail that tightens everything up."

The living room sofa was custom made using Warwick Haven linen fabric in Pumice. The Braid rug in Pumice is by Armadillo & Co.

When not in use, the television tucks neatly away behind folding doors to minimize visual clutter.

Shop the Look

"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."

In the master bedroom, the couple selected plywood pieces from Plyroom for their elegant simplicity. The Dr. Spinner pendant lights are from Dowel Jones, and the bedding is from In Bed.

A sliding door connects the master bedroom to the backyard, where an alfresco outdoor entertaining area and outdoor shower are located.

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.

The Leÿer-designed Victoria ash dining table is paired with leather-and-timber GlobeWest dining chairs. Potter Halo pendant lights from Anchor Ceramics hang from the ceiling.

Leÿer produces surf-inspired timber furniture—including pieces like this half-moon headboard.

"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."

The master bathroom is outfitted with a Victorian ash counter with a Nood Co blush-pink vessel sink. The tiles seen here are by Artedomus.

All the tapware is by Sussex Scala, and the finish is Living Rustic Bronze.

A Kado Lussi freestanding bathtub anchors the shared bathroom.

Related Reading:

Welcome to Your Forever Home: Smart Tech For Aging in Place

10 Breezy Bachs That’ll Have You Running to the Beach

Project Credits:

Design/Build/Interior Design: Leÿer / @leyer_td

Draftsman: Jon Van Druhen of Technodraw

Structural Engineer: Sphinx Consulting Engineers

Cabinetry Design: Grayson Design

Save

Get the Dwell Newsletter

Be the first to see our latest home tours, design news, and more.