I first came across Emily and her family late one night sitting at my computer, working hard (read: being distracted by Facebook). Immediately I was hooked on her blog, The Beetle Shack. Enchanted by the photos of her warm, colourful house in a semi-rural town on the east coast, tales of overall family happiness reminiscent of Disney films and pictures of a vegie patch that made me jealous, I loved Emily’s blog and her open, engaging and funny writing voice straightaway.
I’m not the only internet bug caught by the effervescent light that is The Beetle Shack blog. At first glance I thought Emily’s life looked effortlessly blissful. She writes about her garden and staying at home playing with FIMO and listening to Van Morrison. She writes funny laments and pleas written to her butt to stop expanding as her pregnancy goes on. Posts photos of her gorgeous kids with the sun glinting in their hair.
But I soon found out that Emily blogs about the hard stuff as well. When she was a baby, it was discovered Emily had a tumour in her eye, a rare childhood cancer called retinoblastoma. Her eye needed to be removed and she was fitted with a prosthetic before her second birthday. She writes openly about this, as well as other things that aren’t all sunshine and organic veggies – parenting troubles, frustrating days. Reading this blog is like reading a book - one of those good books where you feel like you want to kick back over coffee with the central character.
This Home Envy feature has taken me a long time to piece together because I wanted to get it just right to make sure I did Emily and her story – her beautiful home, family and blog - justice! But here it finally is.
Emily, her husband Dave, and their two children Zeph, 4, and Pippi, 2, live on the east coast of Australia in a beautiful little town surrounded by beaches. “We have a half acre block in a semi-rural area and in the summer time, when the windows are open and the wind is blowing from the sea shore, we can hear the roar of the ocean calling us from our beds,” says Emily .
She and Dave believe their shack is a late 1960s number. They bought it in 2007. “At that time, it appeared huge to us with its four bedrooms, two bathrooms and single dingy living area,” says Emily. “We have since managed to fill every room with children (one on the way) and have built a studio under the house to store all of my art supplies and resources.” (Emily is a Visual Arts teacher).
While it’s now a beautiful home, the Beetle Shack wasn’t always. “Oh gosh, our home was a disaster the first time we saw it!” says Emily when I ask her what it looked like. “It had 'school room’ blue carpet throughout, timber panelling, vertical blinds, filthy windows and a metre-wide pebble crete deck. It was dark and dingy but on a fabulously large block (at the right price). We could see the potential and quickly got to work.” Emily and Dave have slowly been renovating their “humble shack” room by room.
What I like about their home is that it is beautiful but not too precious – it’s comfortable. “Our house is humble,” agrees Emily. “It has character and values practicality and creativity over immaculate presentation and impeccable style. The skirting boards are scuffed and our furniture a little dented, a sign that our house is our home, filled with love and movement.”
When they get time to relax, Emily and Dave love to spend time in their vegetable garden (they eat from it every day, and dream of being self-sufficient) and teach Zeph and Pippi how to look after their chooks and ducks. They also love cooking (especially using home-grown produce). Emily says on a perfect day at home, they’d split time between the kitchen and the gardens. “We'd make bread and pizza dough before venturing outside to light the wood fired oven,” says Emily. “We'd pick fresh herbs and veggies and scatter them over our pizzas before sliding them into the oven to cook and crispen. We'd picnic on the grass under the shade of the magnolia before tucking the young ones into bed. Cold beer would follow!” Sounds like a glorious summer evening to me too.
Is there a blog YOU love? I'd love to hear about your favourites.
Emily, who writes the popular blog The Beetle Shack, her husband Dave, their two children Zeph, 4, and Pippi, 2. They are expecting Beetle Shack Baby number three in late April/early May.
A late 1960s coastal cottage on half an acre
A semi-rural suburb on the east coast of Australia
A studio beneath the house for Em’s arts and crafts, half an acre of gardens, vegetable patch, ducks, four bedrooms, veranda
Emily and Dave do their gorgeous interiors themselves
Amazing Sydney-based professional photographer Tim Coulson, other photos by Emily