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The Little Beach Shack

Posted Friday, May 16, 2014 in: Home Envy

This little house is nothing fancy. It has taken a few knocks through its years. The paint is a little bit flaky and the floors are a little bit wonky. But I have to say, this one is one of my absolute favourite House Nerd homes, and I am very excited to share this peek!

Just 200m from the ocean’s edge in City Beach is this little fibro beach shack, the happy home of international interiors stylist Jo-Anne Pabst, her husband, photographer Grant Taylor, and their two boys, Harrison, 7, and Wilkie, 3. They live in an undeniably desirable location in City Beach, just 200m from the shore, in an old weathered beach shack that sits cheerfully amidst mostly huge, glossy McMansions on multi-million dollar blocks. The location, and the fact that the house is still standing after so many others just like it have been torn down over the years, is just part of what makes it feel special. The other part is that this shack is one very loved little home.

DINING ROOM: I love the kooky layout of the house. In the very centre is the dining room that has four different access point that connect it to the kitchen, the boys’ bedroom, the laundry and the lounge. The old dining table was a verge side pick-up. “When we moved to Perth, our container took eight weeks to arrive from London,” says Jo-Anne, adding that they were forced to make do without a lot of things for a while! “A friend saw the dining table on the verge and it has remained as it suits the house better having a round table rather than the long one we had in London.” On the wall is a printer’s tray full of treasured photos of Harrison’s first months. “I also love my ladder with the latest interiors magazines on it,” says Jo-Anne. All photography by Grant Taylor.

FIREPLACE: The numbers artwork was by Ben Eine. The coffee table was bought from Columbia Road Flower Market in London. “Columbia Road is always on my list when we go back to London,” says Jo-Anne. On the mantel are 'Have You Met Miss Jones' vases from Morrison, filled with fig branches from the garden, opposite an antique candelabra. "I love beautiful candles," says Jo-Anne. The antique pulley to the left of fireplace was from the West End in London. The birds artwork above the fireplace was by Xenz and was a gift to Jo-Anne from Grant. All photography Grant Taylor.

SIDEBOARD STYLE: Jo-Anne and Grant bought the beautiful G-plan sideboard in London. On top is a vintage model Concorde they picked up from a travel agency – Grant loves Concordes, particularly as they remind him and Jo-Anne of their time in the UK. “It flew over our apartment every day when we first arrived in London,” says Jo-Anne. Above the sideboard are framed Concorde stamps put out to commemorate the original flight in 1969 (the printer's name was Harrison). Beneath the sideboard is Wilkie's skateboard. "He rides this through the house often," says Jo-Anne.

THE BACK YARD: The boys’ playroom opens up to the back yard, where there is an outdoor shower to wash off the sand after a play at the beach. The herb garden is planted with basil, oregano, thyme, mint and sage. The ladder and wire baskets for toys and plants were from Mediterranean Markets. All photography Grant Taylor.

ABOVE: The tiny kitchen has its original oven. The kitchen also has an 'icecream window' overlooking the vegie garden at the side of the house. Jo-Anne says the kids have fond associations with this window. "When we have parties and the kids are playing outside, we put on the Mr Whippee music... Grant, what's the Mr Whippee music called again? Greensleeves. And the kids come running to get their icecreams from the window."

COOLEST CHICKEN PEN EVER: Harrison and Wilkie collecting eggs from the 'Taylor Ladies', their team of chickens Rebel, Fluffy, Dippy Egg and French Toast. Really cute chickens. They have the run of half the yard with the ginormous pen behind the boys - the salvaged yellow door is the entry gate. All photography Grant Taylor.

ABOVE: Just moments from the beach, the little cottage sits surrounded mostly by huge McMansions. On the veranda are antique 1920s outdoor chairs. The pink cushion was from Mrs Darcey. The yellow slide was part of a cubbyhouse bought on Gumtree. To the right of the house is the 'icecream window' and the vegie garden. All photography Grant Taylor.

THE NOOK: This house has enchanted corners at every turn. Branching off the boys’ walk-through bedroom is this little corner, where vintage decanters, a branch and yellow baubles are displayed on a glass cabinet.

As soon as I walked in, I really liked this house. Its rooms are decorated beautifully, and it is full of gorgeous, quirky things – and not surprisingly, with Jo-Anne and Grant both very visually driven people. I first met Jo-Anne last year when I went to write about the home of Morrison founders Kylie Radford and Richard Poulson. Jo-Anne had styled it and Grant had photographed it.

Melbourne-born Jo-Anne and Grant met and fell in love when they were both working for an ad agency. After moving from Melbourne to London and spending 15 years living there, Jo-Anne and Grant eventually moved from the UK back to Australia to settle in Perth. “We came to London to stay with friends,” says Jo-Anne. “We were going to backpack and stay for a year. We came back 15 years later with two kids and a container!”

The couple still own their house in London and have not yet bought the perfect place in Perth. For the time being, renting The Beach Shack has suited this outdoorsy family to a tee. They moved in two years ago, after a hunt for a house to rent with character and good light. “We wanted a house to shoot in that had great living spaces,” says Grant. He and Jo-Anne often work collaboratively on photo shoots – she styles, he shoots, and they needed a space where they could shoot food and and product. When Grant came across the Beach Shack, he told Jo-Anne he thought it would suit them and the boys. The year the house was constructed is not known, though its mishmash of interior features point to perhaps a 1940s or 50s build. (It is believed that the little beach shack was actually picked up and moved from Bold Park to its current location).

Just 200m from the beach, the location was incredible, the rent was great for upper-end suburb City Beach, and the relaxed owners let Jo-Anne and Grant do what they like to the property (they have added a vegie garden, and a rather amazing beach-style chicken pen for their four chickens, the ‘Taylor Ladies’, Rebel, Fluffy, Dippy Egg and French Toast).

THE OFFICE: The house has a funny winding floor plan, with most rooms connected to the next one. Jo-Anne’s office branches off ‘the nook’ and connects to the boy’s playroom. In the playroom are cushions from Bonnie and Neil, purchased from Empire. The artwork was by Harrison and Wilkie. Jo-Anne likes to fill the walls with photos, postcards and bits of inspiration. All photography Grant Taylor.

BOYS’ BEDROOM: In Harrison and Wilkie's room are lots of vintage toys, pictures and globes Jo-Anne and Grant have collected on their travels. Islington Boys Club picture was by photographer and friend Simon Atlee. “I am a bit obsessed with vintage letters for the boys,” says Jo-Anne. The old Japanese tin cable car is from the 1950s.

I know it is partly because they are such a nice family, but this house feels warm and comfortable and friendly. There’s nothing precious or pretentious about it. The kitchen has its original stove. Unlike its fancier neighbours, the house lacks air-con (and heating, with the wood fireplace used in winter to warm the house) but it’s a perfect home to raise rambunctious little boys, and it perfectly suits its beach-loving, laidback, colourful family of four.

This is kind of a bittersweet house to see, because Jo-Anne, Grant and I all know that is highly likely one day this little beach shack won’t be here, being set on a large block in City Beach. For non-Perth people, City Beach is one of the most desirable and prestigious waterfront areas in WA – and one of the most expensive. Land in City Beach is worth a lot more than the construction of this little fibro house (and the Beach Shack is set in one of the most prestigious pockets in the area, too). The little cottage is owned by people who are happy for Jo-Anne and Grant to do what they like to the house, as they plan to knock it down and rebuild it one day, not unusually. Sitting on premier Perth real estate, the suburb’s smaller, older cottage-y houses like this one tend to be renovated or eventually replaced (there are only four or five houses on the heritage register in City Beach altogether). It’s kind of sad, but always it is how it is when land becomes worth a lot!

In the meantime, I guess we can just hope that Jo-Anne, Grant and their boys can enjoy laidback living in their little beach shack for a while to come. Seven-year-old Harrison particularly loves it here. On the wall in Jo-Anne’s office, a little sign he made reads, ‘This house is luvle’ written painstakingly in child’s handwriting. Jo-Anne says he is very strongly attached to the place. “We would be hard-pressed to take him away from the house now,” she says.

ABOVE: Jo-Anne's home office made me smile - such a happy space. On the wall is a photo Jo-Anne took of Grant playing with the boys on the nearby beach. On the right is Harrison's sign. I am inexperienced at reading children script and thought it read, "this home is lurve" but it reads, "this home is luvle." The bottom piece Harrison brought home from school one day. I start to read it aloud. It reads: "When Mum has five minutes peace, she likes to sit on a chair and drink wine usually." - Harrison. Jo-Anne rolls her eyes. Jo-Anne, I apologise for the fact that I couldn't stop laughing.

KITCHEN SENTIMENT: The old Melbourne poster was bought years ago in Santa Barbara and has lots of personal meaning to Jo-Anne and Grant. “It was a travel agents poster and Grant’s grandfather tended to these gardens when he first immigrated from Scotland,” says Jo-Anne. “The teapot is from a dear friend in London, the kettle was a gift from my lovely cousin and the Bialetti stove top espresso maker is part of Grant’s morning coffee ritual.” On the left are vintage chopping boards and herbs picked from the garden. All photography Grant Taylor.

KITCHEN PRETTY: The sweet little kitchen is one of Jo-Anne and Grant’s favourite rooms in the house. “I love baking and don’t know what I would do without my Kitchen Aid from Kitchen Warehouse,” says Jo-Anne. “I am trying to perfect my grandma’s cupcakes and my grandpas apple pie. Wilkie loves to help collect the eggs, measure the flour and lick the spoon. Chocolate brownies are his favourite.”

COME IN: Like many simple beach shacks of its time, the house has no formal entry foyer or hall – the front door opens directly onto the lounge room. There is an enclosed front porch, though, where wood for the fireplace and towels and things to take to the beach are stored. On the right is the door to Grant and Jo-Anne’s bedroom. All photography Grant Taylor.

I understand why Harrison would be sad to leave it - I love the house as an adult. But for little boys (and little girls) living in this house would be the dream, wouldn’t it? It reminds me of the kinds of comfortable, worn old houses most of my friends lived in when I was growing up amidst creaky old weatherboards and little fibro cottages. (Although we didn’t have the beach basically across the road a short walk away, like the Taylors do!)

Another thing I can see that any kid would love about this house is its layout. It basically shouts ‘let’s play chasey.’ It is not a large house, but the rooms seem to connect to the next room in a way that makes the layout seem winding and exciting, with interesting nooks to discover at every turn. The front door opens directly onto the lounge room, off which is the main bedroom on the left. The lounge also flows into the dining room, which acts as a central axis around which the other rooms branch off; the kitchen, the laundry, the lounge, the boys’ bedroom, and then off the bedrooms branch little sunroom style sub-rooms, like Jo-Anne’s office, off which branches the playroom (which also has a door leading to it from the garden). Kind of understand what I mean? I like the shack’s kind of higgedly-piggedly layout. I think I have always had a soft spot for winding, kooky layouts because the house I grew up in myself was like that, an originally 1950s, seven bedroom house that had been extended numerous times over the years to give it lots of little nooks and corners (my sister Simone has friends who call the house The Burrow).

And it is filled with beautiful, meaningful things. “Everything has a story,” says Jo-Anne of the things in her home, and it is true. Both Grant and Jo-Anne love beautiful things, but they don’t fill their little home with meaningless clutter, and much of their things are vintage, memories found at markets in London, treasured items from family members, or found secondhand on the side of the road. It makes their house seem even more warm and welcoming, and it’s a very nice Home Envy to visit in all!

COSY LOUNGE: Jo-Anne, Grant and the boys love to relax in the lounge, where shelves hold treasured family mementoes, like the beautiful dancing girls atop the bookcase… ie: a lot of breakables. “This is the room they’re not allowed to throw balls in,” announces Jo-Anne as Harrison tears past. (I kind of get the feeling she is speaking not just about her sons but her husband too). The mid-century purple chair is by Fritz Hansen and was Jo-Anne’s first London purchase. “It needs reupholstering but I keep changing my mind on the fabric,” she says. “I might just go for its original fabric at this stage!” The pink spotted cushion is from Mrs Darcy. Above the purple chair is a Banksy. “We lived just off Regent Street in London,” says Jo-Anne. “There was a permanent golf sale on in our street so directions for friends were easy. Get off the Tube at Oxford Circus, walk down Regent Street and turn right at the Golf Sale sign. I loved sitting in the purple chair, reading magazines and looking out our bedroom window at Liberty Department Store.” All photography by Grant Taylor.

FAMILY TREASURES: The bookshelf contains our favourite books, Grant’s polaroid camera from the 70s and bits the have collected over the years mixed in with family photos. The dancing ladies on top of bookshelf were Jo-Anne’s grandma’s. On the right is a photo of Grant's mum riding a Vespa. All photography Grant Taylor.

ABOVE: The black and white photograph on the right is Grant's mum riding a motorbike - with Grant in front! All photography Grant Taylor.

ABOVE: The bunny artwork on the chalkboard was by Harrison - Jo-Anne couldn't bear to rub this one away! The glass dome was from Empire and the Volupsa candle from Morrison. All photography Grant Taylor.

BEDROOM ARMOIRE: The armoire was bought on eBay from France. Hanging on it is an dress from Morrison. “Since moving to Perth Morrison dresses have become my uniform,” says Jo-Anne. “So easy to wear with a necklace and sandals.”

BEDHEAD: Jo-Anne painted the timber bedhead a sunny yellow. The artwork above the bed was by Spacecraft Melbourne. “It is a new purchase from EMPIRE,” says Jo-Anne. “I love it and it reminds me of our home town.” The cushion on the bed was from Etoile Home. All photography Grant Taylor.

ABOVE: In Grant and Jo-Anne's bedroom is this chest of drawers from Northcross Road Market in London. Old jars are filled with cuttings from the garden. Grant and Jo-Anne love the outdoors lifestyle the Perth weather offers - Jo-Anne had always treasured her childhood memories of holidaying in Perth, riding motorbikes on her cousins’ farm in Pinjarra and spending summer holidays in Busselton, Grant has family here in Perth also.

BATHROOM: I love the house's small yet pleasant bathroom branching off the laundry. “It’s an old, basic, beach house bathroom,” says Jo-Anne. “Lots of white, light and plants.” The white basket was from Mediterranean Markets. Jo-Anne planted the ferns in SKURAR hanging planters from IKEA. All photography Grant Taylor.

Jo-Anne and Grant do lots of big-name styling and photography yet they are just so damn nice, unaffected and well, normal, offering me coffee, salt and vinegar chips, icecream (it’s a stinking hot 40 degree day) and Jelly Belly jellybeans, kindly pointing out the gross ones to avoid. Yes I do basically adore everyone who feeds me, but I would like this little family even if they didn’t. Last year they had Christmas lunch on the front lawn and wandered down to the beach for swimming.

The kids played in the garden, tearing around from the back, where there is a huge ‘sand dune style’ chicken pen for the four friendly chooks, to the front, where a yellow slide (part of cubby house bought on Gumtree) has been affixed to the front veranda. “The house is definitely fun for kids and adults,” says Jo-Anne. “The boys love climbing the tree at sunset… while we have a nice cool drink in the shade.”

Have you ever lived or holidayed in an old beach shack? Would you take a dream seaside location and character over creature comforts like air-con and central heating? Could you live in an old cottage or would the upkeep of an older house put you off? You can follow Jo-Anne's enchanting styling on Instagram here @joannepabststylingandinteriors, through Pinterest or Facebook. Grant can be contacted for photographic inquiries at taylorgrant 'at' . Maya x


Off the dining room is the back room laundry and the kitchen.


International interior stylist Jo-Anne Pabst and her husband, photographer Grant Taylor, their boys, Harrison, 7, and Wilkie, 3, and their four chickens (the ‘Taylor Ladies’) Rebel, Fluffy, Dippy Egg and French Toast.


A little fibro beach shack


200m from the ocean’s edge in City Beach, Western Australia




Three bedrooms, bathroom, front veranda, lounge room, dining room, kitchen, playroom, office, laundry, bathroom, jarrah floorboards, chicken pen, ‘icecream window’


Stylist owner Jo-Anne Pabst (you can follow Jo-Anne’s work on Instagram @joannepabststylingandinteriors, Facebook, Pinterest, check out her website here or call 0448 576 491)


Owner Grant Taylor is a photographer. For photographic inquiries, contact taylorgrant ‘at’ 

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