Sarah & Tony’s ‘Relaxed Rustic’ Home in Western Australia

published Nov 19, 2015
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(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)

Name: Tony and Sarah Howell and their sons, Oliver and Reeve
Location: Gracetown, Western Australia
Size: 320 square meters (3,444 square feet)
Years lived in: 16; Owned

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Between the dense natural bush and one of the main surfing breaks in South Western Australia lies a home full of peace and serenity. Sarah, who owns a home decor business sourcing treasures from around the world, and Tony, regarded as one of Australia’s best chefs, have built a home that is as beautiful as it is inviting. The home’s simple color palette—namely, white-on-white—and cowhides layered on glossy timber floors are a perfect study in restraint. Less can be more.

(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)

When you first walk into Sarah and Tony’s home, you are greeted with a huge, open plan living room, kitchen, and dining area. There are tall, lofted windows on the front of the house that let in the beautiful, warm sunshine and fresh coastal sea breezes of Gracetown. What immediately hit me, though, is that although this felt like such a grownup space, it was still a home that allowed two little boys to run about and scoot in and out on their three-wheeler push bikes. This is made possible by the choices that Sarah made when both designing and decorating their home.

The floors are a sealed hardwood and are layered with easily-maintained cowhide rugs. All the furniture was chosen for its ability to be wiped down effortlessly—think leather couches and ottomans, timber dining chairs, and metal bar stools. What keeps it feeling classy and sophisticated is that the furniture and accessories—mainly sourced through Sarah’s business, Soul Styling—are all kept to a very simple colorway of whites and beiges, with a small bit of sparkle thrown in thanks to the Moroccan wedding blanket cushions on the sofa and the Juju hats hanging on the walls. This design concept is consistent throughout the entire home, including the master bedroom, where there are more white walls and timber.

Both Sarah and Tony have worked hard to make their home a peaceful oasis in which to relax each night after a long day’s work. Set in the middle of the beautiful forest near a small coastal town, their home is one of comfort and retreat, with space for the boys to run and enjoy the natural bushland surrounds.

(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Is always changing and evolving, much to my husband’s frustration!!! I love a relaxed rustic look but also like clean lines and uncluttered spaces.

Inspiration: I adore Sibella Court’s work and modern Balinese architecture—it’s so raw and rustic. I’m also inspired by natural products and textures, magazines, and friends, of course.

Favorite Element: The windows that bring in so much natural light and the gorgeous bush and pool vista, and also the high ceilings.

Biggest Challenge: Finding wall space to put artwork and furniture against because of all the windows!!!

What Friends Say: “You live in a gorgeous spot, with such a beautiful house,” although my favorite compliment is when people say we have a warm and inviting home.

Biggest Embarrassment: The aluminum blinds. I hate, hate, hate, them, but it was all we could afford when we moved in and I am soooo ready to upgrade them.

Proudest DIY: Hmmm my husband and I aren’t really DIYers! We’ve had a few flops but one that did work out beautifully is the radio chairs in our lounge room.

Biggest Indulgence: The pool

Best Advice: Only buy things you love, love, love. Take your time planning everything well so you don’t have to redo them.

Dream Sources: I could list a host of amazing shops and online sources that sell stunning products, but I love all the pieces that I source direct from craftsmen all over the world.


(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)


  • Walls: Dulux Off White
(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)


(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)


(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)


(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)


(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)


(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)


(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)


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Sarah and her two boys relax in the warmth of their living room. (Image credit: Hayley Kessner)

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Thanks, Sarah & Tony!