Inside Interior Designer Simone Haag’s Relaxed Beachfront Weekender On Phillip Island

Welcome to The Makers. Each week, we celebrate innovators, artisans and crafters of all types, by taking you on a private tour of their creative spaces. For this instalment, we head to Phillip Island in Victoria where interior designer Simone Haag has created a relaxed beachfront weekender she calls 'Angler’s Shack'.

When Melbourne-based interior designer Simone Haag first visited Phillip Island almost a decade ago with her now-husband Rhys, she didn't expect she would ever own property there.   

Over the years, however, Simone and Rhys made regular trips back to the island – always staying at Rhys’ parent's property, lovingly dubbed Angler’s Shack – and it soon became a place very close to their hearts. After their wedding, the couple often scouted the area for their own beach house, but could never find anything quite like Rhys’ family abode. So, when Simone’s in-laws decided to move to a more retirement-worthy place, Simone and Rhys jumped at the opportunity to make Angler’s Shack their own and keep the home in the family – as well as all the memories they had made there. 

Simone took advantage of the simple layout of the home, making small updates to the space as opposed to major renovations. Cabinets were repositioned, the kitchen bench was retiled, and the floors were given a fresh lick of paint. Aside from that, Simone did what she does best – used decor pieces like furniture, art, ceramics and lighting, to give the home a fresh personality. Remaining committed to an olive, charcoal and tangerine colour palette throughout, there are many vintage and globally-sourced finds – and even pieces from IKEA – which have been thoughtfully positioned around the home. The result? A Californian bungalow vibe that exudes warmth and comfort.

Located only an hour and a half drive away from the couple’s Ringwood residence in Melbourne (which we previously toured here) and a stone’s throw from the beach, Simone has created a breathtaking weekender. It’s a sanctuary reminiscent of the perfect Australian holiday retreat – one she knows will continue to remain a family heirloom where memories are made and laughter is shared.

Hi Simone! Welcome back to The Makers. What have you been making since last time we caught up with you? 

Last time we toured my Melbourne home in Ringwood and since then I’ve been updating my family’s beachfront cottage in Phillip Island called Angler’s Shack. It’s not too long of a drive from our city home, and we go there any opportunity we can – not just for a special occasion or on a public holiday.

Tell us about your journey with ‘Angler’s Shack’. How long have you had this property? 

That depends on how technical you want to get! My journey with Angler’s Shack began when I started seriously dating my husband Rhys. The house used to be owned by Rhys' parents and I vividly remember the first time I went down there. We were supposed to just go to Phillip Island for a relaxing surfing trip and the next thing I knew I was meeting my potential mother-in-law. That just goes to explain the essence of the house in that anyone is welcome through the doors of Angler’s Shack – girlfriends, dogs, friends and family. Rhys' parents probably had the property for 10 years, I had been going down there for about six years and then we decided to purchase it after we got married. 

What was the impetus for purchasing it?

It was all perfect timing for us. We were searching for the ideal weekender on Phillip Island and our criteria was that we wanted to find a place just like Rhys’ parents’ beach house. It worked in our favour because at the time, his parents decided they needed to relocate to a home that was more retirement-worthy, so we jumped at the chance to purchase the property.

Shop Simone's look with Turmeric and Oatmeal in our Build Your Own Bundle.

How did you initially know this was the space for you?

The property holds a lot of sentimental value and we were so grateful to be able to keep the shack in the family. Also, the location is perfect. Over the years as we made regular trips to the shack and our relationship turned into something more serious, it just became a place very close to our hearts.

Talk us through your creative process with updating the property. Where did you start?

Rhys’ mum liked design, but she never really invested in it. She always said it was ‘just a shack’ and was a great place for friends and family to crash, so she avoided spending too much time or effort on it, or filling the space with quality furniture and goods.

However, it was quite the opposite for me. Every time I went down there it was such a tease because I had so many ideas of what I wanted to do with the place and how I could improve it. I saw so much potential in the house, so as soon as we bought it I jumped straight into things.

I always start my creative process with things I actually love, so I don’t design the space and then fill them; instead, I find the things I want and then design the space around them. For Angler’s Shack, I was certain I wanted to create a California-Arizona vibe and approached the design process with this in mind.

I had already collected a few pieces before we even purchased the shack, including the most amazing Bumling pendant from Sweden, which now hangs over the dining table, as well as beautiful tangerine Carl Hansen dining chairs.

Did you do any renovations or make any big changes after moving in?

We still wanted it to feel like the original shack, so we ensured we didn’t go overboard with renovations. Instead, we used more of a styling approach by replacing furniture and adding in objects, artworks and tapestries. 

I would say we did “mild” renovations. We repositioned some internal cabinetry, retiled the kitchen benches, painted the floors white, replaced the lights and added some timber lining boards in the bathroom.

What are your favourite pieces in the home?

When we began renovating the shack, it was right when IKEA launched the Ilse Crawford Sinnerlig Collection range and I couldn’t get enough of anything cork. I needed to get my hands on a cork table, cork stools and cork benches. 

Do you have any special décor pieces you’re looking to add?

For me, updating the space is something I’m never going to set and forget. It’s a constant process of layering items, adding pieces, changing things in the rooms – it’s never complete for me so I’m always looking to add more.

We’re now shifting our focus to the outdoors and we’ve started with paving the area. We currently have a few outdoor pieces but I think this is the one spot that has room for layering. 

For us, it’s just about the space evolving with the kids’ age. We’re working with our friend and landscape architect Nathan Burkett, to re-landscape the outdoors but I know that by the time this project is complete, it’ll be time for something else like repainting, redoing the floors or replacing the windows. Because of the proximity to the ocean and the age of the shack, it doesn’t matter how much we do – there will always be something to update. It’s definitely an ongoing project. 

Shop Simone's look with Olive and Mineral bed sheets in our Build Your Own Bundle, and White Valance.

Shop Simone's look with our White bath and hand towel. 

Which is your favourite room in the house?

At the moment, it’s the Bungalow! It’s our newest addition. It was the old carport and later a spare bedroom, but it was one of those bedrooms you had to spend a weekend cleaning before you would let anyone stay there because it was prone to all sorts of… visitors (hello, birds!). It never really had a purpose, either. 

We then decided to open up the doors and of course, with any chance for me to buy and style a space with new furniture, it slowly became my new favourite space. We gave the Bungalow a thorough clean, put in a fresh bed and hung some art. 

What makes this house feel like a holiday?

As you travel over the bridge to Phillip Island and soak in the landscape, it instantly triggers a relaxed holiday response. There’s grazing cattle, rolling hills and the ocean, which is a stark contrast from the bustle of urban life.

Along with the crackle of the fire and the fresh scent of ocean salt lingering in the air, the sense of community on Phillip Island is something that’s irreplaceable. It’s the kind of area where you can casually chat to your neighbour over the fence, people wave to you from afar, the kids spontaneously go and play with other children without you even knowing, and you can actually stop and have a proper conversation with anyone. The dogs run through the house all muddy, the kids run in with sand everywhere and yet everyone is still relaxed.

Plus, if you don’t have a red wine in one hand then you’re definitely doing something wrong. 

What are your top tips for a well-styled bedroom, and home generally?

A well-styled bedroom for me means everything has to serve a purpose. You don't just have cushions for cushion’s sake. The cushion is there for comfort so you can work on your laptop, read a book with or snuggle with family. A bed is all well and good, but you have to be able to sit in it and enjoy the room it’s in. You need to make your bedroom a place that evokes cosiness and warmth. 

Wall lights that are dimmable are also excellent additions to a well-styled bedroom, as is Bed Threads bed linen, of course. 

For me, I would never style a room where there’s just a bed against a wall. I always like to have my stacks of books, ceramics or a jewellery bowl behind me so a lodge behind my bed is a non-negotiable. 

Moreover, I always like artwork and it can’t just be a single piece of art over a bed - I always like mixed medium artwork so combining tapestries with ceramics, paper mache, paintings and photographs.

Do you have a single piece of advice you’d give to someone looking to renovate?

Particularly if you’re renovating a coastal or seaside house, you never want it to feel like a new house – you always want to preserve the essence of its origin. This means that you don’t need to go high-tech and you don’t need automation. Instead, focus on low-fi and remember you don’t have to go overboard with renovations. 

Do you have any projects coming up you want to talk about?

It’s never-ending! I’m currently working on a mix of really lovely projects, from a beautiful heritage house that used to be a boarding school, to a superb mountain house. 

Apart from that, it’s also raising three kids, a Great Dane and trying to keep my own house together. I guess that’s the beauty of having the Shack – it gives me the chance to disconnect from everything.

Shop Simone's look with Turmeric and Terracotta in our Build Your Own Bundle.

Shop Simone's look with Turmeric Bedding Set.

For more from Simone, follow her at @simonehaag.

Loved this? Take a tour inside Simone's twice-renovated mid-century home here.

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