Jan Juc, Australia
Diving into a tube, being completely cocooned in water, is one of those spiritual, connected-to-nature moments that only surfers truly understand. If you haven’t done it, you want to. If you have, it’s what keeps you paddling out for more. Most folks say the experience is indescribable, but Simon Taylor, a Bells Beach local, does a pretty good job of cutting to the heart of it. “There is this amazing thing that happens with sound when you’re inside a wave,” says Simon. “All the noise goes away, and there is just this quiet ‘wom, wom, wom’ in your ears. It’s like you found a special place that’s all yours, and then you shoot out the other end.”
This couple has a long history of collecting indigenous Australian art. Their earliest acquisitions were inherited from Kirsty’s grandfather, though her favourite piece is the Don Pwerle painting above the mantel, a gift from Simon on her thirtieth birthday.
This mostly original, always reliable chariot (known to family and friends as Penny Lane) is Kirsty’s first baby. She picked up the 1965 Falcon Coupe back in 2008 after dreaming of owning one since she was a teen.
Simon’s most prized (but not too prized to ride) vintage board collection includes a 6’2” Hot Buttered Single Fin by Terry Fitzgerald (an iconic Aussie shaper from the seventies), and a 6’0” Hot Stuff Single Fin by the late Al Byrne.
Simon picked up his first board when he was ten. As far as vices go, surfing certainly isn’t a baddie (as the Aussies would say). But that is the type of relationship Simon says he has with riding. It’s not a hobby. It’s not a thing he simply enjoys. It’s something he can’t live without, something that keeps him functioning at normal, so to speak. “If I haven’t been for a week,” says Simon, “I don’t feel quite myself. I get antsy.” His wife, Kirsty Davey, would nod her head in agreement with that assessment. “I can always tell when he needs a surf. Sometimes I’ll just point and say, ‘Go get in the ocean.’”
When Kirsty and Simon first met, back in 2007, they were both living in Melbourne. Kirsty was working at Lonely Planet and Simon had just started his business, Monster Jam Agency, where he reps indie skate and surf brands, like Chilli and Lost Surfboards. Practically every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were spent making the three-hour round trip to the Surf Coast and back. That was when they figured out they were doing things all tangled up and backward. “It made more sense for us to live where the surf was and figure out how to make Melbourne the place we go for work,” says Simon, though, in his case, it helps that Jan Juc, the tiny coastal hamlet they landed in, is smack in the middle of Australia’s surf industry; Rip Curl and Quicksilver (“Quickie” to the locals) are both headquartered one town over in Torquay. That was eight years ago. Kirsty has since opened an online shop called Otis & Otto, and they haven’t looked back once.
This dining table was once a workbench covered in paint, glue, and grit. Simon spent hours sanding away the layers, finally revealing the beautiful Kauri pine finish you see here.
Vladimir Tretchikoff’s 1952 painting Chinese Girl is as much a symbol of mid-century design as an Eames chair (though not nearly as well known today). After coveting his work for years, Kirsty received this print as a gift.
Both Simon and Kirsty work from home, so they each have tiny ‘office’ nooks. Simon’s garden-view retreat is tucked away in what used to be a laundry room.
“We live with less, but we love what we have.”
The house they rent is the first and only house they looked at, and one of the oldest in Jan Juc. “There are a lot of local myths and legends about our place,” says Kirsty, who heard from one of the previous owners that the original structure was built at the turn of the last century in Ballarat, a city roughly sixty miles inland, and hauled to the coast in the 1950s. “It’s had many lives and was a vacation rental for years before we moved in.”
That, to an extent, helps explain some of its many eccentricities: the fact that rooms appear to have been added at random over the decades, so there’s an odd mix of fifties, sixties, and seventies architecture. Or the fact that despite being a beach house, its walls and ceilings are clad in Baltic pine, making it feel more like a cozy cabin that belongs in the woods. It does, however, leave the greatest design mystery of all unsolved – the case of the crazy carpets. “Nobody seems to know where they come from,” says Kirsty with an eye roll. Almost every room features a different color or pattern, the main attraction being the master bedroom, which is decked out in an uber-bright tropical print.
After living with a quirky round window for so many years, Kirsty and Simon have decided that every house they live in from here on out will also have to have a quirky round window–they love it that match.
This is a foodie household (foraging mushrooms is a favourite family activity), so Kirsty can get very sentimental about cooking utensils, like this collection of vintage copper pots she brought all the way back from France and had re-tinned.
House guests are a reality when you live on the coast. In the summer they come for the sun, in the winter for the swells. So this guest room sees a lot of action.
Kirsty’s collection, now Mali’s, of Dean & Son books – a nineteenth-century British publisher known for its imprints of classic children’s stories – started with her dad’s copy of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.
“We know, the house is kooky… but we love that about it,” says Kirsty. “Even the carpet has grown on me at this point.” Despite getting finger wags from friends about spending money on a rental, Simon and Kirsty have undertaken a few updates over the years to smooth out the rough edges, and make it feel more like a family home for their five-year-old daughter, Mali, including painting some of the walls and ceilings white to brighten things up a bit. But, for the most part, they’ve let things be. Staying in a long-term rental has helped them to lead not minimal but uncomplicated lives. “We live with less,” she says, “but we love what we have.”
The one exception to that philosophy might be Simon’s surfboard collection, which is loved but by no means small. There’s usually anywhere between twenty-five and thirty boards in his quiver, depending on the season. He has a few guns and semi-guns by Chilli that he surfs a lot, also a handful of boards by Wayne Lynch that he enjoys almost as much as the stories surrounding the local surf legend. (There’s the one about Lynch and his buddies wreaking havoc on the first paved road into Bells Beach, or the time he dodged going to the Vietnam War by refusing to leave the water when draft officers tracked him down.)
Everything is organized in a shed-turned–man cave out back. Vintage boards are stowed in the rafters; the rest of the quiver is sorted along the walls, largest to smallest, according to the size wave they work for.
“I move things in and out a lot; the shortboards I change up probably every six months,” says Simon. “I think, as a surfer, I have this never-ending need to search for the perfect board; it’s like the same need to hunt for the perfect wave.”
This is an edited extract from
Surf Shack by Nina Freudenberger
Published by Hardie Grant Books,
available in stores nationally