How The Block’s Kara and Kyal Demmrich Built Their Dream Beach House
Welcome to The Makers. Each week, we’re celebrating innovators, artisans and crafters of all types, taking you on a private tour of their creative spaces. For this instalment, we head to the beachside paradise of Bateau Bay, on the New South Wales Central Coast, where The Block stars Kyal and Kara Demmrich have built their dream home from scratch.
Kara Demmrich has always been a fan of a project. She spent her teen years seeking out antiques desperate for a new lease on life, sanding back old tables or chests and transforming them into something new. She even started saving for her first home when she was 17 – she had well and truly caught the renovation bug.
No wonder, then, that she and husband Kyal were fan favourites on their season of The Block in 2014, eventually going on to win their season. In the intervening years, they renovated more than 28 homes and worked on honing their skills for the ultimate project: turning their little beachside shack in Bateau Bay, on Sydney’s Central Coast, into a sprawling family home. “This is the beach shack we bought with our prize money,” Kara says. “It’s always been a goal of ours to build a family home here for us to raise our kids in.”
The challenges were considerable, even for seasoned renovators like Kara and Kyal. Firstly, the shack was 90% asbestos, meaning that instead of a little fixer-upper job, the pair needed to demolish it and start from scratch. Then, COVID hit. Kara was initially concerned that building work might grind to a halt, so the couple ramped up the renovation in order to ensure the family was settled in at the start of lockdown. “There was a mad rush to finish the build and settle in,” Kara recalls. “There were so many unknowns for everyone, so it was a stressful period to say the least.”
That was six months ago, and already the house has the lived-in feeling of a forever home. The extensive renovation – you can watch videos of the process on their website Kyalandkara.com – hinged around ensuring a seamless transition between indoor and outdoor spaces. Sliding glass doors run along the length of one side of the house, opening up the living areas into the garden and palm-shaded pool. High ceilings usher in plenty of light and leave space for a spectacular curved staircase connecting the floors.
Kara’s decorating style is natural, relaxed and intuitive, with plenty of timber accents and a sandy colour palette of creams, pale pinks and greys. Gorgeous paintings by artists Brittany Ferns and Ash Holmes, hanging in the lounge room and rumpus room respectively, tie the decoration together. But one of Kara’s most beloved pieces has a more personal story: the couple’s four poster bed, made by Kyal using timber from the original beach shack. When styled with some Khaki and Oatmeal linen from Bed Threads, the result is a sumptuous and restorative space for a good night’s sleep.
“I always work off the philosophy that less is more when it comes to styling the bedroom,” Kara says. “For me, it should feel like an uncluttered space that you can retreat to clear your head for the night.”
Hi Kara! This series is called The Makers. What is it that you make?
I renovate and style homes for a living, primarily our own projects. The last three renovations we’ve filmed and created an online series for each, documenting the process.
How does the act of “making” relate to your personality and who you are?
Both myself and my husband Kyal have always LOVED a ‘before and after’ and turning something old into something new. As a kid I’ve always loved a hands-on project like upcycling a piece of furniture.
Tell us about your career journey to date. Did you always know you wanted to pursue this line of work?
Although I’ve always known I’d love the process of renovating, I didn’t set out to make a career out of it. I studied Physiotherapy at University and worked for 6 years as a Physiotherapist, whilst renovating of an evening and on weekends. I absolutely loved working as a Physiotherapist, but after our time on The Block in 2014 and living in Melbourne, we realised how much we really loved the creative process of building and renovating and saw an opportunity to make a living from it. Kyal already had his builders licence and I undertook some study at ISCD. A lot of what we now know about renovating and building is from 10 years of living and breathing it.
Talk us through your creative process. Where do you start?
We usually start by taking inspiration from the surrounding area of the home we’re renovating (or building). For our last few projects that’s been the Coastal landscape. We create an inspiration board bringing together colours/samples/products/images to create an overall project look. Before locking in any selections from an aesthetics perspective, we will work on the layout and floor plan.
What’s been the single most crucial tool or strategy you’ve used to grow your creative business?
Filming and sharing the process of our projects over the last four years has definitely taken our creative business to the next level. Social media plays such a key role in sharing this content, however the initial investment in documenting the journey is the key. We have the best team around us to assist with this including our videographer Blake Wilton and Graphic Design team Two Lanes Creative.
What’s been the most challenging lesson learnt since you started your business?
Definitely learning how to say no to work. I love being busy and always look for the positives in any opportunity offered but I’ve had to learn to listen to that voice inside that lets me know if this is the right opportunity for me…
What’s been the best thing that’s happened to you since you started your business?
For me it’s the DMs and emails we receive thanking us for sharing our journey and inspiring them to take on their own renovation or DIY project. We’re so grateful for everyone who follows along and even more chuffed when people share projects with us that we’ve inspired in some way.
Do you have a single piece of advice you’d give to your younger self/ someone looking to start their own business?
The advice I’d give to my younger self is to not have so much self-doubt. We’re all individuals who have something unique to offer – be confident in that.
Now, the home stuff. What was the thought process behind the way you’ve styled the interior?
We’ve always wanted the home to have a really seamless connection between the indoors and the outdoors. Our internal selections and the sandy colour palette has all been inspired by the beautiful sandstone we’ve used throughout.
Do you have any special décor pieces you’re looking to add?
I have my eye on some amazing Indigenous art from Warmun Art Centre on Gija Country – so many special artists – if you’re looking for artwork they’re definitely worth checking out.
Which is your favourite room in the house?
The kitchen. It’s such a meeting point for us daily with the kids, but even more so when we entertain. We love preparing and enjoying food with family and friends – lots of memories made already and years to come.
What are your top tips for a well-styled bedroom, and home generally?
You spend so much time in your bedroom and sleep is so important for your wellness – invest in quality linen and pillows in a colour palette that speaks to you. Some statement bedside or wall lights are always one of the key pieces I like to source for each bedroom. Instead of rushing out to purchase styling pieces, I find slowly collecting over time means each piece has a bit more meaning and sentiment.
Do you have any projects coming up you want to talk about?
We’re currently on the hunt for our next property to renovate which of course we’ll share with everyone – in the meantime, we have plenty of DIY and renovation content coming which you can check out via our website kyalandkara.com or via our socials.
For more from Kyal and Kara, follow them at @kyalandkara