At Home With Xanthe Highfield
It might sound like a fairytale to say you were the sole bidder on a coastal property with a background big enough for kids to run around in — especially with today’s market — but for interior designer Xanthe Highfield (of Studio Highfield) and husband Sam Clayton, it was reality.
It was also 2015.
Oh, and did we mention that when she saw the place, it was the first home she actually wanted? Xanthe wasn’t kidding when she told us “We lucked out!”.
If it makes you feel better, it did take six months of sacrificed Saturdays house hunting, with her husband’s dad and her baby son in tow. Oh, and then they moved in, moved out and rented it out — while they lived above Sam’s restaurant (Woy Woy Fishermen's Wharf), saving money for renovations to make the space “more energy efficient.”
The move back into the final, fully renovated house? April 2021, only six years after the fact.
And now, come 2022, they’re a family of four — Xanthe, Sam, and their kids Ace and Clover.
And as you can see, there’s plentiful room for running around. In fact, half the yard was levelled out just for this — with part of it left as the original slope.
“Water slides in summer is a fave thing to do here,” Xanthe explains. Even better when you’ve got our Pepin Kids Beach Towel — in two different colours, so everyone knows whose is whose — to keep you cosy and dry afterwards.
And with a hammock swinging in the under-deck area, the interior designer calls this area her favourite moment of the house — at least on a warm day. When mum gets to chill and the kids are happily playing? No wonder it’s been declared “the best.”
The Avoca home is within walking distance to a good cafe, walking distance to the beach, and “in an area that felt like a community.” The family really are, quite literally, living in a fairytale.
“I love the fact that when you stand in the living room you see out to the trees and can’t see any houses around. It feels like an escape.” Case in point. Calling her home a sanctuary, Xanthe reflects on the fact that when she enters her home, she feels calmer.
It helps when you’ve designed the interiors yourself.
Speaking to the aesthetics, she talked about how she wanted a home that didn’t compete with visual noise — something that felt “natural and timeless”. Her husband's style, however, swings much more “poppy and street.”
The meeting of the minds? “Mine provides a simple background, for some highlights of his colour.”
Nowhere is this seen more than in the living room, with the aforementioned “pops” incorporated through cushions and throws. Standing out in gorgeous, golden shades, reminiscent of the surrounding beach town; Stanfield with its multi-coloured bold stripes, Mullerton with its soft texture and self-fringing, and Ferran with its tonal grid pattern.
It’s not the only time throughout the home that the colours of their surrounding area pop up throughout their home; just take a look at the master bedroom.
Tying in “the layered views of trees over the mountains” is our Abbotson Linen Collection in the aptly named shade cactus — a soft green with an “organic feel”. It works even better when it’s monochromatic — a bed cover, sham and sheet, layered together.
Above the master bed hangs a painting from Xanthe’s late father, Robert Highfield — his artwork also hangs in daughter Clover’s room. Not only are they “wonderful memories” of her dad, his work is behind the most meaningful item in her home — a timber chaise lounge.
Designed as part of “an amazing furniture collection, shown in Anibou a long time ago”, Xanthe didn’t end up with any pieces. In a serendipitous twist, Sam’s parents found the chaise — for sale in a store in Palm Beach — and bought it for their son and daughter-in-law as a wedding present.
Family art features elsewhere throughout the home; paintings of Sam’s hang in the living room. There’s also an owl, work from her “darling cousin”, sculptor-artist Anna-Wili Highfield; the shelving nook opposite the entranceway was designed “basically to house” this prize possession.
As a self-confessed admirer of people whose homes tell a story of their life, it’s no wonder Xanthe calls her home “a mix of old and new, gifted furniture and second-hand find” — that is steadily being filled with pieces “found over time, curated rather than bought all at once.”