Images by Claudia Gabriel Lim
When Jodi Ansell and her husband came upon the property that would one day become Umi at Boomerang Beach, they immediately saw its potential. “The original house was a small rectangle, and the main bedroom was actually in the garage! Everything was very ‘70s and brown, but the position of the place was incredible,” she says. Sixteen years and a whole lot of hard work later, and Umi has been transformed. Inspired by the ocean on its doorstep (fun fact: umi is the Japanese word for ‘sea’), its aesthetic sits somewhere between ‘modern Australian surf shack’ and ‘classic Hamptons beach cottage’.
There’s no doubt that the location is breathtaking – the home is situated on sand dunes with direct access to the pristine waters of Boomerang beach – but the styling is equally impressive. “We searched the internet and put together mood boards for the whole house,” says Jodi. With a vision in place, the couple set about sourcing furniture and decor from all over the world, as well as their own collection.
From the freestanding stone tubs in both bathrooms to the ocean-facing Adirondack chairs on the deck, every detail has been considered. Luxury and comfort are present everywhere you look, including the Carlotta+Gee linens that dress each of the seven beds. (Three bedrooms feature queen beds and a fourth is set up with four single bunks – check out the linen colour combinations in each room below).
Recently team C+G were lucky enough to stay at Umi for a weekend. Before we left, we sat down with Jodi to explore the inspiration behind this unique Airbnb home and the quiet beach town it occupies.
How did Umi at Boomerang Beach come to be?
My husband David grew up in Newcastle (NSW), which is an hour and a half south of Boomerang Beach, and he would go surfing there with his father and brother. Boomerang Beach was their favourite surf spot because it’s a swell magnet. Back in the ‘70s, there were few houses so they would camp on the land that is now Mobys Beachside Retreat.
After I met David in 1986 we holidayed at Boomerang Beach nearly every year. We stayed in other people's homes for years until we bought a house. We waited until we could afford a beachfront home, and in 2006 we purchased Umi. The original house was a small rectangle made from brown brick. The main bedroom was actually in the garage! Everything was very ‘70s and brown, but the position of the place was incredible.
How did you redesign the property? What was your inspiration?
We’ve lived in Singapore and in the USA and have previously built three houses and renovated three homes, so we had experience. We’ve always loved Australian Colonial- and Hamptons-style homes. For Umi, we wanted to create a classic and understated beach cottage that would be timeless in design.
My husband retired from his busy corporate life for a couple of years in 2012 and 2013 while we searched the internet and put together mood boards for the whole house. Our favourite store (which unfortunately is in the USA), is Restoration Hardware. We sourced the lights for the kitchen, bunk room and stairwell and also the sofas from there. Everything else was bought locally or was from our own collection.
The master bedroom overlooking the ocean is a gem – is that your favourite room in the house?
The master and the adjoining bathroom are my favourites. Soaking in the Apaiser Bath and then taking a daytime nap on your beautiful Carlotta+Gee linen while looking out at the ocean is just heaven.
How have you created a luxurious experience for those staying in the house?
We love holidaying here ourselves, so we make improvements every time we stay. Umi has continued to evolve over the ten years since we renovated it. We don't stay as much or as long as we would like to except at Christmas time – we make sure we have quality time at Umi with all the family then.
What does your perfect day look like at Umi?
We wake at first light to watch the sunrise – it's so different every morning, and often the colours are incredible. We then walk on Boomerang Beach or to Elizabeth Beach. We cool off in the ocean and then wash off the salt in our outdoor shower. David will make me a coffee, and we’ll sit on the Adirondack chairs facing the beach and watch the day unfold. David will either go for a surf or give me a surf lesson at Elizabeth Beach (where the waves are usually more gentle). We like to have breakfast and lunch at home and then go out for dinner across the road at Sips at Mobys or somewhere in Forster.
The town is sleepy – it feels like a less crowded Byron Bay. Have you noticed an uptick in visitors?
Things are changing here at Pacific Palms but very slowly, which is the way we like it. It's an out of the way paradise so not everyone knows about us. Everyone knows Forster, but we’re still a little hidden.
Do you have plans to open additional properties?
We’re always planning our next project. If the right property presents itself, we would love to create a ‘little Umi’.