We talk to photographer Kate Shanasy about her new home in Blairgowrie and the creation of her joyful garden oasis
Kate, it’s so great to chat with you from your beautiful new home by the beach in Blairgowrie, Victoria. Can you tell us about your new home and the space you’re creating?
You can hear the ocean roar from my new home; it’s wild. I’m just a short walk through the national park and sand dunes to what I believe is the most spectacular coastline in the world. As much as possible, I head down there with my camera to explore the rockpools and caves at low tide, or admire the power of the water at high tide. Blairgowrie has my heart. I’ve grown up here, spending every Aussie summer at my nan’s beach house. My happiest memories are here so I’m really grateful to call ‘Blair’ home, and share its magic with as many people as I can. My ultimate dream is to create a home with a studio and gallery space that’s welcoming to friends, family and community. Slowly, but surely, I feel like it’s all coming together.
What are your tips and philosophies on being happy at home?
I really love being at home and I never seem to run out of things to do. I don’t watch tv or even movies really, but I’ll lose time in the garden connecting to the sights and sounds around me. I like noticing seasonal nuances or discovering things I’ve never seen before. I like to feel grounded and gain new perspectives often. Plants, wildlife, listening/dancing to music, tidying, rearranging or getting stuck into a DIY project all keep me occupied and happy at home. I’m fortunate I like my job too, so a lot of my happiness stems from doing a good job at work, and the creative freedom it affords me.
You’re in the middle of a huge garden renovation - what’s your vision and how do you plan to use this space?
Ok, so updating my garden was a small idea I had at the beginning of lockdown. I wasn’t working that much so it escalated quickly and became a fully-fledged garden revamp. It’s like a wonderland now. A coastal oasis with winding paths, a fire-pit area between the ‘sand dunes’ and a dreamy outdoor shower with a chic, vintage steel bath on its way. I was particular about a few things – mainly the choice of materials, planting native plants and layout – but it came together effortlessly. What I love most about it is how much it inspires play, and depending how each space is used and who’s occupying it, it can feel like you’re in a different garden every time.
You love to entertain - and your home was made for dinner parties and lunches - what do you focus on when you’re creating a special meal for friends and family?
I do love to cook and entertain, but I take more of a backseat position. I like to create a safe, warm and welcoming space for everyone to feel themselves and do their thing. I’ve got talented friends who spear-fish and bring home delicious white fish to crumb, ready for tacos. Meanwhile, there may be someone by the cocktail cabinet blending margaritas or something equally fresh and juicy. The best dinner parties I’ve ever had or been to haven’t been planned, but come together naturally with beautiful community spirit.
And what about your regular grocery shopping - any tips for keeping your footprint light and reducing waste?
Keep it local and support small business. Supporting farm gates, your local butcher and fishmonger, and growing produce at home is the way to go for the environment, connection to land and community, and for the flavour. I can’t stand food waste, so I lean into Italian cuisine a lot for getting the most from what you already have.
And finally, can you describe your perfect summer’s day in Blairgowrie – what would we find you doing?
The most amazing thing about Blairgowrie is it’s the narrowest part of the Mornington Peninsula, so you can walk between the back and front beaches. There are so many swimming and activity options, so I love being guided by the wind direction, tide and swell to determine the kind of beach day it’s going to be. It could be snorkelling in the morning, then a paddle or sail in the late afternoon. There are always people coming and going from my home, and I love it when friends drop by and end up staying for the whole weekend, and invite others to join too. As the sun goes down and there’s a little heat on your salty skin, there’s nothing better than sharing a cold beer amongst mates and tucking into a big feast on the deck.
Kate Shanasy is a photographer, film maker and creative based on the Mornington Peninsula. She takes photos for Broadsheet Media and writes travel guides and cooks recipe reels for all sorts of exciting brands; big and small. Follow her on Instagram here and see more of her work here.