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The Dreamers #99 - With Monique from the Cheshire Cat Motel

The Dreamers #99 - With Monique from the Cheshire Cat Motel

Monique and her husband Matty have fulfilled their dream, becoming the owners of The Cheshire Cat Motel. This Palm Beach landmark has undergone a complete restoration, preserving the property’s rich history while creating ‘lived-in’ interiors packed with personality.




Hey Monique, tell us about you and your family.

We are a family of four who live in Palm Beach on the Gold Coast. We moved here after living the hectic Sydney professional life for 13 years. It was the best decision we have ever made for our family, as everything has fallen into place. My husband Matty has a TV production company, and I am an interior designer. Because we weren’t busy enough, we purchased a motel, which we renovated and now manage. It’s called the Cheshire Cat Motel.  

 Our son Otis is six, a high-energy guy who loves surfing and skating and entertains us with his funny sense of humour. Frida is four and a very spirited little one who loves all the pretty things - sparkly tutus, makeup, unicorns, and cute animals. We are a creative family with a love of music, food, and design, so life is busy with all the things we try and cram in. We try to balance it as best we can by enjoying the simple things like hanging out at the beach and spending time with loved ones. 

We are in love with the Cheshire Cat Motel. How did this all start? 

This has been a pipe dream of ours for a long time. We picked up on the ‘boutique hotel/motel’ trend in the US about five years ago and decided to curate a road trip around California to go and stay in some of the ones on our radar. Each place had a unique style that reflected the town they were in. It was such an inspiring trip, so I guess the seed was planted then.  

 Fast-forward four years later, we moved back to Queensland and were both open to new career opportunities. We saw ‘The Cat’ up for sale as it’s 200 meters up the road from where we live. We put wheels in motion, and here we are. We both have creative backgrounds - me in fashion and interior design, Matty in TV production and brand development. Matty, in particular, has traveled a lot for work, so he has unconsciously been doing R&D for this business for a long time! 

We loved combining our skills and creating a design-led destination experience for people. There is nothing like it on this part of the Gold Coast, and we are proud of this beautiful part of the world and the unique lifestyle it offers, so we wanted to create an experience to ‘bottle it all up’ for people. 

What has been the most challenging thing about restoring the motel? 

The building itself was pretty run down, but structurally, it was still solid. The previous owners renovated the rooms and bathrooms, but they were very cheaply done with no aesthetic consideration, so it needed a lot of love. One of the biggest challenges was practicing restraint and staying realistic about what we were working with. I had so many ideas design-wise, but we had to be realistic with our expectations and not over-capitalise on our investment. 

It is a 60-something-year-old beachside building that is warped and rusted, so we would never be able to make it into a high-end luxury experience. Instead, we decided to lean in to the old charm of it but modernise and elevate it with thoughtful design that made sense to the building and area. We also wanted to avoid having to attain council approval as much as possible, which would have slowed us down, so we worked with the existing floor plan as much as possible and only made cosmetic changes. In hindsight, these restraints made for a more creative outcome.  

 The other challenging aspect was the workload. This project was all-consuming for about a year and a half of our life. We worked on this and other work commitments and juggled family life for about two years from concept to launch. It wasn’t just the renovation taking up our time; we were also building the brand – developing branding, website, and signage, setting up the booking systems, researching tech platforms, finding suppliers to partner with, etc. The whole thing has been a huge undertaking, and in reflection, we did a lot in a very short amount of time, so it’s no wonder it felt overwhelming!  

 Working and living/doing life with my husband was also challenging. I think through this process, we have gained so much more awareness and respect for each others strengths and weaknesses. We are both creative and passionate about design, so at first, there was a little bit of ‘stepping on each other’s toes,’ but in the end, we had to divide and conquer to get everything done, and we became a great team in life and work. 

The retro aesthetic at Cheshire Cat Motel is on point. Where do you draw inspiration for this vibe? 

From a design point of view, I love to create ‘lived-in’ interiors packed with personality, and I think you can achieve this by mixing old with new. We wanted the interiors to be design-led, but it needed to make sense to the location, so 60s / 70s nostalgia seemed like the right vibe for the space, considering the era of the building. We wanted it to feel like you were staying at your aunt’s cool, ‘palmy’ beach pad in the 70’s but have all the luxuries and mod cons of modern accommodation. I coined the term’ Low-fi Lux,’ which encapsulates the mood we wanted to create – it should feel elevated but relaxed. I love textiles, sourcing vintage and working with colour so this aesthetic was a great opportunity to lean into that. It’s a motel, not a home, so we felt it was important to make it playful and give people a different experience. 

Do you have any stories you can share from the history of The Cheshire Cat? 

The Cheshire Cat Motel is a Palm Beach icon. It’s been around since the early 60s, and even though the building itself is nothing special, the locals around here are pretty attached to the ‘old Palmy,’ so we knew it was important to respect its history and place in the neighborhood’s fabric. The Gold Coast was built on motel holiday culture, so we feel passionate about retaining that history for as long as possible. There are plenty of shady stories about its past - there used to be a truck stop servo next door, so it definitely had a ‘colorful past,’ but we like to think that this and its rustic charm add to the richness of the brand story. 

How did you manage to balance family life with renovating The Cheshire Cat? 

This was really hard, and I don’t think we were very ‘balanced’ at times. We would work on it a lot at night, which was tiring, but this has been a pipe dream for so long, so we always managed to find the energy for it. We called on family and friends at times to help us through the hectic periods when we had to be there on weekends. 

Our kids spent a lot of time with us onsite during the reno, which they didn’t always like, but we would try to include them as much as possible, as I think this exposure shapes who they are. Not only do they see their parents working hard, but they are also absorbing everything we do.  

 My son already has a strong design point of view, which is so interesting and funny to observe in a 6-year-old. I would ask him about the paint colour, and he would fully explain which one he liked and why. He was usually spot on, haha! One day, when they are grown up, I’m sure they will reflect on how cool it was that their parents own and manage a motel. There already are and will be so many stories to tell of the people we met along the way and the experiences we had. 

Fav Banabae pieces?  

I love the linen bedding. I like to mix prints with pillows and linen to achieve a collected, ‘surf shack’ feel. It adds personality to a space rather than plain old one-colour bedding. Also, the linen is super soft from the get-go. The kidswear is so great—it totally suits our fam and our surf/skate aesthetic!

Shop featured products:

Sundaze Floral Standard Pillowcase
Side Stripe Organic Cotton Knit Pants - Ladies
Banabae Organic Cotton Twill Cap - Washed Poppy
Rad Kid Beach Club Eco Swimsuit
Park Hangs Cord Adult Cap
Park Hangs Organic Cotton Tee - Kids
The Cheshire Cat Motel

The Cheshire Cat Motel

Follow the neon sign and step into the re-imagined groove of an iconic Gold Coast beachside Motel.

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Photography by @bennicreative

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