02. Your house story & naming.

When I bought Captains Rest, I slept in a swag on the floor and realized how much worse it was than I thought it was going to be. Depressed and full of anxiety, I realized the only thing I could do was start so, as always, I began with story. I spent that first week literally writing the world I wanted Captains Rest to become and that’s where it all started, realizing we aren’t just renovating properties here, we’re creating worlds. Remember, it’s in the dreaming that magic becomes real.

When I think about house stories, I like to think of it as writing a novel, chapter by chapter and line by line. Yes, you’re creating a brand and a home, but you’re really shaping a world for your guests to step into. That’s what sets certain properties apart from others.

If we look at the why around this, we’ll find lots of research which proves the power of storytelling and its success when it comes to capturing people’s attention. Through story, you can force yourself into their memories, create close, personal bonds, and make a house that feels like a home. Creating a house story is the first step everyone misses and it is undeniably the cornerstone of my (and, if you like) your strategy. It is the key to creating an iconic home.

I also think it’s important to note that not all stories are big, epic tales full of monsters and men. The most powerful ones are honest and true, these are the ones that make a difference.

A small encouragement…

This exercises in this chapter are so crucial to your success. Please take all the time you can and rewrite, rethink, and re-dream as much as you can. I would love for you to explore the case studies and allow yourself to scurry along all the little trails you find. This chapter should be one of the longer ones, especially if you spend the amount of time I think (and hope) you will. Put so much love and creativity into this work, it will pay out ten fold for the more you put in, the greater the rest shall be.

Now, let’s begin with our video overview.


02. To ponder.

“Good stories surprise us. They make us think and feel. They stick in our minds and help us remember ideas and concepts in a way that a PowerPoint crammed with bar graphs never can.”

- Joe Lazauskas and Shane Snow


02. Lesson: what is a house story?

Your house story is whatever you decide you want it to be — but how to get there? Start by brainstorming on a bunch of different topics. Then, find the threads you like, generating ideas from there. It’s best to start with the basics: you’re a historical house, or a beach property, or an inner city apartment, and the like. Next, start to color that story in — add the textures, decide if your property feels young or old, masculine or feminine. Is it humble or high end? These details are what bring it to life so consider nothing too small.

Okay, talking about your house story will only get you so far. The real work is in doing. I want you to be willing to explore ideas that are outside of your comfort zone as much as you are willing to explore simple and minimal ideas, too. For example, I have a student who created an elaborate world where her art deco apartment was the 1940’s bachelor pad of a man whose life revolves around competitive racing and martinis. Then there’s the more simple houses who may be shaped around books and conversation and lonely beaches. There is an amazing breadth you can explore here, from big, intricate, faraway stories, to the literal experience of a place. I suppose the point of it all is to say, it’s time to start dreaming.

{ Go to your workbook and find Exercise 2.1 - Let’s Start to Brainstorm Your House Story. }

Distilling your brainstorming into a story.

Now that you have brainstormed all sorts of ideas, the next step is to distill it into a concise (very concise, and to the point) story. If you’re not clear and don’t understand it, neither will your audience.

For every concept you like, you now begin to shape a concise story around it.

{ Go to E2.2 - Pick Out All Your Favorite Elements and Start to Build Out a Concise Story }

The Three Steps

Brainstorming. Distillation. Writing. Those are the three steps and they are absolutely repeatable for as many house stories as you can possibly come up with. I think the best way to learn this one is to see it so click on the case studies below to see how we took a concept and brought it into a real world. Enjoy diving into the worlds of Captains Rest, Montpellier, and Vacay-co —- they should give you all the permission you need to get yours going.

{ Go to E2.3 - Now, Tell Your House Story in a Sentence or Two }

02. Lesson: house naming.

Your house name is so important. But what’s in a name? A lot, especially when it comes to your success as a location and / or brand. Having the right name can make your home the talk of the town, while the wrong one can doom your property to obscurity and failure. Here are a few rules of thumb when it comes to naming.

  • Avoid Geographic Names - e.g. Sydney Shed. It makes expansion impossible and is a bit predicable, thus fading into the crowd.

  • Avoid Generic Names - e.g. Shack, Shed, Flat, Cottage, Black, White, Little, Eco, Tiny, etc. Using these or names already owned by big players (like Little Black Shack) isn’t going to help you stand out.

  • Avoid a name that’s too long.

  • Avoid puns.

  • Make a long list of potential names and then test them out on friends. Check instagram and do a google search to make sure someone else isn’t using it.

  • If you’re having trouble, hire a copywriter to come up with a list of options for you once you’ve finished your house story. I highly encourage this option if you know this just wont be your strong suit

{ Go to E2.4 - It’s Time to Brainstorm Some Ideas for Your House Name Based on Your House Story and Good Naming Practices }

02. Lesson: just so they’re all in one spot: your exercises.

E2.1 - Let’s Start to Brainstorm Your House Story.

E2.2 - Let’s Pick Out All Your Favorite Elements and Start to Build Out a Concise Story.

E2.3 - Now Tell Your House Story in a Sentence or Two }

E2.4 - Let’s Brainstorm Some Ideas for Your House Name Based on Your House Story and Good Naming Practices

02. Ponder this.

“We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep; the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.”

- Jonathan Gottschall


02. Case studies: Let’s check in by clicking on each one.


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02. Your homework for this module.



02. Q and A with Sarah Andrews.


Q. Okay, I get what you are saying, but I really don’t have any great story here.

You don’t need to have some big great mountain climbing, ocean crossing story, you just need a story for your styling and your house to revolve around, so it feels considered, makes sense to your guests and feels purposeful and designed. It could be simple enough as a story about inner city living and retreat from the hustle and bustle, but even that is enough to make beautiful design decisions that tell the correct story for your home.

Q. Hi Sarah, I am loving the course so far! I have a question for you with regards to the house naming. Should each property have their own individual names or if you have (or would like to have) a collection of properties would it be better to have an overarching name for the group and then individual property names? Should the names have a common theme or keep them distinctly individual. This question then also flows on to Instagram too...one Insta name for the group of properties or should each property have their own Insta account? Thank you!

I am so glad you are loving it! So, for this type of senario, or type of iteration of it, go and look at your house story for each one. If it’s one house story, or they are all the mostly the same, I’d use one name, and maybe an identifier, like location. For example ‘Gypsy Jim - Hobart, Gypsy Jim, Sydney. If they have varying house stories, then name each individually, for example Gypsy Jim could be your gypsy wagon parked somewhere cool in Hobart and Quarryman’s post might be your railway cottage in Fitzroy.

In terms of instagram, I would, where it makes sense try to have one instagram for the lot. It’s bloody hard work growing your following and engagement at times (don’t worry, we get to this down the track)so with one account you can use one property to draw attention to the other.

The only time this isn’t the case is if the house stories just don’t work together in anyway, or, you plan to sell a property soon as a complete business. In week 4 our grad shop opens up, and you can also use our namer/copy writer who is quite brilliant once you have done your house story homework. This might be a nice option to really investigate your situation further if its complex.

Q. I love Scandi design but my house is an old Australian shearing shed, confused about how to make it work.

I common mistake students make is they keep jumping ahead when they are writing their stories to their own aesthetic tastes and things they have already purchased for their home. Throw away your interior magazines and keep your head in your home story space. We will take that step next, stop thinking about it!

Q. How do I know I have the right house story?

I want you to be able to leave this class, and be able to ‘paddle your own canoe’. This means being able to be confident in your own decisions, so start here. Your house story is the right one if it’s true and it’s yours, not anyone else’s ideas. The more yours, the less anything anyone else has ever done the better it will be.



Hey, have a question? Found a spelling error? Have a total breakthrough revelation and want to tell me about it? Use the form below to submit your questions and feedback.

Ideas or gaps in knowledge that benefit this classroom as a whole will be integrated in, so make to review our chapters again before you head off into the wide world. Your question just might be featured and wouldn’t that be fun to see?

Name *


02. Community.

Have you made your instagram account? If so, go find your fellow classmates and start commenting and engaging with one another. As you post, use the hashtag #thehostingmasterclass and @thehostingmasterclass to find one another.

Again, for this chapter, you can also add anything you’d like to post or talk about with a second hashtag, #thm02 — I am so looking forward to exploring your work!