The greatest gifts

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General, Musings, Places

During 2017 we had some pretty challenging times. My husband would say it wasn’t too bad but he is the eternal optimist everyone needs in their life. For me, the demands of work and raising children are foremost on my mind and everything else comes second. So, when the ‘second’ stuff like house renovations begin to dominate, it’s hard to escape the inevitable strains that causes. When you’re living on a building site there are interruptions to the routine, loss of privacy, constant cleaning, makeshift spaces, moving furniture, moving things in boxes and losing track of which box has what, trade or material delays and poor weather can get the better of you. By winter, we had lost our only living space and were spending most of our time in our bedrooms so that the living room Gyprock could be removed and it (and the new area) could be re-skinned. We could see the light, but we weren’t there yet. Add rain, and it feels like a bit of a rut after a while.

Our trip away in June is the best thing we did. We planned it in 2016 but the act of getting away, resting and being inspired, really prepared us for the 4 months ahead and what we wanted to achieve. All the while, I doubt it’s been easy for our kids yet they are resilient.

Now that the end of 2017 has arrived, I’ve also reflected on the greatest gifts we’ve experienced during this time. Friendship and kindness is the thing that has really got us through, and given us perspective.

Our architect and best man Sam Marshall has been there as a continued advisor whenever we need to revisit details, popping in regularly and praising the progress. When the progress feels slow, getting a gentle lift from the passionate minds and spirit of others has kept things in perspective for us.

A great coincidence this year was that our friend and other best man (yes, why have one when you can have two!) Stephen Varady was travelling to Spain at the same time as we were. For years we had wanted to travel together and this was a wonderful accident with he going to a wedding and us in the same vicinity. The kids were excited! We were excited! He made his way to Barcelona and Madrid at the same time as us and gave us an amazing architectural tour of several buildings by award winning firm RCR as well as Herzhog & de Meuron, Jean Nouvel and a revisit to the Barcelona Pavillion by Mies van der Rohe. We were also treated to photos and stories of Stephen’s visit to the extraordinary Les Cols, and he was the master of finding awesome places to eat like Cal Pep. His gift of time and enthusiasm was really pretty fantastic for us all.

Sam on one of his visits, checking out the bathroom detailing (Soon to be finished, so you’ll have to wait for more on that!)

Stopping off at the famous Els Quatre Gats, Barcelona for refreshments.

Barcelona Pavilion, a moment without people everywhere!

On a related note, our great friend Deborah has been generous of spirit as always even in our hectic lives – she’s had an ear to bend and a thoughtful soul. Looking for a home for a loved piece, Deb asked if we’d like to take care of Florence. We officially adopted Deb’s Florence Knoll sofa after her own house move left no room for the piece a while ago, and it was something none of us wanted to see at the garbage tip! Florence came right at the time when we’d finally stopped ‘living’ in our bedrooms and were able to stretch out into the renovated living space. What a breath of fresh air, a comfy stylish companion and an always-there spot for Deb to use or sleep on for visits (although we do think a bed in the guest space will be in order in the future).

That’s Deb in the left with friend Louise, a photo of Florence is still to come.

And being incredibly creative and good at spotting beautiful, unique pieces, she gave me one of the nicest things I’ve ever received. This handmade succulent pottery sculpture was an unexpected but lovely birthday gift.

We’re fortunate to count many great friends and relatives from Hawaii to Russia and everywhere between whose company we’ve enjoyed over the years. This year, several international friends gave us a place to rest while also eating out with us and sharing their wonderful cities with us: Michael in Madrid, Karen and Keith in Geneva, my cousin Elena in Barcelona have all made this year amazing. We look forward to welcoming them to ours in Sydney in the future.

Sadly, we’ve also lost some good people in the same period: Charles our software engineer and Andrea our friend in LA both died from cancer. We continue to miss dear friend Aziz and losing people always puts into perspective the relative unimportance of earthly matters such as houses and bills.

And we’ve made new friends and connections this year. The Facebook group Pettit & Sevitt Owners & Friends Club found me on Instagram and encouraged us to take part. Started by mid century architecture specialist Secret Design Studio, it’s been a lovely group of supportive, like minded home owners with similar challenges… some of whom we have been able to meet in person and that has been great fun. Discovering that a few people are actually following this blog was a bonus surprise!

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