Friday, 11 May 2018

#7 lounging

This post is part of a series where I'm recording the appreciative thoughts and emotions associated with various spaces in our house. For context, read my post Thinking about houses.

And just like that, winter comes and Friday night means you light the fire. 

In A Timeless Way of Building, Christopher Alexander explains and illustrates how there are two things that cry out to be 'resolved' by good design in living spaces. Firstly, people are drawn to the light. Secondly, we want to be comfortable in whatever position gives as best access to that light. Think bay windows. In the house we rented around the corner, the main bedroom was a classic example of poor design. The only natural light was a high narrow window. In that room we experienced what Alexander describes as unresolved tension between our natural inclinations and what the design facilitates.

In contract, this room draws us to the light and offers comfort. In Alexander's world, such a place gives us peace. Our lounge room is a great space, but I would change one thing if I could. I'm not sure how it would be architecturally possible, but I'd switch the positions of the TV and the fireplace. Unfortunately, that would require the fire to be internal ... hmmm. But why?

Because there is only one practical way to arrange the seating. One seat faces the fireplace, the other the TV. In the apartment we rented in the CBD we intentionally chose not to have a TV. I never missed it. Apart from the evening news, we watch the TV infrequently, but it would be awkward to have a seat facing away from it. That means the most natural orientation (towards the double doors) is 'unresolved'. But, notwithstanding that little imperfection, we love being in this space.

It gets used for afternoon naps, for post-dinner conversations, for lazy weekend afternoons reading and drinking tea, and for playing with Winnie. The space in front of the fireplace is also the spot where our little pup (when home alone) reduces kindling from the wood basket to a floor covering of splinters. 

The wall hanging above the mantle piece is a Leunig print entitled "Mr Curly Comes Home". Apart from us being partial to Michael Leunig's poetic and prophetic take on the world, it seemed appropriate to hang in this house that signalled the end of my peripatetic vocational life. In anticipation of our long planned family excursion to Italy, I bought the Lodestars Anthology for Maria, and it still sits propped near the digital music player as a happy reminder.

I haven't 'curated' the coffee table books, but what is there today is not atypical of our lounge room reading faire. The latest edition of Maria's Dumbo Feather arrived earlier today; Paul Hawken's Drawdown; the April, May edition of Great Walks; the current edition of Talking Heads (the local community newspaper full of community news and views); I am Coyote, a gift from Rachel which is a collection of readings on being outdoors; Nassim Taleb's the Bed of Procrustes (essentially a book of proverbs) and the latest Give Where You Live Foundation magazine (of which I am a director). And the latest Monocle Magazine which arrived the other day and whose spine I am yet to crack ....

Along with the dining nook and the kitchen, this inviting space forms our communal area. It's where we gather, either as a family or with friends. Soft seats mean relaxation. It means slowing down. Sometimes the music gets turned up ... but when it is, we tend not to sit. Sitting is for soft music. Perhaps more than any other place in our little house, it is not for doing, but for being.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

#6 cooking

This post is part of a series where I'm recording the appreciative thoughts and emotions associated with various spaces in our house. For context, read my post Thinking about houses.

In Myers Briggs Type theory, healthy psychological development means a natural tendency in middle age to take up activity that 'balances' our primary strengths. My dominant vocational contribution has been people oriented and conceptual in nature. So in hindsight, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that around 40 years old I became really interested in making stuff in the kitchen.

For me it started with ginger beer. It became a Saturday morning ritual to concoct and bottle the family's weekly supply in a collection of Grolsch swing top stubbies. Then it was bread. And soon ginger beer gave way to my own home brew, with experiments in multiple varieties until Maria became tired of the constant yeasty smell that permeated the house. But all that was preparatory.

On one memorable day when we were expecting guests for dinner, the oven door came off in Maria's hands, and our long dreamed-of kitchen renovation became a necessity. I had fantasised about what it would be like to stock a new kitchen with functional and well designed equipment, replacing the ad hoc collection of cheap stuff we had accumulated over the years. When that fantasy became a lived experience, I found myself completely drawn to working in this gorgeous new workshop.

Chopping stuff with sharp new knives and cooking in hardy heavy base pots filled my soul with joy more than I could have imagined. I began gravitating to the cooking section in bookshops and discovered stuff that my inclined path to the business, philosophy and sports sections normally bypassed. I started to teach myself about textures and flavours. And I began to learn the patterns and formulae that unlocked the secrets to well balanced flavoursome dishes.

But cooking for me has always been a family thing. It is not so much technical as communal. Music filled rooms, people coming and going and then gathering around a table to share home cooked wholesome food is what it has always been about.

And so when we set out to buy a home on the coast, the kitchen was always going to be a key consideration. Can you imagine my joy when I walked into this place to find the closest to a commercial kitchen I've ever seen in a normal house. Quite simply a little slice of architectural heaven.

Our pot collection has been refined over the years. The soup pot at the rear was from 10+ years ago when we were all living at home. These days we use it to brew big pots of our favourite soups to stock the chest freezer. The two in the front were acquired by Maria and Johanna when we lived in Launceston and I love them a lot!

The wide clay-orange spine book by Allan Campion and Michelle Curtis was my kitchen bible for many years. In language I love, they taught me the basics of the kitchen craft. The thin red spine is a compilation of hand written recipes that were our family staples and favourites from the years we lived in Brunswick. I wrote a narrative that explained why the dish was important, what it meant for us alongside the ingredients and methods. The Soup Bible to the right is as used as any on the shelf which also includes a good number of vegan and wholefood collections.

fruit including figs and tomatoes from the community garden
Johanna's lunch prep while I was writing this blog
more of Johanna's lunch
... and sourdough rye from Starfish, where we spent a good bit of the morning today along with many other locals; drinking coffee, eating breakfast and watching the kids and dogs play together.

Not long after we moved in, I spent a joyous day creating this spice drawer; labelling and filling jars with wonderful smelling ingredients. Sometimes when I'm feeling a little low, I open this drawer and ponder the rainbow of flavours and somehow feel a bit better. Sad I know.

There are few weekend activities I enjoy more than putting on some music and cooking up a big pot of soup or curry. Yesterday the colours where deep orange and the spices were cumin and smoked paprika.

But whatever happens at the bench, on the stove or in the oven, at the end of the day this room is about people. It connects important things like sustenance, sensual pleasure, love and friendship. A kitchen does not stand alone. It is a connecting hub.

This one works because of many design factors, some of which are:
1. The golden triangle: in kitchens that work well, the stove, fridge and sink form a triangle - kitchen design 101.
2. It has two entrances, which facilitates ease of movement.
3. It has line of sight to the two other key communal areas; the dining table and the lounge.
4. It has natural light in abundance.
5. Design elements such as ceiling steps, light shades and indents create a connected yet distinct feeling.
6. Seats at the bench. Sitting and talking with whoever is in the kitchen is a 'family building' basic in our book.
7. Functionality; Stainless steel bench-tops. I wasn't sure when I first saw them. I'm a convert now. Plenty of space for consumables and equipment. Big drawers. Tall (hidden) cupboards.
8. Beauty; Woodgrain, clean lines of steel. Sunlight and shadows.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

#5 transitions and nooks

This post is part of a series where I'm recording the appreciative thoughts and emotions associated with various spaces in our house. For context, read my post Thinking about houses.

In 2009, one of the first events held at donkey wheel house was an unconference called Trampoline organised and hosted by my mates Pat Allan, Melina Chan and Steve Hopkins. I attended a session by Dan Donahoo with whom I would also become friends. Dan's session was on the curious idea of 'edge theory'. In psychology, edge theory is about anxiety inducing situations, but at Trampoline, Dan talked about transitions.

I started to see 'edges' as points of transition. Where the sea meets the sand on a beach, a transition from one environment to a completely different one. The edge of a cliff, a transition from safety and stability to one of free-fall and either danger or adventure depending on your intentions. And it opened my eyes to the way architects design transitions within buildings or outdoor spaces. Staircases, hallways, entrances etc.

One of the design features I love about our house is the transitions. The use of little corridors, steps and changes of colour are masterful.

Immediately inside the front door, the open space ahead towards the kitchen is the dominating orientation, but to the right a single step up and change in floor colour invite an alternative. The first 'edge' we encounter is the gate at the bottom of the stairs delineating the environment where Winnie has free reign and the space into which she must be invited.

These days most staircases have a bend in them. Ours is a single straight climb to the privacy of the send level. The clean and direct lines feel unapologetic. At the top of the stairs is a little corner with a print and a pot plant. The plant sits on a little stool that we found in a gift store around the corner in Hitchcock Ave. The print is one of three elephant drawings which Rachel bought from a London market. We have two; this one and one that hangs at the bottom of the same stairs, and Rachel has the other. The prints are a subtle reminder of her every time I ascend or descend the stairs. Maria and I are good at some things, but growing indoor plants is not in the set. The single remaining leaf on this plant is a constant declaration of our lack of prowess. 

I'll spare you a picture of the washroom, except for this drawing of Heidi's that sits on the wall. It was a gift when she was in year 5 ... a little window into our family wanderings in a beat up kombi 15 years ago.

The only place in the house that feels a little awkward from a design perspective is this study nook. The proportions feel a bit out, but it ends up being the compromise associated with the long straight staircase. In the end, we don't use this as a study space and it actually works really well as a storage and utility nook for the modem and printer. The cork board has a collection of Maria's photos of Barwon Heads and some hand-drawn postcards from Vasto. (Italy) The wooden stool under the bench is a piano stool that was part of the furniture set my parents bought from a local Devonport manufacturer after they were married nearly 60 years ago. 

Back down the stairs to the front door. The prints on the wall are from a Tasmanian artist who's work we first came across in the emporium upstairs in the Stillwater Restaurant, just near where we lived in Launceston. At the time we were living a peripatetic lifestyle. Her images captured beautifully the themes of transience, relationships and changing environments. We hung them on the walls in Launceston and love their place along the welcoming hallway here in Barwon Heads.

The side table was the first piece of quality furniture we ever purchased. How useful is a small narrow table with a couple of draws as a place to put and keep items we need as we transition from being 'at home' to being 'out'. Even furniture can help us transition well. While a coat and hat stand might belong here as well, I am gald that it doesn't fit and instead sits around the corner in just inside the garage. That way this 'at home' / 'out' transition space remains uncluttered and simple.

There is nothing special about a laundry, but the designers have integrated a few things that make the space work fabulously. A single step down (contrast to the single step up inside the front door). A change in flooring and full length glass in the external door all add a quality to the space.

We don't really have a 'backyard', but the closest we come is this long deck that hosts outdoor shower, clothes line, water tanks and garden shed. Out of sight and out of the sun is Maria's worm farm :-). Doors conveniently lead to the laundry and the garage.

looking from the entrance hall passed Johanna's room, the downstairs bathroom and laundry to the garage.

... and back the other way.

Our town house is sufficiently small that we need to be careful about how much stuff we hold onto. I like that. Although I confess that the garage is filling up with bits and pieces stuffed into nooks and crannies with some creative storing options, overall we are committed to recycling things we are not using. Over the years Maria has taught me lots about simplicity when it comes to decorating; whether it be clothing (decorating our bodies), shelving (ie avoiding it), and certainly ornaments. I have thought a lot about (and occasionally written) about the differences between minimalism and essentialism; the differences between economical and quality consuming; and the sometimes inconsistencies within an anti-materialism ideology. Suffice to say in this context, we want to make wise choices about the things with which we surround ourselves in our home. 

Sunday, 15 April 2018

#4 gardening and hanging

This post is part of a series where I'm recording the appreciative thoughts and emotions associated with various spaces in our house. For context, read my post Thinking about houses.

I'm writing this on a beautifully wild autumn day. successive cold fronts batter the weather boards with rain and wind. But only last weekend we felt like we were in an endless summer. When you live in this part of the world, the seasons are overwhelmingly formative in our lifestyles. And for those of us lucky enough to have some outdoors around our homes, our little plots of ground provide a meaningful connection with the changing environment. 

Our little yard is fabulously regenerative. 

The north facing deck invites the sun for most of the day. Afternoon snoozes in the hammock are almost ritual. We bought the hammock from a camping store in Mount Beauty a long time before we moved in. The hammock in the backyard in Brunswick had been an iconic feature for our family and we knew we'd have to find a place for one in our new house, even before we had an idea of where it would go. It was one of those 'meant to be' moments after we moved in and found the hooks already there! The grape vine above it is perfect. Its bare branches in the winter maximise sun. I lay in it back in spring and felt deep happiness at the sight of budding leaves which amazingly quickly transform into a sun protecting canopy over summer. You can tell by the photo that the cycle continues as the leaves brown and wither for autumn.

In the corner of the deck is a bush stool. (splayed legs) Rachel has spent a lot of time at Mittagundi. This stool came back from there after their 2017 festival. It's rugged beauty is in contract to the other outdoor furniture in the yard by S2dio which we found in a local outdoor furniture store. The teak arm chairs offer a robust but comfortable sitting option looking out on the garden. A beverage in the late afternoon sun is sweet as. But the full setting comes into its own on a sunny lunchtime when we are drawn outside to feast on fresh bread, tomatoes and basil from the garden. Sometimes we roast capsicums and mix it with parsley and garlic or if we're lazy we grab a tub or two of dip from the fridge. Whatever, or whenever, I love this spot. 

I love and hate the regular ritual of oiling decks and outdoor furniture. It's not my favourite annual ritual, but I do like the resilience payback. Adjacent to the table is the mandatory bbq. It's kind of primal isn't it, cooking and eating outside? Without that capacity it wouldn't feel like a proper yard! Against the fence are pots of herbs. It is one of our regular joys to be pottering over dinner and saying: 'Hmm, maybe some thyme might be good', and wandering outside to grab some sprigs.

The portable outdoor fire pit was a recent birthday gift. The place we rented around the corner had a great little corner just made for it. Haven't lit it here yet, but its time will come! See the chopping block in front of the woodpile - I've had it for more than 25 years. When we moved into our house in Brunswick I took a trailer out to my friend Doug's place in Ringwood to get a load of firewood. There were a couple of decent size logs I left unsplit and used them as a chopping block over the years. This one is nearly unusable now and I will be sad when it finally succumbs to the pounding of the splitter axe. It has had a very long and useful innings.

The red wheel barrow is from my dad. When he downsized to his unit near where mum is in care, he offloaded most of his stuff. It has the marks of his handyman ways with a piece of ply wood strengthening the base. A wheelbarrow is one of those things that we don't use much, but when you need one its good have it. It reminds me of my dad and it seems to 'belong' leaning against the fence behind the garden. Eventually we'll have fruit trees and other greenery along the fence, but for now its a clear pallet for Maria's gardening imagination.

That this is a regenerative space doesn't mean it's all sitting, eating, and snoozing. The garden beds are life giving. Maria is an active member of the community garden. Apart from the friendships, she loves the therapy of digging around in the dirt and cultivating food. At home here we have some great little plots too. We converted a sandpit and a pebble garden into food producing gardens to add to the two main boxes that stretch across the yard. It feels both right and good to grow at least some of our own food.

There are five raspberry plants along the eastern fence. Zac, Heidi, Rachel, Johanna and planted one each for Maria's 50th birthday. Eating fruit is one of Maria's favourite individual and family things to do, so we anticipate many summers of raspberry picking and consuming in celebration of this wonderful person for whom this little courtyard is a special oasis. For a small space it has qualities that welcome slow living, a place where being is more valued than doing. 

Whether it is a hail ridden winter Saturday or a Friday sunny lunch, it is also the space that connects us with the world outside. It is a buffer to the movement on and across the road in the village park. I often find myself standing at the doors peering out: still but involuntarily reflective.

Monday, 2 April 2018

#3 regenerating

This post is part of a series where I'm recording the appreciative thoughts and emotions associated with various spaces in our house. For context, read my post Thinking about houses.

It might sound obvious, but sleep experts say that a bedroom should be set up exclusively for sleeping. The simplicity of a room that has a bed and a small amount of convenient storage space is very appealing. In Pattern Language, Christopher Alexander and his colleagues suggest that, unlike what the most common house designs offer, dressing is an entirely different activity than sleeping and is best accommodated in its own space. The old dressing screens or walk in wardrobes with sufficient space for mirrors etc would be ideal. Alas, we don't have that amount of space in our little town house, but this room is wonderful anyway. 

In the winter months when it is dark in the evenings, the light on the dressing table provides a soft welcome into the room. Immediately inside the bedroom door is a short corridor with mirrored wardrobes on each side, a nice proxy for a walk-in wardrobe. It is a clever way to keep the clothes and dressing space clear of the bed.

But the best feature of this room is the north facing balcony. That side of the bed is Maria's reading spot of choice; the sun streams in for most of the day with the view across to the Village Park drawing your eyes outside. It is not unusual for me find either Johanna or Winnie (Johanna's Cavalier King Charles Spaniel) curled up with her on the bed. It is a gorgeous spot to pass the time.

The prints on the walls are from a local photographer. We got talking to him one day at the market in the town hall around the corner. In keeping with what we wanted for the room, the images are simple and clean. 

For me this a regenerative space. It's where Maria and I reconnect at the end of the day; it's where rest rejuvenates and in the ensuite off to the side, it's where we ready our bodies for the day ahead. Maria's yoga mat rests in the corner; her morning routine also regularly involves stretching and centering before the bustle of the day begins. 

I agree with the idea that simplicity is a good design principle for a bedroom and I'm pleased that this room not only ticks that box, but our experience of spending time in it generally leaves us feeling better than when we walked in through the door.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

#2 eating and drinking

This post is part of a series where I'm recording the appreciative thoughts and emotions associated with various spaces in our house. For context, read my post Thinking about houses.

The first dining table we bought was a round one. It had four rickety chairs and was bright glossy red. I found it in the trading post and drove to Bachhus March to pick it up in my chocolate brown HK station wagon. It cost us $25. We were so pleased to have it and after a couple of coats of white paint it even looked the part. Over the next 30 years, there were six more dining tables, chosen to suit the stage of life and style of home, including a white glass one in the apartment we rented on the Sunshine Coast.

Few items of furniture are as formative as a dining table, so we took our search for the one that would occupy this dining nook pretty seriously. The chestnut wood is polished smooth on the top, but the edges retain a rough and uneven finish - a nice bit of rustic luxury design. We chose low-back chairs to keep the space open. Soft pads on the bottom of the legs mean they slide quietly and easily on the polished floorboards and the grey fabric is just the right mix of comfort and everyday functionality. Although it is designed for eight, ten is pretty comfortable.

But what really makes the space is not so much the furniture as the nook itself. Externally it is annexed by a deck, and the dominance of clear glass invites the outside in. In the warmer months we sometimes open the doors to feel the breeze and hear the evening sounds of the town while we eat. The relaxed curve of the hammock, the rambling shapes and colours of the veggie garden and the clean lines of the fences and garden beds are close and therefore attract-ive so draw people from the living area to the table... the trees of the village park provide the backdrop.

Looking the other way, the open kitchen and lounge area make up the integrated communal areas. On the wall at the end is the only original painting we've ever bought. We spotted it at a market stall in Port Macquarie and arranged to pick it up from artist Lynne Bickhoff's home studio later in our yurting excursion. We bought it to hang behind the sofa in Brunswick and it later hung in my CityPoint apartment as a reminder of the continuity of life. We think it fits beautifully in its new home.

This is the place that Maria and Johanna sit to work. The placing of the windows and the proportions of the kink in the external wall that define the space give it a sense of separation, but it is  also bright, comfortable and thoroughly part of the living area.

It is fitting that I am writing this on Easter Sunday. We've missed Rachel who is on the Overland Track and Alex who is at home recovering between shifts on a busy start to the AFL season, but the rest of our mob and a friend or two, have spent many hours this weekend eating seafood, cooked breakfasts, drinking tea, and of course eating chocolate and easter buns, around this table. It is the place we gravitate to to mix those two critical dimensions of life; communication and food. 

Saturday, 24 March 2018

#1 thinking and working

This post is part of a series where I'm recording the appreciative thoughts and emotions associated with various spaces in our house. For context, read my post Thinking about houses.

There are two spaces in our house which are mostly mine. A right turn at the front door leads up a straight wooden staircase which leads away from the hospitality and common areas to a private second floor. I love my office; the light comes from the west so in the mornings the tones are softer and being furthest away from the road, it is also the quietest room.

The desk is the dining table we bought when we rented an apartment in CityPoint (Melbourne CBD), so it has always been associated in my mind with working away from home. It was also the table around which we gathered regularly as a family so has the memory of shared family meals on its surface. I love its deep cherry colour and slightly rugged feel. When we found it at Freedom Furniture in 2013, I instantly knew I had found what I had been scouring the stores for. 

There is a line of black spined journals at the back of the desk. Three times in my adult life I have given away most of my books. My commitment is to retain only the number of books that fit on my one bookcase. One of the problems arising is that my journal collection has nowhere to go, so again most of them get recycled. Except for a few collections which I keep; The New Philosopher; Dumbo Feather; Kinfolk and Monocle. Monocle has been an genuine inspiration for me for many years. I have already once given away a couple of years worth (two purges ago), but I have chosen to hang on to my editions from 2012. With little shelf space they sit on the back of my desk (the black spines.) Monocle has an elitist feel that I don't warm to, but overall I love the mix of British and Japanese sensibilities. I experience irrational joy when, after all these years, I sit on the couch and crack open a new edition. It inspires me because of three things:

1. The unique cocktail of the six focus areas; Affairs; Business; Culture; Design; Entertaining; Fashion. (Yep, ABCDEF for the observant). 
2. The media is predominantly old school; hard copy and radio. In the early days there was no internet presence. I find that it therefore pays attention to things that I feel are sometimes lost in the digital age; a commitment to the quality of the tactile sensation of engaging media.
3. The journalistic style showcases what is working (rather than what isn't) from across the globe. I get to read about the ABCDEF from places I've never heard of, without it presented as novel. I love having the Monocle spines face me every time I sit at my desk.

On the wall in the corner is wall art from the children's classic Where the Wild Things Are. I did not put them there. Before we lived here it was a child's bedroom and I like the idea of retaining this playfulness in what sometimes feels like a serious space.

The bookshelf was an engagement gift from our friends Jenny and Brett 30 years ago. At the time, I was used to buying op shop or cheap pine furniture, so to receive a quality bookshelf with half a dozen coats of varnish felt like luxury. It still looks like new. As mentioned above, I have given away most of my books three times. When we moved out of our office in West Melbourne, I decided only to keep titles that had meaning for me. The books on these shelves are not the best books I've ever owned but they are the ones that have been most formative. Only a few authors get multiple titles: Alain de Botton, Peter Senge, Christopher Alexander, Adam Kahane, Naomi Klein, Henri Nouwen. For other favourite authors I've chosen their seminal work or the one that has formed me most deeply. (eg. Jonathon Haidt, A Righteous Mind; Ched Myers: Who Rolled Away the Stone?, Patrick Lencioni: The Advantage. I am currently wondering whether more than one of Nassim Taleb's Incerto series deserves a permanent spot, and if only one, which one?) Every book on the shelf is a long conversation if you were to ask me about it. The collection is visible on my Goodreads account

A few titles have multiple copies. At any one time you will find bulk copies of Fredric Laloux's Reinventing Organisations (both academic and popular editions); Adam Kahane's Collaborating withe the Enemy and Patrick Lencioni's The Advantage. These are my three must read progressive organisational leadership resources so I give them away regularly.

On top of the shelf is a retro internet radio, a recent but prized piece of equipment. The stack to the right is multiple complete collections of The Alpine Review, the think-style magazine that I rate as one of the best magazine publishing projects I have encountered.

The couch is special. It's where I sit in the evenings to read, or where I retreat to if I need to digest hard copy material. We bought it when we moved to the Sunshine Coast at the beginning of 2013. I removed the leather-top desk and captains chair from the library in our West Melbourne office and replaced it with this sofa bed so I could sleep there during the week when I was back in Melbourne. It then moved to CityPoint (the apartment we rented in the CBD) and began its life as 'the kid's bed'. Then and now, it is the first bed to be used when people come to stay. So while this is 'my space', I love that it also doubles as the bedroom for family and friends.

(When Heidi stays, it's not unusual to find cartoons left on the whiteboard ....)

This photo (above) won't mean much to anyone else, but it is heavy with history for me. Ever since I was a little tacker I kept a journal ... or in the early days it was a retrospective diary. (As in: Saturday, March 3rd 1978; "played cricket all day"). I began the practice of writing my ponderings about life on paper while living in Japan in 1981. This cupboard holds a box and rows of journals from those early childhood ones to recent years before blogging and Evernote encroached on the domain of paper and pen. Alongside the introspective musings of my evolving mind are rows of work notebooks. Initially (from May 1991) they were Collins hardcover notebooks, but since April 2006, Moleskins. 

Even though the room is an office and so has a sedentary style, behind the mirrored wardrobe doors is a recreational theme. One wardrobe is where all our bushwalking gear is stored and on the far side is all my cycling stuff. When I sneak out of bed at 5.20am, I come in here to get ready to ride in an effort to allow Maria to keep sleeping.

Other things to note:
  • I confess to being a Fossil brand fan. There are two Fossil bags that are visible in this room. The larger one on the couch has been used most work days for many years and just gets better with age. The canvas man-bag hanging on the side of the bookcase is for occasional and particular use. 
  • There is also a leather satchel on the chair beside the desk: I bought this from the Wildhorse gallery in Bangalow. This is the work-lite alternative to the Fossil messenger bag and connects my work-life to one of my favourite times of the year ... our regular winter sojourn with friends at Cape Byron.
  • Apart from the wall art, three prints hang on the wall. The one above the couch is a photograph of some women in India. It was a gift from TEAR Australia when I left the board in the early 2000s. It was my first 'serious board role', from which I learned a formative amount of good things. In the corner near the bookcase is a studio photo from my mum and dad's wedding day. Behind the whiteboard, is a van Gogh print; The Dutchman got tired of city life in Paris in the 1880s so moved to the countryside in the south to enjoy the sunshine and quiet, during which he painted the View of Saint-Maries. The print was a gift from Jan's parents after one of their regular trips to Hong Kong.
  • To the left of the couch is a yoga mat and dumbbells. I am committed to exercising regularly, so when there is no time for a cycle or a surf, my morning routine often involves stretching and groaning using these.
This is my work space and my retreat space. It is a place where I am extremely productive. It is also a place with stuff that I value. I know I am incredibly privileged and at the risk of being misunderstood, I'll say I am a materialist. In a podcast interview with renowned minimalists Joshua Fields Milburn and Nicodemus Ryan I listened to last week, they provocatively say that the problem is not that we are materialistic, it is that we are not materialistic enough; by which they meant that we don't value our possessions sufficiently. We buy too much stuff that adds no value to our lives, rather than only having things that do so. That theme, what I prefer to call essentialism, will be a recurring theme in these posts.

"Deciding what is essential in our lives isn't about paring back our belongings and foregoing our beloved but unnecessary frivolities: Instead of determining how little we can live with, it's about working out what we simply can't live without."