P A R T 1 : S Y D N E Y
We arrived in Sydney in crystal clear heat.... We landed early in the morning, met with my lovely client, and within minutes, after a quick coffee and refresh, immediately started our inspiration tour. First stop was wonderful Elizabeth Farm, which, because of an earlier set of walls and an ancient roof structure contained within a slightly later Georgian and Regency remodelling, can legitimately be described as the oldest extant house in Australia.
It is stunningly beautiful and I cannot recommend a visit highly enough. As you can imagine I took hundreds of photos - this is just a fraction. The fantastic kitchen. Gleaming sunlight. Next stop, a short way away, was Experiment Farm, another early house. We were so grateful that the National Trust had managed to open up the house - not very often open at the moment, but so worth it if you can get there. Another incredible, inspirational, historic place. Contemporary Sydney looms above. But in a certain direction you feel you could be in another time and place. Next was the remarkable Old Government House, where we were joined by David Burdon of the National Trust for a fascinating tour. Originally the Governors house, and now a beautifully-presented museum, it is filled with treasures. As so often you draw most inspiration in the service areas.... I couldn't resist these tiny cottages, snapped from the car window as we were driving to Paddington.
Lunch, meeting friends, a quiet evening.
The following morning, early, we toured the Botanical Gardens... And the briefest, happiest visit to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, which I really count as one of the finest I've been to anywhere - it is the perfect scale, with amazing contents, brilliantly displayed. Then to Vaucluse House - also fascinating and definitely worth visiting if you are in Sydney. A beautiful early 19th century house is surrounded by wonderful trees and parkland.
The stable range is astonishing. All over the walls, old names, signatures and dates. The newly-planted kitchen garden: The kitchen - one of the most beautiful I've ever seen: Strong dresser inspiration in the butler's pantry: In the courtyard between the service wing and the main house: Crazy stairs everywhere: The nursery was heavenly. but the main interior, heavy, Victorian and claustrophobic. The wine cellar. Looking back. A dream ensemble. Lunch at Bondi under clouds and a strengthening wind... P A R T 2 : T H E S O U T H E R N H I G H L A N D S
And then south to the Highlands, to our project sites, where we had 3 or 4 days of rain, cloud and mist. Very beautiful in its way, but not quite what I'd expected!
P A R T 3 : N E W Z E A L A N D I N T E R L U D E
And then, after many days of intense work, it was over to Christchurch. The rains had cleared in Australia but had arrived in CHCH. First day was visiting with Brooksfield, my clients in Christchurch, starting with this house which we've designed for Vinny and Tessa and which is just so exciting to see now, really taking shape. And then to our sites of the new housing developments that are now popping up all over Christchurch. Given that most new housing in CHCH looks like this.... Or this.... It is just so fulfilling to be working away designing houses that look like this! While we are on the subject, this is a newly-constructed suburban subdivision in Ashburton. What on earth is going on? It's a bleak world, but it does NOT have to look like this. We have a choice. Meanwhile, back in Christchurch, here's Charlie with the newest addition to the family! We had a lovely couple of days with Charlie's mum, and on the way back to CHCH we called in at Ōhinetahi, the house and garden of the esteemed New Zealand architect Sir Miles Warren. A beautiful place. We were the only people there.
It is a fascinating garden, a powerful architectural and sculptural vision. And then to lunch in Lyttelton, never without a visit to our favourite London Street bookshop. The next morning, an early walk in the Christchurch Botanical Garden, beautiful as ever. And a first visit to the fascinating Ravenscar House Museum, a brilliantly displayed private house collection in a fine new gallery.
P A R T 4 : H O M E
And then.... as if in the blink of an eye... we were home. We landed on Friday morning, and drove down to Dorset in easy traffic - never happier than seeing the dogs after almost three weeks away. We were lucky with the bright sunshine that day. It made the coming home from summer to winter just a little bit easier. Snowdrops everywhere, now.
And then, I was back in London. A busy week, but a good one. On Thursday night we had site visit down near the river at Chiswick Mall. I left the house to walk back to the tube and was greeted by this astonishing sunset.
It was still light at just after 5, and with the birdsong in the air, it felt that although spring was not quite here (we know we must get through the rest of February and March, really), it was just around the corner. A nice feeling.