I was born in Paddington Women’s Hospital in 1985 into a family of dichotomies; on the one hand my father’s family were generational English bankers, pharmacists (or in the terminology of the time, apothecaries), and quakers. On the other side my mother’s family were working class Australians – my grandmother 1950s Sydney dressmaker and my grandfather a ___.
The first house I ever lived in was in Paddington and in this little village within a big city we were surrounded by a wonderful community. My Godmother Robyn Duffecy lived a couple of streets over in Greens Road and had the most wonderful, timeless, and inviting home – even now I think of her and the lovely spaces she created when daydreaming about beautiful things.
Robyn was a fabulous stylist and a lady full of love. She left this earth and her two young children far too young. I remember the feel of her house more than anything else; it felt like an extension of her lovely warmth. She had the most beautiful light, airy kitchen with white painted french doors opening onto a verdant courtyard. Sunlight flooded in through the open doors and washed over the island bench. The counters might have been soft, grey soapstone. The cabinetry was white and the glass paneled upper cabinets reflected the light around the room and added a sparkly mirror-like effect to the space, so that the greenery outside seemed to waft inward too. There must have been a leafy, trailing boston fern draped in the dappled light on the bench, it’s bright green fronds adding a burst of colour to the serene space.
Atop the beautiful old timber staircase to the first level sat a piped blue and white striped armchair with turned timber legs and brass feet. In my mind’s eye I see the chair mostly from below – perhaps because of the approach up the stairs, or perhaps because I was so small. One sombre day, after having moved to Terrigal we returned to visit Robyn. Her health had declined and she was resting in the bedroom just around the corner from the blue and white armchair. I realise now that I must have been waiting for mum outside of the bedroom whilst she said goodbye, and that this is why I know the chair so well;I must have looked at it at great length, from within, from behind, looking up from the floorboards – those feet! That lovely crisp stripe ran from the underside of the chair all the way up and over the arms, over the seat and around the back of the chair – and all the way back again.
When I think of Robyn I reflect on what I learnt from her – back then as a tiny person, absorbing the beautiful surroundings that she created, and I’m sure this was not just due to her skills as a designer and stylist but also as the manifestation of her generosity of spirit. Over the years as the process of reflection and the unravelling memories occurs I discover how much of my time near her defined who I was to become.
So it was from a very young age I felt a love for design and architecture. After having moved to Terrigal I became interested in buildings as well as what was within them. My idea of weekend enjoyment involved poring over house plans, imagining what those spaces would feel like when the walls lifted up off the pages into the 3rd dimension. On holidays with my siblings I would play resident architect and design my young clients their dream homes. My younger sister once requested a spherical home – and even for me it was almost entirely too complex. In the end we may have had to settle on a cylindrical form due to matters of extreme difficulty in planning (and of course, future construction!). I recall the staircases that curled upward along the inside the edge of the sphere to be especially impossible to resolve.
In highschool I loved Visual Art and Languages more than anything else, but also found great fascination in Biology, Psychology, and a hugely rewarding challenge in English – trying to accurately interpret and understand the hidden meanings in every author’s seemingly simple prose. Interestingly the one subject I never felt much allure for was Mathematics, however I put up with it because, after all, we all need to know how to count. I realise now that the thread between all of the seemingly disparate subjects that enthralled me was people – these fields are in fact entirely preoccupied with human expression, understanding the human condition, and interpreting the human mind.