“I love watching them grow and their own unique perspective on the world,” says Sydney-based interior designer Siobhan Rothwell on her favourite moment of motherhood. “Mia loves to write and leaves little stories and maxims everywhere. One of my favourites was: When I grow up I want to be an anything girl so I can do anything. It’s great validation that I’m guiding her in the right direction,” she says. The stylish Rothwell lives with her architect husband Will and three children, Mia, Oliver and Sebastian in a historic Lavender Bay home Quiberee in Sydney’s North. “Restoring this house was a huge undertaking. It took us five years. We transformed it from a derelict boarding house to a gorgeous unique family homem” she says. We spent the afternoon with Rothwell to talk everything from interior design to parenting …
Mia wears her own Jacadi Paris dress. Oliver wears Boden jumper, $32, and his own jeans. Siobhan wears Zimmermann dress.
On what motherhood has taught her:
“The passing of time and how precious this time is. They are the yardstick of time passing, my personal hourglass which reminds me to be present in the now, it doesn’t come again, as they are constantly changing. Also, that the only constant is change. To be flexible and above all patient. Every child comes with a unique personality and challenges. As a result the guidance is different for each. It is in the act of guiding them that you are constantly learning too. Children iron out your personality weaknesses/crinkles. If youre impatient, well you have much to learn!.
On memories of her own mother growing up:
My mother taught me to be open minded and about patience and unconditional love. Humans are fallible, don’t strive to be perfect. Tap into who you are and be fabulous at that. Courage, to follow your convictions and to stand firmly. Mum was a very beautiful woman. She was a model, a free spirit who travelled a lot and liked adventure. In the 80s she was considered eccentric but well before her time, today she would be classified as very hip. She loved to try different things. For instance she was the first to embrace alternative medicines and theologies back when meditation was put in inverted commas and weird. This was back when Goldie Hawn was lampooning the hippie lifestyle in movies in the 80s. When she meditated at home it was the cause of great consternation by my friends ’WHAT IS SHE DOING?!’. This was delivered with big eyes and double backing for a second look. She was a great cook and her adventurous spirit prevailed.
On routine and children:
It depends on the child. Generally we do have a routine, as they like to know what is happening and feel safe in the knowledge of what’s coming up. I find it easier as a working mother, as it is a useful guide when you handover your children to others to care for. It’s not very strict, it just outlines the daily routine - it’s a road map to my kids and the family. Given the children are currently at three different schools with different start/finish times, activities etc, it’s also a path to my sanity!
On juggling a career with motherhood:
I do it with difficulty! I think the most important things are to have an office away from the house to define the professional from the personal and keep the spheres separate, time with kids is just that. My days are structured as they start with school drop off and end with the pick up. It is a short amount of time to get a lot done! It is difficult to have the balance. I have to admit one of the areas tends to be compromised at different times. At the moment it is work and family with not much socializing. Family comes first.
On her personal fashion style:
I gravitate towards a wardrobe that I can layer rather than outfits. A great jacket and boots in winter are key, summer is a combination of loose tops and skirts finished with strappy sandals. I also steer clear of materials that easily mark like suede. Heels are rarely worn these days unless it’s an occasion.
On her home:
The style of my house is a response to the restrictions of the site and our preferences. My husband is an architect and it’s a fine balance when both of you are designers! I find innovation comes from constraints; they define the parameters of your design and lead to lateral thinking. With respect to my house it was a play between contrasts, old and new, rough sandstone/smooth glass, masculine/feminine, light/dark. The success of the house is your experience of it, the journey through the house where you transition from light to dark. Rooms cater to different moods: the conservatory is open and light, the study is bunkered down and dark. We migrate through the house through the day. As a result all of the house is used. The biggest challenge and ultimate success was managing to make a traditional closed south facing house feel light and airy by creating sightlines through and opening up the house to an open plan layout.
On creating a great room:
Every room is different, you need to recognize its strengths and functions, accentuate them and bring in the layers such as furniture, accessories and lighting. The last being key, lighting can make or break a room! For a long time interiors have been flooded with down lights but the key to creating a warm ambience is to mix it up with task, decorative and mood. As I age, I find indirect lighting is far more flattering too.
On her favourite thing to do with her children:
We love to go swimming in the summer months, travelling up to Blueys beach, going to the lakes, walks on beaches and eating fresh oysters. In the winter we often go to the farm where my husband spent much of his childhood. It’s a very special place that holds so many memories for us now.”
Siobhans little list of loves:
Watching the change of the season.
Lighting fires at the end of the day.
My children laughing squeals of delight are infectious.
My first coffee of the day, especially as it gets colder.
Slow cooked meals.
Reading Mia’s stories and philosophical musings, Oli’s hugs and Bass’s mischievous ways.
Time to savour and delight in the now.
Long lunches with friends and a good chuckle.
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