Cherish: Alexandra Barrett, Ben Buckler
Text KATE PASCOE SQUIRES
Photography KATE PASCOE SQUIRES
Alexandra Barrett (nee Ponting) makes interiors beautiful for a living. And damn is she good at it. But how does Alexandra ensure it’s not just her surroundings bringing the beauty? It takes discipline to cherish all the moments – but she’s completely on the right track.
The Slowdown. How does that resonate with you?
My slow down is taking time out from my responsibilities. Time out to enjoy the people I love, the things I love to do on my own or with those people.
Nurturing this practice makes me a better person – a better wife, a better daughter, a better friend, a better boss.
What triggers your need for the slow down?
Deadlines. 100%. My husband and I will plan a weekend out of the city, by the water, whenever we feel like we need reenergising.
How do you put your slow down into practice?
The beach. Diving into a wave is the only time I truly switch off and savour in every little moment, of that exact moment. The surf cures a stressful day or kickstarts my best day. I usually head to Tamarama, Ben Buckler or Bronte with my husband and/or friends. Before work, after work, weekends. I’m still jumping in – and in complete denial that winter is here.
Apart from being in the water, I find it hard to slow down, well in the sense you probably mean… I am lucky that I love what I do for work – it is a forever evolving passion. As an interior designer, I can’t help but be affected by my surroundings… so when I take time out for those other things I love – pottering around at home, travel, yoga, walking, the odd amateur tennis match, a gallery visit – I’m subconsciously thinking how the smallest object or slightest idea could correlate to a current project or improve my craft.
In saying that, a date night at 10 William or a Sunday morning of cooking, followed by a long lunch with friends in our courtyard, are treasured pastimes – lots of laughs are my ultimate slow down.
Is this something you put into place daily, weekly, once in a while when life permits?
Swims & walks, daily.
Date nights, weekly.
The rest, sporadically.
Slowing down and cherishing all the good bits is so important. We’d all be bonkers without it.
How important do you believe our surroundings are – and particularly our homes – to allow us the ability to stop and really be in the moment?
Paramount. I firmly believe in only surrounding yourself with items that you use or love every single day. Clutter clogs the mind and subconsciously creates stress.
I believe in collecting forever pieces and slowly creating layers over time that bring you joy, solitude or focus. If your home is a haven, you are happy to be in it and proud to have others in it.
Are there any particular objects you can think of that evoke the principles of the slow down?
Not overly. However, I’ll light my favourite Regime des Fleurs candle and turn our Sonos on, the moment I step in the door. Having fresh blooms scattered around doesn’t go astray either. (Bess on William Street has the best in Sydney!)
I know you are originally from Brisbane and are now based in Sydney. Do you ever dream of throwing in big city life for a slower pace?
Totally, but not yet! I’m an all or nothing kind of girl. I love the action that Sydney’s East brings and the number of creatives in this little pocket is huge. It is inspiring. Coupled with the fact three of my favourite beaches are on our doorstep means we won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
That said, we do have dreams of renovating a small seaside shack just out of Sydney that we can escape to on weekends and create a more slow-paced atmosphere for our future little family.
How do you approach your days? You run a very successful interior design house and the demands are great. How do you keep it all together?
Starting my day with exercise – walking, yoga and/or ocean swims – is a gamechanger and really does set me up to be my best self for the day ahead. I can mentally sift through ideas that have been swirling around in my head and problem solve any designs, ready to jump straight into it once I’m back in the studio.
But quite simply – I genuinely love what I do.
Yes, it is a job, and like all jobs, it comes with the good and the bad… but the good parts far outweigh anything I find myself procrastinating over. I now follow a mantra of doing the less exciting to-do’s straight up, so any niggling tasks are done and dusted by mid-morning and I have the rest of the day to be creative & focused.
Coupled with this, I have the best right-hand woman, Phoebe Marshall. We are an absolute team and thoroughly complement each other. Some days I think she and I could conquer the world! Haha! Lastly, but certainly not least, we have an army of the best trades who bring our concepts to fruition. We treasure these guys!
After a particularly good (or bad) day – we have Hendricks & cheese.
Do you ever get caught in the comparison trap, either professionally or personally?
Of course – I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t.
When those fleeting thoughts fill my head, I just reassure myself – I can only stick to my guns and be confident in what I am striving to achieve both professionally and personally. I look back on where I was a year ago as a friendly reminder that I have created what I had aimed for the year prior, so instead of wishing for more – there is an opportunity to reflect and be content with that.
Bottom line – don’t get caught up in those thoughts – they get you nowhere and use precious brain space. What’s that great saying? “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Wise words.
Do you agree with the premise that we all need to slow down at times or do you think we can really do it all, all of the time?
Absolutely, yes. It is key to happiness and success. Otherwise we can’t see the forest through the trees.
I am, however, a firm believer we can have it all. For me – I thrive on my work. It feeds my passion. And although we haven’t had our children yet (so I’m probably going to eat my words), but I can’t imagine stopping what I love when that time comes. I’m not saying it will be easy, but I think that is when I will have to especially prioritise the slow down. Being proactive in making sure I have those time-outs for myself, so that when I need to be present at work and with our children, it will be not only manageable, but fun and exciting.
For those of us who are walking our own slow down path, do you have any ideas to share that might assist us in our journey?
Hmmm… I am far from a slow down guru. I know for sure that I’m an extroverted introvert. I love people and I am very social, but have always needed that little bit of solo downtime each week to reflect and reenergise. Perhaps this has given me a slight upper-hand in knowing how to slow down well.
For first-timers, I would say – realise what activity you are doing when you are at your happiest/most relaxed and try to prioritise it when you do have those luxurious escapes from the craziness of life.