I just got back from a couple of days teaching my mindful making workshops in Albany, in the South West of WA. I've returned feeling so nurtured from the company and conversations. And the breathing out that happens naturally when you drive a few hours out of the city. I stayed a couple of nights at the Slow Drift, a 70's Australiana Beach shack lovingly renovated by Christie and Dave to welcome guests to their magic little pocket of the world. I had a chat to Christie while I was there about how she turned her shed into a tiny oasis and what slow living looks like when you have a job, two kids and an ambitious renovation all at the same time.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got to be doing what you’re doing.
I grew up in regional WA in a big family, lucky enough to spend our childhood with parents running an adventure tourism business and an outdoor clothing store. We were always on adventures in the bush and on the water, these still being the places where I feel most at home. Whilst studying in Perth, I met my husband whose family had recently made the move to Denmark WA. He drove me down to do the big first introduction and on arriving through the Karri trees over the river, I immediately felt a sense of coming home. We bought an old 1970s fibro beach shack in Denmark soon after and hightailed it out of the city! We were married in the backyard, have brought our two boys home to this house and couldn’t imagine it not continuing to be a part of our tapestry.
After welcoming our eldest boy, Arthur, I really struggled with the rewarding, yet sometimes monotonous everyday pressures of parenting, maintaining a home, working and helping manage a carpentry business. So with a newborn, 1.5-year-old, a business, a day job and quirky old shack that could no longer comfortably accommodate the many friends and family who come to stay, we started the conversion of our old shed into a comfortable guest accommodation (or quiet space for me to escape and drink gin!). It was most definitely not slow living!
I drew and designed the space, I was on the tools most weekends building, I threw myself into learning all there was to know about running curated accommodation and viola, we were ready to press play.
Alas, 2020 had other plans… Two days before our first guests were to arrive, travel restrictions were rumoured and we lost all bookings within a fortnight of opening them up. We were devastated, with the unknown bringing with it so much anxiety.
I decided that everything had a silver lining and amongst some quality family time and enjoying the best time of year down here (usually bustling with tourists) with beaches to ourselves, we spent the downtime landscaping the front of the house and guesthouse (a plan 10 years on the to-do list!). Before we knew it, restrictions in WA were lifted and we attempted again to launch our little labour of love into the world.
Which brings us to today. Only 3 weeks into hosting guests, I could not have imagined the support and feedback we have received. I feel so incredibly grateful, with full hands and a very full heart.
You've spent the last three and a half years renovating the Slow Drift, for guests to book a coastal escape to Denmark. When you were creating the space, what was most important to you?
I love this question! It was incredibly important to me to create a space that really tells the story of what we love most about living here and our home. The nostalgic Australian beach shack, the slower pace, that beautiful balance of salt and earth that is Denmark.
It was also essential to me to have a space that could accommodate our parents as they age, without compromising on aesthetics. I am so passionate about this concept!
What's your favourite season and why?
It has to be Autumn - the energy of summer subsides, the earth starts a slow wind down toward winter and we find ourselves soaking in the sun by day and warm by the fire at night.
What is a simple pleasure or daily ritual that brings you joy?
Absolutely my morning coffee, in a beautiful handmade mug. The ritual marks the beginning of a new day, the mug is a reminder that there is beauty and pleasure to be had in even the simplest of everyday moments.
What do you do for yourself when you need to slow down or take a break?
Oh, I really struggle with this! Can you tell that I am a do-er?! Sometimes when it all gets a bit full-on and I can't escape the constant chatter in my head, I switch off my phone and throw myself into something productive but creative. It isn’t unusual to find me spending a down-day designing homes on AutoCAD, rearranging the furniture or learning something new (photography and pottery at the moment!). Anything to keep my hands busy and my mind solely occupied on one task! If I could choose anything though, anytime I needed to slow down and refill my cup, I would be with my dad on the boat out the back of the Ningaloo reef, rolling over the swells, sun on my face, chasing big fish… my truly happy place.
What does your perfect Sunday look like?
A coffee with Dave and the boys on our deck, counting our lucky stars as we stare out at a glassy Wilson inlet, the moody Nullaki peninsula, the Southern Ocean with the cows and kangaroos grazing the paddock below us. A slow day at home in the garden as a family, capped by spontaneous afternoon drinks with friends and dinner cooked slowly over an outdoor fire. Sundays we consciously don’t book anything on the calendar, the best ones just evolve and we finish and start the week grateful and with full hearts.
Name three things you can’t live without.
My family, beauty and things to learn.
What is the meal you love making the most right now?
I am totally going through a scones phase! I think I have nearly mastered the art. I am pretty sure that neighbours and friends are loving the constant deliveries too! I have even started putting jam and cream on my sourdough, a delicacy my mum taught me as the daughter of a dairy farmer - cream goes well on everything!
What does home mean to you?
Home to me means absolute unconditional love and also, a safe place physically and psychologically. A place where I can dream, try, fail, try again and am still loved and accepted because of my shortcomings and not despite them.
What are the most cherished objects in your home and why are they special to you?
Can I say my coffee machine?! No, really, with all of the devastation of fires on the East Coast this year this is a question I have pondered a lot. The objects most cherished to me are all things that are intrinsically linked to family, both past and present. I would do anything to save my photo albums, paintings by friends and by the boys, my Oma and Opas old Danish TV chairs, my dad's old records and my mum's childhood piano. I have realistic expectations about getting the piano out in an emergency though, don’t worry!
What does slow living mean to you?
Slow living to me isn’t necessarily about slowing down time, it is the concept of being able to recognise what is important to you and to consciously reflect it in the way you live. This concept requires a certain slowness and contemplation, a mindfulness of choices, actions and thoughts. Recognising that how you choose to spend each moment is how you are choosing to spend your life and therefore, doing so with authenticity and integrity to what is meaningful to you.