We love chatting with like-minded business folk who are smashing it in their field and always find it super inspiring and intriguing to listen to what they have to say about where they started, what floats their boat and what their average day looks like. Simone Mathews and her hubby are what we’d refer to as compulsive creators. Their most renowned space; Soul of Gerringong – blurring the line between holiday home and boutique hotel. The Smack Bang Gang has the pleasure of spending two days in this dreamy space and boy, it did not disappoint. Read on as we sit down and chat about humble beginnings, working with your partner and Simones’ go-to remedy when stuck in a creative rut.
Cappuccino on almond milk (has to be organic, or Milk Lab)
My family is very much the centre of my crazy, incredible world. I’m ridiculously lucky to have a super supportive husband, Ben, who is very much my partner in crime. Together we try and herd our four boisterous, beautiful boys, while navigating our way forward. My eldest is 14, and in this time we have renovated, built and transformed over 20 properties – very much leading a gypsy life. (also the name of our dog!) I often joke that when my boys grow up they will either follow in our footsteps.. or run in the opposite direction.
Balance … that is a word that I don’t believe actually exists when it comes to juggling a career and family. Instead I like to combine the two. My work and kids are my number 1, so I review the week’s priorities and work around them when I can. Like everyone else, there are times when that balance goes awry, though for the most part – it works. You’ll either find me at the footie field cheering on my boys, or in the intense weeks, scooting off to Byron for some MIA time to meet a deadline. Though my boys know I’m always there, and my incredible journey with SOUL is all down to choosing a path where I could work around them.
As a person who’s motto is ‘if you fail to plan, you plan to fail’ … I honestly had no plans to move to Gerringong, let alone create a holiday property that would add a new dimension to my career. We were away for a friends 40th and I stumbled across the farmhouse, drawn to this property that needed lots of love. As avid travellers to Byron and Bali, we knew there was a great opportunity on the NSW South Coast to create a new standard of holiday accommodation inspired by our travels, but with our own unique twist. Located just over an hour south of Sydney, the aim was to create an escape where our guests could leave the hustle of everyday life behind and take some time to breathe, relax and connect with family and friends.
Well, let me confirm – Ben will never let me put together a flat pack! He takes over and of course doesn’t follow the instructions. Working with my husband, has its challenges but as Ben says there are no problems, only solutions. Our working relationship, just like our personal one, is a yin and yang one. Ben is the calm one and I am the one who is far more intense. What I love the most about working together is that we enjoy the wins together, and completing SOUL was one of those win moments that we were able to share together.
I learnt that together, we’re a pretty ace team. In those many moments where I questioned what we were doing, Ben was there to reassure. And vice versa. When it was Ben’s turn to lose focus, I was the one to navigate the way forward. Individually, we can do great things. Though the eye-opener – when we combine our different energies, that is when the magic happens!
On the building side of things, it was trying to combine the original with the new. We wanted to reuse as much of the original materials as possible, so the authentic charm would remain. The biggest challenge was believing in ourselves – our style for SOUL was a different direction, and we had to keep reminding ourselves of our belief in what we were setting out to create. We went over budget with SOUL, and we had a moment questioning whether the guests would actually come. So we leant on each other a lot in the last days to make it over the finish line.
My favourite space is the SOUL Barn. It has so much feeling, and the doors were from our former ‘forever home’. (which didn’t pan out that way!). So it always feels like home to me. For Ben, you will find him by the indoor stone fireplace which was original to the house … even in summer.
For me, inspiration comes from nature. While I am a fan of Pinterest, nothing beats actually getting outside and looking for inspiration. The ocean, palms and anything that has aged naturally, as well as from my travels – discovering new places and cultures – it is the best creative therapy.
I head to a café and put the laptop and phone away. I love to be inspired by spaces and by people. What emotions they are experiencing by being in that space… and working out how to inject those emotions into everything I do. People-watching in great spaces… omg, I sound like a stalker! Haha.
There is so much happening right now and in the pipeline. I’ve developed SOUL Home, which is a community of Holiday Property Owners (HPOs) with a supportive online guide to mentor others stumbling through a similar journey. This is a relatively new tourism world as the likes of Airbnb grow in strength, so it’s a good feeling being able to help others as they navigate their own way forward, and see their own holiday properties blossom.
We have also just received council approval for the SOUL Beach House, a new holiday property project with a more intriguing style… think Greek Islands meets the South Coast. The most exciting part is that we’ll be producing an e-series to capture the journey from the ground-up, to bring viewers along for the ride. And that is just this year! I’m already exhausted by 2020… but bring it, ha. I’m ready!
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