Member Profile – Henry Berresford
I love someone who still says “Blimey”. It is so very British and delightfully polite. Meet Henry Berresford, principal of Berresford Architecture and one of our newer residents at WorkLife Coledale.
Born in Jersey, Channel Islands and educated in Cardiff, Wales, Henry completed his Masters at Sydney University where he met fellow architect and now wife Belinda before putting down roots in Otford on the South Coast. Surrounded by bush and birdsong, he couldn’t be happier. This has very recently been enhanced by the fact he and Belinda gave birth to a beautiful baby girl – Georgina three months ago, a playmate to their little boy Arthur, just over two years old.
Tell me about Berresford Architecture – The Practice.
Beresford Architecture is a residential architecture practice. And business is awesome! There are three, slash four of us, as my wife is part time, managing Arthur and newborn Georgina. Grace, our newest Architect, started at our WorkLife office a few months ago, which is working out really well. And our intern, Celia, who started with me at Coledale has recently been a regular visitor to WorkLife Berry due to the Covid travel restrictions but is now back with us up north.
Our practice is six years old and has slowly and very organically grown. Initially it was just me working from the house. Then it was Belinda and me. We expanded to a small office and employed a student before becoming full time residents at WorkLife Coledale. Rather than aiming to work up from residential to large commercial projects, we are focused on getting better and better projects within the residential sector. And within that realm, we are aiming towards full scope services. That means we take a project from the concept stage and follow it all the way through to the completed product.
Tell me a little about your early life and how you came to be so far away from home.
I grew up in Jersey in the Channel Islands. And that was amazing. I think that’s why I resonate with the South Coast area so much. It (Jersey) has an amazing outdoors environment, and you know everyone on the island. I absolutely loved it. It’s a true community. All my family and friends are still there. And I would still be there, if it wasn’t for the fact that I had to leave to get an education. There is no university in Jersey, so I had to study in the UK and ended up in Cardiff, Wales for three years. I met some awesome people, and the course was great. But living in a Welsh city was not my idea of fun. I went from being on the beach every day to hanging out in soggy parks in below average weather. So, when it came to doing my Masters, I said, “no way” to going back to the UK. In addition, Jersey Beans are seen as international students in the UK, so any fees are massive. To move to Australia was more affordable and the weather, well, it was a no brainer. I moved to Cronulla, caught the train daily to The University of Sydney and met my now wife. My intention was to do two years, return home and carry on with life. But by the end of Uni, I had met Belinda and had a good job through one of the professors. I enjoyed the lifestyle and everything Cronulla had to offer so I just stuck around.
Cut to living and working in Hobart when my then fiancé, Belinda and I decided to move back to Jersey for a year, where we got married. That’s when we had to make a huge decision; 1. Are we going to stay in Jersey and continue with our professional and personal lives here? Or 2. Are we going back to Australia? The clincher for both of us was ‘career’.
Australia offered the possibility of working in a practice where we could design cool and innovative projects, or we could say in Jersey and have a pretty lackluster practice designing ordinary projects but with access to family and lifelong friends. Australia won. The culture shock is minimal coming to Australia, it’s easy to get on with people and meet new people. Life is very similar, and the weather is even better. So, we returned to Cronulla. I worked in the city for a while whilst I built up my knowledge. Once a fully qualified architect I did what I had always dreamed of and planned to do, which was to jump ship and go out on my own.
What was your greatest fear when you took the plunge and started working for yourself?
I read an article on, starting out on your own in business. It must have suggested you should save half a years’ salary before you do it, a financial buffer. And then I made a rule for myself. If my savings dwindled to below fifty percent, then I would start looking for another job. Worst case scenario, I end up working for someone else again. That didn’t happen so any fear and anxiety was over reasonably quickly.
Where is your current client base and when did you move to the South Coast?
Historically our business is Shire based but this is changing quickly. We have lived locally, in Otford now for two years and as a result, locals have started referring me locally, which is awesome. And the very fact that our office is in Coledale at WorkLife means local opportunities are ever growing. The community network is such a bonus. Currently we have a fabulous job in Kangaroo Valley and a project in Bawley Point. So, the entire region is of interest and our network of local builders is growing, both up and down the beautiful South Coast
We have a place in Mollymook which we bought years ago with the intention of one day moving further South. Essentially, when it came to decision time, it was just too far from our existing clientele and network, but Otford/Coledale was doable. As soon as we arrived, we agreed this was where we wanted to raise our kids and grow the business. It has one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in the world and is incredible.
What does your work life balance look like? Does it look much different to working in Sydney or Cronulla?
I guess for me, it’s the flexibility. I get time back for myself and the family living here. The sheer fact of working close to the beach and away from traffic is super helpful. When we first arrived, I used to earmark from first light till about 9am for surfing and getting outside and even with one kid that’s still manageable. But I reckon with two kids especially whilst they’re tiny, it’s going to be a bit hard leaving my wife and babies first thing to do that. So now, I spend the morning with the family, have brekkie, get to work at nine and work for a few hours. And then if I need my outdoor fix, I can go down to the beach or have a swim at midday and it just slots into my day perfectly.
My life has just improved all over. I just love driving down the hill and across the Seacliff Bridge. I see it on car adverts and think oh, that’s funny, I just drive along that thing every morning. I don’t however take it for granted. It’s a magical place to live for sure. Maybe I need to start cycling to work?
What’s been the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome? Either working for yourself or moving to the South Coast?
I think we’ve been lucky with timing. For many people, their main hurdle is getting up and running, making enough money and of course getting recognition. But in the last ten years and since the GFC, which didn’t really last long in Australia, we have been lucky in all areas. We were able to grow the business and therefore eat. Of course, there were the natural hurdles; like learning to not just spend all day at the beach. Also, before I went out on my own, I thought, ‘it will be great not to have a boss’, when in fact, in our industry, every single client is our boss. I answer to them as it’s their home, and often due to multiple projects, I have by default multiple bosses at one time. So, to answer your question, I think getting my mind around all that has been the only hurdle.
It surprised me how easy it was to have slipped into a new community. I think lots of people have a fear that if they move away from where they are used to, they’re leaving friends and their sense of community behind them, taking years to build it up again. But it’s been easy down here. We already knew one or two people but everyone from Cronulla thought we were mad, suggesting “it’s basically like a retirement village”. Not surprisingly everyone around us seemed to have the same idea. Arthur has about seven or eight little mates who are all within about four or five months of his age. We’ve got a moms group going (often a Dad’s group) and it’s awesome. I really love it. They’re all supportive. All our neighbours are always asking if we need anything, It’s bizarre, or is it?
Do you have a side gig aside? A passion project? Is there anything else that we need to know about Henry?
It’s literally two main components; family and work. If there is any time left over, I try to get to the beach, go for a surf or a walk with the family. If I ever get more time, I’m going to focus on surfing better rather than starting to paint or kite surf. I love surfing, I am no expert, but I enjoy it for what it is.
What is the one book from your bookshelf everyone should borrow?
I think my biggest go to books are my cookbooks. I have loads of them. And I probably like my Delia Smith book most because it’s back to basics. I love her ‘from scratch’ approach. All of my others (books) are just geeky architecture.
Okay, what about furniture? You’re an architect. I bet you like furniture. What’s the piece of furniture in your house that makes you the happiest?
I guess the one that makes me happiest is my bed. Although I’ve got a very beautiful little Alvar Aalto stool which my old boss Hannah gave to me for my thirtieth birthday.
What’s your favourite food on the South Coast?
The almond croissants at Moore Street General. They are next level. I absolutely lose it over these things.
What’s your go to listen to music or favourite podcast?
I have a couple of Architectural ones I listen to when I’m in the mood. They talk about how to run a small practice architecture firm, which helps motivate me. Otherwise, it’s obscure artists; Michael Mayer, Craig Richards. John Talabot, Axel Bowman. They’re kind of electronic guys, either European or English and experimental. I wouldn’t describe them as dance music. There are no flashy lights, more electronic percussion music, but I just love it. I’ve always loved it and I’ve always been a bit embarrassed to say I love it, but now I have.
So, what’s your best productivity hack to get the most out of each workday?
It completely depends on the day. If you are feeling it, you go for it. And if you’re not feeling it, you don’t. But I also believe if you get out and try to exhaust yourself early, then you can retire back to the office and happily sit down and work away knowing that you’ve got out, got in a surf or a walk and you’re happy.
What’s the best thing about your membership to work life?
Firstly, it’s feeling like part of a family but it’s also the immediate access to the professional network in the area. Everyone seems to want to chat to you and find out what you do. And then they spread the word, introduce us or mention us to friends and colleagues.
We also really appreciated the fact that when Celia (our intern) got stuck in Berry during COVID, WorkLife were kind enough to accommodate her in the Berry office, which was a lifesaver. Also, so many subscription or membership services seem to involve a lot of hidden costs. You guys seem to have worked the business model out well and are super generous with all you’re offering. It’s not all about the money, it’s about community and flexibility and that’s cool
Imagine tomorrow is a perfect snapshot of your best life. What are you doing?
Probably on a boat trip with my mates. Oops, no… it’s spent with family and friends because that’s what really counts. And that everyone’s healthy and happy. And on the best day possible (in that scenario), its spent on a boat. Maybe family and kids are on one boat, mates are on the other, so I can jump back and forth.