Clare Cousins tells me that the magazine-perfect bunch of flowers sitting on her office table are never usually there. ‘We had our 10th anniversary party last week,’ she says, ‘it’s never like this, it’s never perfect, it’s usually just crazy all the time.’
Founder and director of the successful architectural firm Clare Cousins Architecture, and a hands-on mum of two young girls Ginger and Ivy, Clare isn’t one for sugar-coating.
From her self-deprecating description of her typical day as a ‘non-overachiever routine’ to trusting her gut and running a studio with complete transparency, it’s understandable clients and team alike are drawn to working with Clare.
She also has a reputation for nurturing young architects, particularly women in the typically male-dominated field. ‘There’s always been an unintentional dominance of women in our office,’ she said.
‘I like to talk through problems and ideas with people, and mentoring assistance is really important for both men and women. I’ve always sought the opinion of people I work with and try to give them as much insight into the running of the business as possible.’
Managing an award-winning firm alongside raising a young family has led to Clare often being dubbed as the ‘poster girl’ for working mums in architecture. ‘People are always asking, how do you do it? But I’m always saying, do not do what I did – I went straight back to work and the babies were practically under the desk! It is really hard, but you just manage whichever way you can.’
For Clare and her husband, builder Ben Pedersen, juggling work and life is a team effort. ‘It all comes in fits and spurts, I don’t do everything, it is a negotiation.’
From the pleasure she finds in her daily commute, to making sure she is home by 5.00pm most evenings, Clare reveals how she structures her days in order to spend more time with her daughters, as well as her guilty pleasures of watching The Block and The Real Housewives on TV.
Clare Cousins’ Extraordinary Routine
A few mornings a week I try and get up at 6:30am to go to the gym, but more often than not I can’t stand getting up – seven is early enough.
My husband Ben is in construction, and unless he is doing the school run, he often leaves early. Microsoft Outlook is key in our relationship – everything is scheduled from who is picking up the kids, to a small catch up in the office.
In the morning he’ll make me a coffee and the girls a babyccino. Ben is the chef in the family and will make a beautiful gourmet roll for Ginger’s lunch and even tie it with a little brown string. When I make the lunches they are a total let down.
Often the only way to get exercise in is to hop on Ben’s stationary bike in the studio above our garage. I’ll turn on ABC News and go through emails on my phone so by the time I get into work, a lot of them are cleared out of my inbox. It also makes the time go faster!
The girls will get up and make their own breakfast. I have instilled a lot of independence in them as I’ve been working since they were babies.
Trying to get out of the house in the morning is always a struggle, no matter how much time we have. I put on a load of washing, tidy up and it’s time to go
The nice thing is that I get to spend two hours in the morning with the girls and I am often home by 5:30pm, so I feel like even though I work full-time, I still get a lot of time with them.
After the rush to school, I drive from our home in Prahran to the office in North Melbourne. Everyone always wonders how I do the commute each day, but I really enjoy it. I find it is my one quiet time of the day. It’s funny, I get my creative ideas in the shower or in the car because it’s often the only time I’m by myself.
If I’ve got site meetings near home, I tend to schedule them in the morning or in the afternoon to avoid crossing town in the middle of the day. My typical day is back-to-back meetings all day – it’s really busy.