how one australian architect, designer, and food blogger does it all

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Jacky Winter Gardens Belgrave, Victoria, Australia Hearth Studio


Hearth Studio, Left to Right: Murray Barker, Sarah Trotter, Rosie Scott, Peter Cole

Yes, it IS possible to do it all, and Sarah Trotter is our inspiration. With a resume that includes titles like architect, studio director, product designer, and food blogger, we’re wondering if there’s anything Sarah HASN’T conquered yet.

If we weren’t already impressed, the Jacky Winter Gardens Project – a 1950’s cabin remodel by Sarah and her studio Hearth – put us over the top. Like no cabin you’ve ever seen, this space is beautifully styled with a design that blends Scandinavian and midcentury modern touches, while paying homage to an abundance of nature found just beyond its walls.

We chatted with Sarah about Hearth Studio, her product design collaborative Groupwork, and her co-authored food blog Trotski & Ash to gain some insight. Sarah gives us an insider’s look at Jacky Winter Gardens, tells us what sets Australian designs apart from the rest, chats about some of her Australian foodie favs, and gives us a peek inside a day in the life of one superwoman who does it all.

YOU HAVE A LOT ON YOUR PLATE. WITH SO MANY PROJECTS IN THE WORKS, WHAT DOES YOUR TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE? Every day is different in architecture! Some mornings I am on site at 7am meeting trades and builders – if I start the day on site I am back to have breakfast and check emails by 8:30am. I try to have all correspondence under control for Hearth and Groupwork in a couple of hours. Then, I can get my head down to prepare for the day’s client meetings. I try to schedule client meetings for the afternoons or early evenings. I’ll often take a walk and relax cooking dinner for my partner and I, and then return to the computer for a couple of hours in the evening.

HOW DIFFICULT WAS IT STARTING UP YOUR OWN ARCHITECTURE STUDIO, AND WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE OTHER YOUNG WOMEN WHO DREAM OF OWNING THEIR OWN BUSINESSES? I can’t lie, it is difficult. I would recommend getting an accountant that can teach you how to run a business! Other advice would be: don’t be afraid to ask for help – especially from other women in your field you consider successful.

That being said, running your own practice is extremely rewarding. Seeing your own ideas come to life is really fantastic. I feel very lucky to have builders who are collaborative and motivated. It makes my job a lot easier not having to fight for every detail and being able to constructively come up with solutions for your client.

WITH SO MANY ACCOMPLISHMENTS, WE’RE GUESSING YOU’VE ALSO FACED CHALLENGES AND “NO’S” ALONG THE WAY. HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THESE AND PUSH FORWARD? I’m not really sure how you move forward after the ‘No’s’, you just do. I have had some devastating project halts. Some beautiful projects never realised, or ideas taken without consent. It’s tough! But you always have more than one project on at once and that makes it worthwhile – you know there is always something else to be done and another beautiful project around the corner. A mentor said to me once, “ALWAYS have a project in the office that is at sketch design phase”. It’s true – always having a project where you are in research and design keeps you inspired and motivated.

ASIDE FROM DESIGN AND FOOD, ARE THERE ANY OTHER INTERESTS OR HOBBIES THAT INSPIRE YOU? WHAT DOES DOWN TIME LOOK LIKE? We often spend time in the ‘bush’ about an hour out of Melbourne. We have family out there and I have planted a patch of Peonies on the property that always need weeding and an array of berries that need tending. We often go for drives in that area and go shed spotting – dreaming up what we could do with old abandoned estates and buildings.

WE’RE OBSESSED WITH THE JACKY WINTER GARDENS PROJECT. DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE ROOM IN THAT HOME?I love the kitchen. It was such a great project as it had a really lovely plan once we re-zoned the house into new public and private areas. The kitchen has an open relationship to the lounge and living, while windows look out to the manicured front garden. And the Marc Martinwallpaper is an incredible piece -I could stare at it all day.


We brought elements of the outside into the space and also the dark paint datum throughout the space acts as a base, grounding the house into the site so you have a perception of the fall of the site, descending into the creek.

The space is eclectic and has elements that represent the client’s brief and budget. The furniture was sourced mostly second hand, re-upholstered and that was the starting point for the purchase of the new furniture. We took elements from the landscape – yellows from the autumn ginkgo trees on the property and then neutral tones for the rest. The house also creates a canvas for all of the beautiful pieces from the Jacky Winter artists and illustrators.

WHAT IS ONE THING ABOUT ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN THAT THE AVERAGE (DESIGN-OBSESSED) PERSON DOESN’T KNOW – BUT SHOULD? Architecture is also about creating relationships and managing people! On some days I’ll manage builders, surveyors, clients, staff and so many others.

To be a good designer I really believe you have to be an excellent problem solver, not just on your own, but be able to collaborate with others to get good results.

ARE THERE ANY ELEMENTS THAT ARE ESSENTIAL OR UNIQUE TO AUSTRALIAN HOME DESIGN? Australians are very good at creating homes that have a relationship to their site and the outdoors – we love living outside! Walking down my lane I’ll often hear people out on their decks and terraces during summer and winter. Kara Rosenlund has just made a beautiful book ‘Shelter’, which surveys Australian homes in a lovely way.

WE KNOW YOU’RE A PASSIONATE FOODIE. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FOOD OBSESSION RIGHT NOW, AND IS THERE ANYTHING WE CAN LEARN FROM THE AUSTRALIAN FOOD SCENE? There are some wonderful things happening here with all of our fresh produce, especially in Melbourne. We’re also starting to see people using native ingredients here too, like finger limes and lemon myrtle which are so special and fragrant, and Samphire which is a delicious salt bush. Melbournians love trying new things and love eating out in beautiful spaces.

Favourite local Melbourne places of mine are: Town Mouse, Bar Idda, Embla, Marion and our local Indian Restaurant!

Coffee is probably my biggest food/drink obsession, there is so much to be learnt and so many flavour profiles. Making spaces for Market Lane Coffee is definitely a career highlight.

IS THERE ANY SINGLE DESIGN ELEMENT THAT YOU’RE OBSESSED WITH AT THE MOMENT? I’m still really excited by accessories. Friends of ours Rowsaan make gorgeous brass accessories and our Groupwork fittings have just arrived in black chrome.

I’m excited to see how materiality and texture further evolve in interior architecture, I think people are starting to change the way that they specify and create spaces using more natural and textured accessories, giving spaces depth.

WHAT IS ONE FAVORITE RECIPE FROM YOUR TROTSKI + ASH BLOG THAT WE HAVE TO TRY THIS WEEKEND? Well, it is spring where you are, so I would suggest a Chicken Curry with Fresh Turmeric (make it with mushroom stock and potato if you’re vegetarian) followed by a hearty slice of warm Honey Cake or Lime Meringue Pie. Enjoy!

CREDITS, as provided by Sarah Trotter:

Jacky Winter Gardens Jacky Winter Group 

Hearth Studio Project 


Sean Fennessey


Sarah Trotter, Murray Barker, Rosie Scott, Peter Cole

Groupwork Photographer: Lauren Bamford

Project Team: 

Sarah Trotter, Esther Stewart, Murray BarkerTrotski & Ash  Photographer: Lauren Bamford


Romy Ash

Stylist / Recipe Developer: 

Sarah Trotter