Andrea Duff knew that she would have to be a quick learner if she was to keep up with her partner Robert Schwamberg. Robert, an avid sailor, had conceived a life for the pair involving a few months a year sailing the Mediterranean seas, and Andrea would need to be an equal sailing partner to turn this possibility into a reality. ‘I’ll give anything a go,’ explains Andrea with a giggle. ‘I like water, so I figured that I’d like sailing.’ Extensive instruction sailing Sydney harbour and its environs was just the grounding she needed – and with that a new chapter in the life of Andrea and Robert was born. Their yacht, ‘strangetrader’ is their home away from home, and has been their trusty carrier to exotic and faraway places from St Tropez in the south of France to the Aeolian Islands and almost everywhere in between.
Whilst the sailors’ life quenches the couples’ thirst for travel and adventure, it also exposes them to unique, one-of-a-kind treasures – exotic pieces that can only be found when one possesses time to explore, an insiders’ knowledge and a preparedness to haggle on the locals terms. As a result, a heady mix of randomly found objects (edited with Andrea’s well-honed eye accrued from her years spent as a fashion director) ultimately makes their way into the couples’ homewares store aptly named strangetrader and their newly formed design business (strangetrader design), situated in the creative heartland of Byron Bay. ‘We wanted a business that supported our love of sailing and travel,’ remarks Robert, ‘strangetrader evolved from our lifestyle rather than the other way around. As a result, the shop is filled with unusual oddities which; have been found in the old-fashioned way through adventure and discovery. We get a thrill when we unearth something that has never been seen before – it gives the store a completely unique flavour.’
Similarly, this lively aesthetic informs the backdrop to the couples more settled home on land, Byron View Farm. The original farmhouse, built in 1916, provides a relaxed retreat for the intrepid travellers and takes in views that span the Byron Bay Hinterland and the expansive coastline beyond. ‘Byron Bay, is all about stripping back to a kind of simplicity and living closer to the earth. Here we are able to eat from our own vegetable garden and connect with the local community – we feel whole and settled in a way that you never can when you’re tripping from place to place,’ recounts Andrea. The furnishings, in the main house, are a spirited melange of the couple’s travel finds and a selection of enduring designer pieces. The aubergine mohair velvet sofa, made to order by Jade Upholstery, combines Andrea’s love of old English design sensibilities and an edge of modernity. In the dining room, an original Eero Saarinen marble topped table assumes the focus, along with the Bertoia dining chairs from Dedece. The patchwork rug on the floor, found on a sourcing trip in the south of Turkey, provides a colour infusion and exotic flavour. In the master bedroom, a colourful Turkish Suzani bedcover adds pattern, energy and a uniquely ethnic flavour – each piece working together in a way that beautifully recounts the owners’ tale.