Inside the home of Alexander &CO's Tess Glasson
Tess Glasson is the Marketing & PR Director of Alexander &CO, the award-winning design firm of Tess and her husband, Jeremy. Their home, Alexander House, is a hybrid work/live environment - both a busy and happy family home and a testbed of ideation for their architectural practice.
Alexander House is an exploration of craft, sustainability and ideas. It's a space of reflection both personally and professionally.
Here, we speak with Tess about the flow and balance of family and work, the importance of colour in a space and how 108 days of ocean swims saw her through lockdown.
Duvet Cover: GRAHAM/TIMO Fitted Sheet: HUDSON
How do you begin and end your days?
Every day I exercise. It’s my special alone time and I love it. This is either a walk at the beach in Bondi followed by an ocean dip, a weights session at my local gym or a vinyasa yoga class. We’re lucky to have a steam room at Alexander House so I’m in there most mornings as well!
In the evenings at the moment, we are enjoying a summer evening family stroll and taking our dog for a run around the park…or just Jeremy and I pound the local pavement for a quick end-of-day debrief and catch up!
I also love to read in bed with my little boys. (Animal fact books are our current favourite!)
I finish off my night with a guided meditation…and then sleep!
Tell us about your work with Alexander &CO?
Jeremy founded the business almost 10 years ago. At the time, I had my own PR company and Alexander &CO. was just one of my many clients.
As Alexander &CO. grew and we had our boys, I slowly transitioned into and created the full-time Marketing Director role of Alexander &CO that I’m doing today. It made more sense to put my efforts into our business and it’s allowed greater flexibility, we’re definitely the best clients I’ve had (!) and I absolutely love bringing my 25+ years of experience in the marketing and PR space…into our own practice.
In terms of my day-to-day, I manage the brand strategy and execution - social media, photoshoots, other marketing initiatives, website, industry relationships, PR and more...
Your family home, Alexander House has become an extension of Alexander &CO or perhaps even the other way round - a testbed for ideation and execution. Merging the practice of your architecture business with your family life - how did this approach to your home / office come about and evolve?
We have lived next door to the adjoining terrace for over 10 years. We had always thought if our lovely neighbour sold we wanted to be first in line to be offered the opportunity to buy it. At first, we thought we could use the space as an extension of our home but Jeremy had other ideas and thought that designing another house was much less interesting than designing a hybrid work/live environment (and of course, we had wanted to reduce the commute time, give our kids the opportunity to be part of a family business and have more time to see them as they grew up.)
He designed Alexander House in 2020 as a purpose-built work-from-home space and then when still in early construction canceled our office lease making sure that there was no turning back! COVID hit and it was a serendipitous time as we were already living the home/office experience!
With work and home so interwoven, what do your days look like?
Jeremy and I tag-team the morning hustle (one of us exercises and the other gets the kids ready for school and then we swap!) and after the kids are off to school I’m over in AH for meetings and work. We love the fact that we can cook lunch in our home each day as well as manage any of the domestic stuff we need to often do during work time!
In the afternoon, the boys take over the Alexander House kitchen (love to steal snacks!), say hi to any clients and our team. They are very much part of the daily flow of our practice and we love it that way.
Out of office hours, we also use the AH kitchen to entertain and the beautiful library space to catch up on some quiet work or escape the energy of four boys!
Sydney has spent the past few months in lockdown, what did working from home look like whilst homeschooling four boys?
During the 2020 lockdown I worked and homeschooled - it was a rather gruelling schedule of 8 hour days with my boys and then working into the wee hours of the night to get my other ‘work’ done.
This lockdown I decided to do it differently. I reduced my A&CO. workload considerably (working at night for a couple of hours only) and prioritised the time homeschooling the boys/generally managing the domestic undertakings of four boys in lockdown!
I was able to put any marketing initiatives that weren’t urgent on hold as well. It really was the only option this time around and although it was still an intense time in terms of the domestic juggle, it was a much more sustainable experience than the 2020 lockdown.
What were some of the most unexpected things you took away from this time at home?
Our 2021 lockdown was a golden time for our family – a slow flow, surfing/rockpooling seven days a week and lots of opportunities to just be with our boys.
After doing a Wim Hoff course a few years ago and jumping in an ice bath, I’ve become a fan of cold water therapy so I set myself the challenge of walking early every morning and getting in the ocean afterward. Lockdown started in the middle of winter so the water temperature was seriously fresh when I started out and I was way out of my comfort zone in the ocean every morning sans wetsuit, however each day I stayed in a little longer and the feeling afterward is incredible. I kept that up for the 108 days we were in lockdown so was pretty proud to have achieved that…and really it’s wonderful how quickly the body and mind adapt.
We have also been really conscious of emerging slowly from the lockdown experience and keeping some of these daily rituals we created and loved in place and generally not over-committing on the social calendar or getting back on the ‘busy’ treadmill.
Alexander House is an experimental combination of areas with varying purposes - home, work, studio - what role does sustainability play in the creation of these spaces and how do these practices inform other Alexander &CO projects?
Alexander &CO. is working this year to be B Corp certified and to have long-term management plans for our waste and carbon. Sustainability is at the centre of all of our work, and it starts with how we are developing the practice to be sustainable for our people. Naturally next it is our environment and all of the products we create.
What is the key to creating liveable spaces that are comfortable, modern and enduring?
There is a lot of complexity in this question. I think the spaces need to be ambiently healthy to start. Without this nothing else flows. Healthy light, air, and connection. Volumes which delight, shapes and textures which can transport you through time. Narrative is the magic glue that holds this all together.
How is colour important to you and how does it impact your life?
Colour is part of the story that light tells, it is absolutely important. Often our work is inspired by natural phenomena, it shows age as well as the influence of the natural environment. It holds mood, and it holds drama, and emerges as the light around it changes. It is a special wonder.
Talk us through some of your favourite things…
Jeremy and my boys, my gorgeous group of girlfriends two of them I’ve known since I was in my teens and I wish I had more time just to sit and talk to….and of course, my mum and dad and siblings who live in different places in QLD….looking forward to a Christmas visit.
There are so many and I am constantly adding people to my wish list. This year I’ve started to devote a little time to researching emerging artists and I’m working towards adding more pieces to our collection…Most recently, I’ve been inspired by so many new ceramicists … However, if I could have one new piece today it would be one of the amazing watercolours from Gloria Pannka. She is a senior Western Aranda woman and a second-generation Hermannsburg School watercolour artist. Her grandfather was Albert Namatjira. We took our boys to Uluru and Alice Springs earlier on in the year and saw firsthand how beautiful the West Macdonell Ranges are, which is where she lives and the subject of a lot of her paintings.
I’m a huge fan of finding and restoring vintage furniture. I’ve been interested in this since I was in my late teens…Our latest piece is a Jean Gillon for Italma Wood Art Easy Lounge Chair that we bought from Vamp in Surry Hills and had reupholstered in the most beautiful burgundy leather from Instyle. I’m always on the lookout for the next piece…!
Bills Bondi for a casual mid-week meal and my staples are Chiswick or Nomad or Franca for getting dressed up and heading out with friends. I equally love a new space though so always love exploring the new hospitality scene in Sydney…
Not a snacker but I am a chai expert…does that count as a snack?! Ha ha…it’s got to be ‘Prana’ chai only and from the lovely folk at Precinct café in Bondi Junction
Ocean walks, cold water swimming, ice baths, gym, vinyasa yoga
Don’t actually drink that often but love a beautiful glass of champagne when I do.
AYU ‘rumi’ perfume oil. Given to me by one of my dearest girlfriends as a gift many years ago and I’ve been wearing and buying it ever since…
….Or time with a girlfriend…never enough time to catch up on everything and always a good laugh
.. …also love a more raucous dinner with friends
…or a cosy dinner just Jeremy and I…
…or love a moment on my own…these don’t happen that often in a noisy family of 6 but whenever they do I’m always amazed how ‘quiet’ feels!