You’d be forgiven for thinking that the home of a scientist could be an uninteresting space. However when you enter Marianne Portener’s home, you’re immersed in a love of art, craft and design that covers almost every inch of the tiny, timber cottage she has lived in for 15 years. Marianne is a botanist and ecologist for the New South Wales Department of Environment and Climate Change and Water (DEECW) specialising in Desert Arid Zone Botany. She lives in Sydney’s Inner West and has happily worked from home for the past 10 years.
How would you describe your house? It’s made up of four small rooms; very squat on a big block of land. You walk in and fall out the back door before you know it! It has an outside bathroom which I love and a big deck and yard out the back.
Where is your home office? In the sunroom that adjoins the kitchen and faces out to the back garden, so I’m bathed in lots of gorgeous light while I work. It’s comprised of a couple of desks, all of my filing cabinets and various bookshelves.
How do you stay organized in such a small space? You’re forced into it. I am a naturally organised person in that I love sorting and having a place for everything. At the end of every day when I “clock off”, I basically tidy the desk and organize my work for the next day, so it’s ready to go. I find that I need that discipline whilst working from home.
How do you structure your day? My dog Lucy helps me. I do try to be at my desk by 9am, after having walked the dog and eaten breakfast. I have a break at about 11, so usually I’ll meet a friend for a coffee or early lunch. My core hours are from 12pm till 6pm. Outside of the office, I have a fieldwork component which can last from a few days to a couple of weeks and that’s where I collect all my data. My work when I return involves weeks of identifying plants and report writing. I find it gives me a good balance – by the time the fieldwork comes around I’m ready to get out of the office and the city.
What motivates you? I love my work as the projects are really fascinating. Strict deadlines also force me to stay motivated. And payment is a big motivator!
The environment is at the heart of your work. What environmental principles do you employ whilst working from home? It’s just me and a small space so I don’t need many resources. I use very little electricity and don’t require much in the way of electronics other my laptop. Working at home becomes a part of your home life. I have a beautiful garden with a worm farm, various compost bins and I recycle. I’ve always lived my life low impact, as I see first hand what farming and people have had on the environment through my work.
Your passion for art and craft is apparent throughout your house. Yes, my parents are very artistic. They’re Dutch and come from a rich tradition of craftsmanship. Mum was a craft teacher and dad’s a photographer, so from them I’ve always had that interest. I’m always looking out for different artists and new pieces and etsy is great for that. I also mix with a lot of creative and artistic people. Personally I love photography, do a bit of drawing, make collages and some craft as a bit of a hobby, but nothing of the calibre that I admire.