Chapter 1: Where're you from, you sexy thing, you sexy thang you
''I believe in miracles...''. I love that song and can't think of any better line that describes this post, since ''about the old me'' is boring and doesn't cut it for the unbelievable story there's about to come. This is the 1st post of the series of 12, that I will tell you about my journey, my lessons and what I expect from the future course of Casa Alchemy.
If you are here, you probably know me but want to stick around to hear the juicy story. If you are new, welcome! My name is Lorena Couto. I grew up in Copacabana beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in a wealthy family full of love and care. As a kid, I’ve always loved sports and arts. I’ve been fortunate enough to have had my parents invest well on my education and I have studied up to their expectations. Became an architect and urbanist, engaged on MBA, participated in countless courses and seminars and after working 5 years for the most renowned interior design studios in Rio, I’ve opened my own studio in 2011. At the time, it was called ‘’A Designeria’’. Gosh, I loved that name. Unfortunately, another company from a different sector claimed to have registered first and by the time my business partner decided to leave the company and change his career path, I had to give up the name too. Quite a shame, really. Under that name we were getting very notorious, participating in important events (Casa Cor and Ilha de Caras) and winning 2 awards. Check out this photos of me in Caras magazine.
Proof I was doing well back then designing Ilha de Caras
Of course, while the academic life happened, also did my personal life. I had a dog, Whisky, my greatest friend. Dated, had serious boyfriends, eventually got married. Got some photos of that too, somewhere. By that time, I’ve had lived and studied in South America, North America and Europe, gaining great experience and understanding in arts, history, culture and languages. My husband at the time (ex-husband nowadays), wanted to come to Australia and so, that was the little push I needed to engage on a master degree abroad.
Oh, the life of an immigrant student is no piece of cake. The studies were in the evenings, although I swear they were the easiest part. Working two jobs, sharing a house with multiple people, the distance from family, the stress of the visa, amongst other things were some of the common challenges you face when you are an immigrant, and a student. Some of those challenges I overcame. The visa stress remains. Hellooo PM!
One Aussie and four immigrant students having a one-off glorious day on our noble double journey. All powerful woman I'm proud to be friends with.
Life zigzagged its way and I ended up divorcing that guy. Soon after, just when I thought I was going to start enjoying all these beautiful blue eyed man Australia has to offer, my fate changed. You know when you have a good bag for 10 years, that was that perfect bag. But unfortunately, the strap has broken and you can’t fix it. It’s time to shop for a new bag. You go to a fancy mall, and you love everything you see. There’s that one bag though, that catches your eyes and makes you not consider any other handbag. It’s a classic black Boy Chanel. Now, if you think I’m comparing people to handbags, you are wrong. That would be of poor taste. All I’m saying is, if you want to gift me with a black Boy Chanel, send me a DM.
That's the one in case you are wondering. Please stick to the colours chosen.
And then I met Sam. A gorgeous blue eyed skater boy from NZ, long hair, smoking body, nerd. Arborist, adventurer, free. Totally different culture, Sam has been home schooled his entire life. Lived and worked on a farm most of his years until 16, when he started to travel abroad and explore his future. For someone who had lived inside education institutes her entire life, that was incredible! What amazed me was how unexpected was the next thing he had to say in a conversation (and the body, can’t forget the body). I thought it would be a summer romance but turned out that skater boy and I received a gift from heaven. Drums….!!! No, not a black Boy Chanel. A baby girl. Whaaaat?
Skater boy and I on our first camping trip after having Oli.
Life flipped upside down. All my savings went on assembling a new home for me (I wasn’t sure if I was going to keep skater boy, not even sure if he wanted to be kept) and on hospital exams. As a student, I wasn’t entitled to Medicare. Skater boy decided to stay, and build a family with me. I guess I should stop calling him a ‘’boy’’ now. ‘’Skater man’’ sounds weird so I will just refer to him as Sam from now on. Financially, we started to struggle as we were 2 living off 1 wage. Yes, I had to stop working as soon as I got pregnant because of health issues. We used the 9 months we had to move across the city, make some connections (oh my dearest mother’s group, will make a full post about them in the future), to nest, to get to know each other better as a couple, and build some quick memories the two of us before our baby Olivia was born. When Oli was 3 months old, I got pregnant again! I guess that’s what I call ‘’meant to be’’, but you can call ''plot twist number 1762345''. This time, of a boy. Who was alive for 3 days without a name, eventually being called Thomas. So, we were now 4 people, living in a 1 bedroom and 1 study apartment with a large balcony at the front, but no other windows and an a**hole of a landlord. All bills coming out of one average income. It’s what we could (barelly) afford at the time. Quite a change from the 5-bedroom 170sq/m apartment in Copacabana I was raised on, yeah? Well, yes. It was challenging but oh so worth it! The lessons I’ve learned on living in a rental with no money, were lessons no design university can teach you. I will go back to this matter in another chapter.
Somehow I found a hand to hold the phone for this selfie.
I will give you time to digest this dense story. In the next chapter, I will tell you how this whole thing relates to the creation of Casa Alchemy. It’s almost 11:30 pm, babies are sleeping and this mama needs to go to bed. To make your day better sister, I will leave you with a photo of Sam, so you understand how impossible it was to resist to his charm.
Am I right?