Saira & Will Aspinall — Marnie's House
Can you imagine leaving your home in the big city and moving to the countryside — in another country? That’s what Saira & Will did ... and they've pulled it off spectacularly! They’re some of the coolest and bravest people that we’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. We spoke to them about their connection to Little Otja, their exciting project — Marnie’s House — and their new life in beautiful Slovenia.
WHAT’S THE STORY BEHIND MARNIE’S HOUSE?
We are a family of four — Will, Saira, Marnie and Rex. We moved to Slovenia from the UK almost one year ago, after visiting the country for just 3 days. Will and I sold our apartment in South London and traded it in for a 500-year-old farmhouse in Radovljica. The house hasn’t been occupied for almost 50 years so it needs a lot of work, but eventually, we plan to open its doors as a family-friendly bed and breakfast, with a strong focus on eco-tourism and sustainable living. We’ve named the house for our daughter — it will be ‘Hiša Marni’, which translates as ‘Marnie’s House’.
HOW’S THE RENOVATION GOING?
The renovation process is coming along very slowly… but surely. We had a long architectural process to go through before any building work could start, but we are just about to enter the construction phase, which is very exciting. We are retaining almost all of the original features of the house — including the layout — so in some ways, it won’t look very different to how it does now, but of course, we will update it for modern, environmental living and add a sprinkling of English Country House glamour.
WHAT PROJECTS DO YOU HAVE LINED UP IN THE MEANTIME?
For Will’s birthday, I bought him a retro 1980s Adria caravan. I wasn’t sure what we were going to do with it at the time, but then we had the idea of a mobile bar. 10 months later, we have just finished a fantastic summer in residency at Eco River Camp, Globoko and are planning to take the bar to Radovljica Old Town this Christmas. We are also working on building up a programme of events to take place in and around Marnie’s House. This summer we hosted some fascinating foraging walks in the forest, and we have plans for art classes and cinema nights in the future — we love meeting new people and creating surprising, memorable experiences so expect the unexpected from our events!
YOU’VE SWAPPED LIVING IN AN URBAN ENVIRONMENT FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY RURAL ...
The short answer is that it doesn’t compare at all. Will and I both love London, but there is no way we could have justified buying a tractor if we’d stayed there... Life is much slower now but we spend more time outdoors and more time together as a family, which are the main things for us. The children adapted to life here almost instantly and they are both flourishing. Marnie speaks much better Slovene that either me or Will, and has taken many Slovenian customs to heart — she has three pairs of copati already!
JUDGING BY THE ADVENTURES DOCUMENTED IN YOUR YOUTUBE VIDEOS, YOU SEEM TO BE HAVING QUITE A LOT OF FUN!
We have a very energetic dog so most of our days are spent exploring in the woods or walking along the river in an attempt to tire her out, but we have also really enjoyed getting to know the history and culture of Slovenia through the many national holidays and festivals that you guys have. Whether it’s joining in with the Pust parades, visiting Kranj for Prešeren Day, celebrating St Gregory’s Day in Kamna Gorica or watching the Ski Jumping at Planica — there is always something new for us to experience here.
WHAT WOULD YOU RECOMMEND TO SOMEONE WHO’S VISITING YOUR AREA?
We chose our area because of its proximity to Lake Bled but since living here we have discovered that there is so much more to Radovljica. The Lipnica Valley has some of our favourite walks. Gostišče Draga in the hills above Begunje Na Gorenjskem is our top spot for lunch with friends, and we love visiting the Farmer’s Market at Vila Podvin on the first Saturday of every month.
HOW DID YOU FIND LITTLE OTJA?
We discovered Little Otja in GUD Shop in Ljubljana. Will and I felt really strongly that we should work with a local company on the branding and identity of Marnie’s House so one rainy Autumn day we visited lots of design and boutique shops in Ljubljana and collected posters, greetings cards, gift wrap and postcards — anything that we thought had great illustration or graphic design. We put them all up in our kitchen and after a few days, we both agreed that the Otja posters were our favourite. We love the approachability of your style, the incorporation of natural elements into so many of your designs, the colour palettes you use and of course, the playfulness.
IS IT TRUE THAT A UNICORN LIVES IN THE FOREST RIGHT NEXT TO YOUR HOUSE?
It depends on who you ask! I love making up stories for the kids and stretching their imaginations as much as possible. I told Marnie that there was a unicorn living in the forest, and off she went with a bag of ‘unicorn food’ (porridge oats and acorns) to find it. It is such a magical spot that even though I made up the story, I sometimes find myself looking for unicorn tracks.
YOU’VE TAKEN QUITE A LEAP OF FAITH. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO SOMEONE WHO MIGHT BE CONTEMPLATING DOING SOMETHING SIMILAR IN THEIR OWN LIFE?
This might sound surprising, but I would advise other people to think carefully about making a similar decision. Will and I are both quite adventurous and comfortable with risk. We also have a great partnership which offers a lot of security, wherever we find ourselves. I think those things have allowed us to embrace this adventure, rather than feel daunted by it.
If you’d like to learn more about the Aspinalls, you have plenty of choices.
See their website or follow them on social media: Youtube / Instagram