Sara & Jaka: reinventing childhood nostalgia
Have you ever wondered how Little Otja fans live and what kind of home decor tips they might have? Look no further: we’re introducing the #mylittleotja series, where we’re going to be spending some time with interesting individuals, who just happen to enjoy the company of our bunny rabbit. We’re going to ask them a thing or two about creating the home of their dreams.
Jaka and Sara are an inspiring young married couple. They live in a nice house with their two-year-old daughter Brina and super cute dog Mila. Oh, and there’s another baby on the way! As you might imagine, there’s never a boring moment under their roof: the air is always buzzing with activity, full of smiles and laughter. Little Otja went over to have a chat about this and that.
To start things off, could you let us know how the two of you met?
[Sara] We’re both part-time actors and used to film about ten to twenty commercials a year. We met on the set of one of them.
Interesting! What kind of work do you do besides acting?
[Jaka] I’m a construction engineer, currently working on a large residential building project. I’m also a licensed tour guide. Usually I conduct tours of European capitals like Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest and so on. I love the Czech Republic: Prague, the beer, the cities, the history — everything about it. I’ve been doing this since I was a student and I really enjoy it.
[Sara] I work as a public relations representative for a record company — I’m a project manager too. See, we’re a couple of project managers. [laughs] Besides that, me and Jaka have recently started renting out our summer house on the beautiful Croatian island of Cres. This is something I’ve dreamed of doing for a long time and I’m glad we’re finally getting round to it.
How would you describe your lifestyle?
[Sara] It’s a mix of modern life and a certain dynamic that we’ve been used to as kids. We both want our family to have a comfortable life, like the one we had back then. For example, we still try to go skiing in the winter and to the seaside in the summer. On the other hand, we have to deal with a lot things like working late, looking at the phone constantly and never having enough time. There are ups and downs, but we somehow manage to keep things balanced.
What about your interior style? How do you go about decorating the apartment?
[Jaka] We approach it piece by piece. A lot of it is custom made. I draw the plans myself and take it from there. I would describe our style as a mix of everything. We try to make it our own though. I’m usually quite pushy when it comes to these things. [laughs]
Sara doesn’t have a say in this matter?
[Jaka] No, she does, she does.
[Sara] I do. Sometimes, every now and then. [laughs] I think the kitchen is definitely very ME.
Are there any pieces in the kitchen that you’re particularly attached to?
[Sara] The kitchen cabinet used to belong to my great grandmother — it was a wedding gift. It might not be the most appropriate piece of furniture, but I like it very much and I didn’t want to let it go. Jaka incorporated it with the kitchen counter and it blends into the room very nicely.
What about you, Jaka? What’s your most treasured object?
[Jaka] Well, I must mention this chest of drawers — it has a funny story. I was looking for a suitable piece for a very long time. I was searching through old ones to refurbish because I didn’t really like any of the new ones. And as I was exploring, drawing plans and thinking about going to a cabinetmaker, I stumbled upon this piece at a local shop. It was named furniture piece of the year, or something like that, and they had it on sale. I instantly liked it. And just when I was about to go and get it — Sara bought it for me. As a present.
Stop it, you’ll make us cry. That is just too sweet! Is there any other furniture with sentimental value?
[Jaka] Yes, this old desk — it used to belong to grandma.
[Sara] Correction, darling. It did not belong to grandma. It actually belonged to my mother’s grandfather.
[Jaka] Yeah, like that.
[Sara] It was his work desk in the basement, where he had his little corner.
[Jaka] And I’ve been thinking about using it for work too.
Where do you find interior inspiration? Do you use social media?
[Jaka] I like creating things, so I come up with a lot of the designs myself. I’ll get an idea and then I search the internet for some examples, see what’s currently popular and so on. On Instagram I’m a huge fan of Little Otja, of course. [laughs] My other favorites include Design Father, D.signers, Alice Wietzel, Dille & Kamille, The Book of Decor, and some photographers as well. Speaking of Dille & Kamille, I went to their shop when I was in Brussels. And if it hadn't been for the airline’s baggage weight limit, I would have brought back 10 kilos of their stuff.
[Sara] I’m just in love with clothes so I mainly follow profiles about textiles. I get many ideas there. I follow Little Otja too. And we get plenty of inspiration while filming commercials. A lot of effort is applied to interior set pieces and it’s easy to see what’s currently popular.
You’ve recently remodelled the entire upstairs space. How did that go?
[Jaka] The upstairs bedroom and bathroom were a project of mine. The reconstruction took about half a year. We’ve encountered some challenges along the way, because the attic had to be completely remodelled: it was non-functional before, so we had to tear it down and make a brand new space in there.
What about Brina’s room? Her furniture is really nice. Where’s it from?
[Sara] Most of it is custom — it was made by a cabinetmaker. Take this table for instance: it’s solid wood, but it looks it’s from Ikea. And then there’s this little horse that I had when I was a child. Brina really loves it and plays with it a lot. And this chest — it might not be very special to look at, but it belonged to my mother and it would be very hard for me to let it go. And Brina does such a great job of decorating it herself. So as far as these things go, we find it important to keep things natural or keep using something we’ve had for a long time.
She seems to have a lot of books…
[Sara] We want to nurture a love of books. We read a lot to her and encourage her to pick up a book by herself.
Does Brina watch TV? What about YouTube?
[Sara] YouTube is a thing that Brina and her grandma have. They watch it together, but we really don’t. We watch cartoons in the mornings and in the evenings, whichever one RTV Slovenia chooses. [laughs] Not all of them are appropriate though — some give Brina too many ideas about how to be naughty! But they do have some very nice ones that we can’t see anywhere else. Lily’s Driftwood Bay is a good one and another one is Mimi & Lisa — an excellent Slovak cartoon. It deals with more challenging themes and I think this helps develop a social sense in the child. It also looks beautiful and has plenty of pretty colors. And Brina really likes Rita and Crocodile, that one is her current favorite.
What are your preferences when you are buying products for Brina?
[Sara] We’re very careful when buying things for her. It’s usually something that we like.
[Jaka] Which doesn’t necessarily mean that the kid will like it too. Not even the slightest bit.
[Sara] She also gets a lot of things from her grandparents and second hand. So we can’t be in control all the time.
What kind of person do you want her to be when she grows up?
[Jaka] I want her to be critical. To have a certain focus, to appreciate aesthetics, form and meaning. I would want her to be open minded.
Do you have a way of approaching this now?
[Sara] I try to make her aware of everyday things, because that’s how you learn the most. Now she wants to, you know, flush the toilet three times, use an entire roll of toilet paper, start eating a bunch of food without any intent of finishing it. So we’re trying to educate her to take care of the environment by being careful about these everyday things. We want her to be a person who cares. Because our children will have to be extra careful — we’ve already screwed everything up for them.
What about kids’ clothes? Any brands you especially like?
[Sara] I just love Petit Bateau! They have a shop here in Ljubljana. Their clothes are really cute and very durable. You can pass them on from one child to the next. Fast fashion on the other hand... a garment gets washed three times and it’s ready for the garbage bin. Or it gets dirty and it’s done for.
(Otja team looks at Jaka, who’s staring at a picture of a clarinet player on the wall.) You like this picture?
[Jaka] It’s a print. I got it in Murgle Center in Ljubljana, where there’s a place called SLOART Gallery that sells old photographs, paintings, artworks, that sort of thing. Sometimes I go there and have a look around. If I see something I like, I’ll buy it. And I really liked this clarinet player. I liked him so much that I couldn’t pass him up. And Sara likes him too.
We’ve noticed that you own not one, but two guitars.
[Sara] One is mine and one belongs to Jaka. And this is really quite phenomenal, because neither of us can play!
[Jaka] She sang in a band though!
[Sara] I did!
Cool. What happened to your band? Do they still play?
[Sara] Not anymore. Things just happened simultaneously: I got pregnant, the drummer got married and he now lives in Japan, and the keyboard player is dating a Brazilian woman and is constantly travelling between Ljubljana and Brazil. And the sax player is so deep into retirement that this was probably it for him. [laughs]
How did you experience pregnancy?
[Sara] Pregnancy is such a special time: if you expect it to be only wonderful, glowing and full of love, you can be a little disappointed. I was a bit the first time, because I had different expectations. And now, the second time, my expectations were a lot more based in reality and I think I handled all of the difficulties in a different way. I realize that it was all worth it, because in the end a new person comes into the world, and that’s kind of a big deal. It makes sense that this is a big responsibility and not just some thing that can pass by easily.
How do you look after yourself?
[Sara] I’m careful about what I eat and which cosmetics I use. I rarely put on makeup, if at all.
As far as food is concerned, I’m careful not to eat anything I shouldn’t during pregnancy. When you’re pregnant you have weird urges, like sometimes I get a desire to eat a bunch of hot-dogs. And then I have just one. I try to substitute them with other things like hummus — it's great and it's much healthier.
What about other activities during pregnancy?
[Sara] I thinks it’s good to expose your body to music. During my first pregnancy I still sang a lot and went to rehearsals, and I even had a lot of concerts. And Brina is really into music, she likes it and has a certain gift for it. So it think that yes, such things are important. But I don’t partake in any organised events for pregnant women.
How did your dog Mila come into your life?
[Sara] Mila was with me before I met my husband, so Jaka got a sort of package deal with us — buy one, get one free! I got her at an animal shelter, it’s quite an interesting story.
I was a frequent visitor there because I had my eyes on another dog. Unfortunately, we weren’t compatible — I go to the seaside a lot and she had a serious skin disease so she couldn’t go into the water. I felt really sorry and visited her regularly. One day they told me that they had a new puppy and asked me if I wanted to see her. They had found her in a dumpster along with two other cubs. It was Mila. And it was love at first sight — we were home together in half an hour. I think she’s happy with this family now. She has two beds and when we’re not home, she treats herself to the couch.
Do you think it’s important for a child to be around animals?
[Sara] Certainly. Brina and Mila get along really well, but it took some time. Just as Mila had to accept Brina, so did Brina have to learn that the dog doesn’t like loud things and that she shouldn’t be too fast around her. Now she understands that Mila’s space is her own and she respects that. And this can be applied to other things later.
Do you go see animals at the ZOO?
[Sara] It has to be said that a lot times the ZOO can be a sad place. But it’s the only place around here where a child can see and get familiar with the animals. I used to go to the ZOO as a kid myself, my parents and grandparents would take me. This is a lovely memory I have of spending moments with my family.
Where else do you like going?
[Sara] We like going to the city park — Tivoli. Hiking is another thing we enjoy — going to one of the surrounding hills, where it’s not too crowded so that Mila can run around freely. Brina can usually hike by herself, unless the hill is too steep — then Jaka has to carry her half of the way. [laughs] We also love going to the farmer’s market on Saturdays. Lately we don’t go as much as we’d like to, but we try to do it at least once a month. I think the vegetables there are much better than the ones in the supermarket. And we also get a lot of homegrown veggies from Brina’s grandparents.
You’ve mentioned that you spend your summers at the seaside?
[Sara] We go to Cres every summer and we ride our bikes around and spend our days outdoors: in nature, under pine trees, on the beach and in the water. Brina really loves being in the water.
Do you have a really special secret place that you love going to?
[Sara] Our absolute favorite is Viki, a pastry shop in Ljubljana’s Trnovo district. We simply love their pies. It’s a really ancient place, very socialist looking.
[Jaka] But their pies are the best — by far!
[Sara] And the same guy has been working there since forever. It’s an incredible place. Their pies are phenomenal. They have cakes too, but it’s all about the pies. Currant, rhubarb, plum… Oh, my — wow! And Brina really likes them too.
[Jaka] We all do.