I would usually do this recap & reflection after finishing up work for the year, but with my biggest and busiest year coming to a close, it was a race to the finish line, and once I was there I chose to switch off straight away.

Feeling well rested now, I’m writing this to you while somewhere between Tennant Creek and Mataranka. We’ve just been on our first family road trip to spend Christmas with my family in S.A. Wonderful to see everyone but pretty safe to say we won’t be road trippin’ again anytime soon! 3.5hrs on a plane is much more appealing than 3.5 days driving!

At the end of each year I write a blog to give a recap on the year that has been (primarily for my own records as I have trouble remembering what I had for breakfast let alone the entire year). I really enjoy this time of reflection, actually stopping and looking at all that we’ve achieved over the year, taking a moment to give credit where credit is due and what areas we need to improve and focus on for the year ahead.

Last year I worked through the festive season for a very good reason. Mid January we set off to overseas to fulfill that wonderlust that builds up inside me. (and with Covid restrictions I was literally bursting at the seams with the desire to travel) L.A and Mexico it did not disappoint. The history, ancient Mayan architecture, Mexican landscape, wildlife and culture was intense and mind blowing. Watching the archeologists still uncovering ancient tombs and treasures right in front of our very eyes. Educating the kids on how others live, realizing how little others have and appreciating all that we are fortunate enough to do.

I am lucky enough to have a job that allows me to work remotely so while on overseas adventures my projects were still ticking along, apologies to those who received 3am emails due to the time difference!

Back to reality! This year has been our biggest and best yet. I feel like I say that every year! I guess that is a testament to my little business – I must be doing something right! There have been many exciting project opportunities, allowing me to grow both professionally and personally.

This year I have been collaborating with Ashford Lamaya Architects on a regular basis and working in their office 1-2 days a week with the wonderful ALA team. This collaboration has given me the opportunity to work on new build and large scale projects that would otherwise be out of my realm as a sole operator. I have really enjoyed working on these exciting high profile projects and being surrounded by inspiring and very knowledgeable colleagues. After 8 years of working solo in my own little studio, I must admit I am also loving the social aspect of being in an office environment again. I’m sure you all know I love a chat!

Just some of the awesome new build projects I have worked on with the ALA team is the new Northern Land Council (NLC) office precinct for Darwin, new NLC office for Katherine and the new Bininj Resource Centre in Jabiru.

I’ve also had the opportunity to work on many hospitality projects as part of the ALA team with 3 new food & beverage outlets at the Airport, a new container bar currently under construction at the Wharf and the redevelopment of Ducks Nuts and old Cinema on Mitchell St. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how exiting these projects are to be a part of… just wait till you see what’s coming!!!

After 8 years in business, March saw us undertake a brand refresh. This task was made super easy with the help of some talented ladies, Brooke from Studio B and Julianne from Osborne Photographic. We wanted our branding to reflect our personal and professional services and absolutely love our new look, thanks ladies.

Our bread-and-butter projects remain consistent throughout the year which we are so grateful for. These are small – medium size office fitouts & refurbishments for both private and public sector. We really enjoy helping clients rationalize, modernise and inject life back into the workplace where – let’s be honest – we probably spend way too much time!

In June some of us ‘designer ladies’ entered the Chamber of Commerce Corporate Golf day. This was seriously so much fun and would have to be one of the social highlights of the year! Took us an hour to get off the first hole! Found out the hard way not to drive on the green! Let’s just say we won’t be giving up our day jobs anytime soon – but we won best dressed!!! LOL

Our poor dog – In July, Marlin lost an eye after a fight with a feral cat.  He’s ok now, just a bit clumsy. A dog’s resilience really is incredible, they just get up and get on with it! Perhaps we could take a leaf from their book sometimes!

My Healthcare projects in Alice Springs have continued this year with the development of a Radiology Clinic, Disability Services Office and Allied Health Hub. The latter two are currently under construction and the timing of our drive to S.A. was perfect to have a site visit (so exciting seeing your designs come to life) and I must say they are looking great and fitting in nicely with the rest of the building’s tenancies that we have previously designed. These Health tenancies delivering a warm and welcoming feel rather than the cold sterile environments that we see all too often.

Mid-year hubby took the leap and began working for himself and hasn’t looked back. Already booked out months in advance I am very proud of what he has achieved in such a short time. Both being self-employed has given us more flexibility and control of our work-life balance. With this new found flexibility, we’ve both taken on working a 9 day fortnight, making the most of our time with our last baby before full time school in 2024.

In September Schapel Interiors was nominated for a Chamber of Commerce ‘Business Excellence Award’ in the category of Outstanding Customer Service… and guess what, we won the small business Top End category!!! We were anonymously nominated and still to this day I have no idea who entered my little business. Needless to say, I am eternally grateful and so proud to have this accolade and be recognised for excellent customer service – a massive thank you to whoever you are!

With business growing, this year we went to a record number of networking events, CPD sessions, award nights and Christmas parties! Even met Shaynna Blaze and Dave Hughes! Business is all about relationships and these industry events are just as important as the work we produce to keep projects coming in the door. It’s fantastic to see the local community recognizing good design and acknowledging the people and businesses leading the way.

In family life, Charlotte turned 4 this year and will be starting ‘big school’ in 2024. ‘Miss Independent’ is SO ready for this and excited to finalllly go to her big bro’s school. (and mum is SO ready for 1 x school drop off!) Owen turned 6 and will be going into grade 2. It’s been incredible to watch his confidence grow this year (sometimes a little too much!)

As I write all of this, I am not sure how we’ve accomplished it all in a year, but I do know that it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of my family and friends, my awesome colleagues, my wonderful clients, excellent local suppliers and of course you! Thank you to all of you for spreading the word of my little business, for 90% of my work comes from word of mouth, so THANK YOU.

Wishing you all a fantastic 2024. Let’s make this our best year yet.




Stefney Schultz
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