Character & Charm

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This spacious residence in picturesque Kota Batu is a symphony of scenic views, serene colours and sensational decorative pieces with an ode to the closeness of family. We recently visited the beautiful home of the Australian High Commissioner to Brunei, His Excellency Mr. Todd Mercer and his wife Orieta Ossio. This couple have been living in Brunei for nearly four years and have been married for over 25 years. They have two daughters who are currently pursuing their degrees in Canberra and who look after their much loved family dog, “Gomez”. Prior to moving to Brunei they lived in Australia, Chile and in Mexico City. Todd who is from Sydney and Orieta who’s Chilean, have made a point of making their home in Brunei a place that’s warm and inviting yet calm and contemporary. Orieta is an accountant, but she also studied interior design while living in Australia. She described the decorative style of their Bruneian home as eclectic, however, that doesn’t mean that the furnishings and accessories are not carefully considered before they are chosen. The couple explained that they “only purchase things that they both like and want” and that they like to invest in good quality pieces that are unique.

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Photography by Riley Khoo

In decorating their home they’ve found an effective way to bring some of their possessions and, by extension, their experiences and memories into one cohesive space to express a unique point of view. Todd explained that their first posting was to Mexico City and that their two young daughters thrived while living there. He went on to add that both working and living in Mexico was an fascinating experience – from a professional and cultural perspective. As a family they explored everywhere, from the beautiful beaches to the pyramids and ancient ruins such as Tulum. Being bi-lingual also meant that they were able to fully immerse themselves in every aspect of Mexican life and as such enjoyed a truly local experience. They both laughed when they revealed that they simply could not resist the incredible array of beautifully crafted Mexican ornaments and artwork and as a result have a vast collection, most of which is displayed in their Canberra home.

When asked about how they were enjoying life in Brunei Todd replied, “While we absolutely love Mexico, it is congested and has security and environmental issues to deal with- Brunei in contrast is safe, peaceful and relaxing. It’s also close to Australia so that we can visit our daughters easily; and we’ve also been able to visit other nearby countries like Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines and China”. As Orieta walked us around the living and dining areas we were shown two stunning Mexican masks and a few other distinctive ornaments. She explained that besides the Mexican pieces, they also like collecting antique furniture and wooden furniture made in Chile. The décor of their Kota Batu home certainly reflects their impeccable taste and style. The extensive dining and entertainment areas have been the perfect setting for many social events bringing together people from all walks of life; and promoting positive relationships.

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Todd has been in the diplomatic service for 23 years. He spent six years as a trade negotiator and was involved with the Trans Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement linking 12 countries, including Australia, Brunei, the U.S. and Japan. The TPP aims to promote trade between member countries— eliminating tariffs, regulatory red tape and other barriers to trade. Over the years he’s gotten immense satisfaction from his jobs. Starting from his first job as a social worker in Sydney helping migrants to find employment to his current role as High Commissioner. He appreciates the opportunities he has been given to make a positive difference to the lives of people – whether it’s by finding ways to create more job opportunities or assisting with other social causes. In Brunei he and his team at the Australian High Commission recently helped set up a beneficial co-operative initiative between local NGO SMARTER and Flinders University in Adelaide under the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan; and they’ve also conducted a number of sports-related activities, with the support of Athletics Australia and Netball Australia, aimed at encouraging children to participate in sport and live a healthy lifestyle. He intends to continue building stronger relationships with Brunei and promoting the best of Australian culture.

It was extremely easy to engage with Todd and Orieta as they are both down to earth, honest and share a wonderful sense of humour. They spoke about their close relationship with their daughters who Orieta tries to see as often as possible; and Orieta proudly told us about Todd’s love for photography and passion for cooking (his specialities are Paella, Asian Stir Fries and Black Forest Cake). It was evident that this couple genuinely enjoy each other’s company and are happy and contented in their own space. Before moving on to their next posting both Todd and Orieta agree that they would like to acquire a few meaningful pieces from Brunei, such as Mahkota crystal, a brass gong, a traditional basket and fishing trap (as Todd has quite a keen interest in fishing!). Special keepsakes that will no doubt forever keep their wonderful memories of Brunei alive, no matter where in the world they go to next!


This article was published in the January 2016 issue of Inspire Living Magazine. Download it here!

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