The Bellevarde Team
How do we maintain standards? We set out to do things as well as they can be done. That is totally dependent on finding good people who like doing things really well. It is an attitude that can’t be driven by money or by me. That’s what Bellevarde is—a team of us who just want to build extraordinary houses.
Twice a year we want to introduce you to one or two of the highly skilled and passionate members of our team. Meet Adam Howe, one of our stalwarts, who contributes an enormous depth of building experience, patience and skill; and David Pidgeon, graphic designer, who helps present our work to architects and others who share our passion for high-quality houses.
Adam Howe, Site Manager
Six of them have won major architectural and/or building awards.
His clients love and respect him, architects seek him out and he surrounds himself with tradesmen who share his commitment to doing things as well as they can be done. They reckon he’s a good guy.
So how did Adam start with Bellevarde?
‘I answered an ad in the paper and found myself working with Steve O’Ryan, Bellevarde’s country manager.
‘It turned out that it was Steve and John Fielding who together established Bellevarde’s passion for building things as well as they can be done. So I learned heaps, and loved the work and the work ethic.
‘Then John just kept giving me more and more responsibility on some of the best architect-designed houses in Australia—good, challenging, thoughtful houses. What was there to not like about that?
‘I guess it all started for me at TAFE. There was a sign at the front of the class which read:
“Pride of workmanship means do it once, do it well, build a better Australia.”
‘It seems a bit old-world, but it really made sense to me—still does.
‘I went through my training in the days when you had to learn about every single aspect of building—from cabinet-making, to electrical, to air conditioning. I remember the guy who was teaching us to become good managers. He insisted that before our evening classes we had to go home, have a shower, put on clean clothes and then join him.
‘He convinced us that our prime task was to get great work done by other people. So on top of having all the skills and knowledge, we had to present ourselves as well-organized managers.
‘It’s why I get to work around six am when it’s quiet and I can set things up for the day.
‘It’s not about money—I’ve got mates who earn heaps just building fences—but where’s the fun? My life is about always seeking to do things right. Because that is where the personal satisfaction comes from.
‘The best part for me has been working with great owners and architects. They have given me the opportunity to work on stunning houses. On the way, we have assembled a terrific team of tradesmen. As the man said, the task is to get them to do their best work—with a smile. That’s what makes it rewarding for everyone on the team—and at the end of the day that’s the stuff that makes you smile as you are driving home.’
‘I have never heard anyone say a bad word about Adam. He is just a good guy, never flustered, always has time for you.’
It is also not widely known that Adam takes out the ‘sexy thing’ prize year after year at the Bellevarde Christmas party.
It seems good guys do OK.
David Pidgeon, Graphic Designer
We knew some architects but not enough, and set out to find the best way to show our work to them. We were introduced to David Pidgeon, an internationally multi-award-winning graphic designer who understands both architecture and communication, and colleague of revered architectural photographer John Gollings. David immediately recognised Bellevarde’s integrity and designed an elegant booklet outlining our work.
‘Building with Bellevarde’, now in its second edition, talks to architects in a language and style they appreciate. It tells of clients’ and architects’ experiences of building with us, in their own words. It makes clear that we love outstanding architecture and are up for challenges.
David attends to all Bellevarde’s graphic communications, from the website to the new Maintenance Van signage. More recent is our bi-annual Bellevarde News—a booklet that surprisingly expands into a giant poster-sized image of a recently-completed house.
To see more of David's work, visit Design By Pidgeon
Mitch Passmore, Apprentice
Mitch would—‘in a heart beat.’ Would he like a registered apprenticeship with Bellevarde?
He would. Now Mitch has got 12 months to go to complete his apprenticeship and become a qualified carpenter. Has it been worth it?
‘I couldn’t have had a better place to learn my trade. At Bellevarde you work hard—not just in hours, but in the effort you have to put in. But I have been working alongside the highest quality tradesmen in the business, on the best houses in Australia—so you absorb the hard-work ethic, and you learn the right way to do everything. No short-cuts, no compromises—and you never stop thinking “can we do this better?” Then you tidy up after yourself. It has been excellent.’
Ben Lea says ‘On a well-run building site you can always spot the good, bright, guys. They are the hard workers and they just stand out. Mitch just grabs work by the horns and gets into it. Always cheerful, always willing—and always eating … especially eggs. I’m confident he can break the three-hundred-eggs-in-a-month record—he is certainly training well enough.
‘He is a great young guy. Doubtless he will leave us in the next couple of years and head off to work in other companies, probably all around the world. We would be sorry to see him go, but we’d figure he’ll be back with us one day—working with people who share the love of doing everything the right way. And he’ll probably be raising chooks.’
John Fielding on Mitch Passmore
Ben has got it just right—no matter what you ask Mitch to do, he is willing. He steps forward, applies good thinking and energy and gets on with it. No fuss, no drama—just does it right, straight away. He is very capable, strong, and has a great attitude. He is a good guy. Mitch has got a great future.
Scott Waller, Leading Hand
Scottie hails from Merimbula. In 1998, after a couple of years as a carpenter on commercial projects, he met Steve O’Ryan and started working for Bellevarde in the Snowies.
He must have done well because when the job ran out, John Fielding asked him to move to Sydney to work on the Archer house at Whale Beach. Scottie leaped at it.
He was a quick learner and became an excellent tradesman. Right now he is being tested on a property in Tamarama where, he says, ‘the design calls for walls and windows that are either not parallel, or not square, or not plumb. It’s pretty complex and certainly not easy, but it is a great new challenge—especially on days when the winds are so strong that you can’t run a string line.’ But he loves it.
Why? ‘11 years ago John encouraged me to set up my own company, so I am a sub-contractor, but from day one I have only worked for Bellevarde. And that’s the way I like it.’
Why? ‘Because they only do first-class houses, so I get to work on great jobs, with good guys, who love what they do—and we all seem to have a pretty good time. And I get to move around a lot—sometimes I am a Leading Hand, sometimes a worker, whatever needs doing.’ And always, he does it with a smile.
The other thing everyone comments on is Scottie’s amazing dress sense. Some claim he is Bellevarde’s fashion guru and may well take up any offers to move from carpentry to male modelling.
Then again … you be the judge.
John Fielding on Scottie Waller
Scottie was naturally a good carpenter, and from the start he showed a real talent for building Class 1 formwork. We encouraged Scottie to focus on it. It is precision work and often very complex. He produces formwork that is millimetre-perfect, parallel, square, and plumb. Formwork so good, Scottie is in high demand for the toughest Bellevarde jobs. These days he can turn his hand to just about anything, and has become a Leading Hand.
Steve O’Ryan on ‘Why I go to work’
'John and I got along from day one because we share the same passion for building things as well as we possibly can. John has taught me a lot and I enjoy working with him, but I couldn’t spend my life working in the city. For a start, where would I keep my horses?
'John says that to have me working in the city would make as much sense as boarding a Kelpie in Kings Cross. I do not enjoy being away from home but I’ve come to recognize that my job satisfaction comes from building great, architecturally challenging homes. Luckily we’ve found the best collection of clients who want to build precisely that, and live in the country. So that is where I work.
'If you look through the Bellevarde Book: I worked on two Richard Johnson houses—Burrawang West, then the Spencer house (the first John built in Sydney); a bunch in the Snowies over the years; Riverside cabins; Alex Popov’s Omaru apartments; Crackenback Village; Thredbo Chapel; Sastrugi Lodge; The Chalets @ 1750 in Perisher. Then in Canberra there was John’s own house, the Yarralumla house, two houses on the Mugga Way; and recently in the Hunter Valley, Katie Paige’s Oakleigh Homestead, by Virginia Kerridge. I reckon I’ve worked on more than 30 great houses.
'We've always managed to attract the best tradesmen and top apprentices—people who want to learn to do things right. So there's a bunch of us out in the bush just building beautiful homes. That's why I like going to work.'
John Fielding on Steve O'Ryan
'One of Steve’s greatest skills is in explaining how to perform a building task. I’ve never met anyone better. No matter how complex the task, he makes it clear, simple, and easy to follow. It is a great gift he brings to us all.
'I think this photo shows Steve for exactly what he is—a great country builder. For the life of me I can’t remember the last time someone mistook him for a merchant banker. What do you think?'
Contact Steve on 0409 625 314 or firstname.lastname@example.org