Sharon and David Wilkinson have been traveling the world since 1972, working in developing nations in Africa, India and, most recently, Cambodia. "Having left the UK," Sharon says, "we're making our way to Australia. It's just taking a long time to get there!"
The use of space is very important to Sharon, particularly when it comes to having a designated space for specific purposes. Her Phnom Penh home is divided into a number of areas that lend themselves well to this idea.
The main floor hosts the living and dining areas as well as a study, the kitchen and pantry. One of the dominant features of the flat is the enormous amount of morning sunlight that flows in through the French doors and from the indoor courtyard that separates the kitchen and the dining room. At night, the flat is aglow with lamps from around the world, while recessed lighting provides a warm, cozy feeling.
The second floor loft overlooks the courtyard and functions as a studio. Off of the studio is a dressing room/storage space. The bedroom is equipped with a small window overlooking the courtyard, and a rear balcony has outstanding urban views of city rooftops.
"You have to put personality into space," Sharon says, "You have to bring those things that you collect [and] treasure and put them in such a way that it makes it home."
Sharon has a particular love for boxes, and antique pieces from India, China, Nepal and Africa can be seen throughout the flat. "I like picking up pieces which are dramatic, so whether it's Jayavarman VII art or these beautiful Chinese shop inscriptions or marble lights or Buddhas or whatever, they lend themselves to creating a home for us."
Although the Wilkinsons never intended to be collectors, they have a large amount of treasure from the different places they've traveled. As Sharon gives me the tour, her face lights up at times when she touches this piece or that, remembering not only the places where each piece was bought, but also the cultural significance and stories each piece has to tell.
"I've often thought that people in development tend just to come and live out of suitcases, and so they have a lifestyle that looks like the two-year contract they've got," Sharon says.
For more than thirty years, Sharon and her husband have been living a lifestyle that some might refer to as transient, but their collection of Laotian and Cambodian temple bells, African chairs and sculptures, and rugs from all around the Orient has in many ways created a sense of permanence which, regardless of their actual location, equals home.
"My advice would be find one beautiful thing that you love, just find it and purchase it. It doesn't have to be everything, we didn't go out collecting stuff, but when we've seen something that we really like we'll invest in it."
Travelling with so many things hasn't always been easy. On occasion, the Wilkinsons have even had to leave a place in a hurry. Sharon's parting advice: "You can't get attached, so enjoy them while you've got them."
MELANIE BREW/PHOTOS BY TRACEY SHELTON