Anna-Carin McNamara is a force to be reckoned with. The Swedish-born, Sydney-based designer is the founder and director of interior design studio Anna Carin Design (ACD), has designed a rug collection, sculptures and even written a book on how to create joy and beauty in the home - all driven by her passion for creating magic and beauty in everyday life.
It's a passion that's impossible to ignore when speaking with Anna-Carin - her enthusiasm and drive for what she does practically jumps off the page. From her passion for raw materials and timeless products to embracing Sydney rituals (including a morning swim at Icebergs!) Anna-Carin's undeniable energy is no doubt a driving force for her many outputs and projects.
What brought you to founding ACD and how has it evolved since then?
I moved to Australia over 20 years ago, after marrying Peter my Australian husband. I had no industry contacts here - (I studied Interior Design in Europe) this was before Social Media days so print media and connections were the main ways to find work. I decided together with another Swede to open a retail shop selling Scandinavian homewares and accessories in Woollahra, thus connecting with an audience that also loved the Scandinavian Design Aesthetic. Through the shop we got our first Interior Design Clients ( some of which we still work with today! ) eventually the design work overtook the shop revenue so we closed the retail part of the business and have focused solely on design work since then.
How do your Swedish roots influence your process and aesthetic as a designer?
I grew up on a small farm in the south of Sweden and nature plays a big role in all our interiors. Not only as nature provides most of the raw materials for the products we use, but also the subtle and delicate colour palette Spring and Autumn ( my two favourite seasons) in Sweden bring.
Be it a commercial space, a home or a product, our designs are all based on the Scandinavian Design Principles of Simplicity, Functionality and Sustainability. We try to create classic timeless interiors and products free from trends and fashion. Sustainability in the meaning of built to last.
'Scandi style' has become ubiquitous in design over the past decade. Why do you think it continues to be such a popular aesthetic globally, and how do you think it will continue to influence contemporary interior design?
I think one of the reasons Scandinavian interiors are so popular is that they have evolved from putting the user at the forefront of every decision. The interior as such is not the hero the user is. How we together create spaces that respect both the location, the site and the user are questions guiding the decision process. This leads to humane, inviting and comfortable spaces. Scandinavians are democratic and so are their interiors. I think that approach will always influence contemporary interiors.
What do you enjoy most about your work? And on the other side, what elements do you struggle with?
I most enjoy to bring a bit of magic and beauty into people's lives, I am passionate abut my work and I skip, hop and jump every day to the studio. The struggles are mainly around lead times and finding good tradespeople.
"Less But Better" is a philosophy that certainly resonates with us here at est. Describe how this influences your choices as a designer and how you educate your clients about this value.
I think this could be exemplified when it comes to buying replicas as opposed to originals. I try to influence my clients to buy less, for instance buy less but better chairs, do without or use old chairs or bring in from other rooms as needed until they can afford to buy more. An original piece you have saved up for will inevitable feel more valuable and never be put out on the curb for rubbish collection. They will become heirlooms and bring joy to generations.
Less but better applies not only to furniture and items but also in relation to space - do we really need more space? More bathrooms? More home cinema rooms? What will bring most joy? Spending where it brings most happiness and increases our quality of life not because its expected and de rigour. Less space better planned…
Who inspires you in your practice - any local designers, creatives, makers etc.
I lived close to Swedish Architect Gunnar Asplund’s Public Library in Stockholm and used to spend countless hours there during my early years as a designer. He designed not only the building but also all the furnishings in all the rooms. His functional yet romantic and elegant solutions influenced me greatly. Another strong influence has been Austro-Swedish architect and designer Josef Frank. I worked at Svenskt Tenn in Stockholm where his furniture and fabrics are sold. He coined a phrase “accidentism” - we should mould our surroundings as if they had come into existence by accident. I like that.
Contemporaries I am inspired by are Isle Crawford for her humane feminine approach to design, Piet Boon for how he has managed to create a global brand with products, collaborations, and residential high end designs and architect David Adjaye for his multicultural, curious architecture.
As well as your interior design practice you've also managed to write a book and launch multiple products - what's the secret? How do you manage so many different projects?
Getting up early and loving what I do.
And now, a couple of Sydney questions;
Where do you live in Sydney and what do you love most about it?
I live in Bondi Junction ( someone said our street and is the Paris end of Bondi Junction - nevertheless its the junction …) It's close to city beach and parks - I love it, it is urban without being city centre.
Favourite places to eat:
My favourite dish is fish or prawn tacos, Mojo in Waterloo makes nice tempura prawn tacos. Guzman and Gomez Spicy Barramundi tacos will do for weekday take aways..
I love to eat at and cook at home and my favourite meal is breakfast - Cook and Baker is up the road from where we live they have the yummiest flakiest best croissants and pastries - then head home and brew coffee a big pot black coffee - bliss!! And the Crabbe Hole Cafe at Bondi Icebergs - see below.
Favourite places to drink:
Morning: Coffee I make at home the Swedish way (brewing) with my Mocca Master and have it black on the sofa with my notebook.
Evening: A Peroni at The Nelson in Bondi Junction; a classic unpretentious Aussie pub with a beer garden et al.
Favourite places to shop:
Furniture: Anyone that sells authentic, well made, well designed items - we are lucky that so much of the best Scandinavian and Italian design is available in Australia.
Weekly local rituals: Bondi Iceberg Baths year-round on Sunday morning early before the crowds, I meet up with a group of friends; we swim, chat in the sauna and have breakfast at the Crab Hole - the best Scandi inspired breakfast - Smoked Trout and Rye bread with pickles and goats cheese…yum.