In conversation with interior designer Anna-Carin McNamara - People AU
In conversation with interior designer Anna-Carin McNamara

In conversation with interior designer Anna-Carin McNamara

For interior designer Anna-Carin, every project has a theme song. From lyrics of love to rock and roll anthems, they’re the starting point to bring life and personality to a space, combined with Anna-Carin’s signature Scandinavian style.

Words by Cassie Birrer

Making interiors beautiful is something Anna-Carin has always loved to do. Growing up on a small farm in the south of Sweden with four siblings, she didn’t have her own space until the age of 12. But when the luxury of her own bedroom arrived, she became obsessed with how the room made her feel.

From a young age I had an understanding of what it takes for someone to feel comfortable when they walk into someone’s space.
Marlo House by ANNA.CARIN Design Studio | Photography by Justin Alexander

“I had my own space that I could tailor to myself, and from a young age I had an understanding of what it takes for someone to feel comfortable when they walk into someone’s space,” she says.

From painting pictures on her wardrobe doors, to asking for new wallpaper and rearranging her furniture, Anna-Carin was always experimenting within the four walls of her tiny room.

“I’ve always been fascinated by homes and interiors and how it makes people feel. I think it comes very much from my mother who was very hospitable and always made everyone feel welcome. There were always flowers and candles, fires lit and buns in the oven, bread baked and things like that.”

But the Swedish-born, Sydney-based creative didn’t pursue a career in interiors to begin with, instead following in the footsteps of her two older brothers who studied engineering: “I thought that was what I would do as well, but I quickly discovered that it was the small scale that was interesting to me rather than the big scale.”

After leaving study and working for an architecture practice, Anna-Carin eventually travelled to London to study design at the Royal College of Art before settling in Australia to start her career in the interiors industry, founding ANNA.CARIN Design Studio.

Mill Hill residence by ANNA.CARIN Design Studio | Photography by Justin Alexander

The enduring Scandinavian style

Having lived in three countries with different cultures – Sweden, the UK and Australia – the interior designer has developed a style that combines influences from each location.

“I feel that my unique approach to design is to have rooted quality and craftsmanship, sustainability and all of those things that Scandinavians stand for – those are always fundamental. But then to apply that to the Australian way of living, which is slightly less governed by climate,” Anna-Carin explains.

It’s always about how we can honour the human, how to honour the experience that the people who live in a space have.
Mill Hill residence by ANNA.CARIN Design Studio | Photography by Justin Alexander
Mill Hill residence by ANNA.CARIN Design Studio | Photography by Justin Alexander

Reminiscing the days of styling her humble bedroom in rural Sweden, Anna-Carin notes Erik Gunnar Asplund – a Swedish architect from the 1930s – and his approach to design: “It’s always the human experience at the centre.”

While Scandi style incorporates sustainable interior design, simplicity and functionality, the focus is on how someone feels when they walk into a space.

“Scandinavians are really good at that. It’s always about how we can honour the human, how to honour the experience that the people who live in a space have. It’s not about making a statement or trying to be bold – that means nothing in the end if whoever is living there doesn't have the joy of living in it,” says Anna-Carin, explaining that if there isn’t the aspect of longevity and quality to a project, it becomes irrelevant and won’t stand the test of time.

The Bakery by ANNA.CARIN Design Studio | Photography by Justin Alexander
The Bakery by ANNA.CARIN Design Studio | Photography by Justin Alexander

The design studio’s interior design process

This is why at the heart of each design by Anna-Carin, there is a strong personal connection between the space and those inside it. To achieve this, her design studio approaches each project by having clients share their favourite music, literature and art.

I feel that every project has a bit of a theme song in it. Architecture and interiors are like frozen music.

“We try to start with a song because I feel that every project has a bit of a theme song in it. Architecture and interiors are like frozen music – the music is in the architecture and the interiors are the humanity that you bring to it. We need to understand a client’s feelings, because aesthetics is completely linked to emotion.

“There’s an outcome at the end that is a combination of our expertise and knowledge of how things are put together, the overarching look and feel of what we are trying to do, and the building’s history and language – it’s a symphony of those three.”

Pied-á-terre Barangaroo residence by ANNA.CARIN Design Studio | Photography by Justin Alexander
It all comes down to always putting the human experience at the centre.

Currently renovating an art deco apartment in Sydney’s Elizabeth Bay, the ‘theme song’ on repeat at Anna-Carin’s home is Solid Air by John Martyn.

“I’m moving in there with my partner and he’s very much into music, and he has very much influenced the music that this new place has. John Martyn’s music is very acoustic, very emotional. It’s all about love.

“It all comes down to always putting the human experience at the centre.”

Banner image photography by Fiona Susanto

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