While Anna-Carin McNamara walked into the head office of Esprit in Stockholm many years ago looking for work as a fledgling model, she left with ideas about working in interiors. “I was blown away with the design of the space and made it a task to find and work for the architect that designed it,” she says. That man was Rupert Gardner and she went on to work for the English architect, who was based in Stockholm, for many years. He became a mentor to her, and advised Anna-Carin to study at the Royal College of Art in London. That’s where she met her Australian husband, and in 1995 they moved to Sydney.  At first she opened a shop selling Scandinavian furniture and homewares and over the years it evolved into an interior design practice. Since then Anna-Carin has worked on a range of residential, retail, corporate and hospitality projects. She has also developed The Forsa Collection for Designer Rugs.  

Which five words best describe you? Enthusiastic, focused, joyful, empathic and slightly erratic.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? My first job was with an architectural practice in Stockholm - we did hospitals, nursing homes and high-rise buildings. I was employed as the office junior having just finished my building engineering degree. I soon discovered that the intimacy and scale of interiors suited me better after working on the design of the hospital toilets! I left the architect practice and eventually ended up working with Rupert Gardner, an English architect also in Stockholm. Rupert become my mentor until his death two years ago. He encouraged me to study for a Masters at the Royal College of Art in London and his design philosophy and approach to solving details is still with me. We worked on numerous projects together and he taught me the importance of detailing, to draw everything and not to take myself too seriously.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? The importance of detailing, to draw everything and not to take myself too seriously.

What’s your proudest career achievement? My rug collection, mainly because it made me appreciate my upbringing and see the beauty in what I could not see as a child.

What’s been your best decision? To go to London to study, where I met my Australian husband. 

Who inspires you? Kristina Karlsson, founder of Kikki.K [DI interview] for her business acumen and impeccable style, and Dutch designer Piet Boon for his ability to combine design and business to create a global brand.

What are you passionate about? Homes and learning.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Would love to get into Alvar Aalto’s brain; see what he saw, think what he thought.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? Design a boutique luxury hotel in Sydney.

What are you reading? Exhausted to Energised by Dr Libby Weaver. I met her at Necker island earlier this year; she is an absolute inspiration and a walking, talking advocate for her life work in health and wellbeing.

images courtesy of anna-carin mcnamara