shopkeeper sarah o'neil

"Pare down to the essence, but don't remove the poetry. Keep things clean and unencumbered, but don't sterilise." It's a quote from Leonard Koren, an artist, architect and author, and it can be found on the website of Small Spaces, a recently opened shop in the inner-city Sydney suburb of Redfern. The sentiment of the quote applies equally to the store as the actual goods found inside. Sarah O'Neil brought this philosophy to life after she decided to simplify her life. The result is Small Spaces.

Which five words best describe you? Warm, loyal, passionate, curious and (just occasionally) stubborn.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? Always had a passion and respect for design. Spent 16 years in fashion culminating in role as sales manager for Collette Dinnigan. The frenetic pace and disposability of fashion design led to a growing interest in the more lasting character of interior design and architecture. My mother had a company, Arkitex, which collaborated with some of the world's leading modern textile designers. She sold the business in 2004 and I've stayed in the industry since.

What's the best lesson you've learnt along the way? Oh, so many lessons: listen to my intuition, take risks, the value of gratitude, acceptance and resilience.

What's your proudest career achievement?

Opening Small Spaces. Putting everything on the line to follow my intuition and do something that matters to me.

What's been your best decision?

To buy a small apartment. I realised it meant I could live comfortably and have the financial freedom to follow my heart. I ended up having to design my own furniture to make it work after discovering no one was catering to this growing market and so, Small Spaces was born.

Who inspires you? Innovators. The Japanese. My family and friends. My mother's grace and resilience in the face of adversity

What are you passionate about? Small space living, wabi-sabi, nature, my family, Japan, good design in any manifestation, human rights, animal welfare... in no particular order.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet?

Terence Conran, Stephen Fry, David Suzuki, Leonard Koren.

What dream do you still want to fulfill? To see Small Spaces grow to become a destination for good quality, considered design solutions for modern small space living. To enable others to enjoy the freedom and richness of this simpler, lighter way of life. Oh, and a barn of my own.

What are you reading? Blogs and The flower shop: charm, grace, beauty and tenderness in a commercial context by Leonard Koren.

images courtesy of small spaces and matt palmer

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