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Karen McCartney's latest book 'Perfect Imperfect'

Interviews New Books

‘Images from Perfect Imperfect by Karen McCartney, Sharyn Cairns and Glen Proebstel (Murdoch Books) $59.99

We had the privilege of interviewing Karen McCartney around her latest book, 'Perfect Imperfect', a collaboration with Sharyn Cairns and Glen Proebstel.   

We love the essence of this book and the idea of creating surprising moments in the home that don’t necessarily have to make sense.  What is your favourite Perfect Imperfect’s moment in your home?  How did it come about? 

Actually we do have moments where imperfection comes through – in the best possible way – sometimes it is an object that has a quirky almost ugly beauty, in others it is the character of a vintage piece or something handmade that has the marks of the maker. The book takes these concepts much further than our domestic set up and taps into creative who truly embrace accident, patina and the process of aging.

How did the partnership with Glen Proebstel (an incredible stylist) and Sharyn Cairns (an extraordinary photographer) come about for the book?

I worked with Glen when I was editor of Inside Out magazine and he was Style Director. We worked closely together for about a decade and have remained close friends. Sharyn was always the favourite photographer and between them they did the very best work. Their collaboration became something of a visual highlight of the magazine each issue. So before we embarked on this project we were very familiar with each other’s aesthetic, which is crucial for a project of this nature. There has to be a lot of trust. Also in the mix was Tracy Lines, the ex-art director at Inside Out, who has designed the book. Sitting with Tracy, having cups of tea, working on the design of the pages, were amongst the happiest days in the process of creating the book.

What is your favourite page in the book and why?

That is an impossible question – there are so many I love for different reasons. The conviction of the various aesthetics just sings and that is what I respond to. Nectar Efkarpidis, co-founder of Hotel Hotel has the most expressive apartment in Canberra’s New Acton that sums up his extraordinary vision. JAMES PLUMB, London artist/designers ‘marry’ objects to create new dynamics and ceramicist Nicola Tassie has responded to the rejects in her studio as they slumped into one another.

Each has been evocatively captured by Sharyn’s lens.

As an accomplished writer, editor and publisher of interiors over the years, picking the trends is something that is second nature to you.  We have seen Scandinavian and a resurgence of Mid-century furniture (I think its fair to say, that will never die) what trend do you think is coming next?

What the experience of working on the book has taught me is to move beyond trends as such. All sorts of things come and go, as you point out Mid-Century and Scandi - but the reality is that anything done with conviction endures. By buying slowly and sourcing the best it becomes a question of building an interior aesthetic that evolves and grows rather than jumps from trend to trend.

How has your personal interior style changed over the years? 

I think it has added depth rather than leapt to new looks and styles. When we lived in London we bought a lot of light industrial pieces – old baker’s proving drawers on wheels – that kind of thing - but with the move to Australia we bought out vintage Danish pieces that have stayed with us. We have artworks and furniture pieces from student shows bought 20 years ago, that we still love, alongside new design pieces – like the Polder sofa by Hella Jongerious. This book has made me even more determined to buy interesting original pieces that reflect the maker.

When creating amazing a space, what are the little things that can really transform a space...from Everyday to special?

I think it is the layering of personality that transforms a space. We all need the basics – a sofa, armchair, coffee table (although we don’t have one!), dining table and chairs – and those form the ground rules stylistically. It is then what is added to this that creates the character – the rug, cushions, artworks and ceramics - they deliver the personality of a space.

Who's style do you admire the most and why?

I have always admired the style of designer and photographer Martyn Thompson for his conviction, his generosity and his vision.

When you have guests coming over, what are the quick fixes you do in your home before welcoming them in the door?

Tidy-up, light a candle, and move chairs around to make it easy for people to chat. Ease and comfort come first.

If you could invite anyone to dinner, who would you have and why?

I live in Sydney, Australia – all my family (parents and siblings) are in the UK – it would be them I would invite for dinner because I miss them.

Credit - Perfect Imperfect by Karen McCartney, Sharyn Cairns and Glen Proebstel (Murdoch Books).   You can purchase your copy of 'Perfect Imperfect' at  

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