Friday, April 9, 2010

Interview - Karen McCartney of Inside Out Magazine!

Inside Out's 10th Birthday issue is out this week, and it is TRULY the most delicious issue you could ever imagine. I promise I am not just saying that! Brilliant stories, images styled to perfection, and also the most amazing art auction which you can also visit online here. This stunning issue also comes with a custom Rob Ryan screenprinted teatowel! YES you heard me.

Inside Out's incredible style director Glen Proebstel created this beautiful anniversary story with Sharyn Cairns. SO stunning! - Moody and dark and full of beautiful detail. The above image is themed 'Iron' for 6 years, below is themed 'Wood'.

Today I am so very excited to share with you an interview with someone very special and wonderfully inspiring - Karen McCartney, editor of Inside Out magazine! Karen is well known and highly respected for her incredible work building Inside Out magazine over the past 10 years - and it is a very opportune time to reflect on her immense achievements, as this month Inside Out is celebrating it's 10th birthday!! The current issue (out now!) is absolutely totally truly stunning... you can tell how hard the team have worked to produce this very special birthday issue. Highlights include the most amazing art auction which you can also bid on online here. The issue also comes with a beautiful free gift - a custom Rob Ryan screenprinted teatowel! YES! True.

Aside from Karen's wonderful work and the general brilliance of Inside Out... I hope this little post might also go some way to conveying just how incredibly nice Karen is. Really and truly, the absolute nicest of the nice! She's softly spoken, thoughtful and genuine - in conversation her eyes sparkle with sincere interest and enthusiam. Karen has been so approachable and encouraging with me personally over the last year or so - and I have been so grateful for her support and for the support of the Inside Out team since first starting The Design Files! Not all magazine people are so wonderfully warm and friendly... I think perhaps Anna Wintour could do with a lesson or two from the lovely IO team!

With Karen at the helm, it's not surprising that Inside Out is such a happy and inspiring place to work! All the lovely peeps I have met from Inside Out over the last couple of years - superstars like Glen Proebstel, Vanessa Colyer Tay, Lee Tran Lam - seem so content and are forever inspired by their work, and it seems a happy workplace certainly makes for a beautiful magazine!

Please read on for an insight into the very busy world of Karen McCartney! Her answers are candid and really thoughtful - and I was most relieved to see it's not just me struggling with my email inbox!

Thanks so much to Karen and Sally at IO for facilitating the interview and supplying all the lovely shots :)

Tell us a little about your background – what path led you to Australia initially, and to you current role at Inside Out Magazine?

I was working in London as an editor and then freelance stylist and writer when I married an Australian. We came to visit Sydney initially after three months travelling in Asia and visited again three years later when our son Mac was one. At that stage we decided to move (just for two years) and I was lucky enough to get a job (on the recommendation of a friend, photographer Martyn Thompson) with Jackie Frank launching marie claire lifestyle. It was a great magazine – ahead of its time really. From there I moved to News Ltd to launch Inside Out magazine – that was a decade ago.

What have been one or two of your most memorable favourite shoots / stories featured in the magazine over the years?

I looked through all the back issues recently and there are definite favourites because they remind me of particular times, or people, or they were a really successful execution or clever treatment.

Karen lists some of her all time favourite stories in the current issue! ...Oh I so loved that 'Natural Style' story in Issue 77 too!

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

As my role has changed it involves more meetings. Emails tend to dominate office life these days and there is an expectation to get through them all. I hate not replying to someone but sometimes the sheer amount gets the better of me. The best parts of the day are the creative bits – discussing an upcoming shoot with the style editor, Vanessa Colyer Tay, going over a layout with the art director Jo or discussing a heading with the subs. I am also very involved in the marketing and advertising side and we have great people in both departments so it is important to be up to speed with the whole business.

Where do you turn for inspiration – books, international magazines, the internet, your environment, travel, nature, family or friends… etc?

I do get inspiration from art and design led websites. My husband has an enormous breadth of knowledge around design and much of our conversation at home is about design and architecture. We have similar tastes so I like his perspective. I find Italian Elle D├ęcor and the UK’s World of Interiors inspiring. I also like the philosophy of The Selby.

Which designers, artists or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?

There are so many. I love the cleverness of Philippe Nigro’s table - TU - for Lignet Roset – powder-coated metal legs that hold any size of table top – a cheap door when you are a student, a more crafted timber top as your lifestyle changes. I also like the Hay brand (at Corporate Culture) – again inventive, clever designs and not so expensive. Artists – I admire a number from Sean Scully to Rover Thomas. In the birthday issue we asked 35 Australian creatives to produce an artwork that summed up the idea of home and heart and the response from everyone form Akira, to David Bromley, Lisa Gormley to John Young was amazing. Readers can bid for all the works online.

OH. MY. GOD. You have never seen so many amazing and varied artworks for sale all in one place... I have a few too many favourites... I really truly seriously want that John Young digital print. a LOT.

It must be so lovely to be surrounded by images of Australia’s most beautiful homes all the time! How would your describe your sense of style when it comes to your own home?

I love looking at images of different styles of homes and find myself drawn to many a varied looks so the restrictions set by our house keep me from veering in too many directions. It is a Sixties house designed by Bruce Rickard and as we are only the second owners it is still as he originally intended. It is not large, is very simple but has beautiful timber ceilings, a lot of glass to connect it to the outdoors and a great open fireplace for winter nights.

More wonderful spreads from the current issue - beautiful photographs of Khai Liew's Adelaide Home by Sharyn Cairns.

Architect Zahava Elenberg's Melbourne home, shots by Sharyn Cairns.

What are you most proud of professionally?

The team on Inside Out and the fact that we have a reputation in the business for being good to deal with, pushing creativity in all aspects of the brand (see our free Rob Ryan tea towels with this issue) and spotting and developing talent.

What would be your dream project?

I am working on a second architecture book which will feature Australian Houses from the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties. It is a follow up to my first book but interviewing the architects and hearing their stories makes it a dream project.

What are you looking forward to?

Long service leave later in the year to work on the dream project.

Sydney Questions –

Your favourite pocket of Sydney for shopping / strolling / people watching?

Danks Street in Waterloo has a really good mix of places to eat – Danks Street Depot where Jared Ingersoll is the chef; Fratelli Fresh and some good wholefood shops. There is also the PYD complex with the fabulous Country Trader and around the corner is Hazel Butterworth Tate’s vintage fabric shop.

Your favourite shop in Sydney for unique furniture or home accessories?

Tyrone Dearing In Potts Point is always interesting.

Where was the last great meal you ate in Sydney?

Today at Longrain.

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

Taking my daughter to ballet and then buying croissants and coffee.

Sydney’s best kept secret?

I don’t think Sydney is a city with secrets but Take 2 in Bondi is the low-key store by Rodney (ex Copeland & De Soos) who sources everything from vintage industrial lighting to Danish classics. Always worth a visit.

Gorgeous stationary story styled by Vanessa Colyer Tay and shot by Sam McAdam.


  1. i am SO glad to see shes writing another book about australian homes - 50/60/70 is just about my favorite book ever!

  2. Oh what a lovely interview - as I mentioned once before (on your blog) I used to work with Karen McCartney in London. I was her assistant for a couple of years and she was a fantastic boss, a really kind, thoughtful, generous person and very inspirational. I'd love to get back in touch with her. If you have her email address please could you mail it to me?

    Thanks so much,

  3. She's extraordinary isn't she. I've been buying the magazine since its first issue. And I've framed the teatowel..far too pretty to use conventionally!

  4. I have worked with Karen on and off for years and I too can vouch for her extraordinary ability to make people feel supported and important. The Irish accent adds to her charm. She is truly one of the kindest people I know.

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  6. Wow, what a lovely interview, thanks Lucy. Karen sounds so genuine and passionate about her work. Cannot wait for the issue of Inside Out to reach New Zealand!

  7. Lovely issue of Inside Out.
    My Rob Ryan teatowel will never touch a dish!

  8. Inside Out is my favourite magazine, and although I am not living in Oz at the moment, my subscription is piling up for the next time I go back on a holiday. Thanks so much for the post, it was great!

  9. Lovely wrap up with Karen.
    I used to work in Sydney for an international homewares brand and had occasion to deal with stylists from all the shelter mags, I have to say that the Inside Out people were my best callers. Sure they were organsied and rarely had last minute demands, but they were also easy going and just nice people.
    Getting a call from Glen Proebstel always brightened my day, so for me he is the IO brand.