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Where would we be now, if it weren’t for Carr?

Widely regarded as one of Australia’s most prolific interior designers, Carr celebrates its inimitable five decades of design practice, underpinned by dynamic restraint.

It feels strange, now, to comprehend a world in which interior architecture and design are treated as little more than an afterthought in the overall design of a building. But such a world did exist, and not all that long ago – to that, Sue Carr can certainly attest. After all, we have Carr to thank, largely, for the gravitas now given to the field, in the Australian design scene.

Since opening the doors to her now preeminent interior design practice — one of Australia’s first — back in 1971, Carr has championed and cemented the power of interiors amongst the local industry, paving the path to success for Australian interior designers of today. Fifty years on and as inimitable as ever, this week Carr marks the milestone achievement of five decades in design practice — a legacy epitomised by Dynamic Restraint 5.0.

The two words comprise a counterintuitive pair; read between the lines, however, and indeed there is an essential duality to Carr, in business, and Carr, the practice, that fits the bill. Through her constructive spirit and relentless pursuit of betterment, Sue Carr has carved out a reputation for herself amongst her peers as something of dynamo in the business of design. Daring as the founder’s business acumen is, Carr has distinguished itself as a considered practice, renowned for its human-centred approach, understated expression and unrivalled resolve.

Courtyard House in Toorak, staircase; completed 2008. Photo by John Gollings.

Over the five decades Carr has now come full circle. While designing a building from the inside out continues to capture the essence of Carr, the studio today encompasses an integrated interior design and architectural service offering that sees both disciplines and the business team working together as equal counterparts. This model not only differentiates the studio but strengthens the team through regular exposure to diverse skills and capabilities. By breaking with convention and giving interior design the independence it required, Sue paved the way for Carr to be what it is today: a comprehensive design studio committed to excellence that strives to enrich people’s lives.

Sue’s resolute commitment to promoting the importance of design has been recognised by several key accolades. In 2006 Sue was inducted in the Design Institute of Australia’s Hall of Fame, an award that celebrates the work of design visionaries. She has also been recognised in the AFR Westpac ‘100 Women of Influence’ awards, and in 2010 she received the Gold Medal for Interior Design at the Interior Design Excellence Awards.

Jackalope Hotel; Jackalope sculpture by Emily Floyd; identity and environmental design by Studio Ongarato; completed 2017. Photo by Sharyn Cairns.

“We’re very fortunate in Australia, where success can be possible through passion and hard work – something I’ve always applied to what I do. No matter what it is,” says Sue. Even as she begins to wind back her involvement in the quotidian operations of Carr—as announced in the succession plan that came at the beginning of the milestone year—the passion and hardwork Sue speaks of are steadfast at the core of Carr, the practice, as well. And with the founder’s own kin, Nick Carr, now taking the reins of his mother’s namesake practice, as CEO, we rest assured that Carr’s dynamic restraint will carry on, zealous and dedicated as ever, for another lengthy tenure – with Sue herself confident that more growth is on the horizon.

“Change is inevitable and never easy,” says Sue, “but what has always energised me about the future are the people I get to work with every day.” Her words are a testament to her longstanding relationships with clients and suppliers; the people and culture of Carr; and of course, those of us that consummate the architecture and design community. Over the course of the year Carr will be marking its inimitable five decades of practice with a 12-month calendar of activities and events that celebrate the studio’s people, clients, and collaborators, who have contributed to the evolution of Carr.

The Inarc team; 1984.

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