Dedece celebrates Sue Carr Q & A @ dedece

Dedece celebrates Sue Carr Q & A @ dedece

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The fourth in the series of ” Dedece & Vola Celebrates ” was held at dedece’s Sydney showroom on Mon 22nd Sept, 2014

Previously Dedece together with Vola, had celebrated renowned Australian architects –  (1) Glenn Murcutt, (2) Kerry Hill and (3) Alex Popov.

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This time around,  Dedece together with Vola, and Artichoke magazine organised an intimate dinner for Sue Carr – to celebrate the career of one of Australia’s most successful and prolific interior designers.

Sue was honoured for her significant contribution to the advancement of modernist interior design and her ongoing architectural interactions in Australia.

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Sue Carr with some of her friends and peers who came up from Melbourne to help celebrate – Jeffrey Copolov ( Bates Smart ) , Jeff Provan ( Neometro ) and Roger Poole (Bates Smart )

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Gelnn Murcutt with Sue


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Sue Carr with Richard Johnson ( JPW )

A thinker, innovator, designer and teacher, Sue Carr is synonymous with the evolution of interior design in Melbourne.

With a career spanning more than four decades, her work is admired and sought everywhere – from New Zealand to the US.

Her list of achievements is immense: the recipient of Interior Design Excellence Awards Gold Medal award; founding member of the Academy of Design Australia; fellow of the Design Institute of Australia; member of the DIA Hall of Fame and much more.

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Dedece was particularly delighted to welcome first time guests Johannes Saugbjerg ( Vola General Manager ) and Birthe Tofting (Vola Sales and Marketing Director) as well as our third time guest, Carsten Hartmann ( Vola Asia Pacific Export Manager) who all flew in from Denmark especially to join us for the occasion of the Sue Carr Q&A celebration.

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Johannes Saugbjerg, Tim Engelen, Sue Carr, Cameron Bruhn and Birthe Tofting

The dinner was once again chaired by our knowledgeable Master of Ceremonies – Cameron Bruhn from Artichoke Magazine

To begin proceedings, Cameron introduced aspects of Sue’s varied and interesting life journey, which profoundly influenced her design decision making – and of course encouraged the gathered peer group participation in Q & A throughout the evening

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Initially from a scientific background, Sue co-founded the architectural and interior design firm Inarc in 1971, and later worked with Denton Corker Marshall before founding her own design practice Carr Design Group , which is now one of Australia’s most awarded and respected design businesses.

Carr Design are a leading architecture and interior design firm responsible for high-profile projects including the Hilton Hotel interiors Adelaide, The Westin hotel interiors Melbourne, Australian Stock Exchange in Melbourne and Norton Rose Fulbright ( previously called Deacons ) Law Tenancy national roll out.

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Cameron introduced Sue with the following quote …..

The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize.” … Robert Hughes   – Modernism’s Patriarch, Time Magazine, June 1996

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Sue won the inaugural 2010 IDEA Gold Medal in recognition of a lifetime contribution to Australian design – based on her extraordinary body of work since the formation of Inarc in 1971.

Nominees were chosen by a jury consisting of a selection of design luminaries.

The Interior Design Excellence Awards Gold Medal award represents the interior design profession’s highest accolade and recognises the distinguished contribution made by an Australian designer to design culture over the course of their career.

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In awarding the Gold medal, the IDEA jury noted: —

Being the first career achievement award the IDEA jury has ever bestowed upon an Australian designer, the process in deciding our winner was a studious and methodic process, but there was an unmistakable difference, of prolific resonance, in the large body of work Sue Carr had presented.

This inaugural Gold Medal has gone to Carr for her great contributions to the interior design industry, and for her driving force within Australian modern design lineage and heritage.

Her work has helped to create an unprecedented cultural awareness for design in this country that few are able to match.

The track record of Carr Design may speak for itself, but among so many high-calibre built environments that have come into fruition over the last 40 years, we are proud to recognise Sue Carr for her outstanding trajectory of work, and the numerous careers of others she has in some way nurtured at Carr Design.

Needless to say, we obviously acknowledge and commend everyone who has been a part of Carr’s work in years past.


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Sue’s story is incredibly fascinating from how she nearly donned a lab coat for a life amongst test tubes and Bunsen burners, to how she managed to convince a generation of blokes that being an interior designer did not mean she was there to do the curtains and cushions.

In her forty years practising interior design, she has observed, and often anticipated, great changes in the way people live their lives.

Sue is an interior designer, educator and indefatigable promoter of the benefits of good design. She has worked throughout her career to raise the profile of Interior design as a worth-while and recognised profession

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Sue Carr ….. ‘Because I had a scientific background, I was always interested in structure and form, and in the way detail is expressed “

‘How the parts fit together is important to me. A singular idea is the power of a great project. It is the feel of the space that is important – the sensory and emotional experiences that give people a sense of ease and well-being.

‘My work is very subtle, yet when you put all those subtleties together, the whole is very strong,’ she said. ‘I am of the belief that it is the sharing of ideas, experiences and expertise that produces the best work.’


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“My practice was founded in 1971, and we gradually established ourselves as one of Australia’s leading architecture and interior design firms, having demonstrated a capacity to push conventional boundaries.

This success owes much to the outstanding results we have achieved for clients through the combined energy, focus and commitment of the Carr team. This includes senior associates, designers, architects and support staff from a diversity of backgrounds.

Carr Design has been long recognized for a contemporary aesthetic with a strong focus on detailing and is one of the most respected design firms in the country.”


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Paul Hecker , Harley Anstee , Jeff Provan , Ian Moore , Glenn Murcutt and Sue



Other notable comments gleened from Sue Carr during the course of the Q&A dinner …...

I have always had a reflective modernist aesthetic and adopt the tenants of modernism

I have never used wallpaper, shag pile or lava lamps and to this day still find carpet hard to use in my projects

I adopt simple structure and form

I allow natural light and artificial light to integrate spaces, I watch how sunlight moves across a rooms walls and how shadows impact spaces

I maintain a strong passion for house design projects as they are challenging and often the most difficult. They educate us not only in client management but also in our design thinking and the knowledge spreads into all other disciplines – particularly hospitality and medium density residential

Interior design now sits alongside architecture – whereas  in the 1970’s it sat below architecture

In the early 1990’s due to the recession,  work just disappeared .. and I had to just let people go ( something I never expected to ever have to do )

Working with developers … advocating that design doesn’t cost money but really makes money for them

Love what you do .. do what you love !

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Working alongside her son Nick gives Sue immense pleasure and happiness


Sue’s Strategies for Success

1.  Accept and be prepared to change.
2.  Be passionate about what you do.
3.  Persistence pays, never give up.
4.  Self-renewal and learning are vital.
5.  Balance of family and business life is essential.


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Some reflections on working with Sue …


Richard Johnston  ( Johnson Pilton Walker Architects )

I worked with Sue when Denton Corker Marshall and Sue’s company Inarc merged at the height of the recession in 1991. 

I can recall a project that we were working on at the time and Sue had sent up to Sydney a series of project story boards related to her visions for the project which were scheduled to present to the client that day.

I remember the material arriving without any indexing or numbering and going through we thought they made little sense and would possibly cost us the project and like all architects of the time thought we could do the interior design conceptual development better than anyone. 

When Sue arrived into our Sydney office ( like a whirlwind ) she immediately reshuffled the order of the boards on the big working tables and turned some around and suddenly the project vision became crystal clear and made perfect sense – she harnassed her scientific background to generate an analytical process which resonated with everyone

Needless to say, the client loved the presentation and we went on to complete Sue’s visions for the interiors of the project

Sue has always designed with a true sense of modernism – and this is to be applauded. ”


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Robert Backhouse ( Hassell )

I was ex-Brisbane — no actually ……. I was ex-Gold Coast (hahaha) and came to Melbourne to study design and to find professional work as an interior designer.

I recall a terrifying interview with Sue where she grilled me on my commitments, attitudes, and approaches to design. Sue would think that it was a pleasant interview but to me it was akin to a forensic interrogation.

She was then, and is still is, an uncompromising designer.

This was particularly difficult to uphold when faced with a number of economic recessions which gripped the construction and property industries throughout the past 40 years.

Sue refused to do shitty work even in the tough times – so as best to protect her own design brand credential. She understood that a bad job could be damaging in the longer term.”


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Nic Graham ( Nicholas Graham & Assoc

I owe a lot to Sue’s training whilst I was both a design student as well as during my 10 years of employment in Sue’s design offices.

I recount a a day when Sue came to work and advised me that my job was to clean out the office library – so as to get back to the purity of aesthetics, Sue Carr’s way !

She got her library reduced down to approximately a large box worth of required colour and fabric swatches / samples / brochures and photos…. I’m sure Sue is still the same in her offices today  ! ”


Paul Hecker ( Hecker Guthrie )

When are you going to retire ? …  hurry up please  ! we all want some of your hotel interiors design work  !


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NB  event photos taken by Grant Turner / Mediakoo

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