Sense of Self

It seems that Kara Town has crafted a lifestyle of aesthetics. As one half of AHD Paper Co. (the other half being her husband, Chris) and one half of Seattle-based nesting space, NEST | TOGETHER, she is able to surround herself with strong partnerships and impeccable talent. She is someone who finds beauty in imperfection, hand-selecting items, from pottery to vintage clothing, and maintaining a way of life that is imbued with character and self-assurance.

Founded by both Kara and Sanam Miremadi, NEST | TOGETHER began as a working journal but has now extended beyond that to include editorials using brands that the pair support and to the store, NEST | GATHER which is operated by Sanam out of Seattle with the aim of nurturing small businesses and the local designers from parts of America and Australia.

Kara grew up in Adelaide, and after a stint in Sydney as newlyweds, she returned to her hometown with her husband where they currently live and work, operating AHD Paper Co.  from their house. Theirs was a whirlwind love affair, leading to not only a beautiful relationship, but also a rewarding, exciting business. Founded on the premise of art and design and with an environmentally conscious approach, the business affords the duo the freedom they always dreamt of. Their home is a mecca of incredible design and textures and Kara’s personal nesting space. She is extraordinarily warm and welcome (not to mention stunningly beautiful), and definitely has a certain ‘je ne sais pas’… She did live in Paris after all.

Sophie Flecknoe: Firstly, can you tell me a little about yourself? Where did you grow up?

Kara Town: I grew up in the foothills of Adelaide in a close-knit family of four. I was quite the tomboy, always wanting to learn new skills, forever pushing myself to keep up with my older brother and loved to work hard and get my hands dirty. I was fortunate enough to have parents who encouraged my creativity from the get-go and later further encouraged me to pursue tertiary studies in something I felt genuinely passionate about, rather than something that was academically prescribed to me. So, in the four years after high school I completed a degree in Visual Arts, with a major in Art Theory and History and a minor in Printmaking, as well as studies in Fashion Design.

At the age of 22, in 2006, I met my husband Chris, within two months we decided to get married and six months later we were. Shortly after, we moved from Adelaide (where I’m from) to Sydney (where my husband is from) and lived in the inner west of Sydney for just over seven years. I worked in Lighting Consultation (which fed my love of design) and my husband managed a bookstore and exhibited his art locally at China Heights Gallery in Surry Hills. In 2010 we decided to take four months off and live in Paris. We were in desperate need of regeneration and sought to forge a greater plan. We wanted to start our own business, something that reflected our intense love of art, had a low carbon footprint and afforded us both freedom and income. It was during this sojourn in Paris that we conceived AHD PAPER CO., a paper goods company specialising in curated card collections and poster wrap by artists and designers from both Australia and overseas. We began slowly in Sydney whilst both working full-time; four years later we have a wonderful scope of stockists within Australia and internationally, we’ve bought our first home, moved back to Adelaide and now both work full-time on AHD PAPER CO.; I also have the pleasure of working part-time on NEST | TOGETHER.  

What were the origins of NEST | TOGETHER? How did it come to be?

NEST | TOGETHER began from an online relationship that blossomed between Sanam and myself. We slowly started communicating more and more, sharing inspiration and ideas, eventually finding out that we both had this strong desire to explore, share and foster the talent that existed out there, and so NEST | TOGETHER was born. It started out as a working journal, but has since extended beyond that, with a few editorials using brands we support and the addition of the store, NEST | GATHER, which is operated out of Seattle, by Sanam. The store was a chance for us to further explore our interests and to nurture and support the talent we were sharing.

What is your definition of beauty?

For me, now, I find great beauty in imperfection. I spent most of my twenties consumed by the art of embellishing and clouded by traditional notions of beauty, always striving to be perhaps something I wasn’t, in a great number of ways. That act caused me a great deal of pain. As I approached and proceeded to turn thirty, it was as if I knew inherently who I was again, I morphed into perhaps my truest form and found a sense of peace.

So, the things I find most beautiful are those that have the clearest sense of self, and radiate such in quiet, subtle, inherent manner.

Your online store, NEST | GATHER, features some incredible designers, artists and artisans. Who would you list as some your favourite designers?

Firstly, I certainly don’t want to assume too much responsibility for the incredible store that is NEST | GATHER; it’s the hard work of my partner, Sanam. My role is merely to consult here and there to make sure everything is in line with the overall NEST aesthetic we both represent. Which is easy as Sanam has incredible taste that comes from her genuine interest in all things and this radiates through her store selections.

Currently I love the fact that Melbourne clothing label THURSDAY SUNDAY and Sydney jewellery label AANA JANAKIS are new Australian additions to the store. I’m also a loyal fan of ceramics label NO. and the woman behind it, Romy Northover. When we were in New York at the beginning of the year, my husband and I had the pleasure of visiting Romy in her studio, and spending the day with her. She’s someone I hold very dear now.

And, what is AHD Paper Co.’s aesthetic? How do you and Chris work together?

We like to think that we have no particular aesthetic, [but] that our scope is all-encompassing. We like to work with artists of varied mediums, so that there is something in each collection for everyone. Having said that, we have a very clear notion of what we like and what is commercially viable. Chris and I also love the idea of working with particular artists on a repeat basis, so that our customer can in turn form a relationship with them too.

Over time, Chris and I have both organically found our place and assumed our separate responsibilities within the business. The fact that we work from home, from separate studios also gives us the space and time we need to perform certain tasks uninterrupted, we convene and discuss things when necessary. It’s quite the task not only being married and owning a business together, but operating it from home. We have, over the past year however, found the method that best works for us.

Your products at AHD are environmentally conscious. What decisions do you make in your work and life to be sustainable?

 I grew up in a home where recycling was the norm, we had compost bins, a vegetable patch and very little wastage, and I/we still live that way. When we first decided we would be producing paper goods, it was always paramount that we do it in the most environmentally sound way possible. Currently our stock is 100% recycled, we use offset printing methods, soy-based inks and we pack everything by hand.

What are the fundamental elements of your personal style? What are some staple pieces in your wardrobe?

I’m essentially a tomboy, I always have been and consequently always will be. I feel my best when I’m comfortable. Given I work from home, I generally live in vintage Levis and white t-shirts, usually paired with a slide or canvas trainer during the day and loafers or brogues at night. I can never pass up a good double-breasted blazer, or simple cotton knit. While I don’t necessarily try to avoid what is on trend, I certainly gravitate toward pieces that will last the test of time, investment pieces, such as my Celine loafers. I know when I’m sixty I’ll still be wearing those with jeans and a white tee, and a head full of grey hair.

NEST | TOGETHER recently hosted a Pop Up store in Seattle throughout September. What is the importance of pop-up events as opposed to permanent stores?

I think for many of us who don’t want to commit to the standard 9-5 regimen of opening your own store, wrangling staff and a permanent premises, love the idea of a pop-up and the momentum the concept has gained in recent years. It’s an opportunity for online stores, such as NEST | GATHER, to launch their concept to an audience briefly, to meet the clientele, gain interest and then retreat back online.

Who or what inspires you?

I’m currently inspired greatly by the concept of minimalism as expressed in a number of facets of life, from architecture, art and interiors right through to general living.

You are often heralded as a champion of interior design. I’m guilty of perusing your Instagram account, and I must say, the images of your home are lovely. What pieces do you gravitate towards for your own house and studio?

Our home is very much a work in progress, and what I lack in experience I certainly like to think I make up for with enthusiasm.

Much of our furniture we have collected over time or have made ourselves, specifically for this house. A great deal is restored 60s and 70s designer furniture that we’ve been lucky enough to find very cheaply and bring back to life, such as our Ercol chairs bought in a charity store for $3.00 each. Both my husband and I love Mid Century furniture and design, our first major purchase just after we were married (eight years ago) was a teak lounge setting by local South Australian company TH Brown. This, mixed with iconic designer pieces from design houses like Casala and Kartell, artwork, ceramics, a love of black and white and an abundance of plants, make up our home.

As you’ve mention, the other half of NEST | TOGETHER, Sanam is based in Seattle while you’re based in Adelaide. Is travel a major component of your work? Do you spend much time in the US?

Our trip earlier this year was my first trip to the US. Though I have family there, I have never before been. Having been now, we’ve got plans to return every year for as long as we can. I think one of the main reasons NEST has such scope is the fact that Sanam and I are in different countries, it gives us the chance to discover and share designers and artists that exist in both Australia and the US, introduce them to each other and each other’s audiences.

Where is one place you dream of visiting?

Iceland. I’ve wanted to explore Iceland for as long as I can remember. Well, for as long as I’ve been a Bjork fan, and that feels like forever.

What is next for you? Are there any projects on the horizon?

Gosh, for now I feel I have plenty on my plate between AHD Paper Co. and NEST. On a personal note however, we are currently embarking on home renovations, which I’m very much looking forward to.

Words: Sophie Flecknoe

Images courtesy of NEST | GATHER.

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