Small Living

Small living with Karin Montgomery

In our ‘small living with’ series, Never Too Small goes in depth with the creative minds behind our favourite spaces, projects and businesses.

In this feature we take a peak into the workspace, rituals and ideas that motivate Karin Montgomery, interior designer and creator of Never Too Small Episode 40 — Man Cave.

Never Too Small: Please introduce yourself, tell us what you do and how long you have been doing it?

Karin Montgomery: My name is Karin Montgomery and I have been working as an interior designer for the past 18 years or so. Previous to that I had a textile company, manufacturing and printing mostly in Japan, Italy and India.

NTS: What drew you to sustainable, small footprint living? 

KM: Working in Japan influenced me and changed my way of thinking about how we live. At the time we seemed to all be buying bigger homes and adding swimming pools, home theatres and even tennis courts, not to mention library and music rooms.

For the Japanese though, small is beautiful and I visited many private homes with 4 or 5 in the family living in tiny but very workable spaces. I liked it! It impressed me for a variety of reasons.

Why should we need to get away from one another by having not only our own bedrooms but also our own play rooms too. Much better, I thought, like the Japanese, to enjoy the small footprint and learn to share, to take part in community swimming pools, tennis courts, libraries etc.

NTS: Tell us about your routine. What needs to happen for you to be at your most productive

KM: My mornings begin rather late, never having been an early bird so slowly does it.  I do check my mail first thing to see to anything urgent. Once up and about I pull myself together with a nice breakfast eaten in my small city garden when the weather allows.

Then into the office, which is upstairs in my small architecturally designed 1970’s home, now completely renovated for 2020 living.

NTS: Talk us through your design and creative workspace?

KM: In this room, there was originally an alcove so this converted to become my office. it is just the right size and quite perfect really.  Simple cabinetry was built in and it works so well.

When I am in cruise mood, doing things I am accustomed to doing daily, I play music, mostly blues or opera depending on my mood but when things heat up, and I need to really focus then no music.

I am a domesticated sort of person and like my home comforts so having the office upstairs means I can’t be downstairs making things to eat and teas too often throughout the day so the separation is good.

NTS: What’s the one item in your workspace you couldn’t do without?

KM: Above my computer and my trusty Tolomeo lamp, I have a shelf with my treasures loaded on to it, family photos, small art works, things that make me smile. There is a doll in the corner, made apparently, in my likeness and given by a friend.

Rather funny that the thing I really couldn’t do without is a small block of square papers that I write notes on everyday. I do like paper and pencil and old habits persist.

NTS: What is something you know now about your process, routine or tools that you wish you’d known when you were starting out?

KM: Working as an interior designer encompasses so many disciplines that can be taught but the soul of the work cannot be learned, that deep understanding of a space, the spirit of it, you have either got it or not!!

NTS: Which design featured in Never Too Small do you wish you’d created and why?
The small apartment I really loved is Episode 3, Micro apartment design Cairo Studio.

The kitchen/ work room space is so very beautiful; firstly the colour yellow is perfect to define the space and when it opened out, with a place for everything, I could only smile, how wonderful, a full kitchen, so practical, creative and harmonious too.
Having the books slide out and the colour mirroring the kitchen was a perfect way to bring the various element of the apartment together.

Dedicated spaces for, sitting, eating, washing, cooking, sleeping was very cleverly done in such a small space.This apartment felt at ease with itself and not too tricky.

Episode 40 — Man Cave. Just outside of Auckland, interior designer Karin Montgomery has transformed an above garage storage space into a bright home for a two.