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ESCAPE FROM PURL HARBOUR: KNIT-MEISTER’S VIVID RETREAT

ESCAPE FROM PURL HARBOUR: KNIT-MEISTER’S VIVID RETREAT

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JOHN MACARTHUR IS a man who knits for a living, so it’s hardly a surprise to find that his beach house is a place that’s less than conventional. John and his partner Julian Porter, who is the head concierge at a hotel on Bondi Beach’s seafront, have fashioned a humble weekender on the coast for themselves with a vividly colourful kitchen unlike any other you’ll ever likely see.

Back in Sydney John runs Purl Harbour, a boutique knitting business that’s worked with labels Ksubi, Sass & Bide and Kirrily Johnston among others — as well as a host of private clients. A team of hand knitters and knitting machines produce everything from necklaces to shorts, swimwear to cardigans and jumpers in wools, mohair, pure silk, cashmere, alpaca, cotton and wool.

The 20-year-old business, which started out at Paddington markets really took off when Vogue magazine did a five-page spread on Purl Harbour. There’s been legions of notable clients since but famously when Kim Basinger commissioned him to knit her a sweater, John thought it was someone playing a prank.

“When her PA called with her credit card details, I realised it was true so I went all around Bondi telling everybody. What would have taken me a week took me four months as I was cycling everywhere spreading my story instead of working behind my knitting machines.”

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John and his partner’s escape from the knitting needles and the hotel business sits on a large block in a sleepy seaside settlement with views over nearby Lake Wollumboola on the south coast of NSW. Here the footpaths are unpaved and there’s no kerbs.

Apart from opening up the interiors a little by knocking down a wall or two here and there, they’ve done little to the place. “The décor is something that is constantly evolving – like us,” says John. “Although it may be very eclectic at times and possibly even look a bit odd it will all come together in the end.  I believe it is the owner’s personality that will become the décor rather than the objects themselves.”

“What’s great about this place is that it is the antithesis of our other life. It’s the ying to the yang,” he adds. “The minute you arrive here you really feel as if you are on holiday, there is no transition time. We also love that there are a lot of ‘like-minded’ people here. Some we knew already from our Sydney life and others we have just met.”

“The minute you arrive here you really feel as if you are on holiday, there is no transition time.”

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Impromptu barbecues with neighbours and friends aren’t rare.

“Because there are no cafes or restaurants you tend to entertain at home which is very relaxed,” says John. “Everyone just sits around and talks so that you find out a lot about people, as opposed to boring cocktail banter which can be as deep as a dimple on a golf ball.

“What we really love is the lifestyle we have down here. Being close to two surfing beaches, a river and a lake means that we are always swimming, surfing, fishing, canoeing, running …”

WORDS

KAREN COTTON

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Karen has produced features for many of the world's leading lifestyle publications -- including UK Instyle, UK Homes & Garden, US Interiors, Belle, Inside Out, Madison, Home Beautiful, Country Style, the Australian Womens Weekly and Harper Collins. Karen's styling expertise extends to both editorial features and advertising campaigns. Karen Cotton Stylist

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CONTENT AGENCY

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Content Agency syndicates media content worldwide. Content offers images and feature stories by a handpicked pool of photographers, stylists and writers. Content's credo is simple: it only trades in the best. www.content-agency.com

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