It's a great skill to converse with a complete stranger. In some contexts this is called networking, but it's more than that. It's the ability to chat to someone at a dinner party or a wedding or in the kitchen at work. I've met only a handful of people who can do this well - not only making the other person feel completely at ease, but also creating not just chit-chat but interesting conversation. Max Kater is one of these people. She must throw the most fabulous dinner parties because she's warm and welcoming. I was lucky enough to visit her beautiful Sydney home recently, which has just been featured on Apartment Therapy. We were strangers and yet within moments of walking into her dining room she was offering me lunch, making me a cup of tea, laying out toys for my little boy, and chatting away as if we were old friends. I'm not sure if it's a learnt skill or a gift, but it's certainly impressive.
The reason I was visiting Max was to learn more about her must-try eco-friendly cleaning range Murchison-Hume. I feel slightly silly to say it, but I've never been so excited to use a cleaning product before. It's beautifully packaged and it makes me feel so good that it's not made of toxic chemicals, especially as I have a young son. It also smells divine.
Anyway, it's time you met Max yourself.
Which five words best describe you? Resourceful, Creative, Stylish, Lazy and Impatient.
What was your first job and what path have you taken since then? Well, my very first was in my early teens selling ladies shoes at the ultra-preppy Pappagallo store in the Sherman Oaks Galleria (home of the notorious Valley Girl of 1980s Southern Californian Fame). I have continued to wear ladies shoes ever since.
What's your proudest achievement? Easy. Two amazing schoolboys called Ben and Charlie Kater (oh, and I guess bagging their father, Peter first).
What's been your best decision? Going for that post-ball nightcap to a private Hong Kong disco where I met Ben and Charlie's father. I was like a drunken Cinderella.
Who inspires you? You do, my dear! (Well, women like you). My Mother and late Aunt and friends and even women I read about who manage to balance work and family, love and life and still have time to be charming, play Lego, make dinner and put on eyeliner.
What are you passionate about? My family and our business. And a small occasional table I saw on 1st Dibbs which I love but can't afford.
What's the best lesson you've learnt? Thrive and bloom where you're planted! In decorating terms this means one should never buy furniture for a "someday" house. Buy things for the house you live in. And never involve husbands in any furniture dramas. It makes them very grumpy and they have to have a lie down.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Ooh, that's a tough one! It's a toss-up between Cleopatra, Andy Warhol, Elsie de Wolfe and Prince Charles. Can you imagine what a fun dinner party that would be?! I Bet Elsie and Charles would steal a couple of bottles and disappear into the Hydrangea and I'd be stuck doing the washing up with Andy while Cleo tried to seduce my Husband. Little Tart!
What dream do you still want to fulfil? Initiating legislation to aid parents in raising their children, the beginning of true global peace and a walk-in closet. I believe I will live to see all three.
What are you reading? The boy's old school newsletters and blogs written by people far more clever than myself.
Images courtesy of Murchison-Hume and Apartment Therapy