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Karen McCartney Interview

Karen McCartney on What Makes a House Iconic

As interiors legend Karen McCartney celebrates the new edition of her book 50/60/70 Iconic Australian Houses hitting stores, I caught up with her to find out exactly what it is that makes a house iconic – and why she’s smitten with Aussie homes.

I sat down with the author, former Inside Out editor and current Temple & Webster editorial director to ask her the following questions…

Karen_McCartney. Photograph courtesty Hugh Stewart

What do you think makes a house iconic?

“For a house to be iconic it has to break new ground and create a new architectural language. This can be through use of technology, siting, materials, the arrangement of the floorplan, craft and ingenuity. It also has to be a great example of a house from an architect who has a solid body of work”.

What was your favourite house in the book?

“I have so many favourites and all for different reasons. I found all the architects I talked to inspiring and so the opportunity to understand their philosophy and express it through photographs and words was a great privilege. If I did have to choose it would probably be the Hugh Buhrich house at Castlecrag, which appears on the cover of the book, because it is an extraordinary handcrafted house like no other”.

Image from Australian Iconic Houses - Karen Mc Cartney

Iconic Australian Houses - Karen Mc Cartney Book

What drew you to exploring Australian homes and houses?

“I live in a house designed by Bruce Rickard, called the Marshall House (we are only the second owners) and it gave me the idea that if this house exists then there must be other great examples of Australian residential architecture that could form a book. Finding them was a bit harder than I imagined but we got there in the end with some really fantastic examples”.

Have elements from these houses influenced your own design at home?

“It is more the other way round. Living in a Bruce Rickard house was my first experience of an architect designed house and what is remarkable is the consideration given to everyday details. The house is economical and cleverly designed with lots of built-in elements, it is sited for winter sun and protection from the westerly heat”. 

What was it about the design in these decades that resonates with you?

“It was an opportunity learn about Australian architecture and how design adapted to landscape and climate, how internal walls came down and the relationship between inside and out became much more marked. So much that was pioneered then forms the foundation for how we live today”.

Iconic Australian Houses - Karen McCartney

Outside of writing this blog, Chris is an interior designer, presenter and author. He's also spent time on TV, on Channel 10's Changing Rooms, as well presenting segments on Channel 7's Sunrise and The Morning Show. If you'd like to book a design consult with Chris, you can find out more here


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