iconic australian houses by karen mccartney

One of the most successful Australian interior books of recent times is 50/60/70: Iconic Australian Houses by Karen McCartney. It is not surprising then that the founding editor of Inside Out magazine has gone on to produce a follow-up: 70/80/90. It is a book that provides architectural analysis and interior inspiration all within a historical context. Karen, who I have previously interviewed here, shares what went into the process of making the most recent edition.

You can buy either edition - or both! - with a personalised message on the recently launched site Iconic Australian Houses.

Why did you decide to do a follow-up book to 50 60 70? It took me a while to get the energy back to think about a second book but due to the great deal of interest in the first one I thought a follow up would be logical. While collaborating with photographer Michael Wee, art director Andrea Healy and editor Leta Keens on the first book we had established a way of working together and developed a strong template for the book. 70/80/90 Iconic Australian Houses was an extension of this format with the 70s revisited because of two very special houses - Richard Leplastrier's Palm House and Glenn Murcutt's Kempsey House.

What was involved in the creation process? I had to source the houses that I thought would fit the bill, approach the architects and find out if the home owners were comfortable to be included in the book. The benefit of having the first edition was that everyone involved could see the treatment of the houses and the production values of the book.

How long did it take to come together - from concept to first copy? I agreed to do the book in January 2009 and we had the launch at the end of October 2011. It was a long process because I work full time and so weekends, evenings, holidays and a stint of long service leave became the times that I worked. Much was done sitting in the car outside daughter's ballet school on a Saturday morning. There was two years of writing, photography and design - travelling to rural NSW, Victoria and Queensland - and then six months of proofing processes and printing.

What was important to you in terms of the book's text, photography and design? All the elements you mention were equally important. The ability to interview all the architects, and in some instances the clients, gave the text a really personal feel. The book is written in a direct fashion, not in the language of the architectural profession, and so while completely accurate it is also approachable. The photography process was that I would visit each house and take snaps which were the basis for discussion with the photographer and in some instances the stylist. I would try and write the text before the photographs were taken so the emphasis of the images were correct. I worked very closely with Andrea Healy on the layouts. It was one of the best elements of the design journey - working through what images worked together to best effect and tell the story of each house in a beautiful and evocative way.

What was unexpected about the whole experience? Nothing was unexpected as the second time around we were experienced in the process. I did, however, love seeing how each stage came together and how the final layouts really felt more than the sum of the parts. There are some movingly beautiful houses and I feel passionate about all of them. Now the book is published the architects seem happy with not only their houses but the company they keep with the other choices. That is very gratifying.

images courtesy of iconic australian houses