Superhouse by Karen McCartney, Photo by Richard Powers | Yellowtrace

Cover of “Superhouse “book by Karen McCartney / Solo House by  / Photography © Richard Powers.


I feel thrilled to have an opportunity to shine a little light on someone who has been an inspiring force in Australian design publishing for quite some time. Of course, I am talking about Karen McCartney who is a leading interior design and architecture expert, founding editor of Inside Out magazine, an author of multiple books, amongst other things. We are here today to celebrate her latest project, an absolutely incredible book tiled Superhouse: Architecture & Interiors Beyond the Everyday, in which Karen, in partnerships with internationally renowned photographer Richard Powers, presents an exceptional and surprising selection of architecturally designed houses from around the world.

I was lucky enough to receive a copy of my own a few weeks ago, and distinctly remember the feeling I was overcome with the minute I touched the cover. Reading Karen’s foreword about the process of bringing this book to life, I felt a sense of enlightenment, inspiration, joy but also relief knowing that books like this can still be made. I don’t know Karen all that well, but from whatever little that I do know, there is no denying this woman has a wealth of knowledge and real integrity in everything she does. She is the real deal, and her latest books mirrors her qualities. I realise it is completely inappropriate to say I feel proud of how good this book is, because I laterally had nothing to do with it – but I guess the “proud” bit is this feeling of triumph-at-large for this calibre of publishing. Not only is this book thoughtfully planned and approached with a very strong concept behind it, the combination of intelligent writing, beautiful imagery, in depth-interviews, clever layouts and the inclusion of architectural drawings (hallelujah!) are guaranteed to make your heart skip a beat.

Anyway, guys, what I’m really saying here is that this book is the one you need to get. Truly ruly. Superhouse is available nationally, retailing for $79.99 at all good bookstores, and . Put it on your Christmas wish-list and buy it for every architect you know. Now, who wants a copy? We have two to giveaway – hooray!


For your chance to win one of the two copies of Superhouse, simply leave a comment below and make sure you’re . Entries close at 11:59pm (AEST) on Friday 28th November, and two lucky winners will be drawn at random.


Read on for a little Q+A with Karen as she take us deep into the book.


Superhouse by Karen McCartney, Photo by Richard Powers | Yellowtrace

Goulding Summerhouse by  / Photography © Richard Powers.


+ How did the idea for this book come about? And how long did it take from inception to completion?

The idea came about over lunch talking to the publisher at Penguin/Lantern and I said the words ‘superhouse’ when describing certain architectural projects. She seized this saying what a good name it was for a book. I agreed but subsequently became nervous as I worried it sounded too much about money and excess. My solution was to write a defintion of ‘super’ which could encompass everything from a container house to a British castle. The tag line ‘Architecture and interiors beyond the everyday’, sums up much of the approach to the content. That lunch was in June 2012 and publication date is October 2014 – but really there was a year actually working on the book itself.

+ What do you love the most about this project?

Once I had nailed my definition I really enjoyed the scope of the project. There was room to move and even shift in terms of type of domestic space. I started off wanting to source new buildings and then realised the potential of places that had been reworked or reinvigorated such as Vincent van Duysen’s VDCA House in Belguim, Bofill’s La Fabrica in Spain and Piero Lissoni’s Monza Loft in Italy. All these places then opened the door to Astley Castle which is a very exciting project which won the Stirling Prize in the UK.


Superhouse by Karen McCartney, Photo by Richard Powers | Yellowtrace

La Fábrica by  / Photography © Richard Powers.


+ What was the most challenging aspect of bringing this book to life?

The most challenging aspect of the book was sourcing the right places. It is not hard to find houses that are good, but I wanted to find stories that ignited the imagination and showed different approaches to domestic space and the craft of building. Once I had found a great house I then had to approach the architect and then in turn they (sometimes) would approach the owners about photography. Some clients understandably don’t want their house shot for reasons of privacy. The other logistical difficultly was trying to dovetail with the plans of photographer Richard Powers so that we could make the most of his global travels. He is based in Antibes so Europe wasn’t so hard but there was a lot of planning around Brazil, North America and here in Australia.


Superhouse by Karen McCartney, Photo by Richard Powers | Yellowtrace

Almere House by  / Photography © Richard Powers.


+ What did you learn during the making of this book? And would you have done anything differently?

I learnt a huge amount during this process. Through the Iconic Australian Houses books I learnt the right questions to ask architects so that I could draw out stories as well as facts. I went to as many of the houses as possible so as to experience them directly and they all evoked different feelings – in some cases quite emotional because they were beautiful or clever, awe-inspring or intimate. Each architect has such a different philosophy that plays out in their work and it was a privilege to understand their perspective.

I was really pleased with the level of projects I achieved for the book and the calibre of architects represented.


Superhouse by Karen McCartney, Photo by Richard Powers | Yellowtrace

House at Toro Canyon by  / Photography © Richard Powers.


+ Any interesting/ funny/ quirky facts you could tell us about this project?

I worked very hard to get some work of Japanese architects into the book but the only time Richard and I could schedule to visit was in the middle of an annual holiday. It was a bit like saying ‘Can we come and shoot your house on Christmas day?’

A visit to the Solo House near Cretas in Spain was a torture to find. We could see it, but couldn’t find the way to access it, so we were buzzing around in out tiny hire car into increasing scrubby track as the house got further away. When we did arrive we had 197 steps to climb. Now that is a heart starter.


Superhouse by Karen McCartney, Photo by Richard Powers | Yellowtrace

Portrait of Karen McCartney.


+ What do you hope for readers to take away from Superhouse?

We have worked very hard, not only on the choice of projects, but how they flow within the book. Evi Oetomo, the art director and I planned every image, within every chapter, to ensure the right dynamic of images and in turn, planned the way the reader moves chapter to chapter. I hope to create surprise as each chapter explores a different take on ‘super’. For example young French architects working in Morocco and reinvigorating local techniques, or a tiny house near Ballarat that is integrated with the surrounding forest, or a Brutalist masterpiece in Sao Paulo. There is a huge range of projects but I hope people will find something to interest them in each and every one.


For your chance to win one of the two copies of Superhouse, simply leave a comment below and make sure you’re . Entries close at 11:59pm (AEST) on Friday 28th November, and two lucky winners will be drawn at random.


[Images courtesy of . Photography © .]


About The Author

Dana Tomić Hughes
Founder & Editor

Dana is an award-winning interior designer living in Sydney, Australia. With an unhealthy passion for design, Dana commits to an abnormal amount of daily design research. Regular travel and attendance at premier design events, enables Dana to stay at the forefront of the design world globally. While she is super serious about design, Dana never takes herself - nor design - too seriously. Together with her life and business partner, Dana is Boss Lady at Studio Yellowtrace, specialising in Design Strategy, Creative Direction and Special Projects. The studio takes a highly conceptual and holistic approach to translating brands & ideas into places & experiences.

50 Responses

  1. Avatar
    Duarte Da Silva

    Love the bookshelf walls in the House at Toro Canyon. Every Superhouse should have walls of books.

  2. Avatar
    Hedley Derenzie

    I cannot wait to get my hands on Karen’s book Superhouse!! I’ve long been obsessed with architecture that surpasses every day design and challenges us to raise and expand our ideas of what’s possible. My fingers and toes are crossed that I win a copy!!! Thank you Yellowtrace!! Love love. Hedley x

  3. Avatar

    What an amazing adventure- to spend a year traveling the globe in search of the most mind blowing homes! More- imagine getting paid to do it!!! Time to Dream Bigger….

  4. Avatar
    Peita De Trizio

    Looks like a beautiful book, just the inspiration I need for starting my own architectural practice- finally making the jump and going out on my own. Exciting times!

  5. Avatar
    Jane Valentine

    What a ‘super-duper’ book. Such careful consideration to detail – this is what inspires me the most. It would be an absolute privilege to read this book.

  6. Avatar
    Rebecca Kennedy

    Quite simply, WOW! What an incredible journey and so beautifully captures.

  7. Avatar
    Romona Sandon

    Wanted this the moment I saw it. I have already ordered a copy for myself but have so many colleagues and family members in the industry, that I know would love this for chrissy. fingers crossed. And YAY for quality architectural publishing!

  8. Avatar
    Lindy James

    All those hours on Pinterest when all I had to do was wait for this superb book – Well done Karen, really lovely. The cover is a holiday in itself.

  9. Avatar
    Donna Vercoe

    This book looks amazing… it’s going straight to the top of the book wish list!

  10. Avatar

    Having lived in Hong Kong and New York, I have always been an apartment girl and thought I will always be … Until I saw this book!!!!
    I suddenly feel a sea change approaching …!
    I’d love a copy to keep this momentum going ….
    What a fabulous edit. Well done. Thank you.

  11. Avatar
    olivia reeves

    Looks like a visually stunning, inspirational read, to keep the dreams alive & aspire beyond the everyday. Superhouse sounds like a powerful concept & is certainly on the Christmas list. Thanks for sharing yellowtrace

  12. Avatar
    Lilly Bajic

    Love Karen’s previous book Iconic Houses and would be ever so grateful to win a copy of her new one! Inspirational pictures galore!!!

  13. Avatar
    Bettina Deda

    Karen is almost one of our neighbours on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. I attended an event where she talked about her previous books, and own one of them. So, I would love to add this book to my collection.

  14. Avatar

    Love your blog and your . So much inspiration. Would LOVE LOVE LOVE a copy of this for my summer reading and fantasizing about our dream build.

  15. Avatar
    Jill Orr-Young

    Beautifully crafted. Thank you Karen. Hoping to settle into my reading nook with a copy this Christmas.

  16. Avatar

    If Karen’s last 2 books about 50 – 80’s architecture are anything to go by, this book will be book 3 of the Holy Grail of Australian Architecture.

  17. Avatar
    Jonathan Cohen

    I’ve seen Karen speak at MOS a couple of times. It was great to hear her talk about houses from her book and from the same architects & period as the house I grew up in, which was one designed for my parents by Bruce Rickard. It was great to compare my experience and to then hear about her and other people’s experiences of living in these houses.

  18. Avatar

    Wow. If those are only a sample of the images imagine how amazing it will be to read as well! Stunning!

  19. Avatar

    Dear Santa (Dana) I have been pretty good this year and it would be pretty awesome to win this stunning book and I know it would be a stretch, but if I could also ask for half a day to actually read it, that would be great too!

  20. Avatar

    So.. it’s a week later, and I have spent my time wisely- daydreaming about ways I could have the best year long trip around the globe- and get paid to do it.
    Options are: A) Find the best burger in the world. I’ve covered Boston- Next stop New York! B) find the best harbor in the world- for this I will need to visit all waterfront cities. C) find the best mountain in the world- although- second thoughts- this requires mountain climbing- I’m out… Option C) World’s best chocolate croissant- NOW WE ARE TALKING!! First Stop Paris!! Au revoir!

  21. Avatar

    I am going to totally judge a book by its cover… And I am in love…. Who do I sleep with/pay off/beg and plead to get to that beautiful Pezo Von Ellrichshausen house?! Swoon.


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