The Storytellers: Katelin Butler | Houses Magazine (Australia)

April 11, 2016Ben Morgan


Photo | Jonathan Butler

In one post each month, we will be focusing on a different journalist, editor or other storyteller, helping to highlight who they are, what they publish and the stories behind the stories…

Katelin Butler is the Editor of Australian publication Houses magazine – part of Architecture Media, which includes Architecture Australia, Artichoke, Houses, Kitchens+Bathrooms, Landscape Architecture Australia, Architectural Product News, and

Coming from an architecture background herself – with a Bachelor of Environmental Design from the University of Tasmania and a Master of Architecture from the University of Melbourne – Katelin has worked across a number of titles at Architecture Media for over 10 years, and has also co-edited two books, The Forever House: Time-Honoured Australian Homes (2014) and The Terrace House: Reimagined for the Australian Way of Life (2015), both published by Thames and Hudson.

We took some time to ask Katelin about her work and find out her tips for getting published in Houses and other publications…

What’s involved in your role at Houses?

My role at Houses is quite varied – from making the magazine itself (choosing projects, commissioning writers, laying out the pages) to researching speakers for our Design Speaks conferences, judging the Houses Awards or MC-ing one of our talk series. The role of the editor has definitely expanded and changed over the last ten years – it involves much more than just creating a magazine!

How long have you been with Houses magazine and how has the magazine changed over the years?

I was appointed editor in mid 2011, but was working on Houses for a year or so prior to this. In 2010, Cameron Bruhn and I re-launched the magazine. There was a good formula in place, but with a refreshed look and the addition of a couple new of article types, such as the well-received “Revisited” series, we hope that Houses is always getting better and better.

Houses magazine has two types of readership – architects and designers and then their clients, and anyone who is inspired by the way architects and designers are enhancing the way we live today. Due to this diverse readership, I see Houses as an opportunity to broaden the conversation about architecture. Architecture is for everyone, not just architects. Using Houses and its suite of awards programs and events, we’re trying to promote architecture and help people understand the importance of good design. This means that it must be accessible – and not include too much “archispeak.”

Photo | Lara Masselos

One article series in Houses that aims to demystify the role of the architect is Our Houses. This comes from one of our talk series of the same title. Here, we want to look beyond the finished, picture–perfect result, to explore the architect-client relationship. We interview the clients on their experience of working with an architect – how they prepared, how the process and results met their expectations and ask them for any advice for those looking to work with an architect.

Another important aspect of Houses is the role it plays in promoting emerging architecture and design practices. Many first projects are renovations or extensions to houses. This means we’re on the forefront of discovering new practices – I think this is a really exciting part of my job.

What are the most common questions you ask architects and designers? Or what would you most like to know?

When choosing projects, I am looking for an interesting story or narrative – what is the point of difference in this project and why would Houses readers be interested in it? I think the best articles are reviews of projects that have a strong concept or idea that is carried through the design. It’s also important that the project has at least one good takeaway – so that our readers are inspired or can learn something from it. For example, there might be two houses on a site that used to hold one, and there’s a message about new housing models and the benefits of increasing density and sharing amenity.

Once we’ve agreed to publish a project, we always send out an official information sheet to be filled out – that gives us key data such as the floor area, budget and list of consultants.

What are your top five tips to architects and designers who would like to be published in Houses?

  1. Design great projects and tell us about it! Don’t be shy. The worst that can happen is that we don’t publish the project – but at least your practice ends up on our radar. Make sure you keep sending us projects, even if the first doesn’t make it through to publication.
  2. Invest in good, professional photography that is appropriately inhabited with furniture, objects etc. People and animals also help to bring a space to life.
  3. Write up a short (we won’t have time to read too much) description of the project. An interesting client, an unusual brief, for example – as mentioned before, we want to know what your point of difference is. Aim to draw out stories and narratives and to connect these to architectural processes and intent, don’t just talk about form and concept.
  4. It is important to have a good set of presentation drawings at hand. Plans, sections, elevations and any beautiful conceptual sketches you might have.
  5. Have an active social media account – a good Instagram account can do the pitching for you! (But be careful with sharing too much information about a project prior to publication.)

When selecting projects for each issue of Houses, what key things are you looking for?

Of course, the most important thing is that the project has merit. This doesn’t mean that it is to our taste necessarily, but that we can see an interesting concept or solution to a difficult brief or site.

We are interested in projects that reveal the way that a house, through occupation, becomes a home – the architectural ideas, and the people and products behind them.

We try to make sure there is a good cross section of projects from around Australia in each issue of Houses. This means that we’re looking for different scales, budgets, types, locations and aesthetics.

We’re looking for quality, innovation and creativity – presented in photographs in an engaging and accessible way.

Are there any rules or guidelines around what you will and won’t publish? In particular, are there any projects you just don’t want to see landing in your inbox?

Before you approach any publication, it is best to do your research. It is important to carefully manage your project’s exposure and to be critical of how this is done. Consideration of what you are trying to achieve from the publicity is vital: Do you want new clients? Respect from within the profession? To build your practice’s identity?

For example, if you have a residential project, Houses is a good magazine in terms of attracting new clients – we have a reasonably large audited circulation figure and 40 percent of these readers aren’t designers themselves, but rather are seriously considering employing an architect or designer. Newspapers and other lifestyle media are also worth pursuing if you are looking for clients – but you need to make sure the focus on your work isn’t lost in a story on a client, for example. On the other hand, if you are keen for respect within the profession, it is better to choose a more industry-focused publication, such as Architecture Australia. If you are looking for clients for public or commercial projects, you might approach a magazine such as the Financial Review.

Photo | Timothy Burgess

On this point, the process of publishing is collegiate within the Architecture Media office – we often share and discuss the various projects and work out which project suits which publication.

Often magazines will ask for first rights to publish a project – we do this to benefit everyone. More projects are published and all the magazines aren’t filled with the same thing! This makes it even more important to get it right from the beginning. This might also affect how you promote your project online – perhaps you might put a few key images online, but don’t put it all out there at once. You’ll get a longer run for your money.

For example, with Houses, I ask that the project not be offered to other competing architectural publications, such as Habitus, Inside, Indesign etc. For Houses, this extends to include competing Australian online publications, such as Indesign Live, Habitus Online or Australian Design Review. I’d also prefer it wasn’t already on international sites, such as Architizer (mainly to avoid over exposure). As for blogs or other practice websites, it doesn’t matter if it has already been posted there – as this isn’t in direct competition with the magazine. Once it’s been in Houses first, it doesn’t bother us where the project goes. This is the same for all our publications at Architecture Media.

What are you looking for from project photography? Any tips?

Once you’ve chosen the publication you want to target, you need to make sure you are in a position to sell your project. This means investing in good, professional photography – a project won’t perform as well as it could if it’s not photographed well. There are great photographers out there and they’ll have their own ideas of how to photograph the buildings. Also – photographers are always in touch with me about who’s doing what project, so it’s a good way to get your work noticed.

In terms of the actual photography itself, we won’t publish anything that appears to be uninhabited. Bringing the spaces to life with furniture, objects, dogs and children allows our readers to imagine themselves in the house. It also gives a sense of scale and demonstrates how the spaces are intended for use.

Quite specifically, night or dusk shots don’t print very well. The images look lovely on the backlit screen, but they tend to be heavy on the pages of a magazine.

What projects are you looking for at the moment, or for upcoming issues? Is there anything that’s in short supply, of which you’d like to see more?

I’m always on the scout for new projects. We don’t usually theme issues other than each year’s August issue, which includes the results from the Houses Awards. (By the way, entering awards programs is a great way to get exposure for projects – even being on the shortlist can get you generous media coverage in newspapers, blogs etc.)

I’d like to see more projects from South Australia, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory – I don’t get sent many projects from these states and territories. Also, I’d be keen to see more projects from regional areas across Australia.

I’m keen to get more apartments into the magazine – as density increases, I think it’s important to show this type of living space and how designers are creating housing models that will benefit the financial, social and environmental future of our cities.

Houses Magazine

Why not also keep in touch with Houses magazine and Katelin on Instagram…

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