Katelin Butler Editor Houses  / 
My foot in the door

story / Interview / August 15, 2016

My strength in Architecture school was writing about architectural theory. I’d procrastinate from my design studio work by writing the essays for my theory subjects. I’ve always had an interest in media and communications, even before I started studying architecture. At the end of the first Bachelor degree, I thought about the possibility of going into architectural publishing. It’s such a niche area in Australia that it seemed nearly impossible.

One of my lecturers at UTAS wrote for Architecture Australia. I asked her if she could get in touch with the editor, who was Justine Clark at the time. They interviewed me at Architecture Media and said, ‘we’ve never had a student before and we don’t have time to teach you, so let’s just see what happens.’ At the time I was working all day in a cafe and all night in a bar just to make ends meet. I dropped all that as soon as I got the offer from Architecture Media. That was ten years ago now.

Houses is somewhere between Vogue Living and AA; it’s an architectural publication for people who are interested in design, or seriously thinking of using an architect. Houses has to be accessible to everyone. It’s not just architects, talking to architects about architecture. It’s an opportunity to promote architecture and architects. A lot of people don’t fully understand what architects do. Houses is appealing to a wider audience as it’s easy to relate to and all the houses are beautiful. I hope we’re helping people to understand the benefits of good architecture.

These days, being editor is not just about making a magazine. It’s also about creating events, symposiums, awards programs, websites and making connections. I’m always scouting for different projects and article ideas – talking to architects and photographers, scouring social media and sifting through my inbox. I then link together who will write about those projects. Being present in the industry and making the right connections is very important. It’s also important to make sure that the right people are approaching you as well.

When I was made editor in 2011, I really had to work on having a public profile and what that means. It’s not easy and it didn’t come naturally to me. I always thought you had to be a big personality and networking was quite superficial. This didn’t really sit right with me, so I found my own way. For me, networking is about genuinely making friends with people. Actually being myself.

The way we live is evolving in Australia. Increasing density is one way it’s changing and this affects how and what types of homes are being designed. For example, two smaller houses or a duplex in the place of a single home. The age-old Australian dream is starting to shift, albeit slowly. The Grattan Institute has done studies to show that people prefer to stay in the city and they are happy to live in a medium-density apartment building with a family, as opposed to going out into the outer suburbs with a backyard. That shows there has been a shift. Watching these changes and being part of that commentary is pretty exciting.

I get a lot of young females coming to me and asking how I got into architectural publishing. The industry is so tiny in Australia. It’s really important to talk to people because you never know where that conversation may lead. You create opportunities for yourself, by always doing that. I always say that I was lucky, but my brother always says, ‘No Katelin, you weren’t lucky, you made the opportunity happen and you made it work for you.’

My mother’s is such an amazing role model for me. She’s a strong, independant woman – she had four kids and worked the entire time! She’s the reason I am where I am today. When I ever feel overwhelmed or stressed, she’s always said to me, ‘just put one foot in front of the other.’ You need to just chip away at it, and you’ll eventually get there. I think that’s good advice for an editor. There’s always many balls in the air that you’re trying to juggle – sometimes you can feel like you’re drowning, but you’ve just got to keep juggling!

Katelin is a very busy women. Editor of Australia’s leading residential architecture magazine at such a young age, she puts her success down to passion and hard work. She always knew what she wanted to pursue publishing and never let any hurdle get in the way of achieving her dream. Noting, of course, that it didn’t come true overnight. We met her at Small Bar in South Melbourne for a drink after work on Thursday night. It’s inspiring to hear stories from your peers when they are so different from your own. Congratulations Katelin! We can see there is plenty more to come! 

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