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Grand design … the experience of living in her Clontarf home inspired Karen McCartney to write her books about iconic Australian homes.

Karen McCartney has offered much to Australian design. She was launch editor of Inside Out magazine, has written books on architecture and design, and is now editorial director at online retailer Temple & Webster. She is warm and understated, so it's hardly surprising that her home in Sydney's Clontarf has the same attributes.

When McCartney, her design consultant and writer husband David Harrison, and their children Mac, 17, and Ava, 10, moved into their home in 2000, it was an instant love affair. "I knew I'd found a special building to let me and my family live in a different way," she says.

The understated timber-and-brick house, designed by architect Bruce Rickard in 1967, is tucked away in bushland on Middle Harbour and has spectacular views of The Spit.

The void above the kitchen is enlivened by a wall sculpture made by Catriona using wooden furniture legs from IKEA. [photo: Armelle Habib] Click for more photos

Home of the week

The void above the kitchen is enlivened by a wall sculpture made by Catriona using wooden furniture legs from IKEA. [photo: Armelle Habib]

"Even though the footprint of the home is small, clever design compensates," says McCartney. "The open-plan living space has privacy nooks, but we still feel connected with one another. Its natural materials and seamless blending of indoors and out have been executed perfectly, without feeling like we live in a overheated glasshouse.

"The architecture style of our house keeps me on track, and doesn't let me fall into fashion fads."