Five years ago it seemed every second person used to say “safe as houses”, or you would hear a story at a barbecue of a couple who made hundreds of thousands with the sale of a home that they sold just two years after purchasing, adding only a lick of paint.
This was the norm and it created a country of people who largely thought the housing bubble was here to stay. But much like Holden’s manufacturing plants, it’s gone. This trend is known as the “anchoring effect”; it is when something used to be good and you continue to believe it’s good even as it’s showing more and more signs that it isn’t, and then finally it changes and you find yourself saying “how did that happen?”
It doesn’t mean doom and gloom or that houses will be selling for 63% less like they did in America. We have a totally different economy in Australia; one where everything moves a bit slower. In a way, it’s an opportunity for maturity and evolution on how we approach housing in Australia. We are experiencing a shift in the value of a home and that empowers us to demand more bang for our buck; to have a home that looks good and is well designed.
So, if you are currently planning on building or renovating a home, here are some things to keep in mind:
Do not design for the market
While the bubble was alive and well, a lot of advice was offered to homeowners by real estate agents. After all, they do get first-hand experience in what the market is demanding.
The downside to this is it created a self-perpetuating cycle where the agents would tell homeowners to build 4 bedroom + 2 bathroom homes. Yet we have an ageing population; couples are having fewer children than in the past and there are professional singles and couples who don’t intend to have kids. The good news is that there are massive opportunities to create a great home just for you, which can down the track also be a great home for others who share your situation.
Have space to change
Gone is the home theatre with its lack of natural light and air. Sometimes dubbed the “multi-use” room, good designers are now helping owners create flexible and adaptable spaces. Through good design and home automation, a multi-use space can be a dimly lit yoga studio at night, a light-filled, productive office by day or host a pumping dinner party on Saturday night.
Or it can allow for flexibility to grow and change as you do. Traditionally, houses are designed as finished structures and don’t encourage you to change or modify them with ease. This is slowly starting to change though and there will be a big shift towards this flexible approach in coming years.
Focus on the inside
A home plays a large part in how we feel each morning when we get up to start our day and each night as we wind down. Current research on the physical and mental health impacts of our home’s interior is still in its infancy, but some of the results are already starting to prove why we need to increase our focus on this aspect.
In a study run on apartment living, researchers found that occupants who customised their space with furniture and belongings recorded significantly higher mental health benefits and were sick less than those who lived in an already furnished space. Interesting, isn’t it?
Another study measured the impact ceiling heights can have on us. It found that higher ceilings promote feelings of freedom, whilst lower ceiling promote feelings of confinement. It also identified that our perception of a room’s furnishings change due to its ceiling height. The higher the ceiling, the less crude features we notice and the more we see the items as being sleek and well designed. This in part, explains what sometimes happens when you buy a rug or piece of furniture that looks great in the showroom, yet when you take it home it looks totally different.
Aside from having high ceilings and filling a home with your style, designing a home that gives you energy and relief from the hustle and bustle can be done by:
- Incorporating greenery internally
- Framing views to the garden and outdoor plantings
- Using natural materials such as stone and wood
- Using textured and matte paints
- Proper placement of furnishings
- Get home smart
Good design needs to be more than the physical look of a home. It must also relate to how it functions, how much it costs to operate and how comfortable it is as the seasons change. Institutions such as Passivhaus use non-conventional building methods and techniques to achieve superior building performance efficiencies, and we are seeing more builders use insulated panels for walls and roofing to achieve good performance levels.
How to design your future home
With fast-moving renovation shows gaining in popularity, we can sometimes impose a deadline on ourselves and rush into getting a designer for our home. The most important time to spend on your project is in the planning phase; ideally before you engage a designer. The designer will be able to do a better job if you are clear on what you want to achieve. Keep in mind this differs from what you want to build!
For instance “I want to extend my home to add an open plan living area that looks onto a landscaped garden and pool”, this is what you want to build, but the more important question is what you want to achieve. What problem are you solving? If we approach this based on the problem we are solving, it might sound more like this: “My partner and I both work full time and want to come home and be able to leave our phones at the door and switch off. We want somewhere we can read, relax and entertain with ease”. The latter statement is more thought-provoking and will allow your designer to draw more out of it and ultimately create a better end result.
The benefit of this approach is it allows the designer to explore what it is that will give you this result. They may find that a pool and landscaped garden is not what you actually want as it results in continuous maintenance. Above all – design your home for you, not the market and not your neighbours!
Thank you to our guest contributor Sam Payne, President BDAWA & Business Coach to Architects. If you would like to understand what your reasons for building or renovating are email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line FREE DESIGN BRIEF and he will email you a copy of his design success tool that helps you create the right brief, to get the right home.