What can your house offer you?

Mosman House by Annabelle Chapman Architect

It is fascinating to witness the ever changing landscape and lifestyle of our suburbs.  As the meeting places between our rural and agricultural environment and the innovation, amenity and trade of our cities, they bring with them a wide range of personal views and beliefs. 

In our homes, some seek a dwelling that can promote our sense of aspiration and provides a springboard for engaging with our environment, communities and cities.  Others feel too caught up with the pace of modern life and seek a place of refuge and security within which they can find peace and tranquility. Some have chosen to live in the suburbs, whilst others do so due to external factors such as cost of living or proximity to family or community.

What do you seek in a home, and if ‘home is where the heart is’ then what about our soul?  At the risk of sounding too ‘deep and meaningful’, building or purchasing a new home is one of your greatest opportunities to make decisions that can enhance your way of life, lift your soul, and to show the world who you are and what you believe in.

We propose that these considerations in the design of your home will not only improve your physical and emotional well-being, it will allow you to better understand how you picture yourself and your way of living in this modern world. 

Hawthorn Villa by McManus Lew Architects

Have you ever stopped to consider how the design of your home can influence, either in a positive or negative way, the way that you live your life?  Does it reflect you and your values so that you can live life at is fullest, or do you feel that it constrains you and holds you back? Before you start thinking about how many bedrooms and bathrooms you need in your house, understanding who you are and how your home can complement or improve your lifestyle is essential.  As an architect this is one of the first questions I am seeking to explore with a client so that the design responds to their ‘human experience’ and not just their functional requirements.

Tent House by Sparks Architects

For example, do you love the great outdoors?  Would you be happy if your home was simply a very secure ‘tent’ that brought you closer to the environment?  A simple structure with a straightforward layout that can be opened up to bring the outside in and then easily closed down when you are not home?

Do you seek peace and serenity from your home away from the pace of the urban life around us with a sense of security?  Perhaps you live in a digital world, or spend your time relaxing watching movies or reading a book on the couch.  In this case you wish to spend your time inside the house with various spaces of different sizes, and able to block out the light and noise to create your own personal, more intimate place of comfort.

Lake Wendouree Residence by John Wardle Architects

Skylight House by Andrew Burges Architects

Or, are you a home entertainer whose life is centered around the enjoyment of good friends and great food with a focus on the kitchen and living areas?  Where the location of the accommodation rooms in the house take a back stage to an amazing space where you can celebrate special events with your family and friends and enjoy each other’s company?

An honest assessment of who you are and what your home can offer you is an important first step in improving your experience of place and space.  Once understood, this level of understanding forms the starting point for the design of any new home or the selection criteria when looking to buy and existing home. 

You could think of this as a kind of ‘concept for living’, it forms the organizational structure around which our home can grow and evolve over time as our needs and those of our family also change.  Bedrooms can be added, bathrooms and kitchens renovated.  However short of undertaking a ‘knock down rebuild’ it is much more difficult to change the entire organization of your living spaces in the home once these are in place, a very expensive undertaking to both you and the environment when careful planning from the outset can address this.

And you can enjoy the process of learning more about yourself and your family too!

Where to begin?

With so many things to consider and decisions to be made, where do you begin?

It may seem obvious but before you can even think about where your new home is, what inclusions it should have or what it should look like, you need to have a clear position on the budget for your new home especially, if like most, you require a bank loan of some form.   The same applies to refurbishment or alteration and additions projects.  Imagine you were going to an auction, you would have in mind the price you are able to spend and often a ‘whatever you do don’t go higher then…’ number too!

Issues often arise when financial decisions made during the process of selecting or designing a home are made without considering your overall project budget, and methods of managing your budget such as contingencies for unexpected challenges you may face along the way are not factored in.  You also need to identify and allow for costs that you will need to pay along the way such as Council and authority taxes and levies, professional services fees and services connection costs.  The adage ‘if you fail to plan, you plan to fail’ applies here.

Site preparation and in ground structure and services can often be the source of additional costs.

If you are looking to move to a new location and with funding and budget in place, you need to invest time into finding a site or existing house in a community that you feel comfortable in, close to essentials such as transport, schools, shops and others.  This time is a great opportunity to think outside the box and look outside the areas you may have already considered for hidden gems or ‘up and coming’ areas. 

Once you start to think about the house itself you need to take the time to understand what is important to you and your family and how these should inform the planning principles of your home.  This will help you list out your ‘must have’ items in designing your home or researching relevant house packages and plans that appeal to you if you are buying off the plan.  If you are seeking to custom design your home, speaking with an architect before engaging them is important to establish if you feel you can establish a trusting working relationship in designing your home, as in investigating different house builders and the quality of their work if you are looking at home packages.

Early planning of orientation for your home can lead to significant improvements in healthy living conditions and reductions in the cost to run your home.

Source: Sustainable Energy Authority Victoria

But the journey of planning and designing your home does not finish here, there remains many aspects of your project that you should pay attention to in order to get the most enjoyment and financial returns from your property beyond simply selecting the finishes and fixtures for your home.

Can you identify the orientation of your property and is it designed to allow sunlight into your home during the cooler months but keep it out during summer, providing natural light year round?  In addition to reducing your household energy consumption and utility bills, scientific research shows that your body is more comfortable, less stressed, is more attentive and has a reduced risk of illness in these environments. 

Camp Hill House by Twohill and James

Has your home been designed to breathe?  Throughout the day your indoor environment is affected by elements such as temperature, odours and micro particles such as dust and pollen.  The ability to open up your home and encourage ventilation to remove these elements is very important in maintaining healthy levels of indoor air quality.  Whilst air conditioning can perform some of this task, not only does it cost more than opening some windows but it relies on recycling large amounts of internal air which means that to run efficiently it is recirculating the same stale air rather than replacing it with fresh air.

Fremantle Additions by Jonathon Lake Architects

Is your house insulated?  Where?  With what, and what for?  Again the comfort and running costs of a home are often heavily affected by the thermal and acoustic insulation that is installed within the walls and ceilings of your home, areas that are often not seen once the building work is completed.

We look forward to investigating these topics and others in more detail throughout this series.  Importantly if you have any topics you would like us to explore please leave a comment in the form below, we look forward to speaking with you soon.