Chat with us, powered by LiveChatHome trends - flexible and connected

Home trends - flexible and connected

Economics and the desire for more space are changing the way we craft our homes. Here's six trends that are emerging. 1) Getting flexible 1 There's a big push to make spaces in homes more flexible. There are two main drivers. One: Technology. Think laptops, smart phones and tablets which can move around easily, have swallowed up whole CD, DVD and book collections in their travels, and have pushed the TV's relevance somewhat down the order. Two: Affordability and smaller block sizes. Given the expense of building and maintaining larger homes, and the cost of bigger plots of land, doing more with less is evidently the smart way to go. In Melbourne, architect Rob Mills is designing plenty of moveable walls, which are historically more common in commercial settings. Literally they're just sliding walls, "There's a real trick to it, they've got to be something that's manageable for even a child to operate. There is some expense in the mechanisms but it's worth it". Although a lot of houses built from the '50s to the '70s in Australia had sliding glass doors separating the dining and lounge, or sometimes the living and sleeping quarters, Mills argues walls are more effective. "Glass doesn't succeed because it's not a visual separation, people want both", he says. Japanese developer Sekisui House came to Australia two years ago after buying AV Jennings and forming joint ventures with Lend Lease, and given the Japanese ability to make small spaces beautifully, their timing is perfect in many ways. Sekisui House has built two million homes in Japan since 1960."We are now seeing demand for rooms with more than one use, this is mainly to increase family interaction and connectivity", says Paul Wainwright, Sekisui's marketing and operations manager. "It's now not uncommon to see an open-plan kitchen with a connecting open-plan study or home office so that mum and dad can keep an eye on the kids while they're preparing dinner". Pack away the laptops and books and the space can easily morph into an extra eating area, craft zone or display bench, yet because it's not the dining table or the breakfast bar, there's not that annoyance factor of clutter that needs to be moved every time you want to cook or eat. 2) Seeking nature 2 Mills says the way we connect to outdoor spaces has matured and Australians are now making indoor / outdoor spaces feel one and the same. That doesn't mean using the exact same materials indoors and out but for Mills it's about creating the appearance that you have. "It's more a colour thing, it's a visual thing" he says. "The backyard isn't the only outdoor space in demand. Access to the outdoors; whether through the location of windows, a central courtyard or proximity to the local park; is climbing the list of 'must-haves",'says Wainwright. 3) Goodbye ceiling acne 3 LED globes have made downlights a lot more efficient than the old 50-watt energy-hungry halogens of the past, but there is still a push against the pockmarked look that can result when ceilings are, literally, littered with downlights. "It used to be everyone would fill their ceilings full of stuff", says Sydney architect Adam Pressley of All Australian Architecture. "You'd have 50 downlights and you'd have smoke detectors and speakers and all sorts of stuff everywhere, and the ceilings really did get cluttered. Not only that, but everywhere you had a light, you also had to leave a hole in your insulation". While LED lights have come along way in the last couple of years, Pressley says there remains a shortage of "really good LED uplighting solutions". However, thin LED strip lighting, which can be concealed, is giving architects and interior designers some scope to create interesting highlights in homes, and pendants are now firmly popular. 4. Hello sunshine 4 There is a greater awareness of working with the elements in designing homes, pushed in part by the mandated increases in energy efficiency for new homes and major renovations. In Perth, architect John Lewis, of John Lewis Architects, has noticed clients are much more willing to look at shading devices; with new-look aluminium shutters now on the list. See and for some examples. In Sydney, Pressley is pushing more clients to consider solar. "The panels have come down so much in price that it's still very good, so people should be considering that", he says. Despite the winding back of government incentives, Pressley argues the payback times remains similar. He recently did the sums on his own array. "I looked at our place and I think it's between four and five years, which I think it quite a reasonable time". 5. Pre-fab makes its mark 5 "Pre-fabrication is one style of building that buyers are exploring more", says Wainwright. "They want the convenience of an early completion date and these homes can provide it". Given Sekisui House specialises in pre-fabricated homes, it's certainly a trend the company hopes will stick. "Pre-engineered construction in Australia has typically been associated with reduced construction time, but also a perceived reduced quality", says Wainwright. "But we've noticed that home buyers are more willing to look at a variety of building methods and materials". 6. Digging deep 6 "Basements are becoming popular in well-to-do homes in Western Australia", says Lewis. At $1500 a square metre, basements often range from 140 square metres (about $210,000) to 300 square metres (about $450,000). That sounds pricey but Lewis says in the areas where his clients are buying in Perth, it works out to be about half the cost of purchasing that much space in land. "Land is so expensive. It's almost like buying cheap land, doing a basement" Lewis says. As well as being used for garaging cars, basements are also housing media rooms and "modern man caves" as Lewis calls them. Source: