9-11 May 2023
ICC Sydney


Lets face it, if you engage an architect to renovate or build a new home, the probability is that you’re not looking for something that appears ‘cookie-cutter made’. However, with the cost of real estate heading north, in line with the cost of building, it’s not surprising that architectural briefs err on the side of caution.

What is the market showing for a renovated house in the area? Which houses tend to fetch the highest prices? It’s only natural that answers to these questions are posed before architectural schemes are presented? But are people becoming more adventurous, designing homes that suit their needs, rather than one dictated to by resale and the housing market?

Flexibility of design for the long term

Architect Clare Cousins, who spoke on a related panel at 米6米乐体育 2018, specialises in high-end residential work, designing new homes and renovating period homes. “Some clients come to us with a clear brief about what they need, such as number of bedrooms, but aren’t overly prescriptive about what it should look like,” says Cousins. “Generally, they are mindful of resale as it’s the largest investment in their lives, but they’re open to ideas, and keen to look at new materials,” she adds.

According to Cousins, having a strong connection to the back garden from kitchen and living areas not only makes financial sense, in terms of resale, but also responds to the way most people live today. Other features, such as ensuite bathrooms to main bedrooms, are also favoured. However, there are always exceptions. “We’re working on a house at the moment where there’s no ensuite to a main bedroom, but rather a series of smaller bathrooms that the entire family can use. That certainly isn’t a decision driven by the market,” says Cousins.

Cousins initiates a design by sitting down with clients and asking them how they live now, as well as how long they want to stay in their home? “We’re mindful of creating sustainable homes that at least give people the option of staying for the long term, from having toddlers, to having university students still living at home,” says Cousins. “Spaces should be flexible enough to allow for different ages,” she adds.

Richard Earle, a director of Jellis Craig real estate agents, sees a number of different trends in the marketplace. According to Earle, one of the market segments is the ‘baby boomers’, scaling down from their large family homes. “They’re willing to pay top dollar for something that’s more adventurous, or renovate something that responds to their needs, rather than following the market,” says Earle. In contrast, Earle identifies a younger market, renovating for a quick sale. “This group tends to watch all the television shows. The renovation may appear sharp on first inspection, but it’s not quality. You could say there’s smart wallpaper, but the quality of light hasn’t changed with the renovation”. And then there’s the young family with school-age children who tend to renovate with a 10-year plan to stay. “Often these are smaller renovations, but with every move, there’s a motivation to sell at some point and interest in what the market is responding to,” adds Earle.

Is the design industry becoming ‘faddish’? 

Architect Tim O’Sullivan, director of Multiplicity, also on the panel, sees a dichotomy in the marketplace. On one hand, he sees design as a desirable commodity and reaching a broader audience. However, on the other he sees the industry as becoming ‘faddish’. “We had the rough exposed industrial look, with exposed bricks and concrete floors. Now it seems to be headed to the post-modernist pastel look (think 1980s),” says O’Sullivan, who sees this trend as benefiting sales of finishes, such as tiles. “But a home isn’t about fashion, following a look,” he adds.

Project: gaby gaby hey. Photo credit: Emma Cross Photography

Multiplicity is fortunate to attract fairly adventurous clients, many of whom want a home that says something rather than just being a ‘utilitarian box’. One client, for example, handed the practice a brief that included an outdoor laundry, as she didn’t like the smell of detergents. “When we said most people want an indoor laundry, she didn’t care. It was her home and the way she chose to live,” says O’Sullivan.

Although some potential clients walking through the Multiplicity office for the first time might talk about ‘resale’, that type of client is generally not prepared to look at something more adventurous, or more importantly, something that captures the way in which they live. Likewise, those announcing they want ‘an award-winning house or renovation’ are also seen with caution. “An award- winning design generally doesn’t come from either direction. Usually, we are handed quite a complex brief and it’s about finding solutions, not by following market trends,” adds O’Sullivan.

Project: gaby gaby hey. Photo credit: Emma Cross Photography

O’Sullivan regularly attends open-for-inspections on weekends, gravitating to homes that have a special quality, ‘off-offs’. “You are going to find many people raising eyebrows. But there’s also that small group of people who haven’t seen anything like this before and will keep their ‘arm in the air’until they’re handed the keys,” he adds.

Clare Cousins Architects can be contacted on 9329 2888
Multiplicity can be contacted on 9388 0790

About the Author: Stephen Crafti

Stephen Crafti has been writing about design and architecture since the early 1990’s and is a regular contributor to 米6米乐体育. Inspired by the architecture around him in Melbourne, Australia, he was keen to share the things he saw, whether buildings, furniture, fashion or other stunning pieces of contemporary design. After many years of wri ting about his favourite things, and with numerous books and articles behind him, Crafti still delights in discovering and promoting exhilarating design. He is a regular contributor to several Australian newspapers and local and international design magazines.

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