Category Archives: Homa and Garden

Blow your renovation budget

Renovation costs always blow out no matter how much you try to keep them under control. It’s usually because we want more than they we can afford. Our experts have heaps of experience in renovations and would like to share some golden rules with you. We feel these will help you keep your projects on or under budget.

DIY as much as you can. Do the painting and get a flat pack kitchen. However Tiling is also not that difficult and there are heaps of DIY books out there – just hire a professional to do the waterproofing if you are unsure of that part. Read our article DIY Renovation Tips for more information.
Go through the tendering process with 3 plumbers or builders – if they are too high for your liking wait 6 months and try the process again or keep getting quotes until someone comes in at the price you are happy with. I am always amazed at tender differences if you are prepared to be patient.
Never buy any PC items like bathtubs, taps or basins at regular price. Wait for a sale, or go to builders and other applicable auctions. Your local newspaper will have a building supplies section selling anything from pre-loved windows to new baths and granite pavers.
Confirm your plans and budget and stick to it. This may sound simple but it is where most people ruin their budget.
Ask yourself ‘Is it a need or a want?’. Yes you need a tap but you don’t need a tap that is $400 dollars. A lot of small savings add up to thousands of dollars very quickly.
Stage your construction into financially manageable amounts and be strong, renovations can be frustrating to live in but would you rather be frustrated or have the pressure of a bigger mortgage?
Keep a log book of invoices and receipts so you have a mental record of costs. Once you see how much things cost you are less likely to splurge on that new heated towel rail.
By following these simple rules you will save a great deal of money and will also be mentally satisfied with your renovation.

Whether you are renovating your home for more space

If you plan to live in a property for 10 years or more, it is difficult to imagine that you could overcapitalise when renovating, as the value of your property will have risen due to rising land values and demand in the market. However, it is still worth considering the effect that your renovations will have on the value of the property. There is no point wasting precious dollars on improvements that don’t increase your eventual sale price. And worse, some improvements can be detrimental to the value of your property.

For instance, if you live in an area that is popular with families, outdoor living space will be seen as a major benefit when people are comparing homes for sale. But if your renovation extends so far into your outdoor space that there is no room for children to play, you are limiting the eventual market for your property and adversely affecting its resale value.

Another factor you should consider when deciding on your renovation plans is the number of bedrooms you will be left with. Sometimes it is tempting to combine a living area with a bedroom so that the living area is more spacious. But if this means losing a bedroom, the value of your property may be adversely affected.

Before you finalise your renovation plans and your budget, do some careful research in your suburb to see whether your investment will be recouped. For instance, if you plan to do a $200,000 renovation and your property is currently worth $400,000, are there other similarly sized properties in your area that are worth $600,000? Or is there a ceiling price of $500,000? No matter how amazing your property looks when it is finished, it will still be compared with similar sized properties in your area. If you can scale back your plans to spend $100,000 rather than $200,000, you are less likely to be overcapitalising. Every suburb has a ceiling price, whether it is $350,000 or $2.5 million, and you should take this into account when investing in a renovation.

Below are some improvements that are winners when it comes to adding value to a property:

Bathroom (ensuite or an extra bathroom upstairs or downstairs)
New kitchen (with more bench space, new appliances and neutral designs)
Open-plan living area with doors opening onto an outdoor entertaining area
Built in storage in bedrooms, laundries and even living rooms
Larger windows or glass doors that bring light into small houses
Extra bedroom (in a loft space or a second story)
Off street and undercover parking which wasn’t available previously
Ducted air conditioning throughout the house

Making the best use of the existing building

Deciding whether to renovate an older building, or knock it down and rebuild, can be difficult. The decision to favour renovation hangs heavily upon determining whether the existing building has sufficient merit. Caroline Pidcock and Jeremy Spencer explain their different methodologies for determining whether or not to renovate, and how to make best use of the existing building.

What must we look for in the existing building?
When starting a new project with great aspirations, why would you think about keeping the building that already exists on the site? Especially if it does not work exactly with your new design concept.

Reasons for keeping the old
Apart from the financial benefits or heritage requirements, perhaps you might be drawn to the idea of making use of existing materials and all that has gone into their manufacture and construction, particularly their embodied energy. Or perhaps you might like to retain and celebrate the cultural and social history that is an essential part of their story. Or enjoy the design challenges that retention imposes on the project, something a blank canvas does not offer.

History has shown that building structure will always outlive function and this means there will always be a constant supply of existing buildings ready for reuse. Therefore, there are many good reasons to spend some time examining whether working with existing buildings is a worthwhile pursuit before deciding otherwise.

When first approaching a new project with an existing building, issues to consider include:

Orientation of the building and creative options for working positively with this to improve the solar access and protection from the elements
Quality of the building fabric and construction and if this is sound enough to be suitable for the future
Thermal performance of the building envelope and if this should and can be improved to give better control over energy movement
Social or cultural relevance of the design, construction and /or development, and if this can be respected and extended

Solve problem for the wheater

Over the last 10 years, Australian local governments have implemented systems like BASIX (in NSW) to encourage homeowners to design and build new homes that are energy efficient as well as thermally comfortable to live in. But what about new homes that seem to slip through the cracks on compliance, or the vast majority of Australian homes that are not new? How can these homes be altered to enhance their energy efficiency, thermal comfort and overall functionality? Well, its actually not that difficult, you just need to follow some important tips.

1. Install insulation
If you can only afford to spend a minimal amount on improving the energy efficiency of your home, spend it firstly on insulation. A house loses heat initially through the ceiling, then the walls and lastly the floor. So always insulate your ceilings first for the most noticeable increase in internal warmth and energy savings.

2. Reduce open plan spaces where possible
Reduce open plan spaces to limit warm or cool air escaping into areas that are not frequently used or outside. This includes:

Fixing drafty doors and windows with new seals
Disconnecting living spaces from sleeping spaces (so you are only heating what you need to)
3. Ventilation solutions for hot, damp and cold spaces
If you have rooms that are either oriented to the west or south, or always seem to be hot, musty, damp or cold, there are many things you can do to fix these problems.

Improve natural flow-through ventilation to remove hot air. Work out where the summer breezes on your site are coming from. Are there windows on this side of your house? Positioning window openings correctly will help cool your house in summer, but be careful not to create an entry for the harsh western sun that will overheat the space.
Mechanically ventilate mouldy and stuffy spaces to create healthy and fresh rooms
If you can’t naturally remove hot air from your new home or renovated home, try mechanical ventilation. There is a product called a Solar Air Module (SAM) that is a natural, solar powered, air-moving system. It ventilates thermally uncomfortable spaces, saving on heating and cooling bills, while ensuring a healthy indoor climate. The SAM costs nothing to run and if your home has been planned correctly you can use the system in place of a standard air-conditioner for the entire house.

How to design your own home

The home design process can be a tricky juggling act. The nine steps below will teach you the basics of the process that is followed by architects and building designers in the building industry. Follow this process and you will have a better chance of designing a home that functions well and looks appealing.

Tools you will need
Sketch paper: you can buy purpose-made ‘Butter Paper’ from an art supply shop, but baking paper works just as well and can be purchased from your local supermarket for around $1.50 a roll.
A3 Drafting board: these boards are portable and come with a rule that attaches horizontally to the board. It can be purchased from an art or drafting supply shop for about $150.00.
Adjustable set square: this item is an adjustable clear plastic triangle that is essential in producing straight, angled, and vertical lines. This can also be purchased at an art supply outlet or drafting supply shop for around $30.00.
Pencil: you can purchase a specialised drafting pencil (clutch pencil) but a standard lead (graphite) pencil will do fine. If you do purchase a clutch pencil buy one with a very thin lead otherwise. you will then need to buy a clutch pencil sharpener which is different from a regular pencil sharpener.
Eraser: white Stanley erasers are the easiest to use and you can purchase these from the supermarket.
Rule: you can use a regular rule for drafting in 1:100 scale but if you want to draw your building at a smaller or larger scale you will need a scale rule from a drafting shop. These typically cost $10.00.

The nine new home design steps shown above summarise the design process that is taught to architecture students. If it seems a little “full-on” don’t be discouraged, it just takes practice. At the very least we hope we have provided you with enough knowledge of the home design process to enhance your ability to communicate with a professional building designer or architect, speeding up the entire process of designing your new home.

Entry space for your home

The entry to your home can be a wonderfully functional space, yet many Australian homes don’t have one.

So what is an entry?
An entry is a transitional space, where your family and guests can be greeted, organised and redirected to other spaces within and around your home. Your entry needs to (not only look great) but most importantly it needs to function well for it’s intended use, and you may need more than one!
The following 3 easy steps will guide you through the design process of creating well designed entries for your home.

1. Confirm number of entries required
Most Australian homes have a front and a rear access, as a result you will need to design two separate Entries for your home. We call these entry spaces the Front entry and Mud Room (for the rear entry).

2. Performance specification
You need to think about the way you use the current entries into your home. Write a list similar to the following for both the Front entry and the Mud Room:
Front entry
Needs to have a:

Store space for shoes, handbags, coats, school bags and a broom
Seat to put on your shoes
Powder Room close to this space for tradespeople and family to use
Enough space for you and your family to be able to fit into (1m²/person is adequate)
Lay off space for side table
Covered area outside front door for 5 people (5m²)
Direct access to the car space
NOTE: The front entry space:

is usually the best place to locate a stair to an upper level
should provide visually and acoustic privacy to interior spaces of your home

olden Rules of Home Design

Designing your own home can be a very exciting undertaking. The design process is a complex juggling act and there are 6 golden rules that you should follow designing your own home.

1. Think in 3D
Professional home designers like building designers and architects are always thinking in 3D when they’re working on a new home or renovation. They are constantly incorporating and taking away design ideas in plan and in a 3D form at the same time. For some people this skill is instinctual, but it can also be learnt over time.

Thinking in the 3D form can be difficult, especially when it comes to converting your own 2D house plans into a well form and aesthetically pleasing building. Weather you have this skill or not it is essential to always think about how your ideas will look as a resolved building form or you’ll run the risk of your building looking like a plan with extruded walls and a roof stuck on top.

2. Limit amounts of different building materials
Be very careful when using more than two types of external building cladding especially on the same plane (elevation). Research precedence’s for using the materials you want together, otherwise it could result in a messy façade & water leakage into the home. Ensure that material connections are well detailed and also ensure the builder understands how these materials will join while performing their essential waterproofing requirements. A neat trick is to step the building using a different material and avoid mixing materials at all on the same elevation.

3. Use site conducive construction methods
Ensure the structure types you choose suite your site, building style and budget. During the design phase you’ll need to start thinking about construction types to ensure your building form will look appropriate to the style of building you are envisaging and will be affordable.

Using inappropriate construction types can;

Make a building look heavy when you had in mind a light weight home
Result in expensive building foundations

Seven common mistakes that people frequently make when designing their home

There are seven common mistakes that people frequently make when designing their home. These mistakes are often reinforced in home design magazines and television shows. Explained below are the seven most common mistakes and what you can do to avoid them.

This article has been written from an Australian perspective. If you live in North America, Europe, or elsewhere in the northern hemisphere, reverse the north/south orientations mentioned below.

1st deadly sin: Not orientating living spaces north
This is the biggest mistake most people make when designing their home. There is nothing worst than living in a home that is cold in the winter and hot in the summer. But you can have both.

Ideally, orientate all bedroom & living areas to face north. This will provide perfect sun penetration to every room in the house. But realistically this is impossible for most homes that are restricted by the average suburban block. The following rules generally apply for typical suburban blocks.

Locate all living areas on the north side of your floor plan. The floor plan shown here has good northern sun penetration through northern facing windows and was created using the Planit2d 2D Floorplan creator.
It is preferable to locate the kitchen to the north/east so you can enjoy the beautiful morning sun while sipping your cup of tea.
The main bedroom is preferable on the north/east if you are a morning person and will also be totally protected by other internal spaces from the brutal western summer sun.
All bedrooms should be protected from the western afternoon sun in summer as much as possible – buffer the bedrooms with the laundry, store rooms, the garage or a heavily insulated walls face west.
Window overhangs and shading – 900mm roof overhang is the optimal roof shading depth over windows to the north, on home sites with excellent sun penetration (if your site is shaded by trees or neighbouring house you will need to vary this accordingly).
Avoid having any windows and doors on the west side of the home, unless a small high window is necessary for ventilation. If western windows cannot be avoided (due to views etc) consult a building design specialist.
Insulate all external walls, ceilings and roofs. Ceiling and roof insulation are two different items and you should have both to ensure your home is thermally comfortable throughout the year.

Six talents to sound off on two equally chic aesthetics

Do you believe less is more or more is more? Do you like to stick with the essentials, or do you bring home something new from every excursion? Do you prefer a foundation of serene neutral hues, or are you drawn to no-holds-barred color? Basically, are you a minimalist or a maximalist? Ultimately, there is no wrong answer—there is beauty in both the thoughtful simplicity of a minimalist space and the eye-catching mix of tones and textures in a maximalist one—but many designers (and design lovers) have a preference. So we asked a few top designers to weigh in on why they love one or the other. Here’s what they had to say.

The Minimalists

“Though not necessarily minimalist, we define our style as ‘layered modernism’—a refined aesthetic that combines clean lines with luxurious materials and finishes, creating warm, sophisticated, and comfortable spaces. We do appreciate minimalism’s long unbroken expanses, simple details, and soft color palette—these act as a visual palate cleanser. As a society, we are assaulted every day by a barrage of visual stimuli—it’s overwhelming. A reductive environment allows the eye, the mind, and the soul to rest and rejuvenate. A successful minimalist setting, highlighting form and line and free of superfluous detailing, can be utterly sublime. What I don’t think people appreciate about minimalist design is that it’s not as easy as it looks—in fact, it requires rigorous precision in planning and execution. With traditional detailing, errors in measuring can be masked with thick moldings and flounces of fabric. With minimalism, everything has to be ‘perfect’; adjoining materials, walls, and floors, have to be exactly straight—any deviation shows terribly.” —Russell Groves of Groves & Co.

“Minimalism in architecture is a movement. Maximalism is a lifestyle of living in an unimprovable space that can’t be altered structurally so one must overwhelm the senses with objects, pillows, and color. True minimalism uses the refinement of materials and the poetry of intersecting planes with the relationship of objects and their proximity to each other. Maximalism is hedonistic and bohemian in its message. If you can’t hide it, paint it red.” —Simon Townsend Jacobsen of Jacobsen Architecture

Think About Before You Commit to Stone Flooring

Just like wood or glass, stone is a hugely popular element in interior design, and the possibilities for how to incorporate it are endless. Do you want granite kitchen countertops? Travertine flooring? A stone fireplace surround? To find out how to make the most of the material, we turned to Miriam Fanning, principal at Mim Design in Melbourne, Australia, for advice. But before you decide on an application, you’ll need to choose the stone itself. Fanning’s first rule: “When selecting stone, it’s important to make sure that it is authentic and not faux. Authentic products will stand the test of time and will not be prone to dating.” From there, here are the factors to consider.

Stone should enhance the aesthetic of your space
“The kitchen we created at this residence has a soft look that was achieved by selecting a stone with a minimal vein,” says Fanning. “A stone with a heavier vein would have created a more dramatic look.” Here, the material of choice was white-and-gray Elba marble, but if the room requires a design with more heft, Fanning suggests Calacatta or Statuario marble.

Not every type of stone can stand up to wear and tear
“For heavy-duty spaces and frequent usage, granite can be the best natural stone to use in terms of its performance,” says Fanning. In this commercial kitchen showroom, it was the obvious choice. “Jurassic granite is practical, hard-wearing, and ages well over time. As a natural stone, it will last for many years, gradually forming a patina, and will enhance the value of the home.” Of course, no stone is indestructible; Fanning always recommends applying a sealant to protect the surface from scratches and stains.

Stone doesn’t have to feel unwelcoming
“Underfloor heating ensures a warmth throughout, while selecting a product with a natural form creates a unique look,” says Fanning. Limestone, travertine, granite, and slate are all good options, but Fanning usually opts for marble. “I love how it obtains its different colors from the mineral and fossil elements in the stone,” she says. In this home, light reflects off the veins in the Elegant Grey marble flooring, creating a luminous effect.