Choosing to custom-design your new home provides the opportunity to create a residence that is stylistically dynamic or distinct.
Ryan Secola, the general manager of Prima Homes, speaks with Pamela Hale about the essential elements to include in a modern Australian abode.
Perhaps the most significant benefit of custom-designing a home is the freedom it affords; every aspect of the property can be carefully thought out, and unique needs can generally be better met, with minimal difficulties. Here, Western Australia Home Design + Living explores the central considerations associated with the process of custom-designing a home.
THE CASE FOR CUSTOM
It is quite common for homeowners to begin considering a custom design when their search for a suitable pre-existing residence becomes problematic. Often, standard home plans don’t accommodate for unusual or tricky blocks; when this is the case, taking a custom approach is often the best course of action, according to Prima Homes’ Ryan Secola.
Similarly, a custom design is often sought when homeowners have a particular idea for a bespoke residence in mind, but would like to shape their vision in collaboration with an industry expert. The result, Secola explains, is “a home not only visually stunning, but also extremely functional and practical… you end up with a home that is what you want, and what works for you. When custom-designing, the options are endless”.
For instance, if you’re building on a narrow block of land, it can be tricky to create an internal environment that feels open; with a custom design, narrow spaces can be optimised through strategic inclusions such as a courtyard at the centre of the interior spaces. “Internal courtyards can help by adding natural light as well as making internal spaces feel greater in size,” Secola says.
Beyond the practical benefits of ensuring all your lifestyle needs are met, and that the intricacies associated with off-theplan designs are addressed, there’s also something to be said for having the opportunity to select each and every fitting, fixture and finish that will ultimately define your home.
TRENDS WORTH TRYING
In preparation for the design phase of your project, it’s wise to conduct some research on local design trends, which will help you identify the styles and features that align with your personal tastes.
“The use of natural materials, especially concrete, is in high demand,” Secola says. “The use of curves has also been popular; many homeowners are trying to stay away from homes using all straight lines. Increasingly we are creating softer lines with the use of curved walls.”
There has also been an emergence of lifestyle factors influencing design choices, and many homeowners are requesting an outdoor oasis that is perfect for socialising, while also providing a high level of privacy. “The ability to perch an open terrace within the roof space has become prevalent,” Secola says, “and [people are increasingly] incorporating greenery within these spaces.”
While trends can be useful in keeping across the latest design techniques and products, it’s vital to have a strong understanding of your personal preferences. “A trend that is desired today might not be sought in a few years’ time,” Secola says. “It is important for you to feel comfortable with the aesthetics today and not worry too much about the future.”
Due to their ongoing fluctuations, the incorporation of design trends can sometimes lead to a dated appearance with time. This is particularly true of interior spaces; it is important that all interior elements are considered from the initial design stage to ensure a cohesive and timely outcome for your home.
On the upside, while interior spaces tend to date more quickly that architectural structures, they can also be altered with less hassle; incorporating trends through changeable colour palettes and furniture means you will be able to make alterations easily over time.
If you’re having difficulty making decisions about furniture and finishes, consider establishing a furniture layout for your residence from the outset, taking into account the way spaces will flow, and the overarching visual style. By pre-planning the design and placement of these features in relation to doors and windows, you can develop a much clearer idea of how your house will ultimately look.
The way in which you use and enjoy your home is influenced quite dramatically by its design. It’s worth taking the time to consider how you intend to use your home before progressing in order to incorporate the design elements that will suit your living and entertaining requirements.
Kitchens in particular have developed from purely utilitarian spaces into central gathering areas within the home; Secola explains that through clever design, “the kitchen can also become a space for entertaining, not just cooking”. The incorporation of unique feature elements in this space will not go unnoticed. For instance, “the use of a stunning piece of natural stone can create a conversation starter while entertaining,” Secola says.
Whether you’re after a marble benchtop in your kitchen, or perhaps an in-built fireplace or spectacular spiral staircase in your living area, it is important to consider all aspects of their design before progressing to the building stage; not only will making alterations to your design plans be costly down the track, but there is also the possibility you won’t be able to add the features you’d like once building has commenced.
Technologically driven trends offer a number of benefits that can be useful not only in your finished home, but also throughout the design process. The benefits that can be offered by some inclusions, particularly integrated and automated options, can be quite significant to the way you use your home.
If you have the space, why not consider incorporating a luxurious home theatre into your design? With the option to fully integrate sound, video, internet, lighting and temperature control systems within one room, creating an enjoyable and user-friendly entertainment space suitable for the whole family has never been easier.
Technological advancements can also be of particular benefit during the early design stages. One of the biggest challenges faced by homeowners during the design process is understanding how interior spaces and detailed finishes will ultimately appear within their home. “As you don’t have the ability to walk through the home before it is built, it is hard to fully understand what the end product will look like,” Secola says. “Technology is moving fast in this area, which means detailed three-dimensional walkthroughs are available on any device or computer, or even using virtual reality.”
There has been a growing trend on a national scale towards environmentally-friendly architectural design, supplemented by state governments beginning to legislate sustainability targets. For homeowners looking to promote an eco-friendly living environment, there are numerous ways, both active and passive, in which new homes can be designed to achieve environmental friendliness, energy efficiency, and overall sustainability.
“There are a number of material selections and construction methods that can be utilised to promote sustainability and energy efficiency [in your design],” says Secola.
From installing insulation batts in walls and ceilings, to using sustainable building materials and considering sun exposure during the design process, there are a multitude of ways to reduce immediate and future environmental impacts in the design and building stages.
Enhancements such as high-quality glazing for your windows and doors may require an increased upfront expenditure, but will often have long-term benefits. Not only will energy-efficient features provide greater comfort regardless of seasonal weather changes, but they can also minimise the need for air-conditioning and central heating quite substantially.
DOLLARS AND SENSE
While there are many benefits to building a custom home, there are some instances in which a custom approach may be inadvisable. The financial aspect is of crucial importance when considering whether a custom design is prudent for your situation.
There are undoubtedly elements of custom building that can help you save money, as Secola points out “the beauty of a custom home is that it can be designed to suit any style or budget, and any size block of land”.
However, the upfront costs are generally more expensive than the costs of building a home off the plan, or purchasing an existing property.
The most significant elements of custom building that can help you save are likely to instead accrue with time. For this reason, investment properties – both for renting and selling – are not typically custom-designed.
Even when building a custom home without any intention of selling, costs still ought to be carefully considered; “budget is a major constraint within which your home will be designed,” Secola explains.
Not only will your estimated budget influence the design significantly, but you’ll need to factor in additional expenses such as the cost of the plans themselves and council approvals, not to mention any unforeseen costs that may arise throughout the building process.
Once you’ve decided that a custom home is right for you, your starting point should thus be establishing a budget. According to Secola, you should next “decide the style of the home; arrange a contour and feature survey to know the lay of the land; and meet with the designer to create a brief, and establish preliminary specifications and designs”. By following this process, you’ll gain a better understanding of the possibilities for your home design and the general costs that the build will entail before deciding to progress with council approvals.
At this stage, it’s also worth discussing your project with a number of builders to find the best fit. “See if you can relate to them on a personal level and feel comfortable that they will work as hard as they can to make sure you achieve your desired home, even if you don’t know what that is yet,” Secola says. “If they are good at what they do, they will be able to help you through the process step by step.”
Choosing to custom-design a home is a big decision, but with the right team in place, the outcome of a bespoke building project can be truly spectacular. Having the opportunity to design a residence that meets your every need and desire provides endless scope for what the interior and exterior of your home can incorporate and the ways in which your space can be optimised to suit you. Custom building presents what may well be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to create your dream residence, so take the time to carefully consider what features to include, and enjoy the process of making your vision a reality!