Your dream home might not be destined for a spacious expanse of land. Instead, it could be located on a small urban block. Troy King, the founder and director of BE Projects (WA) Pty Ltd, speaks with Jacqueline Maya about how to design the perfect inner-city dwelling.
As the common desire to live in a metropolis continues to thrive, it’s likely you’ll be building or buying your new home on a narrow block. Small-lot homes can present homeowners with unique design opportunities and challenges in equal measure. Here, Western Australia Home Design + Living sizes up the benefits of compact urban homes and investigates how a clever design can maximise your available space, down to the last square metre.
Small-lot homes are becoming very popular in major Australian cities. With residential land in sought-after suburbs becoming harder to obtain, the need for high-density housing has increased exponentially.
“Demand for compact homes has increased in order to keep up with Perth’s population growth,” says Troy King. “In my opinion, we need to work on urban infill [a rededication of land], which is a solution that will reactivate existing infrastructure, revitalise communities, and provide more places for us to live in.”
Small-lot home designs require the specialised skills, knowledge and expertise that can only be offered by a building professional. With a bit of careful planning, and under the guidance of a qualified designer and builder, you too can create a small home with big impact.
One of the main considerations for building a new compact abode is the existing neighbouring properties. “Local governments will have town-
planning requirements that dictate how the building may need to look to maintain commonality with the surrounding homes,” King says. Prior to construction, consider how your home’s façade will interact with the rest of the streetscape. Discreet vehicle parking and correct site orientation are key requirements that need to be met before you begin building your dream home. “Light is important – there can be opportunities and challenges associated with getting [enough] light into a building,” King adds.
Just because you have a small lot doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice living space. In order to make your home compact on the outside, yet spacious on the inside, King recommends including parapet walls that are built right up against the property’s boundary. This will eliminate the narrow spaces that can be created by side setbacks.
You can also maximise a narrow block’s potential by simply building up. Many small-lot homes have two storeys to separate the bedrooms from the open-plan living areas. →
Courtyards are also very trendy at the moment. By incorporating window access and lush vertical gardens, the aesthetic and practical appeal of your entire backyard will be amplified while simultaneously making your internal space feel wider.
Another common misconception about small-lot homes is that they have poor privacy due to their close proximity to neighbouring properties. Fortunately, you can increase privacy levels with some smart shading solutions.
“There are so many interesting textures and materials that can provide screening and shading to windows,” King says. “[Talk with] your designer/architect to explore [these] different avenues.”
Artistic laser-cut screens are an excellent option as they provide a property with both optimum privacy and added personality.
Noise pollution can also be a concern in urban areas, and King says that double-glazed windows may be the answer. “With our beautiful climate, we don’t really need to use double glazing in Perth, however it can be a great method of sound reduction [in the home],” he says.
→By opting for a double-storey house plan, you’ll also be able to include balconies and alfresco areas, which will increase the liveability of your home.
If you’re considering building a double-storey home, designing voids above the living area or kitchen will not only create an instant ‘wow’ factor, but it will also give you an incredibly bright, airy and open space. “Use the void space between levels to create a vertical element if you can, and if height allows, try to maximise ceiling heights,” King says.
GO FOR GREEN
As long as you’re savvy with your home’s layout, your dream of having the ultimate outdoor area can be fully realised. To ensure you’re making the most of the space, King suggests thinking beyond the humble backyard.
“The challenges of small lots allow the greatest opportunities for innovation,” King says. “[Homeowners can include] balconies or even utilise their roof – creating a rooftop terrace is a relatively new idea in Perth.”
An air-conditioning unit is a staple item for most households in Perth. While these cooling systems provide sweet relief in the hottest months of the year, they can also be quite noisy. “It is important to consider the positioning of these [units] in regards to neighbouring properties,” King says. “There are some unique ways to screen and position them so they aren’t a nuisance to others.”
By taking the above suggestions on board, you’ll be able to utilise every inch of your small block to achieve a spacious and contemporary result that is ideal for the cosmopolitan lifestyle.
“Small-lot home designs need to focus on design as well as form, not just the rudimental aspects, such as the number of rooms or square footage,” King says. “[Building homes can be fairly straightforward] but how can you make these buildings liveable, interesting and [responsive to] the urban framework in which they’re placed? There are some really good examples of [homes like this] in Perth.”