The Devil’s In The Details

Building a brand-new home is an exciting time in any person’s life. With endless future possibilities sprawled out before you, no one could blame you for wanting to jump straight into it. But before you contact the builders or start brainstorming ideas for interior design, there’s one very important question you must ask yourself: ‘Should I go for a custom-built or predesigned home?’ For some, this might be a no-brainer. If you’ve been saving and planning for a custom-built home for years and know exactly what you’re in for, then by all means – full steam ahead! However, if you’re on the fence about what you want and are in need of guidance, you’ve come to the right place! Western Australia Home Design + Living’s Robin Harper sits down with Adam Butcher from Darklight Design to compare the risks and benefits of custom versus pre-designed builds to unpack what works best for which homeowners.

The Devil's In The Details

The sky is the limit when you’ve got a clean slate to work with. There are so many different styles, trends, colours and textures for you to choose from that the prospects are enough to send your head into a tailspin. When it comes to choosing between a custom or a predesigned home, it could come down to something as simple as who you are as a person. If you are particular about the finer details and want that to reflect in your everyday living, perhaps a custom build is the right choice for you. On the other hand, if you find yourself overwhelmed at the thought of creating something entirely from scratch, a pre-build might be your match made in heaven.


If you’re scratching your head about the differences in both choices, there’s no need to fear – Butcher has got you covered. According to him, “Custom homes are designed for the individual and provide a more boutique or tailored approach to the client’s needs. A pre-design home is designed for mass production and utilises a repetitive design ethos that suits multiple scenarios.”

For narrative’s sake, let’s take a closer look at custom homes and explore what they can offer you. Breaking down the beneficial elements, micro-management and individualisation appear to be the core appeal of custom homes. “Undertaking a custom designed process allows the outcome to be more inclusive of elements like client brief, landscaping, site conditions, energy, thermal efficiency, etc.,” says Butcher. This is beneficial to the homeowners because he says, “This creates a design that allows the client to get the most out of their project, and one that is unique to themselves.” With this in mind, those wanting their individuality to really shine are perfectly tailored to the custom-home experience.

There are, like all things, some downsides to opting for a custom build. With so much attention to detail being poured into the designing of the home, it can be quite a while before you even get to the actual building stage of your home. Butcher says, “Timeframes of the boutique design process are generally longer than a standard home design and costs of creating the design are paid by the client, not built into the costs of the builder.” For this reason, homeowners need to prepare themselves for the additional costs that you may not find with predesigned homes.

The Devil's In The Details

To further traverse the fields of benefits and challenges that separate a custom from a pre-designed home, the two most important steps are the designing and constructing process. It is important to know how these choices, as varied as they are, can impact a homeowner. For custom builds, Butcher says, “A more rigorous design and specification process is developed during the project.” This route “allows for a tailored design that is more adaptable”, taking into consideration the site, brief, budget, aesthetics and alternative construction methods as examples.

While on the surface, a pre-designed home may seem like the less stressful option of the two, it does have its pitfalls when it comes to certain aspects of construction that may be initially overlooked by homeowners. As highlighted by Butcher, a pre-designed home doesn’t always take certain details into consideration, such as the orientation, cross breezes, surrounding trees, bushfires, heritage and local council planning policies. “As a pre-designed home, its fixed design layout will normally only allow for minor modifications,” he says.


The Devil's In The Details

If you’re leaning towards your regular pre-designed builds that are designed specifically for new suburban land estates with regular rectangular size lots, then you may be golden. However, for those in bushfire, heritage, inner city or rural locations, the devil’s in the details. If you are building in these areas and are considering a pre-designed home, make sure that your design passes regulatory requirements set in the National Construction Code or specific local government requirements.

Darklight Design came from humble beginnings. Initially, the company intended to create a design firm laser-focused on construction and budgets at the very core of its design principles. Over the course of eight years, Darklight Design has elevated into a boutique design firm, catering to residential and commercial properties and frequently tackling projects with unique and complex scenarios.

Overseeing many custom builds over the course of his professional career, Butcher knows a thing or two when it comes to managing seamless design processes. “The fundamental components or elements that allow for a successful project are the homeowners or client being educated in the decisions made throughout the process,” he says. Making assumptions or uneducated decisions, according to Butcher, is one of the major pitfalls a homeowner can succumb to that can have dire consequences.

The Devil's In The Details

There are, of course, sound ways to avoid this issue. “Taking the time to fully digest the entire project in a holistic nature, specifically budgets or completed build costs is crucial considering the current cost issues in the market,” says Butcher. When facing a project of a custom build or pre-designed home head on, remember to arm yourself with research and knowledge beforehand. Butcher guarantees it’ll save you the headache in the long run.

Images courtesy of Darklight Design