Your home is a very important place – much more than just the place where you eat and sleep.
Homes should do more than just reflect your design aesthetic, or likes and dislikes. It should address your personal and practical needs. It must be functional as it is beautiful–and that’s easier said than done.
In my experience there are three common fundamental design problems in Sydney homes today. Let me share them with you and elaborate on how I tend to go about fixing each.
Design Problems in Sydney Homes
1. Floor Layout
In almost every case, homeowners find that old-fashioned layouts will lack adequate storage, or comfortable common spaces. It will also probably have limited modern kitchen amenities, and other functional features that today’s fast-paced lifestyles demand.
My approach to this common problem is always to start with looking into how I can improve a home’s floor layout in contrast with the evolving needs of today’s modern homeowner.
For example, most homeowners now prefer to have eating areas that are flexible, whereas old layouts typically feature a formal dining room. Families want a four-bedroom layout, where one room can be converted into a study; old homes usually have a three-bedroom layout. They would also prefer to have separate lounge rooms and living areas, all located at the ground floor for more efficient entertaining; and expanding the second floor for bedrooms. And where old homes are generally orient major areas of the home towards the front of the house, modern families now want to focus the kitchen, living, eating, and family areas toward the backyard.
Fixing bad floor layouts–
By studying how these changes and enhancements can be implemented and play into other aspects of the house, I begin to understand what can be done to maximise the home’s existing space.
Instead of orienting major areas of the home towards the front, a shift towards connecting the house to its backyard becomes more practical and relevant. The goal now is to connect the house with the outdoor area, ensuring that shared spaces lend itself to the seamless flow of the home.
And because of homeowners wanting to create a haven for rest and privacy, but still create a welcoming sense of warmth, it’s typical to focus design on the first floor for shared spaces, and ensure that the second level becomes a sanctuary.
On a more practical note, the improvements in floor layout give me an opportunity to improve another major problem in most Sydney homes today.
Old houses certainly have their charm. But all that character, history, and unique architectural aesthetic comes at a price—insulation.
Old houses are notorious for not having enough insulation and will often only meet modern standards after extensive renovation. Telltale drafts and rising energy bills are obvious signs of poor insulation. If the house has an attic and crawl spaces, it’s very likely that your home will suffer from cold drafts.
Addressing insulation problems–
It’s not economical to simply go in and strip out all the walls of your home just to improve insulation. But as part of a larger, overall renovation plan, it can be seamlessly integrated at minimal additional cost.
If you’re unsure, I always say it’s always best to seek the help of a professional who can look through your property and structure to ensure that you are given a full report of potential problem areas and recommend appropriate solutions.
The amount of light that goes into a home is critical not only for aesthetic purposes, but also for how efficiently your home will consume energy.
Good design has to take account how a home will deal with energy issues, after all. And these days, homes will also need to comply with government regulations. This has a lot to do with the size and number of windows and doors in your home.
The warmth of sunlight streaming into your home may be welcome during colder seasons, but the same scenario during summer months could amplify the need for better insulation techniques or window covers to keep the temperatures manageable.
Ensuring efficient lighting–
Older homes generally have smaller windows. So if you’re looking to redesign with efficiency and comfort in mind, ensure that the proportion of windows to your home will allow natural air and light to come in, without increasing the amount of heat.
Make sure your windows serve as aesthetic and functional features, but understand that depending on how they are designed, they can also pose a safety hazard in emergency situations.
Consider the placement of windows and remember to conduct draft and privacy checks at different times of the day.
Cutting corners for the sake of design, but at the expense of durability, as in the case of most older houses who needed to make repairs, could lead to surface failure and bigger structural issues. For instance, placing a carpet over thinning concrete walls, or a cosmetic layer over a low-grade drywall.
My advice? Shift your mindset from building for the short term. Also consult with a professional to make sure that you’re getting your money’s worth. If you are in Sydney’s northern suburbs, I’d be happy to discuss how you can approach your home redesign project in a practical and functional way that reflects your personal aesthetic.
What is the biggest design problem your current Sydney home has? Feel free to leave a comment below.