HOW CAN I MAKE SURE I’M GETTING THE RIGHT HOUSE DESIGN AND LAYOUT FOR ME?
It’s like asking how long a piece of string is, but it’s a very real and valid question that often plagues someone on the journey of getting a new home built. And it’s also a question that really does need answering otherwise it can make for a miserable time when you’re working on your plans. So although there’s no right or wrong answer on how you can make sure that you’re getting the right house design and layout, we’re going to give you some guidelines to help you.
There’s 3 steps in the technique of getting some clarity on this question, and it starts with knowing exactly what you want.
Self-evident? Yes, but we’ve noticed that people say they know what they want but then go around in circles, changing their mind a lot and it becomes obvious that they weren’t really all that sure after all. So saying you know what you want and being able to write out in dot points what you want are two very different things.
We recommend actually listing it out. We’ve seen it done on the back of a brochure right through to detailed spreadsheets – and they’re all excellent ways of getting these wants and needs out of your mind and into something tangible that can be used in the process. And it might take you 10 minutes or it might take you 10 months – it doesn’t matter, just chip away at it until you’re confident that you’ve got a list that’s ‘you’.
And the other side of this coin is what you’re identifying. Don’t get sidetracked with immaterial detail. Steer away from irrelevancies. Focus on principles and the bigger items. You might be saying, hang on, you’ve just said to get a tangible list of exactly what I want!? Yes, but as you’ll see at the next point, getting sidetracked with the nitty gritty detail at this stage is just a smoke screen and won’t help you.
Let’s look at an example. An excellent requirement to put on your list might be that you want two living areas. One for general day to day living and one for the kids as more of a family or rumpus room. And these two rooms are not to be side by side, and you want them big enough to house a table tennis table and couches etc. Perfect. But if you start writing down that you want a set of double doors halfway along the wall into the rumpus room that has a window directly opposite facing north with a bench seat under that window, then you’re setting yourself up for failure and disappointment.
See, you don’t know how everything is going to all come together. It might be that the main living area ends up facing north and the rumpus room faces east. And when the time comes, you might fall in love with a wide barn door instead of a set of double doors. And a bench seat might look ridiculous with the overall interior design theme you end up running with. So stick to the concepts and principles and leave out the granular stuff for the moment – they’ll all fall into place when the time comes.
Step 2 is to rely on expert advice and experience. Once again, it might be stating the obvious, but none of us know everything about everything, and that’s why there are specialists in the world – industry experts and trained professionals. And it’s just as relevant in the building industry as the medical profession or the field of law. These people know the ins and outs of their field of expertise and in the case of home design and layout, it’s extremely important to utilise that knowledge and experience.
And this is where your list from step 1 will come in very handy. You’re now in a position to get advice on how to bring it all together. We see it sometimes where someone is very knowledgeable about a particular thing on a home – say for example windows or water filtration, but one of the important roles of an industry professional is to look at the whole picture. It’s easy to study something in isolation but it takes skill to look at all sides of the story to make sure it ticks all the boxes.
Let’s say you want to move a bedroom wall to make the bathroom bigger so you can fit a larger shower and double vanity in. Easy. But then suddenly that’s pushed the bedroom wall next to a corner which makes the bedroom window smaller. This affects the energy rating of the home and impacts on the minimum glazing requirement of the code. And the other thing it’s done is make the width of the bathroom too wide for the bath hob – it looks ridiculous. And it’s also affected the position of the plumbing for the shower taps, which now conflict with a cavity slider door.
Now, we’re not saying don’t make the bathroom bigger, but instead of asking for that particular wall to be moved, ask for a bigger bathroom. Then listen to what the advice might be on how to achieve that without affecting the structural integrity of the home or compromising on the comfort of it. We continue to enjoy the surprise on people’s faces when they see how a suggestion might work – something they’d never thought of even after thinking about it for weeks!
And another twist to this step is to rely on predetermined solutions. This is where a company already has set designs. This is a brilliant solution many people miss because they’re focused only on their wish list. These designs have been professionally created based on best practise and design excellence, as well as many many years of insights and experience at the coal face, and they often tick all the boxes right at the start. Of course, they may need some tweaking to suit you and your lifestyle, but it’s a perfect headstart to getting a design that’s been tested in real life time and again.
Step three is to test the results before it becomes reality. It’s a bit like validating something in maths – you work backwards to see if the draft plans meet your requirements. You’ve worked through your list with the designer, and you now have the result in your hands – the plans and scope of works – and it looks fantastic. But does it meet your requirements?
So pull out that list and start checking it off. The thing to do here is constantly look at the ‘purpose’ or motive behind the item on your list.
You might have written that you want a really long island bench. And then you check the plans and it’s only quite short. But why did you write long island bench in the first place? Ah, that’s right, I wanted to make sure I had plenty of bench space for cooking. You check the plans again and realise that the kitchen design has a huge bench along the side wall leading into a pantry and …it’s perfect. Access to utensils and food is excellent and the mess I make in cooking isn’t quite on show as much as if it had been on the island bench. Tick!
But then you might find one that doesn’t work for you. Whichever way you look at it, it’s just going to muck up the way you want it. So you add this to your notes for something to review with the designer. And this is important – you’ll be the one living in it, not the designer, so it’s crucial that you’re happy with it. This doesn’t mean bending everything else to get something perfect, but working through the different scenarios to look at which one is going to get the best outcome – not only in the design, but also structurally, financially, and in the energy efficiency of the home.
So that’s it – 3 key steps to making sure you’re getting the right house design and layout for your new home. And it’s like a 3-legged stool – if you don’t have one of the legs it won’t stand up and is useless – so be sure to work through all 3 steps and you’ll get peace of mind that will make the building journey a whole heap more enjoyable.
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