Custom Builder

Architecture & Building, Custom Builder, Interior Design

Outdoor inspiration for a happier, healthier you.

Outdoor inspiration for a happier, healthier you.

#FACT: Spending time outdoors, and indeed living close to nature – ie. parks, sporting fields, bushland and beaches – actually makes you happier and healthier. 

Being outdoors, even for short periods, can improve your short and long-term memory, brain function, immune system and lower cortisol – the stress hormone. Other health benefits include reduced blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, inflammation and anxiety. 

Most of us would agree, there’s nothing quite like clean, fresh air and a glimpse of sunshine to brighten one’s mood. Oh, we’re absolutely dreaming of summer! Nights out on the patio, Aperol Spritz in hand, squeals of laughter as the kids run amok in the backyard.

In Australia in the 21st century, we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to outdoor inspiration. Gone are the days when a rickety old picnic table and umbrella out on the lawn would suffice – although that still has its place for hosting a good time, too!

At Merit, we get to see and create some spectacular outdoor spaces. Some of our favourites include indoor-to-outdoor spaces that seamlessly transition outside through wide openings of floor-to-ceiling glass.

Covered alfresco dining elegantly clad in earth-tone natural cut stone and natural timber accents against lush foliage – a real celebration of nature’s rich goodies!

Then there’s the two-sided fireplace…. And the bench seating circled around the firepit in the far back corner of the backyard. 

But perhaps the one on everyone’s wish list right now is the state-of-the-art, fully-equipped outdoor kitchen – that can often rival most people’s indoor kitchens! 6-burner BBQ, a smoker, pizza oven, meat fridge, wine fridge, granite benches – and a view!

Or far less extravagantly – sometimes, a simple hammock under the shade of an old oak tree, a great book and a string of twinkling fairy lights springing to life come night time can be just the ticket to shift the mood out of brood.

But definitely sign us up for that outdoor kitchen, though! The thought of sizzling up a tender, charcoal-grilled steak on the barbie has us feeling warmer already…

 

Custom Builder, Interior Design

Five of the Best Room Dividers

Five of the Best Room Dividers

Open plan home design is very much a signature element of Australian homes, due in part to our beautiful climate and our love affair with indoor-outdoor living. 

A free-flowing open-plan design gives the feeling of light, space and fresh air that we so love and welcome, however, it can lack the gentle sense of separation that is often needed in one big, open-box room.

It can be difficult to create different rooms within a room – ie. effectively separating living, dining, study, and play zones while still maintaining a physically opened space – but one method we can use to achieve this is the strategic, subtle placement of room dividers. 

There are so many options and materials to work with when it comes to creating an impactful division. As well as adding a striking feature to the room with texture or pop of colour, room dividers can be instrumental in providing more options for how you configure the spaces and your furniture within them – whilst still maintaining the cohesive flow of the original open design.

How room dividers work

Now, this might sound obvious to some, but essentially, room dividers should be placed where walls would otherwise be. Putting a screen where a wall wouldn’t be just doesn’t, well, make sense. You want to create a physical barrier – but not a solid one. Here are 5 of our faves:

Fireplace: Using a fireplace as a room divider – especially a two-way fireplace – provides plenty of design scope for both sides of the room. It’s an instant point of interest for the eyes as well as being super-functional. 

Exposed Brick: Dividers using exposed brick bring an architectural quality to a space that’s edgy, earthy and difficult to ignore. Used inside or out, they bring texture to a space, making it feel grounded, comfortable and purposeful.

Timber Slats: Floor-to-ceiling timber slats can bring a divided space to life. It achieves that important sense of separation and invites a beautiful play of light and shade patterns across walls and floors. Chunky timber posts add strength along with visual appeal. 

Mirrors: Much more than just functional, a mirror can become the focal point of a thoughtfully designed divider – reflecting off more light into a room, mirrors are a classic example of form and function. It’s an idea that works particularly well if you want to create a feeling of separation and privacy between a bedroom and an open-plan ensuite. 

Laser-cut screens: Laser-cut metal screens are like art built into a wall. Painted or left natural, equally striking indoor or outdoors, a laser-cut screen can come in virtually any design – you can even design your own one-off piece that you’ll never see anywhere else!

Do you have any other room divider ideas? Leave a comment below.

Architecture & Building, Custom Builder

Reasons to build an all-inclusive turn-key home

Why you should consider an all-inclusive turn-key home.

Packaging everything together into a ‘turnkey’ building contract is making life easier for many Merit Homes’ clients. While our clients may be building a luxury home, often what they lack is the luxury of time to spend researching, organising and carrying out the finishing touches themselves.

It’s one of the main reasons clients ask to include elements like landscaping, window treatments, home security, smart home systems, an outdoor kitchen or a swimming pool in the final product. If you don’t have the time – the energy or inclination – to organise these items yourself, an ‘all-in-one’ building agreement is a great option.

When building a luxury home, you usually have a specific vision in mind. Part of that vision is premium craftsmanship and attention to detail.

A Merit Homes turnkey project can also include items like air-conditioning, solar systems, pools and pool fencing, landscaping, paving, letterboxes, security gates. decorative lighting and built-in cabinetry such as wardrobe fit-outs, bookcases, window seats and media units.

Read on for some great reasons to consider a turnkey home.

There’s less for you to organise.

Outsourcing everything to your builder is great when you’re time-poor and don’t need the added stress of rounding up contractors to add the finishing touches. You’ll love the convenience of knowing all the heavy lifting is being looked after so you can focus on family, work and lifestyle.

It’s quicker.

For insurance reasons, we can’t allow you to organise ‘owner works’ while we’re still on-site, but if the project is turnkey then additional items can be scheduled and carried out as part of the build – thus, you get into your new home sooner. 

While you’ll pay a margin for us to take on the purchasing risks and coordinate the works, you can save yourself substantial time, stress and money – especially if you’re renting while building. 

We get the best in the business.

As well as engaging the best contractors to get the job done, Merit Homes has an excellent working relationship with its suppliers, so we get priority when it comes to ordering, processing and delivery, ensuring things happen as quickly and as seamlessly as possible.

A better idea of the budget.

Including all the finishing items in your building contract means everything is accounted for right from the start. 

Consistency of quality and style.

Entrusting us to take care of the entire project ensures you get a home that flows cohesively and is exceptionally stylish – as though it’s all ‘meant to be’. 

Let the experts handle it.

When you’re investing in a big complex home build, you want a certain architectural style. You need experts who appreciate the attention to detail and can bring specialist skills and insights to the party.

You still choose what you want.

If you build with us as a turn-key option, you still be able to choose exactly what you want. You can work with our interior designer, or we’ll happily work with yours. Regardless, every last detail is still your choice. 

Custom Builder

Ways to use passive solar principles in your home

Recently, we touched the very tip of the iceberg on how the 5 main elements of passive solar design work together to make your home more energy-efficient. While solar energy and energy-efficiency are all relatively modern topics that have gained real momentum in recent years, the science of passive solar build design is not at all new. It’s really simple, yet amazing physics figured out by folks a very long time ago. 

Good passive solar design provides optimum thermal comfort with minimal use of artificial heating or cooling – and in some climates, can potentially reduce your usage to almost nothing.

#Tip: Passive homes require you to have a general understanding of how the home ‘works’ with the daily and seasonal climate, like knowing when to open or close windows, and how and when to adjust shading.

Here are some simple ways use passive design in your home.

Design according to climate

Strategies used for ultimate passive design depend on the climate as well as the aspect and attributes of the building site. Australia has 8 main climate zones, each with its own characteristics that dictate the most appropriate design. 

The Greater Sydney region is in the Warm Temperate climate zone, for example, with hot to very hot summers and mild winters. There is no one-size-fits-all so you’re best to engage the services of an expert if you’re passionate about getting the best results.

Orientation

Passive design utilises the sun and cool breezes as natural sources of heating/cooling by orientating the home appropriately and designing the building to minimise unwanted summer heat or heat loss in winter. 

In a warm climate, living areas with large banks of windows should ideally face north to take maximum advantage of the sun. Likewise, the direction of breezes are considered, placing windows and doors directly in its path so fresh air can flow freely and easily through.

Shading

Direct sun can generate the same amount of heat as a bar heater per square metre of surface. Effective shading reduces temperatures internally, improves comfort and saves on energy. 

Because the sun sits higher in summer, the eaves, adjustable shading, external awnings, roller shutters, and leafy plantings provide additional shade, protecting the home until later in the day. Plantation shutters have excellent insulative properties for optimal energy-efficiency. 

Permanent shading needs to be properly considered because it will potentially block out the winter sun also.

Passive solar heating & cooling

Most Australian climates require both heating and cooling and it helps to know the specifics of the climate zone you’re in to achieve this. 

Consult an expert to discuss how best to capture and retain the warmth of the winter sun, while allowing the built-up heat of the summer sun to escape.

Sealing

Sealing your home and eliminating drafts is one of the simplest ways to maintain internal temperatures and reduce energy usage, with air leaks accounting for 15–25% of winter heat loss. The more extreme your winter, the more beneficial sealing is.

Insulation

Insulation acts as a barrier and is an essential element for keeping your home warm in winter and cool in summer. A well-designed and insulated home provides year-round comfort, reducing heating and cooling bills by up to half (heating/cooling accounts for around 40% of household energy consumption). 

Glazing

Up to 40% of a home’s heating energy can be lost and 87% heat gained through improper glazing.

Windows and doors provide natural light, fresh air and connect interior spaces with the outdoors. However, they can be a major source of unwanted heat gain/loss, making your insulation efforts null and void. 

This can be largely overcome with the right glazing – double glazed windows are excellent at reducing energy consumption considerably. 

Skylights

Skylights can make a major contribution to energy efficiency, comfort, and, research shows, to the value of your home. They are an excellent source of natural light, perhaps generating more than three times the light of a vertical window.

Do you have anything to add? Let us know by leaving a comment below. 

Custom Builder

The 5 main elements of passive solar build design

While the science or physics behind it is relatively simple to understand, ‘passive solar’ build design is an intricate topic that we couldn’t possibly cover in one article. However, it’s worth discussing because by incorporating passive solar principles into your next home – even loosely – you’ll have a home that is not only beautiful but comfortable, cheaper to run, easy to live in and naturally energy-efficient.

While Merit Homes are experts in the art of luxury homes more so than the complicated elements of passive solar builds, to varying degrees, the principles are incorporated into every one of our homes. A standard of energy efficiency in all new homes is required by law, and it is undoubtedly an area of strong focus for us, our contractors and our clients too. It’s worth considering now because the most economical time to achieve good passive design in a home is in the initial planning, design and building stages.

Read on for a very brief explanation of each passive solar design element, and come back to see simple ways to incorporate them into your next home.

The light collector – ‘Aperture’

The light collector refers to large, sun-facing glassed (windowed) areas in your home at which sunlight can enter the building. In Australia, the ideal aspect for windows to face for optimum use of natural sunlight is to the north. 

Natural light streaming through your home is not only beautiful and a natural mood enhancer, but it serves two purposes for energy efficiency. Great use of natural lighting means you can use artificial lighting less, and sunlight also adds warmth, reducing the need for additional heating in winter. 

In Summer, the sun sits higher in the sky, so wide eaves help to reduce the amount of sunlight and heat entering the home.

The Heat Absorber

This is a hard, darkened surface, which could be a masonry wall, floor, or water container, that sits in the direct path of the sunlight and absorbs heat throughout the day, storing it in the ‘thermal mass’ behind. 

The Thermal mass

The thermal mass is the material that retains or stores the heat produced by sunlight. This could be a sun-facing brick wall or a concrete slab. The ‘absorber’ is the dark outer surface exposed to the sun, the thermal mass is the material beneath this surface that retains the sun’s energy (heat) that it will release into the home throughout the day.

The Distribution

This is the method by which the stored energy or heat collected in the thermal mass circulates throughout the house. This may include fans or ducts, or just the natural behaviour of the thermal material – a wall, for example – which radiates warmth collected throughout the day into the home overnight.

Control

Here’s where the design is controlled to suit the season. The sun hangs lower in winter, so although the climate is cooler, sunlight is able to penetrate through sun-facing windows well.  In summer, the sun sits higher in the sky, so the home’s eaves (roof overhang) shade the sun from the light collector and heat absorber, allowing less heat to penetrate inside. 

Another example of the control element is airflow and ventilation. Take advantage of the breeze by placing windows to capture and circulate the cool air throughout the home.  

Next up, we’ll discuss ways to use passive design principles in your next home.

 

Architecture & Building, Custom Builder

Things to consider when buying a block of land

So you’ve painstakingly researched and selected your builder and have struck up the beginning of a great working relationship. No doubt you’re keen to get started as soon as possible. 

You’ve probably started drafting a floor plan and ‘mood-boarding’ with magazine clippings of great interior styles, selecting the appliances, the fittings, colour palette, and all the luxury extras you’ll cram inside….

But hold on a minute – pump the brakes! Before going any further,  where will you build this magnificent new home? It’s rarely as simple as it sounds.

Here are just a few of the things to factor in when selecting the perfect piece of land for your dream home. 

Location, location, location

When it comes to owning any piece of real estate, nothing is more crucial or important than where it is. Is the area already established with the essentials close-by? 

If it’s a newer area, what new developments are planned? For example; supermarkets, shopping centres, doctors, schools, sporting facilities? Where’s the nearest hospital? How accessible is it to main roads or the nearest city? Aim to buy the best block you can afford in your chosen area.

School Zoning

An increasingly important factor is a property’s school catchment zone. A premium price is put on homes that fall within the catchment of schools considered prestigious. 

The more parents wanting to enrol their kids there, the higher the premium placed on properties in its catchment area. Even if you don’t have school-aged children, you should still consider school zoning relevant to you. 

Why? If homes in a highly-sought school zone fetch premium prices, you, as an owner will also benefit from a premium sale price, rent or bank valuation if you ever want or need to sell, borrow against or draw on some capital.

Search properties by School Zone on Domain.com.au 

Council zoning & building restrictions

Council zones and restrictions exist to protect everyone’s interests. When you buy land in a quiet residential street, council restrictions ensure you won’t wake up next to a high-rise building, abattoir or a speedway race track. 

The council also determines how high you can build, how much of the block you can build on, and even how far back your home must sit. 

This maintains street appeal and protects every home’s value. Similarly, if you buy land in a new estate, the developer may have their own restrictions and requirements in addition to the councils, protecting the look, quality and livability – thus, inspiring people to live there and maintaining the land value. 

Easements & building envelope

Most blocks will have some sort of easement on it (an area you cannot build over), so you shouldn’t automatically run away if you find one on a block you’re looking at buying. What’s important is where the easement is and how much it will affect your plans. 

If it’s along the rear or side boundaries, it probably won’t bear too much impact on your plans. However, if it’s running diagonally through a standard residential block, it may render the land totally useless.

Block terrain

Having a spectacular view is a wonderful bonus. But spectacular views usually come with the sort of block terrain that requires high additional site and earthworks fees to prepare and flatten areas of it for the house to sit on. 

Choose a block that’s as flat and level as possible. If it’s not an option, just ensure to factor in additional earthworks expenses into the budget.

Good luck!

 

Custom Builder

The importance of choosing the right builder.

Building a new home often goes down as one of the most stressful events in one’s lifetime – and most often, you’re not even the one that has to build it!

There are so many reasons why building a home from the ground up can lead to stress and anxiety due to delays, mistakes and unbudgeted expenses.

Believe it or not, a lot of these occurrences can be avoided with a little extra thought, care and research at the early planning stages of the project – starting with choosing the right team for the job.

Here are just a few of the things to factor in when selecting the right builder for your dream home.

What’s your budget?

Your budget is integral to the type of home you can build. And because builders specialise in particular types of builds – from first home to mid-range, high-end custom builds to very high-budget luxury homes, your budget is also key to deciding the builder you’ll use.

Ask around

Reputation is everything. We recommend asking around your friends and family for their experience, and if possible, talk to someone currently building. Listen carefully to their responses.

Are they happy? Why? Why not? Do they feel listened to and understood? Are they easily contactable? Any major problems or conflicts? Are they happy with the workmanship? How has the builder responded to their concerns?

Do they specialise in the type of home you want?

Now that you have a shortlist of reputable builders, you need to know if they specialise in the type of home you want. Being a great bloke means nothing if he can’t deliver the home you had envisioned in the timeframe you’d expected.

Inspect their work

Inspect a near-complete current project, or ideally, an older home that’s been put on the market. How is the workmanship holding up after a few years of being lived in? Are there any major cracks or visible defects to the structure? Do the fittings and fixtures still look high-quality?

Are they local?

This one isn’t so obvious because, within reason, most builders aren’t averse to going outside of their usual trade area, and custom builders like Merit specialise in constructing homes that are ‘out of area’ daily.

However, it’s worth considering because when a builder is too far outside of where they’re comfortable, it can mean they have fewer options available to them when it comes to trades, suppliers or materials, which can mean delays or additional expenses.

Reduce the chances of blowing the budget by selecting a builder experienced in your area, OR, one that’s confident working in all areas like Merit Homes.

Are they registered? Licenced? Insured?

It’s so important to ensure your chosen builder is a legitimate, reputable company. At the very least, they should be a registered builder, licenced to work in the construction industry, have Public Liability Insurance and Home Building Compensation (HBC) – previously Home Warranty Insurance (HWI).

Because regulators can be slow to catch up with those not doing the right thing, you can ask the Housing Industry of Australia (HIA) or the Master Builders of Australia (MBA) for their list of members.