Interior Design

Custom Builder, House Renovation, Interior Design, News

Which heating and cooling options are right for your new home? – Part 2

In Part 1, we discussed ducted gas heating and split system air-conditioning for heating and cooling your home. Here we’ll go into detail on a few other options.

 

Evaporative Cooling

You can tell if a home has evaporative cooling without even stepping inside. It’s the strange raised box that sits on top of a roof. It works by circulating water onto a cooling pad and making it very wet. A fan draws air from outside the unit through the moistened pad to cool it, then passes the cool air into the home. You’ll need to have one or two windows cracked to allow the cool air to circulate throughout the house. The unit will burn out if you don’t.

Evaporative cooling systems are cheap to run and can be preferred to refrigerated cooling, but are limited on their ability, particularly in hot humid conditions or a few days into a heatwave.

If installed in a home with gas ducted heating, it also adds an additional duct in the ceilings in each room or space it’s installed, which can deter some people. 

 

Ducted Reverse Cycle Air-conditioning

The next step up is fully ducted reverse cycle air conditioning. Generally, at the higher end of the budget, ducted air-conditioning both heats and cools your home through one unit. It also means you only have one type of duct in your ceilings as both the heating and the cooling run through the same vent. Even better these days, many systems now come with full zoning, meaning you can turn it off in the areas and rooms you aren’t using, thus making it much more cost and energy-efficient.

 

Gas Log Fire

Many people like the ambiance of a gas log fire as a way to channel a traditional wood fire, but these are often installed to enhance a heating system and create a cosy atmosphere, rather than as a total heating option.

 

Hydronic Heating

By far, our new favourite heating is hydronic, even if it comes at a cost. As the name suggests, hydronic comes from the word “hydro”, meaning water.  Hydronic heating works by circulating heated water (usually via a gas furnace) throughout the home either through your concrete slab or wall panels. 

While the cost of installing hydronic heating is at the top end, the lovely warmth of the slab under your feet on those chilly winter days is worth every penny! Generally, hydronic systems are reasonably inexpensive to run. It’s also a great option for people with allergies and asthma as you’re not blowing air and dust around your house. 

If hydronic or under-floor heating is the one for you, you’ll need to take it into consideration before you get building as the concrete slab needs to be specifically designed to accommodate the pipes.

There are many options, all of which have varying supply, installation, and running costs. However, having your home designed to work efficiently using passive solar principles ensures it will heat and cool more naturally, reducing energy costs considerably.

Using quality insulation, double glazing, draft control, and leveraging nature’s free energy source, sunlight, will have a dramatic effect on the performance and efficiency of each system to deliver year-round comfort.

Custom Builder, House Renovation, Interior Design

Which heating and cooling options are right for your new home? – Part 1

With the depths of the gloomy winter months now well and truly upon us, the importance of having sufficient, preferably instant heat in our homes is all too real. It’s as though we completely forget how cold it gets every year!

As a kid, I can recall vying for the best spot in front of the gas wall furnace in our single-brick converted-garage-come-family-room, or in front of the combustion wood heater that occupied the lounge room – our only two forms of heating. My parents would have a similar memory when they were kids – of the wood fireplace, at least.

Of course, winter in Sydney is not so tough in comparison to our south-of-the-border neighbours’, who had a rude awakening to a 1.7-degree celsius morning recently – and it was still Autumn!

Likewise, cooling and good airflow through your home during those sweltering summer months can be vital to your comfort, especially impacting how well you sleep.

Unlike past decades when we had very few options, choosing the right heating and cooling system today can be a challenging task. With energy costs on the rise, energy efficiency a large focus and heating and cooling making up about 40% of household running costs, it’s important to make the right choice for your lifestyle and budget. 

Let’s take a quick look at what’s available.

 

Gas Ducted Heating

This is one of the more common systems, especially in homes built between 10 and 30 years ago. Before houses were built on concrete slabs, gas heating ducts were installed under the flooring. One might argue this was more efficient than the ceiling duct method used these days. Because hot air always rises, releasing heat at ceiling level means it mostly hangs out there, not where you need it at ground level. 

It still does the job but if your home has airy 7-metre high ceilings, it’s probably not going to be efficient or a sufficient way to heat your home.

 

Split System (Reverse Cycle) Air-conditioning Units

Another popular option is individual air-conditioners like split systems which provide heating and cooling. Each unit has an external condenser unit and an internal wall-mounted air distributor. Depending on the unit, the kW size in relation to the size of the area it’s servicing and the manner in which you use it, it can be very cost-efficient. 

If you’re the type to run it at 32 degrees all winter and 18 degrees all summer, not only should you consider moving to the northern hemisphere where the seasons are more aligned, you’re also in for some expensive bill surprises!

If used for a couple of hours a day at no lower than 24-25 degrees on cool in summer, and around 20-21 degrees heat in winter, it should cost you somewhere between $40-$150 a year.

Unfortunately, split system units can be an eyesore and have the potential to ruin the aesthetics of your luxury Merit Home. Fortunately, the same type of unit can be recessed into a bulkhead, showing only a grill or air vent. Very sleek!

In part 2 of this article, we’ll go into some more recently developed heating and cooling systems, as well as some basic design methods to ensure maximum energy efficiency.

Interior Design

Interior design elements to borrow from the Art-Deco era

Art-deco in the 1920s and 30s came at a time when elegance and affluence were at the height of fashion; when premium-quality craftsmanship was the ONLY choice and cutting corners with cheap, flimsy copies wasn’t even considered an option. 

Modernist styles from across the globe united to celebrate art and innovation. Effervescent, yet sophisticated, the old-world glamour of the Art Deco movement is hard not to like. 

Drawing inspiration from far and wide, the style influenced all things design, finding its way into fashion, jewellery and cars, sprawling seaside homes, skyscrapers, public buildings, cinemas, theatres and ships. The style was boldly modern, using geometric shapes, clean lines, metallic pops, luxe fabrics, bold colour and exotic materials.

 

Ensure yesterday complements today

Examples of Art Deco architecture are plentiful in Sydney and across Australia, showcasing the curves and geometric detailing of the day and adding a sense of history and character to the area it’s in. The beauty of the style is that it suits any location – leafy inner-city, along the coast, high in the hills or deep in the country.

White walls contrast beautifully with inky-black accents to ensure a modern freshness is paired with today’s lifestyle. Vast open living flowing to shady alfresco areas complement modern indoor/outdoor lifestyles. Colour pops up in the form of soft furnishings, metallic fittings and pendant lights, large geometric, lineal or abstract artwork, patterned tiles and sculptures.

 

Design 

The stars of the show are geometric shapes, curves and clean lines. Squares, triangles, parallel bands and sunburst motifs in the form of decorative ceiling mouldings, fireplaces, cornices, and leadlight windows. Doors and windows are typically framed in black for a sophisticated contrast to the crisp white simplicity of rendered walls. Spaces are voluminous and bathed in natural light to showcase classic detailing such as opulent brass and crystal chandeliers. 

 

Finishing touches 

Geometric shapes appear in everything from doors, tiles, wallpaper, bedheads, to table lamps and cabinet handles. A monochrome backdrop of white and black sets off pops of rich colour – that are far from meek and mild, yet are sophisticated and elegant. Furnishings and metals like chrome, brass, bronze and brushed steel are both practical and decorative. Nothing is over-done but the air of glamour is hard to ignore.

 

Keep it simple 

It would be wonderful to have the ability to step back in time to the era itself. And while so many of the design elements remain strikingly beautiful today, you probably don’t want an exact replica of a 1920s era home now in the 2020s. The idea is to adopt and incorporate certain understated elements of the style into your home to complement today’s modern design, not completely take it over.

Architecture & Building, Construction Consultant, Custom Builder, House Renovation, Interior Design, News

Step 6 of 8: Planning a knock-down & rebuild – Power Supply

Power Supply

These days, new home builds are connected to underground power, instead of the ugly overhead powerlines that line the streets in older neighbourhoods. 

You’ll notice power lines are missing in all new housing estates, and while they may still be present and in use in your area, slowly, overhead lines are being phased out and replaced with underground electricity – which makes for a far prettier, and safer streetscape. 

In many established areas, and as an ongoing project across the country that will continue for years to come, local councils are notifying ratepayers of their intention to commence the transition to underground power and homeowners are required to produce the funds to pay for the transition. 

We tell you this because one way or another, whether you want to or not, you’ll end up having to install and connect to an underground electricity source anyway, so it may as well be now. 

Your existing dwelling will have overhead power which will be abolished prior to demolition, and you’ll need to arrange the installation of an underground electricity pit. This process can be lengthy but can be commenced prior to the demolition of the existing home. 

How to arrange installation: 

  1. Contact your electricity provider for an application form. 
  2. Once returned, you’ll receive a quote which is usually valid for 30 days. 
  3. Payment is required in full before the quote expires and before works can commence.
  4. Once paid, your electricity pit will be installed approximately 28 days later. 
  5. Once installed, your electricity pit can take up to 21 days to be energised (made live).

So, this process can take anywhere from 60-90 days, depending on how quickly you pay for the works. You’ll want to have this completed ahead of construction commencing.

The benefits of underground power:

Improved public safety: by removing poles there are fewer car collisions, which continue to be a factor in a large number of accidents and deaths Australia-wide.

Improved reliability: underground power results in fewer disruptions and outages after major storm events.

Improved street appearance: No power lines create a more aesthetically pleasing neighbourhood.

Increased property value: There is strong evidence showing a positive impact on property values after the removal of poles and wires. 

Reduction in tree pruning: no more monitoring of trees getting in the way of live wires. Councils save on maintenance, while also allowing the tree canopy to flourish.

Lower costs: underground power has minimal maintenance and operating costs.

Improved opportunity for emerging technologies: helps pave the way for innovation through energy trading, electric vehicle penetration and Smart City strategies.

Architecture & Building, Construction Consultant, Interior Design, News

Tips for how best to work with your Interior Designer

Interior design is not so much about furnishings, artwork, knick-knacks, cushions and throws. It’s about functionality, practicality, cohesiveness, flow and making the most of every space in your home. 

Ideally, interior designers are best utilised right from the inception phase of your home design. Rather than considering interior design an additional or unnecessary expense, it’s an investment that will add genuine value to your home. 

Because of their experience with new builds, especially when it comes to selecting colour palettes, fittings, appliances, and making big design decisions – while sticking to the design brief, ordering goods in for specific stages AND keeping it within budget – they can also facilitate a good builder-client relationship. Here’s how to get the most out of your interior designer. 

  1. Find the perfect match for YOU. A good interior designer should be adept enough to jump from urban studio to industrial warehouse, rustic farmhouse to coastal getaway without skipping a beat.

Other than looking for parallels between the design you want and their previous work, look for someone you feel comfortable communicating with.

  1. Scrapbook examples. Even if you don’t have trouble articulating your desired look, pictures of rooms you love can instantly give the designer a sense of your vision. Point out specific aspects that resonate, along with what doesn’t. 

Fabric and paint swatches, furniture and Pinterest boards are other good sources. In turn, examples of colours, motifs/patterns, furniture and styles you don’t like can be equally helpful.

  1. Discuss which pieces must stay in advance. Unwilling to forego your heirloom 1920’s buffet or your glazed pottery collection? That’s okay. Your designer can work out how to display those pieces in your new home so they don’t look out of place, and also celebrate them as they should be – as long as you share that information during the initial consultation.
  2. Engage the designer as early as possible. Include the designer in the planning stages with your architect and builder so everyone is on the same page — particularly when it comes to the ‘bones’, such as doorways, ceiling beams, fixtures, right down to lighting and electrical points. It’s one thing to reorientate a window on plans; it’s another entirely to move it after installation.
  3. Clarify billing procedures up-front. Find out at the beginning when you’ll be charged and what for. In addition to the design, you may be billed for travel time, site visits, shopping, phone conversations and more. Ask how you’ll be billed for furnishings, materials or other items so you can anticipate fairly closely what and when to pay.
  4. Keep an open mind. It’s unlikely that you’ll absolutely adore 100 percent of your designer’s suggestions immediately. If they recommend a piece of furniture, a pattern, wallpaper or colour combination that you’re not so sure about, don’t say no without giving the idea some time to sink in. 

Be upfront and tell them you’re not sold on it…. yet. Chances are, when they tell you why they chose it, you’ll come to appreciate the reason it works. 

  1. Trust them. Just because you don’t love everything they suggest, it doesn’t mean they have no idea what you want or that they’re the wrong designer for you. Stay calm and just be honest. 

If you’ve had the heavy burden of selecting wall paint before, you’ll understand the anxiety that comes with picking the perfect shade of white from the 500 available. Right there is the reason you hired an interior designer in the first place! 

These are the tasks that you’re paying them to lose sleep over, so you don’t have to! But they don’t need you to micro-manage them so try to hand over the reigns and let it all come together. 

 

Architecture & Building, Custom Builder, Interior Design, News

The home design essentials that will NEVER change

Having been in the custom home industry for as long as we have, we’ve noticed a number of must-have items that have always been high on our clients’ priority lists – even as time passes and design and technology progress and evolve. 

The secret is to keep it simple! Go back to basics and focus on ways to make your home comfortable, functional and beautiful.

Ample Storage

Clutter and chaos have no business in your brand-new home. Especially for families, it’s important to have a designated place to store all the ‘stuff’. 

Design a garage that will store all of your tools, bikes, sports equipment, toys etc. Add storage to the hallways, living spaces, the laundry, bathrooms, and outdoor areas. For kitchens, it’s a scullery/butler’s pantry. In bedrooms, opt for fitted walk-in robes.

Multiple Bathrooms

Having more than one or two bathrooms in the home is a huge plus for most families. Morning routines can cause arguments between kids and parents if there’s only one bathroom in the home. 

Open Living Spaces

Open living plans are at the top of home buyer’s list. A large, open space connecting the living room to the kitchen makes quality family time effortless and parties a breeze.

Functional Kitchens

Kitchens are known for being the “heart of the home”. A place to cook, clean, talk, and hang out multiple times during the day, which is why having a functional kitchen can greatly benefit your everyday life.

Invest in quality appliances that will last. A kitchen island is a great addition that provides food prepping space and doubles as a quick breakfast spot. 

Low-Maintenance Materials

No one wants to be doing housework on their days off. While you will inevitably have to do some, there are a few smart additions you can make during the building phase to minimise your weekend chores.

Instead of scratch-prone hardwood floors, a more durable option is vinyl planks. Outdoors, premium synthetic turf is now incredibly realistic so it’ll look great year-round without a single minute of effort on your behalf. 

Technology

Having wireless capability throughout the entire house gives adults and kids the choice to work (or play) from anywhere in the home. Ensure to put in lots of outlets so that your family can stay plugged in wherever they are.

Natural Light

Daylight is a human desire and necessity. Having ample natural light brings joy and calmness. By keeping the width of your home narrow it’s much easier to bring daylight deeper into the home. For more enclosed areas consider a solar tube or skylight to bring in light from above. If you’re lucky enough to have a great view, make sure that you get to enjoy it through expansive windows.

The possibilities are endless! Choose functional, smart, and beautiful designs that will work for you and your family each and every day.

 

Custom Builder, Interior Design, News

Designing Your Custom Home Entertainment

“Party at our house!”

That’s a phrase you’re never too old for, and when you’re building a custom home, entertaining is sure to be one aspect that’s first and foremost to incorporate into your plans. 

Unique Designs For Your Taste And Style

The main advantage of building a custom home is that you’re designing it for YOU. Every aspect and space of the home is made to suit you, your needs and to cater to the way you like to live. 

When it comes to home entertaining, there are a few questions to ask yourself–and answer–before meeting with your architect and builder. Here’s what you need to consider:

How do you entertain?

Thinking through your social style is the key to creating your perfect entertaining environment. You’ll realise that your entertaining style will create a flow-on effect as to how you design other ‘unrelated’ aspects of the home, too.

Do you prepare the food, get caterers in, or a mix of both?

Do you have more formal dinner parties, or do you prefer more casual, outdoorsy type of event by throwing something on the barbie?

Are drinks and hors d’oeuvres more your thing?

Does your entertaining revolve around sporting events?

Do you want a dedicated space, like a wine or billiards room?

What about an outdoor kitchen and living space?

Now it’s time to decipher the features that make your new home a haven for lively and inspiring evenings.

Kitchen

If you have your parties catered, you might put a higher priority on a butler’s pantry for caterers to work from, out of view.

On the other hand, if you love cooking, you’ll want a large, inviting space with several seating options so you can join the party while plating up. A centre island bench with bar seating and a nearby dining area with comfortable chairs is ideal. 

State-of-the-art appliances are essential for easy prep and clean up. Double ovens, convection microwaves, load-sensing dishwashers, and smart refrigerators are an entertainer’s best friend.

Open Floor Plan

Open spaces allow guests to mingle without feeling crowded, and bifold doors outside initiate good flow throughout your entire home.

Take it outside

In Australia, it’s not just kitchens and bathrooms that sell houses. Outdoor entertaining – or at least great potential for it – is a must-have in any home. 

A large, covered deck with wiring and plumbing creates an outdoor room to enjoy the great outdoors. Add a built-in bbq, wet bar, and wine fridge; a seating area, fireplace and a TV to broadcast the game on, and you might never want to venture back inside!

Extra Goodies

If you’ve got a specific hobby or pastime you enjoy, incorporate a space dedicated to it. Your pool table, arcade gaming, or your movie, music or fine wine collection can be enjoyed, and if you haven’t given up on becoming a rock star, build a sound-proof studio!

 

Architecture & Building, Construction Consultant, Custom Builder, Interior Design, News

Integrating smart home technology in your new home

If you’re building your own home in 2020, you have a unique opportunity to achieve true home automation by implementing smart home technology into your design from the early planning stages. 

Imagine waking to your favourite song; your blinds letting in the light while you’re still snug under the covers. Imagine your coffee pouring into your favourite mug while you’re singing in the shower. Your mower tidying up the lawn and then putting itself back on charge in the shed.

Imagine being notified that it’s raining and you’ve left a window open, or walking through your front door after a hectic day to find your dinner in a hot oven, almost ready to serve….

‘Who is this mystery man?!’ you ask. No, this is no man, live-in butler or maid and this isn’t the set of ‘Back to the Future’. This is all now possible with the latest smart home technology. 

We’re now living in the ‘ask and you shall receive’ age and there’s bound to be a smart gadget or system to deliver every smart idea you’ve ever had.

What do you NEED?

As a starting point, ask yourself what you need. Integrated smart home technology won’t necessarily increase your home’s value, so the integrations must benefit you and your family. 

A smart coffee machine won’t be of any use if no one in the house drinks coffee. Perhaps you want to make energy savings or a state-of-the-art entertainment suite. 

Is home security is at the top of your list? If you have various people coming and going, perhaps a system that allows temporary access without giving outsiders a key would put your mind at ease.

Whatever it is, know your smart home needs from the outset and don’t get distracted by the latest gadgets if they won’t serve your lifestyle.

Get busy planning and researching products now.

When your smart-tech planning starts before building commences, you can focus on implementing the right infrastructure to support it, that will accommodate the latest technology and withstand future advances and innovations. 

The number one smart home essential is Smart Wiring and this happens at the framing stage before the walls are up. Smart wiring is a system that combines multiple wires into a single platform, allowing the integration of various smart home systems and sensors, with the capacity to add more later.

USB points are also essential in today’s connected lifestyle – where everyone in the family seems to have at least 10 or more gadgets to charge up by USB. Trust us, these won’t be a wasted commodity in any household!

It goes without saying, the foundation of any good smart-home is a strong internet connection, additional data points and a high-quality router to handle all the new smart devices that use your network to make your life easier. Without that, a smart home is not very smart at all!

Architecture & Building, Custom Builder, Interior Design, News

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, News

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.