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Architecture & Building, Custom Builder, News

Ways to make a narrow-block home more spacious

As our population grows, so too does housing density in metropolitan Sydney and beyond. Our homes are getting bigger and our lifestyles are busier and busier. 

What does not increase, however, is the overall space we have to work with when building a home. That’s the only part that decreases – and to so many with an increasingly busy lifestyle, it’s a much-welcomed change! 

Old-fashioned house blocks are now often divided down the middle into two narrow separately titled lots – each with street frontage, their own driveways and no shared land. 

While the narrow-lot home is often larger than most, it can seem a little smaller. Here are some practical ways your architect might counteract the feeling of a narrow home.

#1 – Open Plan

Open plan can make your home feel more spacious. Opening space upwards, high ceilings and voids between levels gives the feeling of a much larger space than is the reality.

Fewer walls separating rooms means more natural sunlight filtering in too, which can do wonders for making your home feel more expansive.

Idea #2 – Glass

Utilising glass in your home goes a long way to creating a sense of space and light.

As a general rule, bigger is better. Large expanses of windows and full-height glass doors help to bring the outside in and create a seamless flow from one space to the next. 

Idea #3 – Add a Balcony

A balcony is a great way to create an extra element. By adding a balcony to the second floor, you are effectively adding an additional entertaining area or outdoor space to relax and enjoy.

This gives you extra square metres of living space without impacting on your overall footprint, meaning you can still find room for the double garage and a genuine, yet manageable backyard!

Idea #4 – Storage

Under stair storage is a great space-saving option. By utilising the space under your staircase you can easily store clutter-causing items like books, containers, boxes and clothes, as well as rarely used items like old appliances or your ski equipment. 

Under the stairs is ideal for wine as the temperature stays relatively constant, meaning your vintage Penfolds Grange will keep.

Invest in custom-made shelving, surfaces and drawers throughout your home – bookshelves in the library and office, entertainment units to the living rooms, bathroom storage, garage, and of course, the bedrooms. As any family can attest, storage is key to a happy, organised home and you can NEVER have too much of it!

Idea #5 – Talk to an expert

While everyone has their own ideas about how to make the best use of space, the best advice is to consult with an expert – someone who has designed hundreds of homes, all with similar challenges to overcome.

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, Construction Consultant, News

How to have a good relationship with your builder

Building a high-end home may occupy up to a few years of your life. Spending that much time with someone is what some might consider a ‘long-term relationship’, and just like any relationship, both parties must work at building, nurturing and maintaining it. 

Rest assured, many real, life-long friendships have formed between builder and client and your new home will be better for having a harmonious foundation! Read on for a few tips for building a great relationship with your builder.

Respect.

All good relationships are built on mutual respect. Respect that your builder is a professional with years of knowledge and experience – that’s why you have chosen them for the job. Likewise, the builder needs to respect that it’s your dream home and your money funding the project. 
As long as there are mutual respect and consideration, things should remain positive and the relationship will strengthen over time.

Communication.

Equally important as respect is to a relationship, clear and open communication is also key. Most builders aren’t mind-readers and would prefer to cut to the chase to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings and confusion, which will make the process more stressful than it needs to be.

Open clear lines of communication from the beginning. Share phone numbers and emails. Decide who will be the point of contact for both sides to reduce the chances of conflicting conversations to derail the project.

Set clear expectations.

Make your expectations clear from the very beginning. A good builder will listen and give you options to what they think is reasonably possible based on their experience, professional opinion, and your budget.

It’s also important to discuss expectations about communication and quality. Do you expect a daily or weekly update? Should your builder expect you to stop by the site regularly or would they prefer to call you first? What quality level do you expect?

Finally, make sure it’s spelled out in the contract so there are no disputes later on. 

Understand that changes will happen.

No matter how well a build is planned, understand that unforeseen factors can and will come into play. If you’re the type to break out in hives if your lunch plans change, you may need to practice some meditation.

Accept that changes, delays and problems are a part of nearly every build. The only thing you can’t count on is when to expect them!

It’s best if you can have a conversation about how to handle changes at the onset so everything’s clear before you begin building. If you’re making design changes after the build is underway it can throw things off and create a lot of extra work.

Life happens and can get in the way, but don’t let it unravel your relationship.

Architecture & Building, Construction Consultant, News

Steps to building a custom home

While the steps of building a high-end custom home with a boutique builder like Merit Homes are generally similar to that of building a cookie-cutter home with a commercialised home builder, there are several parts of the custom build process that are unique and require a lot more thought, input and hands-on involvement. 

That’s the best part, though. You become an integral part of bringing your dream to life.

You choose your team;

make the decisions;

determine the style and design;

select all the elements; 

and you can hand over as much or as little of the process as you like.

We’ve put together a general representation of the custom home-build process. Every experience will be unique, but the basic road map and final destination are the same. 

Read on for a brief overview and return back soon to delve into each step in more detail.

Dare to Dream

Homes are built from a single dream. You find inspiration in the strangest places. You gather a collection of wonderful, sometimes wacky ideas. You obsessively research products and new technology, building materials, design and locations. The dream grows over months and even years, until one day… you’re finally ready.

Budget and feasibility 

Speak with your accountant, financial planner and bank about the financial feasibility of your project and put together a budget. Allow 10-20% of your total budget for a contingency or emergency fund. Unbudgeted surprise expenses are guaranteed, and not allowing for them could mean not being able to complete the build.

Build your dream team

Your core team will be made up of your architect, builder and interior designer. It’s most important to build an open, honest and comfortable working relationship so that everyone is on the same page. 

Remember to draw on your team’s knowledge and expertise for guidance. You don’t do this every day – they do. Be open to change and different ideas and have trust in their input.

Finance

Finalise your finance and budget. It’s important to be upfront about your budget with your team from the beginning so they can design a home to suit. 

Find your build site

Location is the most important part so don’t rush it. Consider the view but also the site costs, accessibility, excavation, council zoning and restrictions. Can you build what you want? As well as your real estate agent, work with your solicitor and architect to identify suitable sites. 

Architectural design

You’ve purchased the block, now you can move into the design phase.  

There are 4 steps to the architectural design process: 

Programming; 

Schematic design; 

Design development; and 

Construction drawings. 

Feel the earth move!

Once the design is complete and your permits are in place, it’s time to prepare the site for the construction phase. This means excavation, ensuring utility connections are going to the site and ready to connect, and everything is ready for construction to commence.

Construction

Remember, an expansive custom home like yours will take much longer to complete than a mass-produced standard-built home – and so it should! You can help by making timely decisions to help prevent unnecessary delays.

Finishing touches

As your home is near ready to occupy, you can start planning the finishing touches. But beware: our insurance doesn’t allow external contractors to complete works while we’re still on site. 

Get everything ordered and ready to go by all means, but don’t book in any on-site appointments or installations until we’ve signed off and moved out.

Move in!

 

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.

Architecture & Building, Custom Builder, News

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.