Changes in the air
Changes in architecture generally occur incrementally, with small changes made over decades, rather than from season to season. In the post-war period, large picture windows rather than small multi-paned windows heralded a major change, as did a move to open-plan living. The latter, for example, has dominated housing design since the 1950s to recent times.
However, according to architect Andrew Piva, director of b.e. Architecture, there has been a slight shift towards separating the kitchen. “We still maintained sight lines between kitchen, living and dining areas, but there has been a shift away from completely open plan kitchens, where everything is on display,” says Piva. “This slight separation of kitchen and living areas takes ‘pressure’ off the one space,” he adds.
This trend made its presence felt with b.e Architecture’s renovation of a house in South Yarra. The large country-style kitchen is located to one side of a living area, but still allows for unimpeded views. “The kitchen, even though it’s slightly on its own, has become more of a focal point, whether it’s the place children gravitate to after school, or when friends and family drop in,” says Piva. Another change has been the inclusion of a smaller room, which is secondary to the main living areas. It could be a library or reading nook or simply a place to watch television at night. “This space isn’t dependent on great natural light. It could easily be located at the core of a house, away from windows and doors,” he says. Another room that is regularly being included in a house is the ‘mud’ room, often associated with rural properties. “These mud rooms have become a back-of-house feature, where children can drop their bags after school or simply where guests hang their coats.”
Other changes noticed by Piva include smaller gardens. And instead of the one large back garden, there are now likely to be a series of smaller and more intimate outdoor areas, including terraces and courtyards. “In the past, a front garden was something you walked past before you reached the front door. We’re now more conscious of creating a variety of outdoor experiences that also activate various rooms within the house,” says Piva, who has seen a return to pergolas and other screening devices. Piva has also seen a strengthening in using materials such as concrete and brick. “Concrete and bricks are used in an honest way rather than concealing these with plaster, such as for a wall or a ceiling,” he adds.
However, whether its exposed concrete ceilings, floors or walls, Piva sees greater expectations from clients in the spaces they use, irrespective of size. ‘There has been a significant shift to townhouse living rather than apartments. And if they are living in apartments, people are looking for more generous spaces, often between 150 and 200 square metres in size,” says Piva.
Architect Mark Austin, co-director of Austin Maynard Architects, also sees greater emphasis placed on higher density living. “But people don’t want to live in ‘dog boxes’, that are poorly designed and constructed,” says Austin, who also sees greater emphasis placed on sustainable design. “There is legislation to encourage better thermal qualities. But this isn’t always policed,” says Austin.
Austin also sees a dropping off of some rooms that were ‘must-have’ items a few years ago; rooms such as media or cinema rooms and parents’ retreats. “People generally only inhabit a relatively small part of their homes. They realise that many of these must-have spaces are rarely used,” says Austin, who sees the importance of placing more attention on the rooms that are used on a more regular basis.
Austin Maynard Architects has also found that people are becoming more adventurous with their design choices. “Through the internet, people are exposed to what can be achieved and see what others are doing not just in Australia, but around the world,” says Austin. And rather than religiously following real estate agents’ advice, such as ensuites with every bedroom and walk-in robes, they are following their own instincts in the ways they choose to live. “It’s about enjoying spaces that are for themselves, not predominantly for resale,” adds Austin.
b.e. Architecture can be contacted on 03 9529 6433 or at www.bearchitecture.com
Austin Maynard Architects can be contacted on 03 9481 5110 or at www.maynardarchitects.com
About the Author: Stephen Crafti
Stephen Crafti has been writing about design and architecture since the early 1990s and is a regular contributor to DesignBUILD. Inspired by the architecture around him in Melbourne, Australia, he was keen to share the things he saw, whether buildings, furniture, fashion or other stunning pieces of contemporary design. After many years of writing about his favourite things, and with numerous books and articles behind him, Crafti still delights in discovering and promoting exhilarating design. He is a regular contributor to several Australian newspapers and local and international design magazines.