Inside...looking out

A booming new housing industry has led to an abundance of fresh designs and innovations to tempt homebuyers.

It appears Victorians just can’t get enough when it comes to indoor/outdoor living. Banks of glass and sliding doors to the rear of the house as well as covered alfresco areas, are becoming the norm as more homebuyers seek to make the best use of interior and exterior spaces.

It has become such a strong trend in recent years that the vast majority of new homes have been configured in some way to accommodate it.

This revolution in housing design, and moves to greatly enhance home interiors and exteriors, reflects the way society has changed over the last two decades, according to Housing Industry Association Victorian executive director John Gaffney.

“The way we live now has been absolutely transformed from the way many of us were brought up. The concept of indoor/outdoor living has really been embraced,” John says.

“It’s a fascinating indication of the way our climate has changed and our lifestyles have followed suit.

Our shockingly cold winters seem to have become a bit milder and summers are getting hotter.  We are much more inclined to make use of our outdoor spaces year round instead of a handful of barbecues in the summer."

John says this lifestyle shift is remarkable, given that the designs of period houses and even those built as recently as the 1960s and 1970s largely ignored the "interaction" between house and back garden.

"The only way to the garden was through the laundry to the back door.  You never saw a sliding glass door," he says.

"Now there's recognition that the back yard is a part of the family living sone.  I've seen a great trend in people installing commercial shopfront-style glass doors to open up the back.

It doesn't matter whether you're on a big or small block of land, this trend has been a revolution in home design and certainly incorporated in virtually every design I've seen in recent times."

John says alfresco zones are becoming more popular because major builders are using innovative aspects of interstate (Western Australia and Queensland) and international designs in their products.

Queensland and Western Australian homes have had indoor/outdoor-orientated designs for more than a decade.

Another integral factor affecting home design is the State Government initiated move to energy efficient green housing.

A compulsory five-star energy rating for all new houses from July 1, 2005, means builders will have to rethink the way they build houses.

For many this will mean their new houses will have smaller and northerly-sun-orientated windows, where appropriate, and a combination of some or all of the following: double-glazed windows, draught proofing, increased insulation, as well as solar hot water systems and rainwater tanks.

John says, until recently, environmentally sustainable houses have not been built with much regard for style.

"This has changed, especially with the State Government's push towards a five-star energy rating for houses," he says.

"Energy efficient designs are definitely on the improve, and I can see them being actively marketed to a more green-conscious public."

John says many home designs being used now could reach the five-star rating in their own right, with some minimal changes.

"Other builders and developers have a period where they can rethink their designs and materials in such a way they will be cost-effective for the buying public," John says.

Apart from the functionality of the house, Victorians are also interested in how it appears.

John says they want to impress with a top quality look inside and outside.

Recent trends have seen floating timber floors, upmarket granite-bench-top kitchens and bathrooms as well as rendered facades become increasingly popular.

Rendered facades are a sign of the times as people strive to make that eye-catching street statement.

"About 30 per cent of new houses in Victoria have rendered facades," John says.

He adds steel roofs are also in fashion because they can be shaped to achieve a trendy curved look.

The 2003 HIA Awards are at the Melbourne Convention Centre tonight.

Publication: Herald Sun Home
Date: November 15, 2003
Author: Andrew Brasier

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