In Australia the average home size has been increasing to the point where we now build some of the biggest houses in the world. Our recent prosperity has made this possible but just because you can afford to make a large home doesn’t necessarily mean you should.
Recent increases in apartment living and even the Tiny House Movement have people thinking differently about what it takes to make a successful home. These examples may be extreme but it is worth reconsidering the usual ‘bigger is better’ mantra.
Psychologically, planning codes may actually tend to influence people to maximise their home sizes. The minimum setback and open space requirements may inadvertently lead owners to seek the maximum permissible rather than the best possible.
But why reduce and what are the benefits?
Firstly, smaller is cheaper.
“The money you save can be spent on improving quality of finishes, appliance selections or ceiling heights.”
- Kris Mainstone, Director, Maine Architecture.
Secondly, the smaller the house, the bigger the outdoor living area. At the same time that Australian houses have been getting bigger, the blocks have been getting smaller. Something has to give, and this is usually the back yard. So many times I’ve been shown a beautiful home only to be disappointed by the 4 x 4 tin-covered space which is the back yard.
Houses are expensive to build, and by comparison gardens are very affordable. However, thinking about it a little deeper, the price of land itself is very expensive so wouldn’t you want to maximise it?
This can be easily achieved by building two storeys and moving as much space as possible upstairs. This should ensure a large yard and garden which will only become more desirable as land becomes more sought after. A large outdoor living, especially in the inner city could add much more value than savings made by sticking to a single storey.
With a large family and open plan living, having a second living space is essential. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need a second formal dining, theatre, games room or study. The key here is to design rooms to be multi-purpose and flexible.
Guest rooms take up a lot of real estate and are only utilised occasionally. A home office that can transform to accommodate the occasional guest can be a much more economical option. Similarly, large sliding doors can create separation when needed but disappear when space is the priority.
So in some situations a large palatial home may indeed be the appropriate solution to your site. But before you assume this to be the case, challenge yourself to question what’s truly necessary and what are you sacrificing to achieve bigger.