Are Smaller Homes the New Australian Dream?

It’s no secret that the increasing cost of building, combined with a growing need to reduce construction waste, poses a challenge for our industries.

The “Great Australian Dream” is moving away from the quarter-acre block and towards small spaces that are flexible, efficient, sustainable and connected to services outside of their own footprint.

At the heart of these micro-homes is strict analysis of clients’ needs, good design that integrates existing structures, and an optimistic mentality about “right-sizing,” not down-sizing.

 
Boneca Apartment by Brad Swartz. Photographer: Tom Ferguson

Brad Swartz, Director of Brad Swartz Architects, challenges the limitations of small spaces, to uncover the potential of spaces as micro as his own 27sqm Darlinghurst apartment. By considering natural light, fresh air and surrounding green space, in client projects such as the 24sqm Boneca Apartment, Swartz reminds owners that ultimately, sacrifices need to be discussed and made consciously, so that the resulting property is a response to their ‘must-have’s.

Boneca Apartment by Brad Swartz. Photographer: Tom Ferguson

“It’s about understanding how much space you actually need to live your life and designing your home around that,” says Swartz. “The rest is a lifestyle choice, driven by a change in mindset regarding every need fitting into a home.”

While building is costly, our cities are still magnetic, with urbanites shunning a “where can we buy?” mentality in favour of “how can we live?” in areas that are buzzing with energy.

Cara Middleton Architecture project. Photographer – Tom Ferguson. Stylist – Tess Thyregod

Carla Middleton, Director of Carla Middleton Architecture, a boutique residential firm in Sydney’s Clovelly has seen a rise in requests for smaller homes from clients who prioritise city proximity and at-home experiences over possessions and square meterage, highlighting a “quality over quantity” approach.

Cara Middleton Architecture project. Photographer – Tom Ferguson. Stylist – Tess Thyregod

Middleton’s design for the Waverley House project expands the form of an existing building by lowering the floor and raising the ceiling, then filling spaces with daylight and neutral hues to create a compact home with a sense of airiness and differentiation between spaces.

Studio Bright, Garden Tower House – Photographer: Rory Gardiner

Melbourne architect Melissa Bright, founding director of Studio Bright, often works within the bounds of existing narrow properties in Melbourne’s street networks to maximise their experience.

Studio Bright, Garden Tower House – Photographer: Rory Gardiner

Garden Tower House in Cremorne transforms a 4.2m-wide site into a family home with fractionally raised levels, pockets of greenspace and integrated lightwells, to create transitions throughout the elongated property.

Cushla McFadden’s TMH projects – Coledale Beach Studio. Photographer: Damian Bennett.

Interior designer Cushla McFadden, director at Tom Mark Henry, has been learning first-hand what living within a petite home with a family of young children really means.

Cushla McFadden’s TMH projects – Coledale Beach Studio. Photographer: Damian Bennett.

McFadden’s Coledale Beach Studio is a 40sqm converted garage, augmented using state-of-the-art prefab technology and fitted with insulating timber panelling, recycled glass benchtops and recycled hardwood decking, making it impressively low-impact. Her guidance includes smart storage and having an acute understanding of your needs for living happily as ingredients for a successful project.

Scrutinising a property’s scale and sustainability poses the question: Should everything be in a home, if it has access to spaces and services around it?

Jeff Provan, Design Director of Neometro, a design-focused architecture development group with three decades of experience in urban and residential design, is designing tool libraries and flexible spaces into projects, to give residents more variety without having to commit to additional space.

Blurring the lines between residential and commercial spaces is an evolving philosophy of Neometro’s work, which promotes small footprint living alongside mixed-use spaces, to create a vibrant and diverse neighbourhood. Lofts are also a key part of developments thanks to their flexibility, volume and adaptability, improving their likelihood of fulfilling residents’ needs for years to come.

“It’s important to design spaces that are adaptable and multifunctional so that you can maximise the use of space that you have.” comments Provan.

And once we have done all we can with a space? We need to plan for its decommissioning and reuse.

House for Eva, MRTN. Photographer: Dave Kulesza

Antony Martin of MRTN Architects, has a deep focus on both sourcing hardwearing, sustainable materials and respecting the environment in which we build. Martin sees sustainability as one of Australian architecture’s biggest opportunities for leadership, calling for buildings with small environmental and physical footprints, even once they are retired.

House for Eva, MRTN. Photographer: Dave Kulesza

“Now, we consider the end of a building’s life right from the beginning, How can we make sure it’s recycled or reused instead of just torn down and sent to landfill?” comments Martin.

  

House for Eva, MRTN. Photographer: Dave Kulesza

“We need to be really careful about the decisions we make about demolition, because it has such a big impact on the environment.”

Hear more from these voices at our panel on Maximising Lifestyle & Experience within Small Footprints in Residential Design: will take place at 3:30pm on Thursday 15 June, on the Design Talks Stage.

This article was supplied by our content partner Trout Creative Thinking. Trout is hosting various panels across all three days of the event.