For time immemorial, the family home has followed a fairly straight-forward set of design rules: four walls and a roof, which neatly enclose the kitchen, family room, bathrooms and bedrooms. Over time however, we have adapted this set of guidelines to make our homes fit more comfortably with the way we live our lives. Traditional, box-like rooms have made way for open-plan living; the kitchen and living room now flow into one, airy, light space from which we come and go seamlessly; entertaining now happens throughout the house: from kitchen, to dining, to outdoor setting. The Australian climate and way of life lends itself to flexible, open spaces which bring the whole family together.
Nowadays however, there are a few designers challenging the established 21st century norms and turning everyday living and home design on its head. Here are just a few of the latest trends which we’re seeing emerge. Are they set to catch on? Only time will tell.
Ditching the lounge
The ubiquitous set of plush lounges on which we spend much of our time are a place of relaxed comfort and family gathering (often, around the television). More often than not, families will eat their meals and spend ‘quality’ time in the living room, bustling between kitchen and couch for dinner, drinks and snacks. And yet, in today’s increasingly sedentary lifestyle, some designers are turning on the humble couch and ditching it for minimalist, rudimentary design.
If Amanda Talbot of Rethink – The Way You Live is to be believed, prominent Sydney architect Kevin Ho is one of these trailblazers: ditching the lounge suite for a single wooden chair. And why on Earth would he do that? To get himself up and off the couch, and instead spend his time socialising outdoors. The wooden chair allows him to watch television of course: but only when there is truly something worth watching.
This novel idea may seem a little over-disciplinary or even reminiscent of Buddhist monk-esque deprivation, however Ho is not the alone in this movement. Blogger, Francine Jay of Miss Minimalist, evangelises on the benefits of minimalist living, and spruiks the mantra ‘less is more’.
“To me, being a minimalist isn’t only about white walls and empty spaces. It’s about eliminating the distractions that keep us from fully appreciating life. My goal is to find that elusive point of “just enough,” whereby I own nothing more than that which meets my needs. I believe that minimalism isn’t about emptiness for the sake of emptiness—but rather making room to move freely, think clearly, and open ourselves to the beauty and wonder of life.’’
This ethos lead to her own (what some would call ‘extreme’) decluttering when it came to furnishing her new London flat. Doing away with the couch, in such a spatially-challenged living room and instead opting for a set of chairs and a table gave Francine and her husband the flexibility to entertain visitors, and yet live in keeping with their needs.
While many of us could little imagine life without the time-honoured tradition of sofa-slouching, it seems for many, there is merit in the wild idea of a more active living space. Less couch potato, and more outdoor enthusiast? It’s something that perhaps many of us should be considering.
The outdoor outhouse
Think of outdoor showers and backyard toilets and you’ll likely picture the pre-war Queenslander and red-dirt countryside. Before reliable plumbing and sparkling porcelain were available to the masses, the humble ‘outdoor dunny’ was an Australian icon: albeit one fraught with creepy crawlies and an unpleasant winter draught of two. The bathroom renovation is, in fact, one of the most challenging parts of any home makeover. Struggling with the littlest room in the house, fitting in the bath, basin and cupboards while leaving enough room to swing a towel is enough to send some folk into conniptions. That’s not to mention the waterproofing, tile choosing and lighting fitting, to boot!
Is it any wonder then, that some designers are re-embracing the ‘outdoor outhouse’ concept, and giving it a flourish of modern luxury? In an attempt to find communion between our modern lifestyles and the natural Australian landscape, the outdoor shower and bathroom is not only functional but rather indulgent. While freeing up room inside the house for a kitchen extension that you’ve been dreaming of, or an office space that you’re desperately in need of, removing the bathroom from the main building is a practical solution to many household space problems.
Getting ‘back to nature’ and enjoying the outdoors while you indulge in time to yourself in the shower or bathroom is also terrific way to relax. In fact, studies show that time spent outdoors directly relates to reduced stress and higher levels of happiness. If that’s not a reason to consider a bit of an outdoor bathroom renovation – we don’t know what is.
The tiny house movement
While you’re fantasising about your next bathroom renovation or kitchen refurbishment, you might consider another project which (unlike the bathroom and kitchen) is a DIY weekend-warrior’s dream. The tiny house movement has been making its way around the world for generations now, often as a solution to housing affordability issues or lack of land. These days however, the tiny house movement has an enthusiastic cult following, which is growing by the day.
Much like the Aussie dream of travelling the country in a caravan and parking up in whichever picturesque spot takes your fancy, the tiny house concept is all about minimalism, freedom and flexibility. Often built upon a trailer, with the ability to pick up and take off at a moment’s notice, these miniscule abodes are a far cry from the old pop-top camper. With a focus on intricate detail and skilful craftsmanship, tiny houses are a thing of beauty: capturing hearts and minds around the world and creating quite a dedicated community of devotees.
Incorporating bedroom space, bathroom, kitchen and even entertaining areas, these houses employ clever ideas in space-saving, to create small but perfectly formed works of art. Can’t afford that holiday home near the beach? For just a fraction of the cost, not to mention many hours of DIY heaven, the tiny house may just be the bespoke solution for you.