Shawn’s Ideal House

In the lead-up to launching their “My Ideal House Competition”, the guys from House and Garden Magazine (in collaboration with Mirvac) approached our director, Shawn, for his opinion on what the “Ideal House” for the average Australian family might look like, and how it might function.

At Base we take a very personal approach to our residential projects, with a strong focus on the emotive notions of a home and designing for the lifestyles of our clients rather than simply to a pragmatic brief. As with any project, there is always a functional list of requirements that need consideration (such as room types and numbers), and these will vary depending on the occupants – for example elderly residents compared to a busy young family – however, often it is far more important to consider the sense of place and the feeling of living within the spaces, rather than designing with only room numbers and required areas in mind.

Have a read of Shawn’s answers to the ‘hard questions’…

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In your opinion, what are ‘must includes’ in any family home being built today?

Firstly, great flow, ease of the journey, to, from, around and within the spaces.

Secondly, passive design notions such as cross ventilation, orientation and general siting conditions.

Thirdly – relationship to context – i.e. relationships to neighbours, streetscape, landscape and general surrounds – how the building should respond to these to be able to reflect, respect, incise and encourage.

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What role do you think flexible spaces or rooms play in ensuring a home is ‘future proofed’?

Flexibility is key.

We live in a very technologically advanced world now – and being adaptable, flexible and malleable is critical. The notion of universal design to accommodate as many demographic groups will see houses become more suitable to many, as opposed to specific to one.

At Base, we push the ideology of multiplicity of spaces as opposed to multiple spaces; which essentially means that if a space can be designed for many functions through simple design techniques, (e.g. operable windows and doors, loose furniture, joinery items, multiple sleeping arrangements), then the space can adapt throughout the course of its life.

This is reinforced by the ever-rising costs of construction – hence, if we can propose one or two spaces that could be used for 5 functions, it is far more efficient than creating a separate space for each of these functions, whereby only 1 or 2 of them are ever being used at once.

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Technology is changing so rapidly – how do you think this factor might change how homes are being designed?

To me technology is to be embraced and used to enhance the experience of the space, make the flow and feeling in the space better, and evoke feelings that reflect the individuals’ lifestyles.

Technology can most certainly assist these ideals, however we need to be smart and not be seduced by the gadgets that may claim to do these. We are however human and seem to get drawn to the new and glistening latest material or appliance like a moth to a light, and it will be different for everyone.

To me the marriage of the word technology and sustainability are much stronger, yet once again not to be confused just with an energy rated light bulb – as most of the time it is marketing and media hype. The marriage I talk about is that of the research and development (R&D) that is happening on products and materials currently, which seeks to use the by-products to create a multitude of other materials, uses and more importantly those that give back to other sectors.

An example is Bamboo – it is quick to grow, edible by man and beast, used to make various building materials (from fabrics to floor boards), and the left over from this end product goes back into the ground to assist soil stabilisation. This to me is an example of how technology, sustainability and good R&D have come to realise and understand some of our natural resources for the betterment of all.

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Which eco features/materials would you rate as essential to any home being designed now?

The main eco feature is ‘good design’.

It is very cliche, but the form will always follow the function if the function has been designed appropriately and in accordance to the needs of the client. In saying that I always get a bit of a sense or feeling for how a house or more particularly a building could respond when I arrive at a site, and these are senses that truly just respond to the site and locale, and most often without knowing really who the client is, what their families are made up of, their lifestyles, or the general remaining ingredients that go into the big mixing bowl of ideas.

Therefore I would say some of the key questions to ask oneself when making final selections of materials or building ‘features’ based on their level of ‘eco-friendliness’ these would be:

  • Appropriateness
  • Longevity
  • Sustainability
  • Affordability
  • Availability
  • Safety
  • Ability to respond to the conditions (weather, lifestyle, kids etc)

In summary, there is really a lot to consider when designing a home which is future-proof, efficient and enjoyable to live in. However, we have seen firsthand the lifestyle benefits of ‘good-design’ and find it extremely rewarding to help our clients realise their own ‘ideal’ home!