Throughout history, the concept of home has been studied, argued over and experienced by people from every walk of life. What does home mean to us, and why do we like the idea of building our own ‘forever’ home? Winston Churchill said, “We shape our dwellings, and afterwards our dwellings shape us.” Home grounds us, sends us into the world confident, and eventually draws us back.
Universal Design: dream or reality?
The concept of the forever home inevitably engenders questions of what good design means. After all, design is more than visual appearance; good design must be functional and flexible enough to cater to householders’ changing needs, particularly if old age or disability are factors. The NDA defines universal design as “the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability.” Some argue that a luxury forever home is impossible – that upscaling or downsizing are eventual inevitabilities. After all, how can one house be sufficient for the lifetime of a family’s changing needs?
Frances Cosway, an interior designer who authored Your Forever Home and winner of the ‘Best Ecological Sustainable Design for Bayside 2015’ award, said, “Your home is a story of you, your lifestyle and your personal life journey.” Cosway’s own award winning home has a strong focus on sustainability, something worth investing in when planning for permanence.
A forever location
Choosing a location to build your high end home may look very different at various stages of life. With young kids, schools, daycares and parks will most likely be the focus. However, in order to think long-term, consider whether your chosen location is also close to things like grocery stores, hospitals and doctors’ offices.
Is there a ‘right time’ to start building your forever house? The answer is no. There are guidelines you may want to consider, like after deciding how many children you want (if any) or whether you are in a stable financial position, but everyone is different.
When aiming for longevity, focussing on multi-functional spaces is going to be the most cost-effective and practical way to design your luxury home. You don’t just want your house to look nice. As Steve Jobs, former Apple CEO, says, “Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works.” In order to avoid feeling empty and out of place once your children leave home, plan for ways to transform those spaces, and design accordingly.
Listed here are some practical tips on using the same space in multiple ways for home designs NSW:
- Kids’ bedrooms become a place to host grandchildren or other friends/family members.
- A closed off living space with separate entry becomes an Airbnb or place to rent out and make money from in your retirement, or when children have moved out.
- Smaller kids’ bedrooms or having your children share rooms and bathrooms (you won’t have as much empty space when they leave home). Note: make sure the bedrooms still have ample storage/cupboard space.
- Skip the formal dining and living rooms, or if you have one of them, design it to double as an office in order to be more useful.
Disability access: planning for changing needs
The mark of a successful forever house its ability to adapt to your changing needs. The reality is that as we age, there are certain things that become more difficult or even impossible.
Here are some things to consider in your original design that will make life easier as you age:
- Easy to close up if you want to spend a portion of your year travelling once you retire. Consider low maintenance options for while you are away on holiday.
- Building a single storey house with wheelchair access (or ability to create it). If you’re going to build double storey, have the master bedroom on the ground floor with easily accessible bathroom, kitchen and laundry.
- A wide roll in shower on the ground floor.
- Allowing enough space in essential rooms for wheelchair/walking frame access or the help of a carer.
- Lower light switches and lever door handles, not twist knobs (for stiff joints).
- A big garage with storage space and space for wheelchair/ramp to be installed.
Downsizing without selling
Downsizing doesn’t have to equal selling. If you don’t want to sell your dream home but know that you eventually won’t have use for certain spaces, draw inspiration from duplex builders Sydney and design a luxury house with two complete areas that can be closed off from each other. With separate entrances, you have created two self-contained living spaces.
Another way to make some extra income once you no longer need the space is to rent the house to a family and either let that income cover your rent of a smaller place, or use savings to buy yourself a second house or unit while the original home becomes an investment property.
While it’s true that our needs change as time go by, with the right planning and luxury home builders NSW, you can create a home that will last you a lifetime – something functional for today and prepared for tomorrow.