Aside from location, layout and stand out design, another key element that sets modern luxury homes apart is the use of quality materials. New custom home builders are always on the lookout for the latest trends in building materials that denote luxury and exclusivity but also offer functional benefits, ensuring that the home will stand the test of time with minimal maintenance.
Some of the products and materials we’ve listed here are more traditional and easy to come by, while others of a more cutting edge nature maybe harder to source without the assistance of a professional architect or interior designer. Nevertheless, we hope they provide food for thought in terms of the wide array of materials that can be used to create custom designed homes.
While we’ve divided our run-down into interior spaces and exterior areas, it’s worth noting that many of these materials can be used interchangeably in both interiors and exteriors, particularly useful given the ongoing demand for homes with ‘interior-exterior’ flow. In some cases, special treatments may be required for exterior materials, so it’s worth talking through the options with quality home builders before you invest in these materials.
Materials used in the interiors of custom designed homes are being used to create dynamic surface textures that add to a sumptuous sense of luxury and ‘finish’. They can range from timber to synthetics to metals, with cutting edge technology now able to treat or finish these materials in inspiring and often innovative ways.
Floors are a key focal point and anchor in any home, and the primary interior element that custom builders will discuss and establish with clients from the outset. Hardwood floors made from Australian timber remain a common favourite for quality home builders and can be used in both traditional and contemporary styled homes. Custom builders report that clients are requesting timber floors featuring patterns, also known as parquet floors, while alternative embellishments include stone inlays and floor medallions.
Glazed ceramic tiles are also a popular choice with quality home builders because they can also be used outside, to create an indoor outdoor flow. Another option for indoor outdoor living and a great choice because of its rugged, organic texture is slate. In a similar vein to slate for its natural wonders, stone is another common choice, from sandstone, through to deep rich blue stones.
Concrete maintains its fantastic appeal, having journeyed from a builder’s basic to a designer finish that can be rendered in a variety of ways and tinted in a wide range of colours. It can even be acid-washed to create an etched look.
One interior designer who works with new custom home builders also notes that Terrazzo, a mix of stone, marble, glass or even metal chips in a cement-based mixture, is being used as an alternative to other on-trend options such as polished concrete as it can be laid seamlessly in slabs or as tiles.
More unusual flooring options include leather floor tiles or leather effect flooring like the eye-catching ‘croc skin’ treatment in this luxury bathroom.
The inner shell – walls + ceilings
Walls in custom designed homes often stick to the traditional ‘blank canvas’ philosophy, with a great smooth finish and high quality paint in a neutral tone seen as the background for more decorative elements of the home. However some clients of quality home builders take a more daring approach, either opting for one striking feature wall, or a whole theme for one room. This can be achieved by using great decorative wall papers or even going one step further. It’s not rare these days to see modern luxury homes with walls and ceilings finished in a variety of materials, from woven resin, which gives a 3D weave effect, or gypsum board that also offers a great sculptural effect.
Another increasingly popular treatment for walls or ceilings is again leather, which can create a more traditional masculine den or library feel, or, when used with imagination can be used to create a modern organic / tribal vibe. Faux leather is a great substitute for use in wet areas or by consumers with reservations about using animal products. Whether you use the real thing or not, leather has a softness and warmth about it that adds to any interior.
Metallic wall and ceiling finishes are also popular and a great way to create an industrial or unexpectedly delicate wall surface. From oxidised metal typically reserved for exterior spaces, through to laser cut stainless steel or the copper finish that remains on-trend, metal has numerous applications and can take on many different personalities. The Australian tradition of pressed metal walls and ceilings is being revived in some quarters with a modern take on this unique, distinctive and highly practical approach to finishing and decoration.
For walls, glass is another popular product used by luxury home builders, not so much as a wall finish but to construct the wall itself. Stained glass and lead lighting can be used in visually striking ways, while laminated glass, which used flattened materials between two sheets of glass, is great for creating a decorative yet luminous effect.
The exterior parts of the home need to be dealt with differently from the interiors. Uniformity is more of an issue here, as the exterior of the home tends to be instantly visually ‘digestible’ rather than being divided discrete spaces as an interior is. Exterior materials also need to fulfil certain functional requirements. They ideally need to be durable, weather resistant and if possible energy efficient. Finishes tend to be rougher than for interiors, although modern luxury homes with a contemporary feel may not make such an obvious distinction between internal and external finishes and textures.
Custom builders report that clients are often looking for a ‘wow’ factor in the materials used for the exteriors of their homes. Of particular interest in contemporary style homes is the idea that a building can be constructed quickly and efficiently, often using modular, pre-fabricated elements that, while functionally beneficial, also inform the aesthetics of the building. One example is this house in California, which is constructed from a frame crafted using modular Steel Thermal Efficient Panels (STEPs).
Aluminium is also attracting growing interest as a material for use in the exterior elements of modern luxury homes. Interlocking aluminium cladding cassette panels are great for modern structures where a clean, box-edge is needed to create a distinctive modernist vibe. Aluminium is a great material because it holds its shape well, provides an impeccably smooth finish and requires minimal maintenance.
Custom designed homes, even those with a contemporary feel, are making the most of more traditional building materials, often used in a modern way, to create a sense of warmth and texture. Stucco is a popular exterior finish material used by luxury home builders particularly in homes with more traditional or classical styling. Essentially it is a mixture of cement, sand and lime that creates a rough plaster type material applied over the walls. Popular in southern European homes, it lends natural elegance, warmth and character to modern luxury homes.
More traditional materials can also be used in non-traditional ways. Stones are favoured by clients of many quality home builders because they are very durable and offer a sense of instant character and authenticity. They are also very versatile as they can be cut and finished in a wide range of ways. Popular stones include sandstone, limestone, marble, granite, slate and blue stone. They can be used for both the exterior and the interior of the building to create interior-exterior flow and they can also be ‘sculpted’ into features such as free-standing islands or countertops, hollowed out exterior fireplaces and even sculpted exterior walls.
New custom home builders are often tasked with creating timber buildings. Timber is a building material with a strong heritage in Australia and is often specified in coastal contemporary luxury homes, as well as homes built in a traditional Australian vernacular. Timber building materials are usually hardwoods which offer far greater durability and stability. Whatever style the home is built in, timber adds a timeless and environmental appeal in a home. A natural insulator, its practical benefits in terms of energy efficiency are also a plus.
Bricks are also popular in this regard. A classic building material that dates back to ancient times, some of the most common types of bricks include burnt clay, sand lime, engineering, concrete, and fly ash and are used for walls and pillars. They also look great underfoot in an outdoor area because they can be arranged in patterns that make the most of their warmth and texture. New custom home builders note that another advantage offered by bricks is that they are naturally energy efficient and offer great functional benefits, which include outstanding thermal mass properties, which allow them to store and release heat slowly, resulting in a home where the regulation of heating and cooling is aided by the building material itself. As can be seen by the gorgeous treatment pictured above, bricks work just as well on the ground as in the walls.