Arguably the most exciting part of building your dream home is envisaging the end product, waking up in your pristine bedroom, cooking dinner in your new kitchen, relaxing in front of the TV.
What you might not have thought about is how design choices will influence the way you feel in your home, and what you can do to make it feel “right” from the moment you step inside.
Anastasia, Achieve Homes’ Selection Coordinator, is our go-to for all things interior design and colour selection and provides expert advice to our proud house-owners. Here’s her top tips for helping you make your home truly yours, reflective of your personality and lifestyle.
Quality over quantity
It’s an ethos that can be applied to almost every element of your life – less is always more. Invest in the best quality furnishings, furniture and art that you can, and purge yourself of meaningless tchotchkes and trinkets that you’ve accumulated over the years. Moving into your new home is a perfect opportunity to declutter and remove those unnecessary and unused items that will just bring chaos to your space.
Form follows function
If ‘quality over quantity’ is the golden rule of design, then ‘form follows function’ is the silver rule. Having a pretty space should come secondary to making sure your home suits your lifestyle and the way you live in your space. Focus on the kitchen and bathrooms – these will be the most used public spaces in your home. While they’re the “workhorse” rooms, they should also have the “wow” factor – after all, you’ll be spending a lot of time in there. Make sure they are built to suit your needs and lifestyle.
Create a blank canvas that will grow with you
A neutral palette used throughout your home is an ideal way to ensure your home can adapt to your changing tastes and preferences over the years. Adding pops of colour is achieved with loose items like decorations, furniture and homewares – think a bright artwork in your living room, or rich coloured bedlinen adorning your bed. These items are cost effective ways to change and mix up the mood in your home when your tastes change.
Make your home your own
The devil is in the detail and these details are what will make your home feel like your sanctuary. Bring the outdoors in and add life to your home with indoors plants – they’ll add tranquillity, colour, and life into a space. Introduce items that allow you to inject your personality into your home.
An accessible home is one that not only makes life easier for the mobility impaired, but is also one that’s sustainable.
Owners of homes that are built in an accessible way can live comfortably for decades to come, without the need for expensive modifications in the future. Plus, building a house that is accessible means there’s no restrictions for people that visit your home, and no restrictions if you find yourself with an injury!
If you’re interested in incorporating some accessibility features into your new home, it’s important to consider a few things first:
Adding even just a meter to the driveway and garage will remove the stress of getting in and out of a car, plus it’s so much easier to park! To help give you an idea of size, public disabled carparks are 2400mm wide x 5400mm long with a shared area along one side of the space.
There should be a clear, wide and sealed flat path between the garage and the front door, making sure there is no steep inclines, curbs, or stairs. If you’re planting trees or bushes along front paths make sure there are no hazardous branches that could be problematic in terms of overhead clearance or vision impairment.
Next, you should ensure that your doors are user friendly. This means building a door that is wide enough for wheelchair access, is not too heavy or difficult to open, and has a handle that’s easy to use. Round door handles may prove difficult to manipulate, so it’s best to choose a D-Shaped handle.
The door width for adequate wheelchair access is a minimum of 813mm and should open away from the body (in towards the house). This is slightly wider than the standard front door, but there are many available on the market. Large entry doors are very on trend and add a feeling of grandeur and opulence, which also provides a great first impression for visitors and bypasses!
Bathrooms and Toilets:
People with impairments use amenities differently to most and may take a little longer to use them. Adding an extra bathroom to your home will ensure there’s ample facilities for everyone to use. Also, having the toilet separate to the rest of the bathroom means the toilet can still be used while someone is in the shower.
Flooring and drainage is crucial to safety, ensuring that everyone who uses the bathroom will have a reduced risk of slipping over. A non-slip floor will also assist this, as will providing a uniform flat surface between the shower and the rest of the bathroom.
Taps and fittings in an accessible bathroom need to be within an arm’s reach and easy to manipulate. You should also leave underneath the sink empty so that wheelchairs can get up close the vanity.
Grab rail supports are necessary for providing stability around the bathroom. They help the mobility impaired get on and off the toilet, as well as into showers and bathtubs. Other options include walk-in baths, electric toilets and even remote controlled showers (who wouldn’t want one of those?).
While carpet is a popular choice, it’s hard to roll wheels over. Opt for tiled or timber flooring instead! Not only is it easier for those in a wheelchair, it’s also modern and clean. Just remember that a high-gloss tile can sometimes mean a high-slip tile, which is bad news for people with crutches or canes.
Floor space in living areas is paramount for manoeuvrability. If any of your furniture is going to be built in, make sure there is still room for people with varying degrees of mobility. Move loose furniture to the outside walls and remove coffee tables in favour of side tables to provide plenty of space to get around without added obstacles.
In terms of window furnishing, long curtains that puddle on the floor can be tripping hazards and can get caught up in wheels. Blinds with cords may also be difficult to reach, so a great option is custom fitted shutters. They’re easy to use and you certainly won’t need to compromise on style.
Just like the main doors in your house, the handles you choose for your drawers and cupboards in your kitchen should be easy to use, with round handles to be avoided. Just like with the bathroom, keep underneath the sink empty to provide space for wheelchairs to get up close. Replacing under bench storage with drawers also makes access to stored items much easier, and likewise takes the struggle out of getting to the items at the back. Having lowered sections of benchtops are perfect for wheelchair users to use as prep areas. The standard bench height is 900mm but reducing it as little as 50mm makes all the difference.
Safety and accessibility features are becoming the norm with kitchen appliances. Ovens that open sideways rather than down wards are now available, which enables people to get close without having to lean over a hot door. We’re also seeing staggered stove tops with controls along the front, which eliminate the danger of reaching across hot burners.
Hopefully we’ve covered just about everything you should incorporate into your beautiful new accessible home. Following these tips will ensure your home is one that people from all walks of life can enjoy.
Everyone wants to save the environment. But sadly, not everyone wants to deal with the inconvenience of doing so. There is a perception that, while eco-designed homes can save you money on your bills, they are expensive in the short term due to modern, hi-tech features. However, there are numerous ways that we can all live more sustainably, without ruining the quality of our lives or breaking the bank.
We know how to make properties more sustainable, recognising that saving energy needs to benefit you in the long term, without imposing heavy additional costs in the short term. Here are our practical tips for making your home more environmentally friendly.
Install a Skylight
Skylights cut down on the earth’s emissions and the need for electric lighting. Using daylight not only reduces energy costs and consumption, but also reduces the demand for unsustainable power.
Use Energy Saving Light Bulbs
Energy-smart light bulbs use 70-75% less energy than the conventional incandescent bulb and can last up to ten times longer! By using a 26-watt, compact fluorescent light bulb, you can save up to $59 dollars on energy costs over the life of the bulb, which can be anywhere from five to seven years.
Utilise Indoor Plants
Growing plants indoors is a great way to clean the air by acting as a filter for any common pollutants in the home. The environmental and health benefits of houseplants make them a household necessity rather than an object of décor, because honestly, good health and environmental sustainability should never be out of style.
Install Ceiling Fans
Ceiling fans alone can make a room feel four to five degrees cooler. Today’s ceiling fans are more efficient, with improvements in motors, controls, blade design and reduced weight making them a stylish and environmentally sustainable feature of a room.
Use Energy Efficient Appliances
It’s a no-brainer, when we use less energy we save natural resources, cut down on pollution and reduce our bills! This is easily done when we opt to use Energy Star rated appliances; for example, a new refrigerator with an energy star rating can cut down on your energy consumption, saving you up to $160 across its lifetime.
Switch off and unplug
Perhaps the simplest energy saving technique of all is to switch off your power points. Leaving unused appliances plugged into power sources not only wastes precious energy, but also contributes to growing electricity costs. Getting into the habit of switching unused appliances off at the power point is an easy way to save money and energy.
A well-insulated home stays cool in summer and warm in winter – which means less time blasting the air conditioning or heater, resulting in lower greenhouse gas emissions. In many ways, insulation is the most practical and cost effective way to make a house more energy efficient and can assist in saving up to 40 per cent on your heating and cooling bills.
Switching your single-glazed windows to double-glazed is a simple improvement that can make a big difference. When installed around your home, double-glazing can cut your heat loss by half. This means that you’ll need far less energy to heat your home, as the heat generated will be staying where it should be…inside your home!
Install a Water Saving Shower Head
Low-flow showerheads have been near the forefront of home water conservation efforts for some time now, and it’s no surprise as 20-25% of all household water usage comes from showering. Switching your conventional shower head to a low-flow not only helps in water conservation, but has been found to drop overall household water usage by as much as 40% — if not more!