The homes of the future are already here
Kiwi architects and designers say strong trends are emerging, and we’re not talking ‘favourite colours’. Colleen Hawkes reports.
Colour and furniture trends come and go almost as fast as you can say ‘‘The Block NZ’’, but architectural trends take a lot longer to evolve.
However, there are key factors influencing the architecture and interior design of our homes, and changes are already happening.
And yes, the housing shortage in our big cities and the high cost of building are two key influences.
Lance and Nicola Herbst of Herbst Architects in Auckland, who won the Sir Ian Athfield Housing Award in the 2018 NZIA awards, say we can expect to see more mediumdensity housing projects under way over the next year.
‘‘In Auckland, for example, the Unitary Plan has created new zones that allow for more dense housing on the periphery of the city,’’ says Lance Herbst. ‘‘We are seeing a lot more suburban terrace houses that differ from the traditional models in Sydney and Melbourne in that they are taller and slightly closer together.
‘‘Similarly, we are seeing more low-level [as opposed to high-rise] apartment developments. The apartment model is still relatively new to New Zealand – it was initially rental accommodation for students, but we have seen a maturing of that market.’’
Architect Craig South of Cymon Allfrey Architecture in Christchurch predicts we will see more ‘‘shell developments’’, similar to a scheme he has seen in Melbourne. Buyers sign up for an apartment while it is still just a shell that they can then customise to suit their needs.
‘‘A young family might require three bedrooms in a 150 squaremetre shell, while a retired couple may prefer a single big suite and an extra-large living space for entertaining.’’
South also says clients have a desire for no-maintenance properties. He says the cedar weatherboard phenomenon of the past five years may be on the way out – people don’t want to be re-staining their house every three years to keep ‘‘the look’’.
But while we will continue to see more prefabricated elements, don’t expect to see too much change in materials. In the wake of the leaky homes scandal, architects often don’t want to risk a new technology, preferring to to stick with tried-andtrue materials, such as weatherboards, brick and metal cladding systems.
However, the use of innovative materials, such as CLT (crosslaminated timber) and SIP (structurally insulated panels) is more about the reliability of supply.
There are some key visual changes we can expect to see coming off the drawing boards this year, including a noticeable move towards brickwork, and arches.
‘‘It’s been a long time since we saw arches and barrel-vault roofs,’’ says Lance Herbst. ‘‘But the arch is everywhere, in a big way – so far, I have resisted. But it is nice to see brickwork coming in again.’’
The award-winning team from Cymon Allfrey Architecture in Christchurch, who won the ADNZ Supreme House of the Year Award in 2018, is more focused on sharper sculptural forms. The house has become art, and more often, there’s an element of playfulness.
‘‘It’s all about excitement,’’ says South. ‘‘We have been working on sculptural architectural projects for a few years now and there’s more to come. Of course, function is important, but there’s no reason you can’t have a bit of fun with architecture at the same time.
‘‘That playfulness can come from the shapes and spaces within a house, the high ceilings and the pitch of the roof – all these things can make the journey through the house more interesting.
‘‘We have clients now telling us they don’t want square rooms.’’
Controlling the environment
Adaptability remains a key focus for designers. ‘‘It’s all about controlling the environment,’’ says Herbst. ‘‘The New Zealand climate is fast changing – we can get four seasons in one day and we need to be able to adapt a house to suit prevailing winds.’’
The architect says there are a lot more moving parts in a house as screens come into play. ‘‘The architecture comes out of that need. All of these elements are quite strong, visually.
‘‘And it comes from the desire to engage with nature; we are designing homes that allow people to be outside all the time. It’s the modern way of living and it’s become the norm. The days of the big glass box and an air conditioning unit are gone.’’
Today it’s all about sustainability, but Herbst says it’s no longer a ‘‘knee-jerk reaction’’ to the cause. Rather, it’s about common sense and passive design. Houses are very well insulated and designed to let the sun in during winter but not in summer, when good cross ventilation comes into play.
‘‘Sustainability is not a one-word answer. Everything we do is a value judgment as to what is the best solution,’’ Herbst says. The architect says many houses are now designed to accommodate solar panels, either immediately or in the future.’’
Many homeowners are nailing down their solar energy needs for the next 20 years with Solarcity. The company recently launched the solarZero service installing free solar panels and batteries for homeowners in return for a 20-year fixed energy bill.
Already, 3000 homes are generating 13.6GWh of electricity each year – enough to power a small town – and CEO Andrew Booth describes it as a ‘‘virtual power station project’’ that can return power to the national grid. Craig South says Cymon Allfrey Architects’ clients are also wanting to future-proof their homes, frequently requesting solar panels, and wanting to ensure their heating systems are compatible with solar energy.
‘‘People are a lot more familiar with climate change and that is starting to impact the design briefs we get,’’ says South. ‘‘Even mainstream clients can see the benefits of well-insulated, wellventilated spaces.’’ Chargers for electric cars are also becoming more common.
When it comes to interiors, today it’s
all about attention to detail and comfort, says Auckland interior designer Sonya Cotter.
‘‘Clients will pay for comfort,’’ she says. ‘‘And they will spend the extra dollar to get something that will last. People are hunkering down and planning to stay where they are for a while, so they want their home to feel comfortable and homely.
‘‘Today, it’s about beautiful pieces, things you love and cherish. We no longer want to clutter up our spaces as we did after the minimalist look was over. We are showing our personality more in the things we put into our homes, rather than creating a home for the next person who buys it.’’
Cotter says ‘‘furniture islands’’ are a key trend. Sofas and chairs no longer cling to the edges of a room – today they sit in the middle, and they often provide 360-degree seating that allows for different interactions and connections.
‘‘Everything is modular, and nothing is fixed,’’ the designer says. ‘‘Furniture can be moved and should work wherever it lands. The monolithic coffee table has gone; now we have a layering of side tables.’’
Cotter says curved sofas are especially in vogue as they aid the circulation through the living spaces. In the coming year, we can also expect to see more tassels and fringing, more beige and brown with dark greys, and more interesting grains and patterns in stone.
Multi award-winning NKBA designer Mal Corboy believes we have never had so many choices, with new materials and designs readily available almost as soon as they appear overseas. New Zealand has caught up, the designer says.
‘‘I was in Milan for the big kitchen fair this year and found it all pretty ho-hum, and that’s because what we are doing here is cutting edge, and our manufacture is as good as anywhere in the world. A few years ago, it would be two years before a new product or idea found is way to New Zealand; now it’s six weeks.’’
But Corboy has noticed a move away from minimalist kitchens. ‘‘People are not looking to Europe for design ideas as much as they once did. Now they are getting on social media, such as Pinterest, and seeing kitchens in America and other countries, and they are wanting a softer look, such as a Cape Cod or Hamptons style.’’
The designer says people are also taking sustainability into account and are looking for eco-friendly alternatives in their paints and materials. Wood veneers are everywhere, often used as accents, but solid timber is not in vogue. ‘‘I haven’t designed a solid-wood kitchen for years,’’ says Corboy.
The biggest change, which will accelerate this year, is the move towards porcelain surfaces that look like granite and marble. As they are lighter than granite and marble, they provide many more design opportunities.
‘‘Porcelain is not just for benchtops,’’ says Corboy. ‘‘It can be used for door and drawer fronts, and walls, which we could never do easily with granite or marble because of the weight issues.’’
‘‘It feels as though people are using the kitchen more,’’ the designer notes. ‘‘I can remember doing kitchens a few years ago and I would go back and it was easy to tell the kitchens had never been used.’’
Corboy believes part of the increased interest can be put down to the huge rise in popularity of reality shows on TV, such as My Kitchen Rules and MasterChef Australia.
‘‘For the same reason we are being asked to supply more specialist appliances, such as a sous vide (for cooking vacuum-packed food slowly in a water bath) and induction cooktops.’’
And what about the Internet of Things (IoT)? Intelligent refrigerators are now commonplace. That’s just the start. Analyst Gartner estimates that 20.4 billion IoT devices will be in use by 2020, up from 8.4 billion IoT devices last year, which in turn was 31 per cent more than the previous year.
That trend is influencing the design of our home interiors – while people living in a house want to remain ‘‘connected’’, many designers are providing breakout spaces that provide a degree of separation for children and teenagers using their own devices. Invisible charging stations are often built into a kitchen bench. The smart home has never looked smarter.
Above: Herbst Architects’ Kawakawa House at Piha has a darkstained cedar rainscreen to ensure the house blends in with its surroundings. Left: The trend for brickwork is expected to continue. This is architect Guy Tarrant’s own NZIA award-winning home in Pt Chevalier, Auckland.
Above: Sculptural, playful forms are a focus for Cymon Allfrey Architecture, following on from major wins for houses with such features in 2018. Inset: Arches and barrel-vault roofs are on the drawing boards once again. This house, designed by Mitchell & Stout in 1988, received the Enduring Architecture award at the 2018 NZIA awards.