How we inhabit our home comes down to how well it is designed.
With rapid innovation in the interior design space, home life is fast becoming more efficient.
To adjust to the constant changes, interior designers and architects are forced to find new ways to approach their work, and when good design meets innovation, the results are exciting and transformative.
Engineered surfaces making the impractical practical
The advancement of engineered surfaces has given designers more creative freedom than ever before.
While natural stone looks and feels luxurious, it comes with compromises. The engineered stone surfaces in the Essastone by Laminex range are made from up to 95 per cent quartz, giving the same effect without the price tag.
“Engineered stone now looks more realistic,” says Catherine Valente from Laminex. “It is not as porous as natural stone and endures the impact of daily living, so it’s more durable and versatile to work with.”
Additionally, for a concrete look, without the cost and complexity of working with the real thing, Valente says Essastone’s concrete decors with a weathered finish are ideal.
“These are stunning concrete looks complete with subtle undulations, beautiful tonality and rich finishes,” she says.
Marble remains the most luxurious natural stone of all – in look and price. Luckily there is a stylish alternative for that too.
“A great example is Essastone Unique Calacatta, the most realistic engineered stone inspired by natural Calacatta (authentic white and grey marble),” says Valente. “It works as a bench top, splash back, even a wall lining. Like real marble, it has white and grey veining.”
Innovations in laminate materials are also making matte finishes a more practical and stylish option.
Laminex AbsoluteMatte, a premium laminate, offers sleek super-matte surfaces that are hard-wearing and sophisticated.
“Advanced technology means AbsoluteMatte is fingerprint- and scratch-resistant, has natural silver ion antibacterial protection, and the ability to thermally heal burnishes, so surfaces stay looking beautiful longer,” says Valente.
The rise of the smart home
With seamless integration of technology, today’s smart home has the ability to run itself.
“It saves power and simplifies daily tasks using technology,” says interior designer Nina Maya. “Blinds lower as the sun becomes intense, the air conditioner switches on as the temperature rises, and louvres close as it starts to rain. It allows you to have a larger home without the effort to control it.”
Maya recommends building a smart home from the ground up.
“Due to the technology aspect, it shouldn’t be an afterthought,” she says.
“The level of integrated technology is challenging, but inspires huge creativity for the designer. For example, come family movie night, a voice command like “movie time”, alerts the lights to dim, the TV to switch over, and the fire to light up, creating perfect viewing ambience!
“The smart home offers enormous versatility, flexibility and design options. It’s truly exciting.”
The “tiny house” movement
Downsizing to a house of around 37 square metres is the new Australian dream, says Clare Mengler from Residential Design + Approvals.
“There are socio-cultural reasons which reflect the dream to own your own house and land,” she says. “It has meant proportionally fewer good rentals, inflation of land value, and a lack of inter-generational or shared housing models.”
The answer is the tiny home, a small, compact construction that focuses on space-saving, multi-use furniture, durability and sustainable living.
“A concrete slab on a large cleared suburban lot has a devastating impact on local ecology,” she says. “The tiny house means a smaller footprint, with benefits that allow water to infiltrate soil, plants to flourish, and species to coexist.”
For the architect, she says, the greatest challenge lies in downsizing.
“My design skills now include decluttering” she says. “It can reshape thinking and preferences. Losing a room might mean sharing your home office with a bed. It’s a reality that can lead to working from the kitchen table on a laptop, which means you need to be tidy and have good systems.”
For a tiny house it has big benefits, and is a model that perfectly reflects 21st century living.
“It’s a reflection of modern Australia’s place and time in history,” she says. “It’s high design with low maintenance and an attractive place to live,” she says. “But only if you can do with fewer possessions.”
An integral step in the design process is the development of miniature models that illustrate what a product will look like on completion.
“It allows us to test ideas, understand complex junctions and geometries, and explain our designs to others,” says architect Madeleine Blanchfield.
Thanks to a rapidly growing 3D printing industry, making the models has become simpler.
“Before 3D printing, a student would work 24/7 on the models, with injuries and mistakes commonplace,” she says. “Now we set the printer to run overnight and arrive in the morning to a finished object.”
To create a 3D object, an inkjet print head lays fine layers of wax-like materials down. The digital files are then used to instruct the printer what to build.
“It saves time, is precise and allows us to test ideas by repetitively making models,” she explains.
With 3D printing experiencing rapid growth, associated equipment is becoming more efficient and affordable.
“The last decade has seen massive advances,” agrees Blanchfield, “In the future, there is talk of printing being used to make everything, from machine parts to entire buildings.”
Watch this space.