Building trends VS Good Design

What’s “on trend” in building right now?

Anyone who’s watched “The Block” or other home renovation TV shows will have heard the question: “what is on trend?”. The judges on The Block seem particularly stuck on this concept as they try to heighten the drama, hinting at some secret knowledge only they possess.  Unfortunately, this type of language is misleading when discussing building design trends.

Be careful of the seduction of home design trends

Fashion, fads and trends can be seductive and hard to escape, pervading popular media and seeping into our subconscious.  The extremes and mistakes of fashion in clothing, food, cars, and other products are discarded each new season or when deemed out of date.  This is all part of our throw-away society driven by marketing and advertising.

Some of the current home design trends which seem to be in every magazine, TV ad or Instagram post are:

  • Black – black everything from house exteriors to kitchens, ceilings and walls, you name it. Black is the new black!
  • Off-form concrete or unfinished fibre cement.
  • Recycled (second-hand) bricks, preferably with traces of old paint for that trendy “industrial look”.
  • Plywood lining for walls and ceilings – it seems every house interior should look like a Finnish sauna!
  • Copper, brass or gold tapware (or, of course, black tapware), especially trendy if used with some exposed pipework to complete that “industrial look”.
  • Circular bathroom mirrors.
  • Timber with clear stain (natural finish), trendy for interiors and exteriors.
trendy kitchen
Source: Unsplash

While we don’t pretend to be the “style police” we do advise caution before rushing to follow popular building design trends. While almost every material and product has its appropriate use, you should give careful consideration to each home design choice to avoid prematurely dating your home.

What to consider when building or designing:

  1. Following trends often dates projects

Often the inclusion of “on trend” elements in an attempt to be at the cutting edge of design is the very thing that prematurely dates a project. Think back to past trends – textured red brickwork (1960’s), brick arches (1970’s) and federation details (1980’s) were all fashionable in their day but not so now. Much of our current renovation work involves make-overs to remove these old “on trend” elements.

  1. Architecture and building design trends are different to transient fashion

Architecture and building is an entirely different matter to other transient fashions such as clothing.  Buildings require a large investment and are intended to serve their owners for decades or even centuries. This essential difference between an item of disposable clothing and a permanent building requires a totally different design approach.

  1. Consider the lifespan of your building or interior when making design choices

Be wary of being influenced by the “latest and greatest” products that have just appeared on the market. Keep in mind the likely life of the building or interior and also that you will have to live with your selections everyday for a long time.

Some items are more easily changed or updated than other fixed building materials.  Items such as carpets, rugs, cushions, blinds, curtains and furniture can be changed to create a totally different atmosphere. Many of these items tend to wear more quickly in any case, demanding more frequent updates.

A new coat of paint in a different colour is a relatively easy change yet can offer dramatic improvement. Many of the external building materials such as cladding, windows and roofing are elements that can last the lifetime of the building.  Due to their long life these materials require careful selection. 

  1. Timelessness is a cornerstone of good building design 

A good building seeks a timeless quality through the design fundamentals of: 

  • Functionality
  • Interesting spaces
  • Sound construction 
  • Good environmental conditions
  • Protection from weather extremes 
  • Lifestyle enhancement  

To achieve these goals, fashions and fads must be carefully and deliberately excluded from the design. Architecture doesn’t progress by following trends, but through the incorporation of new materials, technology and structural systems and the changes in our social requirements.

Examples of timeless building design

To illustrate the way a house can be designed to still look fresh many years after construction we have included some examples from our archives. All of these homes were designed over 15 years ago but still appear fresh today.

Example 1

This house was designed in 1989 and construction completed in 1990. At this time, just after Australia’s Bicentennial celebrations in 1988, the Federation style was dominant, particularly for project homes. By avoiding the period’s trends and addressing the more important aspects of site, orientation and outlook this house has retained its relevance.

Example 2

This large house was designed in 1992 on a rural property as a series of pavilions to suit staged construction over several years. The contemporary design with curved roofs, skylights, generous glazing and integrated outdoor living spaces are all still current design strategies. This house avoided the “colonial homestead” building trend, popular for many rural settings.

Example 3

This was designed in 2005 for a narrow site. The house received some recent maintenance and repainting. The design principles of privacy from the street and side neighbours, north facing skylight and living areas on the upper floor to gain ocean views over the rear yard are important design decisions that continue to enhance the owners lifestyle.

Final thoughts on home design trends and fads

In summary, any house design should respond to important and relevant design factors and not be unduly influenced by superficial appearances or current building trends. All buildings require regular maintenance which can be an opportunity for a fresh appearance. It’s important not to be swayed by extreme fads and to restrict any bold decisions to elements that can be easily updated.

Get in touch to find out how we can create a timeless home design for your upcoming project or view our range of current projects here



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