I hope this finds you well and adjusting to our new post Covid normal! Covid gave us an opportunity to see how our homes really work with us and for us in providing shelter, food storage, preparations and pleasurable places to eat, whether we have lovely relaxing spaces. But also the insight into how well we can accommodate working from home. We’ve also found out if we have lovely relaxing spaces and have gained insight into how well we can accommodate working from home.
I have always felt that companies do not realise the positive potential of their people being based in the study with laptop and phone at home. Without the commute, parking, petrol, train timetable problems, expense of coffees, lunches, suitable clothes, etc the workers must be far more relaxed and can therefore focus on the work task at hand more easily.
The ability to zip out to pick kiddies up from school or hang a load of washing on the line, frees the mind to concentrate when in front of the laptop on just the work. Productivity increases, health and well being is enhanced and work life balance has to be far better. Here is hoping there is more of it in the future!
Downsides might be not having a designated study space, children wanting to be right with you all the time not allowing for any concentration. We have seen the dads in the adds working away with fairy wings on! Also the proximity to a full 'fridge with all your favourite snacks could lead to distractions too. Discipline is definitely required but it also allows the children and spouses to see the level of concentration, work load and frustrations our loved ones experience in a typical day.
This understanding is one of the major pluses for working from home. When we actually see our partners' struggling through a day we understand more fully their side of the end of day tiredness. But it would give the worker an insight into the life at home with little people too: so it works both ways! Surely that has to allow for more consideration and empathy!
Having established the "bones" of our PASSIVE SOLAR DESIGN home we move into the kitchen. It is such a busy integral part of our lives. A survey of our movements around the home would be a mass of scribbles blocking out the kitchen plan and showing hours collectively spent there.
No matter what level of cooking is undertaken, the day to day breakfast, morning tea, meals and snacks, is incidental to the social hub that kitchens have become. As such the "command post kitchen" needs to over view the garden where children play, be close by the outdoor rooms or alfresco, is handiest when close to the direct entry from garage for the bringing in of shopping and for the rubbish disposal, and it needs to have sufficient storage for your particular style and quantity of cooking. Some folks will have on hand ingredients for any variety of international cuisine and be capable of producing plenty for the entire ADF where others may rely on the fresh veggies in the fridge alone and a little inspiration from the freezer.
As the center of home life, the kitchen requires a place for everything and most importantly a place where items are used. The suggestion of keeping beater, flour, sugar, cake tins, spatulas, measure cups, etc. collected together is excellent as then the task of whipping up a chocolate cake is so much easier. Cake ready for the oven before others have finished rummaging through numerous drawers and shelves for ingredients and implements, in everybody's way.
And there is the next point: several people can be engaged in different aspects of preparation in the kitchen without interference. Kids can access the fridge for drinks (fridge a first point of kitchen nearest entry), granny can pop the kettle on with cups, teapot, leaves, coffee machine handy, dad's measuring for the chocolate cake and undisturbed, mum has the vegetables ready for dinner. Meantime the neighbour has popped in for a quick chat and is happily watching all the action from the far side of the island bench.
Passive Solar Design uses cross ventilation for cooling and for removal of cooking smells. The opening of a few windows, even in cold, wet, windy winter, will ensure the open plan living areas remain fresh and pleasantly aromatic. This costs nothing to achieve or to power.
Orient the kitchen within the open plan living area but not on the north side being greedy with the sunshine. Ensure the lines of sight, outlooks, access and proximity to herb garden. Out to the blind side of the home is ideal for native planting that encourages birds and butterflies the close perusal of which is a joy.
With forethought these suggestions will enhance the home's livability and comfort but not increase costs to maintain. That is a win, win situation
So, how much do we all know about secret laundry business?
Essential it is the room from which our clothes and linen appear in neat clean piles ready for our robes again, but it does a greater service than just that in the household: greater deeds than its usually diminutive size would indicate!
Passive Solar Design would dictate its placement on the south side of the home as we attempt to action the jobs there as quick as possible. Like the bathrooms, a generous garden space for appealing aesthetics would be appreciated. A story was told of an inner city terrace home with a hedge of perfumed lavender plants used for laying clothes on for drying! Great idea! Usually there is the ubiquitous rotary or linear, adjustable, sometimes removable, steel and wire, air moved devise that is beautifully solar powered! For foot comfort and thermal mass to aid the drying, paving on ground is recommended. But here, talking about drying clothes, is way ahead of our laundry.....
Let the sequential list of main activities speak for itself: collection of items to be washed, (96% from bathrooms, 3.5% kitchen tea towels and 0.5% table clothes...these going straight out of fashion when little people come into the home, OOHH and 95.5% of the above statistic is from said little people!) Next sorting, soaking, hand washing or spot cleaning, washing machine (and isn't it great that front loaders have come along way in a few years) then baskets, more sorting needed, then tumble dryer, above mentioned solar devise or moveable horses (airing frames). That is the flow sequence for best, easiest, smartest laundry design.
And the statistics above show that the laundry is best positioned near the bathrooms: who wants dead socks, or worse (especially those little people's items) taken through past their lunch in kitchen!
Above and beyond we can include cupboards for brooms, linen, benching for folding, sorting (what again!) other things, drinks fridge or freezer, recyclables collections etc.
What else do we often find in a laundry: cats, dogs, fishing, gardening, esky, travel, cases, tents, sleeping bags, etc, hobbies i.e. painting equipment for house or artists, sewing, ironing, and of course if that is not enough there is the sporting equipment and the accoutrements for all these too. Oopps forgot the Christmas tree!
If we had realised that we keep all this stuff, we should have made the room three times the size. Alternatively provide elsewhere in the home four or five meters of cupboard space.
In America they often provide what they call a "mud" room for taking off boots, riding gear, or just entering as per the old fashioned tradesmen's entrance. It is a really good idea especially if horses, garden or beach is part of life.
So folks if you are looking at plans please ensure the laundry is proportional for the size of the home and number of occupants and it provides plenty of space and storage.
PS: The above statistics are of the "85% of all stats are created" variety!
Please, please ensure when looking at plans for renovation or new home that line of sight is not directly from living room into the shower, or worse into the toilet. We do not want the conversation continuing between loo and lounge! I happens and it is horrid!
One of the best layouts for bathroom, toilet is where each fixture is separate so folks can be using them independently and simultaneously. With a house load of kiddies, house guests or at party time this is an excellent way of allowing the rooms to be shared and enjoyed.
The new fashion of tiled level floors to the shower is a beautiful aesthetic with practical application for cleaning and towards disabled folks. If we can allow extra space around doorways, by toilets and into showers we can increase the accessibility for others who are less mobile. Then too ramps to doorways are an handy thing to think about. The more of our friends we can invite into our homes the sweeter life will be!
KITCHEN AND HOME SKETCH DESIGNS aims to inform, communicate and cover jobs as they progress and see how wonderfully they turnout. Hopefully there will be plenty of pictures, comments and sharing of ideas.
Last time the topic was the vital design concept of PASSIVE SOLAR DESIGN. How this can be incorporated into our existing homes is a big concern. To be able to be more efficient with our heating is something we could all achieve and benefit from cheaper power bills helping our Earth cope too.
Thinking "Passive Solar Design" in relation to our own homes is to become aware of the natural elements-the micro climate of our particular site. Looking at ways we can enhance our comfort whether considering a renovation, extension or just maintenance is going to be of benefit. We still want to consider the features of the site and maximise what we can that will help.
Some homes are just backwards and there is very little we can do to improve their lot! If a house has bathroom, laundry, en-suite along the northern aspect it is a great shame that an opportunity has been lost. If living rooms have walls to the north then adding windows here will assist even if south walls need to be filled in to provide positions for furniture. Alternatively using the northerly area out from living areas even to front of the site can achieve great results. Privacy can be enhanced with planting of shrubs and hard dark paving will assist the absorption of solar rays that will transfer to the surrounding air in and out of the home. Shrubs for privacy and deciduous trees would be ideal for summer time as the leave cover creates wonderful shade but lets sun through bare branches in winter.
The ideal position for garage is as close to street as permitted. Garage at the back of the site came from the days of horse and buggy when the Mews kept good distance between house and horse: enough from view and smell. Now garages take so much space we do not need to waste our precious land devoted to long driveways and unsightly outbuildings. This plan means we have more area to enjoy as garden.
Living, dining, kitchen and study areas to the north for the sun, when grouped together will assist energy efficiency. These are the rooms where we spend most of our hours, so it makes sense to position them to allow the most sun and natural light to enter. Social areas are nicest separated from our private zones so sleep is not disturbed, ablutions are clear away from family and guests. If air-locks at external doors are not attainable at least the installing of draft sealing around doors and windows will assist the retaining of comfortable temperatures in the house.
When renovations are on the cards, consideration should be given to the insulation values of materials ensuring a minimum of temperature variation throughout the house.
Where all other suggestions are optimal and an outdoor "Alfresco Room" is desired, the home is best served by this on the west side. The reason being the late afternoon summer sun, the hardest to control, will be abated and the roof cover will be in the best position for maximum usage when the family want to be lazing into the evening. The finished spaces will influence the comfort of the home a great deal but will not block precious sun from living rooms.
Costings for renovations will not vary greatly if these suggestions are included but the long term household power bills and costs to the Earth's resources will be much improved with their inclusion.
These are all small things with personal benefits. Collectively we can make a large difference in reducing the reliance on the Earth's finite resources. And that is a great thing!
KITCHEN AND HOME SKETCH DESIGNS has been very busy designing around a newly renovated bathroom. No before pictures to show as yet of the home but they will follow. As usual the initial idea of a new kitchen has exploded into proposed new rooms, en-suite, alfresco and a cat among the pigeons! The best idea is to live in a home for twelve months before doing ANYTHING. Then knowing how the home functions in each season, how it suits your family and lifestyle we can tailor plan specifically and not work around a room that is magnificent or worse wrecking the completed work because we can not get what we need around it.
Considering the paramount design concept of PASSIVE SOLAR DESIGN this home faces north. This is not ideal but we can work with it by maximising living rooms on the facade, being careful of position of windows, rooms and ensuring we don't create cold, dank uninviting rooms that should be habitable.
Star posts, wire mesh with hedging plans planted close by that will grow up through the wire, gives the impression of a "green fence". It can be trimmed, shaped or left to create its own shape. This will provide privacy but not allow kids to escape, dogs or odd people to enter.
Insulation in walls, ceiling and even under floor can assist in audio and temperature control. Window selections can be made with size, outlook, security, size of opening all in mind.
Please keep the comments coming in as they make interesting reading and are very thought provoking. The pictures of what works and does not are great too. Cheers to everyone!
It would be horrid watching your child suffer the pain of a burn or other home accident that you could have prevented with a little forethought and planning.
The kitchen layout can help to make it a safer place. The open plan with island bench that is currently very popular is not ideal. Better to avoid the potential for little people to be under your feet and best to avert the excellent game of running circles around the island! One access into the kitchen is much easier to control.
Have you tried a line up of toys s/he has not seen for awhile from one side of the family room to the kitchen? Hopefully by placing the baby on the far side of the room, you can achieve plenty in the kitchen while s/he makes his/her way towards the kitchen to be with you…. as they always want to do.
Once having reached the entrance to the kitchen and wanting to be on your hip, more distraction is possible with a low drawer of plastics or non-damageable items. Little one will soon learn that THAT drawer is okay for play. In fact by placing a surprise toy or treat they may be encourage to investigate there regularly thus delaying them further.
A safe design preference is for the oven in a wall tower. This allows for effortless movement of hot and often heavy items and therefore less potential stress on the cook’s back, but advantages of the hot oven at a safer height away from babies. It also provides a designated place at convenient height for microwave oven. By placing ovens and cook tops away from the opening into the kitchen, the likelihood of toddlers being in danger of hurting themselves with these appliances in operation is greatly minimised.
“UP” is the word for a short while when toddlers are in the home, ensuring chemicals, china, glass &/or heavy items are stored above the tallest reach of the littlie. Explaining the consequences to small children, of handling with poisons and playing with knives, will help to educate.
Small thoughtful daily habits are invaluable: ensuring doors are closed fully, knives and other items are safely away from edge of benches, informing older children that the oven is on therefore hot, cook top is alight, the floor is slippery etc will all assist in ensuring a happy, healthy life.
These measures do not last forever. As a child grows so too their understanding of the dangers, house rules and expectations on them for maintaining peace of mind and the safe household.
The first item that is vital to design ethos concerns PASSIVE SOLAR DESIGN. What does this mean and why and how is it to be incorporate it into our homes?
Passive Solar Design is the use of the natural elements-our micro climate of our sites, to enhance our creature comforts of our homes in relation to heating, cooling, ventilation, aesthetics, privacy etc. Sites have different attributes and features, some good and some not so good: the conditions to work with. Here are a few of the very basics to use where ever possible:
None of the above suggestions add to the initial costs of the build but assist the consistent temperature control that adds to our comfort. More importantly it will reduce the power and gas bills substantially which in turn lowers our dependence on the non-renewable resources of the Earth: and that has to be a great thing!
SO the kids are nagging, the folks don't like the beach any more, it would be good for exercise and bringing people together too. It is a pool we are talking about!
But what goes into designing a pool or spa for the back garden. Firstly is the space in the yard: if you have a tight corner a spa or swim spa maybe the way to go. It is better to put a larger spa in the garden so you can enjoy it with others rather than having a spa bath in en suite just for two that takes a lot of precious water to fill each time you feel like its form of relaxation. Also they are not kind to moisture content in the home and have been known to lead to horrid mold problems.
Safety first is paramount. Making sure the pool can be seen from inside the living rooms and/or kitchen is vital for everyone's peace of mind. Having secure fencing and gates that are above regulation standards is a good idea. How soon can little kiddies open gates: who has seen a child pull over a chair to get into a bickie barrel? That might be funny but it is not if they are looking at the pool fencing.
Having a clear wide area of paving all around the pool is important and an area but preferably two, for chairs for constant adult supervision. Then there are other practical considerations. storage of chairs, cushions, umbrellas, play items: lilos, noodles, floaties etc. where they can air and dry ready for next time.
If you are planning a new home and hope to install a pool design for an easy and direct access to a bathroom. A place for wet bathers, towels and other items is necessary too.
There is I believe another consideration that is very important: Swimming and playing about in the water always works up an appetite so a fridge full of drinks and pantry full of healthy snacks is vital too. This is where a walk in pantry will be useful: if the neighbourhood kids all descend it is great to be able to give them enough energy to walk home!
Happy exercising and playing.
So: you’re looking at the plans for your new home and landscape, You can't wait to plant the vegetables beside the compose bins and water tanks. Or buy the furniture, pillows and throw rugs. You have thought through each activity and entertainment your family enjoys: A room for theater, play station, quiet reading, book keeping for the business, Lego, dolls house, etc. Entertaining: when the tennis club come to your place, they are wonderful friends who relax and hang around the family room happily for hours. Family dinners are quite crowded and easier if more formal so dining room is required. Lots of folks pop in through the week and of course the Scrabble and bridge nights. Life is busy and wonderful.
Looking at the house plan allows separate area for each activity and more not listed above. This house is enormous: you will issue a map on entry! The mortgage figures are enormous too: not comfortable do-able even on two good full time incomes.
Look again at the block size, plan and additions. How happy are you at mowing lawns, weeding long garden beds? How many cars do you really need to provide for?
Look at reducing the house footprint: not smaller rooms but try eliminating passages, halls, traffic and large circulation spaces. How much pantry space do you really need? If you need an extraordinary length of linen cupboards: have you collected too much “stuff”? Think through the houses where you have lived in the past, consider what was in each area of the house, how often items are in use, how much you really need now.
Consider too the appliances: how different is one oven to the other several hundred dollars cheaper. In ten years time will the $1,900 bath still feel like a “must have...” when the $400 will be just as relaxing? Once a new home is completed there are always hundreds of little things to be spending on too: towel rails, toilet roll holders, rubbish bins, clothes line, furniture (Oh yes that can be a big one!), garden setting, garden tools, blinds or curtains, fences, gates, letter box, house numbers! The list can go on and on.....
Erring on the side of caution, economy and good sense makes for a wonderful new home or renovation. Every detail of the site, the plan, the inclusions, fittings and fixtures can be beautiful, practical and avert extravagance. Stress, worry and anxiety to meet mortgage and bills payments is not conducive to rest or contentment. Preference should be given to providing maximum time with family, friends ensuring your happy relaxed life.
Rather than over spending, a calculated, reasonable and cautious, financial investment will ensure your new home provides you protection from the weather and time to fully enjoy your lifestyle.
Margot Kirke is a qualified architectural drafts person with a passion for practical living, making the best use of space and use of natural light and warmth.