Lets face it, if you engage an architect to renovate or build a new home, the probability is that you’re not looking for something that appears ‘cookie- cutter made’. However, with the cost of real estate heading north, in line with the cost of building, it’s not surprising that architectural briefs err on the side of caution. What is the market showing for a renovated house in the area? Which houses tend to fetch the highest prices? It’s only natural that answers to these questions are posed before architectural schemes are presented? But are people becoming more adventurous, designing homes that suit their needs, rather than one dictated to by the housing market?

Architect Clare Cousins, speaking on a panel at next month’s DesignBUILD Expo, specialises in high-end residential work, designing new homes and renovating period homes. “Some clients come to us with a clear brief about what they need, such as number of bedrooms, but aren’t overly prescriptive about what it should look like,” says Cousins. “Generally, they are mindful of resale as it’s the largest investment in their lives, but they’re open to ideas, and keen to look at new materials,” she adds.

Cousins initiates a design by sitting down with clients and asking them how they live now, as well as how long they want to stay in their home? “We’re mindful of creating sustainable homes that at least give people the option of staying for the long term, from having toddlers, to having university students still living at home,” says Cousins. “Spaces should be flexible enough to allow for different ages,” she adds.

Richard Earle, a director of Jellis Craig real estate agents, sees a number of different trends in the marketplace. According to Earle, one of the market segments is the ‘baby boomers’, scaling down from their large family homes. “They’re willing to pay top dollar for something that’s more adventurous, or renovate something that responds to their needs, rather than following the market,” says Earle. In contrast, Earle identifies a younger market, renovating for a quick sale. “This group tends to watch all the television shows. The renovation may appear sharp on first inspection, but it’s not quality”. And then there’s the young family with school-age children who tend to renovate with a 10-year plan to stay. “Often these are smaller renovations, but with every move, there’s a motivation to sell at some point and interest in what the market is responding to,” adds Earle.

Architect Tim O’Sullivan, director of Multiplicity, on the panel, see a dichotomy in the marketplace. On one hand, he sees design as a desirable commodity and reaching a broader audience. However, on the other he sees the industry as becoming ‘faddish’. “We had the rough exposed industrial look, with exposed bricks and concrete floors. Now it seems to be headed to the post-modernist pastel look (think 1980s),” says O’Sullivan, who sees this trend as benefiting sales of finishes, such as tiles. “But a home isn’t about fashion, following a look,” he adds.

Although some potential clients walking through the Multiplicity office for the first time might talk about ‘resale’, that type of client is generally not prepared to look at something more adventurous, or more importantly, something that captures the way in which they live. Likewise, those announcing they want ‘an award-winning house or renovation’ are also seen with caution. “An award- winning design generally doesn’t come from either direction. Usually, we are handed quite a complex brief and it’s about finding solutions, not by following market trends,” adds O’Sullivan.

Hear more from Clare Cousins and Tim O’Sullivan on the topic of design for resale in the Seminar Theatre at DesignBUILD 2018. Friday 4 May, 2pm: Is the word ‘resale’ compromising innovation in architectural design?

Visit designbuildexpo.com.au for more information and to register.