Has Uber Eats shrunk the kitchen? John McGrath

Has Uber Eats shrunk the kitchen? John McGrath
Has Uber Eats shrunk the kitchen? John McGrath

GUEST OBSERVATION 

Shrinking kitchens, shared car ownership, moveable walls, demountable pools and socialising spaces for apartment dwellers – the future of Australian home design is a dynamic space.

Adam Haddow, Director of Sydney architecture and Urban design studio, SJB says Australians are increasingly trading the environmental, time and financial costs of space for the social, monetary and ethical gains of compact living.

Affordability concerns following steep home price rises of 75% and 59% respectively in Sydney and Melbourne have prompted an overhaul of planning laws to allow terrace-style housing on smaller blocks and zero-car apartment buildings to increase supply of affordable homes.

Today’s housing design buzzword is diversity, says Haddow, a Churchill Fellowship recipient and thought leader on Urban design and the modern evolution of city living environments in Australia.

“In the past, we had this fixed idea of what you got in a house – three bedrooms, backyard, maybe a pool,” Haddow says.

“That hasn’t gone away but many people are realising they don’t need lawns to mow and four bedrooms.

“You used to need a desk and possibly an office; now you need a kitchen bench the right height for your laptop, or a sunny courtyard with connectivity.

“These changes are dialling down in home design because we don’t need to create a space (for study/work); it is more about creating spaces where people want to live.”

REPURPOSED LIVING

When Australia embraced open plan living at the start of the 21st century, there were inevitable casualties. Goodbye formal dining and lounge rooms. Also over is home designers’ short lived dalliance with the media room.

Formal lounge and dining rooms will survive in top end dwelling floor plans, as will integrated study zones or home offices, with at least 3.5 million Australians now doing at least some work at home and nearly one million of us running home-based businesses.

Reflecting the shrinking size of Australian households, with couple- only households due to outnumber couples with children by 2030, dwellings will become more flexible with moveable walls allowing room conversions and adaptable furniture serving as room dividers.

SMALLER KITCHENS

The popularity of home delivered meals and our rising café and restaurant culture, particularly in our big cities, have changed how Australians think about kitchens in the new millennium.

Food and drink delivery apps such as Deliveroo, Menulog and Uber Eats have exploded, with Australians spending $2.6 billion annually.

We’re also eating out more. With 85,000 cafés, restaurants and takeaway food outlets, the average domestic household is spending $94 per week eating out two to three times per week.

These trends are impacting how much of the modern home floor plan is dedicated to food preparation.

Kitchens are still the heart of our homes but have evolved from utility rooms to social and entertaining spaces, Haddow says.

Prepping kitchens and butlers’ pantries are on-trend in new family home design. These small private spaces enable home chefs to get messy, away from guests’ eyes and without detracting from their home’s minimalist designer kitchens.

SHARED SPACES

Modern developments are increasingly incorporating shared rooms such as common kitchens, laundries, yoga studios and luxurious relaxation areas to suit the changing lifestyles of their residents and add value and function to available space.

Shared rooms arguably provide better value to young buyers who would rather pay less for a smaller crash pad that comes with a selection of outdoor areas where they can relax and entertain friends.

Rooftops are becoming glamorous entertaining spaces with landscaped gardens, state-of-the-art barbecue facilities, café-style dining areas and chill-out zones.

The Commons in Brunswick, Melbourne has a communal rooftop laundry amongst its gardens, vegetable plots and timber decks. Breathe Architecture says the laundry was one of a series of construction savings that made the apartments cheaper to buy and run, earning them scores of sustainability awards, while also encouraging social interaction between the residents.

The body corporates of older buildings are also investing in the redesign of their common areas.

In 2013, the residents at Paloma in Surry Hills, Sydney hired revered design house, BKH to create a spectacular rooftop terrace where residents could sit with friends in elegant timber cabanas for a front row view of beautiful sunsets over Prince Alfred Park.

Shared kitchens are a fairly new idea, with SP Setia amongst the first developers in Australia to embrace the concept in recognition of more young people eating out or ordering in.

In 2016, the developer launched its Parque luxury apartment project in Melbourne, which included a glamorous shared kitchen designed by celebrity chef, Shannon Bennett. Apartment residents have exclusive access to Miele appliances, a temperature-controlled wine cellar and a dining table for 16 guests.

GARAGING PARKING

Our car-loving culture is rapidly changing, with 3.1 million active Uber users and 100,000 GoGet members nationally. These share services, along with expanding public transport, environmental awareness and dedicated bicycle lanes are reducing the need for parking on title.

Haddow says more small home designs will forego car parks.

“What we are seeing is movement from majority to minority car ownership in the not too distant future. People are totally okay with using the one shared car on the street.”

In Victoria, local governments can waive their planning schemes’ on site parking rules, as happened with The Commons. Located next to a train station and major bike path, Moreland City Council allowed the block to have a permanent GoGet rental car on site instead of parking.

In New South Wales, planning laws were changed in 2015 to allow new apartment buildings to have smaller floor plans and less parking as long as public transport options were easily accessible.

City of Sydney figures show a 500% increase in the usage of its Kent Street Cycleway since 20088. Apartments are increasingly supporting two-wheeling residents with shared bike rooms or racks.

BLUE SKY THINKING

Textured housing exteriors made from recycled natural or industrial material like rammed earth, stone and bottle bricks are in vogue.

Architects are also departing from the traditional square shape, with curvy facades maximising the illusion of space and spherical structures emulating igloos offering bolstered thermal efficiency.

Fifth wall feature ceilings with stencil art and complex imagery have arty home makers talking. All the rage when Michelangelo was painting churches in the 16th century and Marie Antoinette was decorating ceilings with mirrors in the 18th century, housing costs eventually quashed the trend.

Today, some owners and designers are resurrecting it, realising that ceilings are a blank canvas for injecting personality and texture into a home, Haddow says.

Keep a (goggled) eye out for the new wave of above ground pools. Able to be disassembled, the waist deep water features promise flexible all-seasons living in tight inner city spaces.

GREEN HOMES

Sustainability is becoming a major influence on home design, with record levels of solar use9 and rising interest in battery power resulting in the equivalent of 8.28 million households using renewable energy in 2017.10

Savvy developers and home owners are fitting and retro-fitting properties to boost their appeal to an increasingly eco-conscious buyer pool. Low cost improvements include draught sealing, insulation, low flow showerheads and taps, window shading and low wattage lighting.

JOHN MCGRATH is the founder of McGrath Estate Agents. The latest McGrath Report is available here.

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