When we have people visit one of our current projects to see the quality of what we build, the first they say in getting out of the car is “This isn’t a Granny Flat – it’s a house”.
I think is well summed up below: In the process, she became one of the newest members of a rapidly growing club – Australians of all ages, circumstances and aspirations collaborating with award-winning architects to create affordable, secondary dwellings with as much care and thoughtfulness as the primary family home.
Approvals for secondary dwellings has increased 20% Australia wide in 2014 – 2015, with nearly 4,000 given the go ahead.
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2015, When Granny Flats Became Flexible Multi-function Spaces
3 January 2016
When Shona Veney, a petite, young, single mother of two, approached architect Peter Stutchbury to design her granny flat, she thought “he’d think I was crazy”.
Why, she reasoned, would the internationally renowned Stutchbury – the creator of some of Australia’s most beautiful, award-winning homes and frequent recipient of the nation’s top architecture prizes – want to imagine a simple, “primitive” studio on a landlocked backyard site in a suburban street in Narrabeen?
And, why, with the international opportunities he enjoyed, would he agree to a 60-square-metre project with a budget of under $300,000?
In the process, she became one of the newest members of a rapidly growing club – Australians of all ages, circumstances and aspirations collaborating with award-winning architects to create affordable, secondary dwellings with as much care and thoughtfulness as the primary family home.
Designing a successful studio, just like any building, is an art.
The increase coincides with a boom in construction in NSW generally, with construction valued at $34 billion in the past financial year up from $29 billion a year earlier.
Mr Stutchbury, winner of the architecture profession’s highest honour this year, the 2015 Gold Medal, along with 2010 Gold Medallists Kerry and Lindsay Clare of Clare Design, Brent Dunn and Katharina Hendel of TAKT Studio for Architecture, and Eoghan Lewis, are among a raft of highly respected architects upping the ante.
This way of thinking marks a long overdue evolution of the humble granny flat, once (and too often still today) treated with little more respect and refinement than a DIY upmarket garden shed – a sweat box in summer, cool room in winter and just plain unappealing to look at.
It’s vital these increasingly popular buildings – now often referred to as studios, pods, retreats, pavilions or flexible multi-function spaces – are designed respectfully and appropriately, Shaun Carter of carterwilliamson architects, and NSW president of the Australian Institute of Architects, said
Ways to enhance intergenerational living were recently explored by Clare Design during the creation of a successful two-storey “box” at the rear of an east coast beach shack. The space was designed to allow an extended family of grandparents, married children and grandchildren to happily and easily live together within two dwellings on a 400-square-metre suburban lot originally intended for one home.
Placing the new home six metres behind the 1950s shack on a long and narrow site, the Clares then connected both buildings by a roofed deck, using battened doors for privacy or openness as required.
The benefits of a thoughtful, well-designed studio or “shedio” as his clients refer to it, even on the tightest or grittiest of inner-city sites, can be far-reaching, Mr Lewis of Eoghan Lewis Architects said.
“In a recent project at Tempe, the studio bookended the backyard, and ticked many other boxes. It screened an unsightly neighbour, separated work from play, created outdoor storage as well as being a dedicated place to work and be creative.
A thoughtful studio near Wollongong, known as The Pod, and the Copper House in Coogee, winner of the 2015 Small Project Architecture Award – both by TAKT Studio for Architecture – have proven equally flexible.
“Built as an intergenerational collaboration to provide accommodation for the annual visit from grandparents from Europe, the Pod effectively turns into an extension of the original house in the off season, providing the yoga room, teenager retreat and living area,” Mr Dunn said.
“We have seen an ever increasing demand for innovative secondary dwellings / backyard studios,” the architects said. They said the secondary dwelling SEPP [State Environmental Planning Policy (Affordable Rental Housing) 2009] offers a relatively straightforward approval process for buildings up to 60m2 on many sites.
“We find that initially most clients consider them valuable in terms of rental income, but often discover that they become the ideal space to start long dreamed of artistic endeavours, provide much wanted gathering space or support new living for the extended family.”
Back in Narrabeen, Ms Veney was a single mum, happily returning to live at home with her parents, while wanting to provide the best environment for her children . As they approached adolescence, she recognised their need for not just shared but separate places to retreat to. With a budget of less than $300,000, a granny flat was the most viable option.
But with deeply individual, personal needs, tastes and aspirations, it was important this space not just be a generic, cookie-cutter, garden shed – it should reflect the family, their life’s journey and hopes for the road ahead.
“Everyone told me not to waste fees on an architect. But I didn’t listen.
“I wasn’t worldly about everything to do with architecture, but I knew I couldn’t and shouldn’t design this by myself. I know it sounds wanky to say it’s changed my life, but it has. It’s so powerful.”
You could check with your local council. Ask Ipswich City Council about their Granny Flat Regulations, or even a private certifier to see if it’s possible.
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