The Two Single Most Important Things to Consider When Designing a New Home

Janita Norman
November 2022
New Homes

Designing and building your own home is a joy and a privilege; a rare act of creation that leaves a mark on the world long after our time. But in the same breath, it is daunting and overwhelming, with seemingly endless thoughts and ideas fighting for your attention. Today I want to declutter your mind and ask you to focus on these two simple things...

First: what is your story?

Our homes are fundamental to the way we live. They express who we are and play a central role in allowing us to live the way we want to.

Think about your life, your loves, your experiences, and how you live in your home. Every design should capture your essence and reflect who you are and your lifestyle.

“A well designed home that specifically suits you is a pleasure to live in.”
– Janita Norman, Lead Building Designer

From the outset the vision must be clear.

Knowing why you are building directly informs the design. Articulating why you are building and what you want to achieve will ensure that design is aligned with that vision.

Ask yourself:

  • Why am I building?
  • Who will live in our home?
  • How old are our kids and what do they like to do?
  • Do members of our extended family live with us or visit for long periods of time?
  • Is this our “forever home”?
  • Will the home need to adapt to changing life and family circumstances?

Next: what is important to you?

Understanding what you are passionate about will establish the priorities for your home. This is not limited to functional or practical considerations but also includes how it might look, what inclusions it may have but importantly, how do you want to feel when you are at home?

What must your home have, how will it best suit your needs and how you live?

Do you love to cook? Entertain and cater for large numbers of guests? Or sit quietly in a sunny alcove surrounded by your favourite books?

Is your home a sanctuary? Quiet, tranquil, peaceful and private? Or lively, busy, bustling and bright? Or maybe a combination of the two!

These are fundamental considerations when designing your own home.

We don’t need to follow suit with the typical ways of doing things, that is the beauty of custom-designing your home: it will be designed around your specific passions and priorities.

Ask yourself:

  • What does my home really mean to me?
  • What is most important in my life?
  • How do I want to feel when I am home?
  • What are my must-haves – my absolute non-negotiables?
  • How do we entertain and socialise at home?
  • What do I love to do at home? Cook? Garden? Sew? Paint?
“I find it is really useful to know what drives my clients crazy in their current homes. Is it a lack of storage? Rooms not laid out to accommodate their beloved furniture? A lack of flow?

“Whatever it is, when I help people to articulate these issues, it tells me so much about who they are and what matters to them, informing the design in a way that any laundry-list of features never could.”

– Janita Norman, Lead Building Designer

I hope I've made your day just a little better!

I hope this little exercise has helped you to clear your mind and focus on some of the foundational considerations that must be settled at the outset of any building design project.

If you can get these things right in your head – or even better, written down – you'll be in a great place to continue on with your building design journey.

Keen to learn more? Discover my 14 home design tips...

I have put together a document with a comprehensive rundown of 14 super-helpful tips for designing your new home. This thing really is my heart-and-soul on (digital) paper, and brings together my learnings from 25+ years working with clients to design and build remarkable custom homes.

If you're interested, scroll just a little further to download the PDF now.
NOTE: all of the images on this page, are from our recent project, Yea House, a custom home we designed for a young regional family. The home makes use of an elevated position, optimal North orientation, and well-placed sun shades to maximise passive solar heating and cooling, and features a warm and tactile interior design aesthetic driven by the client's particular aesthetic taste.
Click here to read the full project profile
14 Design Tips for Successful Project Planning

Our must-have guide to designing your dream home.

A successful home design project begins with an excellent design brief; it is vital to understand your vision for the new home, and to be able to articulate it to your chosen building designers.

This guide will give you 14 handy prompts, important info, and design guidance, that will help you to gain the clarity you need to embark on this exciting journey.

Expert building design and guidance for your new home design.

Preserving the Past, Embracing the Future: 5 Tips for Revitalising Your Heritage Property

Janita Norman
May 2023

Australia is home to a rich tapestry of heritage buildings, each with its unique story and charm. Preserving these architectural gems is vital for future generations to appreciate and learn from. However, it can be challenging to strike a balance between what we expect of modern homes and maintaining a building’s historical significance. And that's where I come in! In this article, I'll share my five essential tips for harmoniously blending modern needs with heritage considerations in your building design.

Tip 1: Understand Applicable Heritage Values, Listings and Overlays

It's crucial to first comprehend the heritage values, listings, and overlays that pertain to your property. Even if your home isn't formally listed or within a heritage overlay, it may still hold significance to your family or community. A common example is a homestead on a long-held family property that holds special value in preserving the family's heritage.

For properties within a heritage overlay, it's essential to recognise their specific heritage values and how they contribute to the surrounding area. Individually listed homes typically have established heritage values, which may include a Statement of Significance or a Conservation Management Plan. 

By understanding the importance of your property within its context, you can confidently make updates that respect its heritage while addressing modern needs.

Tip 2: Incorporate Modern Elements While Respecting Historical Significance

With an appreciation of the heritage values in mind, striking the right balance between modern and historical elements is key. To achieve this, consider the original style of your building and find ways to integrate contemporary features sympathetically, without doggedly replicating the past. 

I can’t say this strongly enough: I never encourage replication. Focus on restoring and fixing up existing elements where necessary, and then allow the new to sit comfortably beside the old.

Pay attention to the scale, form, and geometry of new additions, ensuring they harmonise with the existing structure. Additionally, thoughtfully select materials that either complement the existing palette or introduce a contrasting, yet visually appealing, mix.

By taking a sensitive approach to modernisation, you'll successfully blend the old with the new, creating a timeless and respectful design.

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