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March 2, 2016 Outside edge: exterior spaces in custom home designs

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March 2, 2016 Outside edge: exterior spaces in custom home designs

New custom home builders operating in the Australian market are more than familiar with the prevalence of the garden, deck or terrace in most modern home designs. Indeed, the fabled Australian lifestyle has created leading edge thinking in how to optimise ‘alfresco living’ for many years now.

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This tradition has now grown new wings however, with clients in the market for custom designed homes expecting greater levels of sophistication, technical connectivity and aesthetic ‘wow factor’ than ever before. The latest examples of million dollar homes give equal weight to the outside areas of the home as to its interiors, creating ample opportunity to showcase design flair as well as creating beautiful, high functioning spaces that can be utilised year round.

The outdoor room

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A notable trend in thinking around custom home designs is the concept of the outdoor room, a distinct outdoor room or space designed to make outdoor living as comfortable as indoor living. Contemporary outdoor living zones often include spaces for lounging, cooking, dining, entertainment and recreation, and even the opportunity to showcase works of art and sculpture. The key to successfully creating these rooms is to replicate the order and cosiness offered by the traditional concept of the room, while making them distinctly ‘outdoors’ – in other words, maximising nature, fresh air, sunshine and any spectacular views offered by the home’s location or orientation. State of the art automated awnings can be used to provide shelter from the elements, in particular the punishing Australian sun, while outdoor lighting and sound systems create the perfect atmosphere for relaxing and entertaining. Exterior kitchens, lounges and bathrooms are all common features in million dollar homes these days, but the most successful ones keep a strong sense of the outdoors.

The swimming pool

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Of course a very common, even indispensable feature of modern home designs focused on the outside space is the swimming pool. While traditional tiled swimming pools are still in vogue, the blank blue screen they seem to create is increasingly being replaced by pools that replicate the soothing presence of water offered by nature. New custom home builders are reporting new trends. For example, a natural looking swimming pool tiled with deep green mosaics adds a visually arresting water feature to landscaping, particularly if it is enhanced by lush planting and eye-catching art, sculpture or smaller complementary water features, along with the use of LED outdoor lights or fibre optic pool lights.

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The use of electronic auto fills and salt water chlorinators has also created stress-free solutions that keep swimming pools crystal clear, healthy and running smoothly, while glass roofs and transparent swimming pool enclosures allow homeowners to enjoy their swimming experience on rainy and cold days. New materials currently in vogue include aggregate finish pool plaster that sparkles, creating an edge of glamour in outdoor living spaces. Meanwhile elegant mosaic tiles continue to be a popular choice in both modern and classic settings, with many pools even utilising tiling to create under water works of art.

Infinity and beyond

Generally thought of as a key element in any luxury outdoor setting, the infinity pool has been around for decades. A more modern and sophisticated version of the infinity edge, frequently specified in custom home designs is the knife edge. This has a small slit at the end of the pool where the water disappears and has the advantage of requiring virtually no edge material or coping, resulting in a sleek, reflective effect.Many pools also now offer what’s known as a lounging ledge, whose shallow spaces are the perfect addition for any pool, for relaxing, enjoying time with toddlers or cooling off.

Design and aesthetics

A key trend in outdoor living, emanating from the idea of the outdoor room, is the increasing use of vertical structures to define distinctly separate areas. Walls, vertical gardens or screens encourage traffic flow, increase sought-after privacy and camouflage unsightly views.

Another key trend of the moment is the use of straight, clean lines, particularly in modern home designs. Rectangular geometry in landscaping, flower beds and pathways with sharp angles and edges creates modern, elegant edge. Matte finishes are often used to complement this urban vibe. Conversely there is another emergent trend towards curvilinear, organic looking designs. A pool that mimics the non-symmetrical properties of a natural lake or landscaping that is deliberately ‘wild’ using native, low maintenance plants – these are elements of a movement that aims to replicate nature, thereby allowing homeowners to get in closer touch with it.

Another key trend in million dollar homes is the multi-level exterior living-space. This might for example comprise a pool and entertainment terrace on one level of the home, acting as a link from the main floor of the home and providing a great entertaining area. Further down, another level might house a sauna or outdoor gym, while yet further, an exotic planted garden with more secluded spots might create a much needed contrast. Another new an unexpected element of luxury custom designed homes is growing interest in eco-friendly gardens that can supply home owners with their own organic produce; so don’t be surprised if one element of the outdoor space in many modern home designs might be a state-of-the-art vegetable patch.

Creating visual impact

Depending on the location and orientation of the outside space, there is ample opportunity to create visual impact through the exterior space of custom designed homes. For example, a more classical home with exterior space at the front may allow for a sweeping drive and elegant trees that punctuate the space. A strong sense of arrival can be created by incorporating the style of the home into exterior walls or fences as well as the main gateway or entrance, and the use of high grade materials such as European style cobblestone throughout the motor court can enhance a more traditional exterior frontage. By contrast, impact can also be created in modern homes, through unexpected elements such as a narrow tunnel-like drive way that sweeps under the building itself, or a multi-level exterior space at the back of the house complete with outdoor rooms and unexpected vistas.

With so many elements being leveraged in modern home designs, the possibilities to create ‘outside edge’ are endless. If they seem overwhelming, never fear! Most reputable new custom home builders should be able to provide expert guidance in this area.