Modern, minimalist design is all the rage these days – but does it make for a comfortable home? Whether you like the clean lines and light colours or prefer a cosier, classical feel to your home there are properties out there to suit your taste.
However, if you find a house in a great location but you aren’t sold on the way it looks, rest assured that with a few small tweaks you can change a property to be more the way you like it.
The evolution of style
Australian homes have long been about having a house with a plot of land, but the design and styles of these homes have changed tremendously in Australia, even since the end of World War II.
Immediately following the end of the war, houses were built in an austere style due to a scarcity in building materials. However, once the country and its trading routes were back on their feet, the waterfall art deco movement washed through the land, with ocean-liner style finishes popular in upper-class homes.
Following on from this, Australian designers looked overseas for inspiration and were soon incorporating open plan living and minimal colour schemes in their designs. The Rose Seidler House is a great example of this style.
In the 1960s, home ownership in Australia rose to around 70%, which is the highest it’s ever been. This led to an expansion in the suburbs and a variety of housing styles, often types that were updated versions of previous designs: fisherman’s cottages, brick veneers, gabled cottages and more.
This booming population also led to a higher demand for overall housing, so as well as suburbs expanding we began to see the rise of tower blocks in city centres.
Classic Australian style
Classic Australian architectural style can mean different things to different people – especially as you travel across the country – but there are a few things in common, no matter where you come from.
It’s no surprise that the origins of modern Australian homes are European, chiefly English. This comes from the knowledge and experience of early settlers, and later as a form of nostalgia for the old way of life. This can be seen in Gothic architecture, Victorian-style buildings and Tudoresque cottages; however, many of these styles have lost favour to more Americanised building ideas.
Classic Australian homes tend to have feature pieces that are absent from more modern designs. They may have verandas or balconies, a variety of materials, liberal use of ornate fittings and fixtures or features – such as chimneys – that are there simply for fashion not function.
Growing in popularity at the moment is the modernist style, often in combination with a minimalist approach.
This design favours simplicity over intricacy, with open-plan living often incorporated into the design. In a property of several floors, it’s not uncommon for a whole floor to just be one room, even though it serves multiple functions – such as being a dining/lounge area.
To complement the airy design of these homes, large windows are often installed to let natural light flood into the property. This is enhanced by light colours on the walls and floors.
Unlike homes using ancient Greek or Roman architecture for inspiration, modernist homes prefer sleek and simple walls. Exterior cladding is common, with different grains of wood popular choices. This aesthetic is replicated in kitchens and bathrooms where cupboards, splashbacks and walls tend to be uniform and devoid of eye-catching decorations.
The features combine to create a space that is bright and light, uses natural materials and use simple lines and patterns.
Find your fusion
In architecture and design, as with most things in life, there’s no right or wrong answer. If you like the appearance of a classical home, it’s your choice to go with that, but if you prefer the clean lines of a modernist building then you can choose that too.
Of course, things aren’t black and white. Many people find modernist designs tidier and more orderly, but others find them a bit clinical. On the other hand, classical homes can give the idea of comfort or being too busy, depending on your viewpoint.
To get around this, fusion design is entirely possible, where you take parts from different styles to create a home that’s truly yours. For instance, you may find that a minimalist study makes you more productive or that a simple bedroom makes you sleep better while having feature pieces in your lounge or your house’s exterior makes it more welcoming and a better space for entertaining guests.
Many people mix the designs for the look and function, while others do it because they don’t have the budget to overhaul a home. A classical design won’t have the same natural light that an open plan house has, but it can be changed in other ways. Similarly, a modernist design is a lot simpler than a classic one, but this can be changed with a few smart purchases and not a total redesign.
How to get the look
If you want to give your home more of a modernist look without breaking the bank – without removing walls or creating bigger windows – there are a few ways you can achieve that.
There are three main areas you want to target: how much light you have in your rooms, how spacious they are and the colour schemes you use.
To increase the light, you’ll want some mirrors. Use them to reflect the sunlight from mirrors around your home. As a bonus, this will reduce your electricity bills and also give a feeling spaciousness.
Another way to make rooms bigger is to remove clutter. It may be that you remove a couple of chairs, buy smaller tables or reduce extra storage options (whether that’s a side table, a bureau or a sideboard) – negative (i.e. empty) space is key to a modernist design.
Colour schemes are also important. Ditch the 50’s wallpapers, feature falls and bright paints and instead look to neutral palettes and light colours.
On the other hand, if you’ve inherited a minimalist design and want to cosy it up, think about decorating the walls with art, bringing in colourful rugs and making sure you have furniture that adds colour and warmth to the room. You may not be able to fully break up open-plan designs, but screens or tall bookcases can help to give a sense of privacy.
No matter what property you have or buy, you can easily make it a home with a few small tweaks that make it yours. To change the look of a house requires as much imagination as it does money and if you’re not satisfied with a certain aspect it doesn’t need to be a deal breaker.