Responding to Melbourne’s Changing Property Landscape | Feature InterviewMelbourne, VIC, Australia
Over the past 30 years Melbourne’s property landscape has changed dramatically, inspiring leading luxury home builder Canny to diversify the way they design and build to meet the changing times.
As the price of land climbs astronomically and blocks become smaller, Canny saw the need for high quality, architecturally-designed luxury homes at a more affordable price point. The result is a combination of pre-designed plans and customised architectural design, reducing the time and cost involved in both the design and build stages. Jells Road, a recent project by Canny, exemplifies this approach in action – based on the Canny Brighton concept home, Jells Road was then customised for the clients with the design based on the Indian feng shui Vastu shastra earth elements of water, light and heat.
The Brighton concept home is always the starting point for the design process says Canny director of architecture Roger Borland. ‘Our first step is always to take our clients through to show them our standard offering and allow them to understand the level of timeless design excellence, construction finish and general feeling of luxury we expect as standard’, he explains. ‘We then take a detailed brief to understand the clients’ whole family dynamic and how it is likely to change over the coming years’.
‘The base principles of what makes a dwelling have not changed since the first people roamed the earth. Warmth, shelter and a space to commune as a family are always the base’, says Roger. These utilitarian principles form the base of the Canny home, yet the team understand that ‘there can be huge variations in what one family wants versus another. What we have learned over the last 25 years is how best to listen to our clients’. The Brighton house allows the designer and client to walk through together and begin to visualise their lives in the space. It provides a tangible experience for the client, allowing them to connect to the process and have confidence, and helps the designers to formulate their brief.
This approach, which delivers a finished home of comparable quality to a traditional architect-designed residence in the timeframe of a standard home builder, has many benefits. Not only does it provide the client with a single point of contact, but it dramatically reduces upfront design cost and creates the design in collaboration with the construction team for the best possible constructability, which in turn reduces site delays and variations. By aligning each step, the process is highly streamlined and straightforward, while still prioritising the client’s needs and lifestyle.
In the Jells Road project, Canny interior designer Janine Carter says ‘this project in particular saw our clients work directly with our design team (architect and interiors) to ensure the clients’ wants and needs were met.’ They fell in love with the Brighton concept home and sought to create their own version of this home, which suited their strong religious beliefs. Janine says, ‘With this in mind, careful consideration was given to the layout to ensure it aligned with the Indian feng shui Vastu shastra earth elements of water, light and heat. This strongly influenced the home’s floorplan and outdoor areas, including the aspect of the kitchen, bedrooms and placement of the pool alongside the home’.
The Jells Road interior design included several customised living spaces, with a theatre room, prayer area, kids study alcove, oversized play room and several other multi-purpose rooms that are able to be converted into bedrooms for extended family visits. Janine comments that ‘It was important to ensure these personalised spaces were created to be functional yet stylish, such as the incorporation of sliding glass doors into the theatre room which are soundproof, but also allow the room to easily convert into a stylish second sitting room when not in use.’
Both the interiors and architecture of Canny homes focus on timeless, neutral materials with an emphasis on low-maintenance materials with excellent longevity – ‘so that our clients can spend more time with family and not doing endless maintenance’, says Roger. Where possible, all materials and trades are sourced locally to reduce environmental impact, and to ensure that over the life of the home any required replacements can be easily found locally. The materiality is also important aesthetically – the interiors and architectural teams work in unison through the design process to ensure that the whole home is seamlessly designed. ‘This is critical to ensure that the materiality flows for inside out’, says Roger, ‘in turn making the spaces feel bigger and more luxurious’.
In the 27 years that Canny have been building luxury homes in Melbourne, they continue to develop they approach to more sustainable design practices. This includes the siting and orientation of the home to maximise passive solar gain in winter and shading in summer. Windows are positioned to capture the breeze, and are all double-glazed for improved efficiency. They also consider the overall adaptability of the home to increase its longevity for the family living there. ‘We plan the spaces carefully to ensure the can be adaptable for the future’, says Roger, so that a ground-floor powder room can be extended to have a shower or a second living space can be adapted to be a bedroom.
Currently, Roger says they are focusing on the buildings’ airtightness, and are exploring pressure testing the building during construction to ensure that the external fabric is performing equal or better than the design intent. ‘This eradicates draughts and ensures that heat loss is minimised, in turn reducing the energy load for heating and cooling which lowers utility bills for the clients’, he explains.
As the Jells Road project shows, from the environmental efficiency, to the considered use of materials, to the blend of template and custom architectural and interior design, to the construction itself, Canny are doing it all. Bringing everything under one roof, they are streamlining the process, reducing costs and providing a clever response to the ongoing changes in Melbourne’s property landscape.