Trends for a lifetime

Architect Barbara Yerondais talks to Neos Kosmos about how to turn a house into a home through design

Barbara Yerondais’ main piece of advice to people looking to renovate or build a new home is to think carefully about their design lifestyle. She advises all her clients to write up a wish list of the key ingredients for their ideal home and to have a good idea of how much they can spend. It is then the job of architects like Yerondais, as she says, to lead her clients through the process of realising that dream.

We’ve met to discuss trends in home design, but it quickly becomes clear that what’s most important in a new or improved home is not just what styles and materials are in vogue but how the house works for you and your family, how it reflects your needs now and how it will grow as you and your family grow. It’s a principal Yerondais returns to throughout our discussion, even when we’re talking about specific things like wall colour.

“When you’re creating a space, the space needs to speak on its own,” Yerondais says. “And you living inside the space is what’s important, not how we apply colour to it.”

Yerondais is Director and Principal Architect at BY Projects, a small design-focused architectural practice based in Melbourne that works on projects from renovations and new homes to large apartment building projects, and fit-outs for restaurants and cafes. Yerondais’ whole family works in the building industry and it has always been her dream career.

After graduating from RMIT, she established the practice Walker and Yerondais with former business partner David Walker in 1989. Walker went into private practice a few years ago and Yerondais continues the city-based practice as BY Projects. For Yerondais, two overarching and related ideas (or challenges) are at the forefront of today’s home design – space and sustainability.

“We need to embrace city living,” she says, “because Melbourne’s going to have population growth to about eight million in the next 20 years and we need to be able to accommodate all those people. “So people need to get used to downsizing and living in smaller environments and the whole key to that is the issue of sustainability.

How do we sustain our city and also sustain our infrastructure and accommodate a lot more people?” She believes it will take a couple of generations before people are really comfortable with city living, but says that dream home expectations and lifestyles are already changing. As we discuss trends for different parts of the house, storage and space to accommodate all our stuff is a common theme. In the kitchen we need storage for more appliances, in the bathroom a place for the electric toothbrush as well as the hair dryer and shaver, in the bedroom storage for more stuff, in the lounge, more stuff. While we might be using more stuff, however, new homes are also being designed and built more sustainably, keeping in mind the resources used in their construction, construction techniques and the environmental footprint our buildings and livelihoods leave over time.

All new buildings and renovations in Australia have to meet a minimum 6 Star energy rating. Sustainable design solutions such as solar hot water, double glazing, insulation, passive solar design – which maximises the use of natural heating and cooling – and natural light are used to achieve this. These solutions, and many others, are becoming commonplace and are paramount to comfortable, energy efficient and cost effective living.

According to the Victorian Building Commission, 6 Star homes use on average 24 per cent less energy through heating and cooling compared to 5 Star homes. Trends change but when considering renovating or building a new home from scratch, it’s our lifestyle we need to consider first and foremost.

“Our homes are often our must valuable asset, and money needs to be spent wisely on the environment we create for ourselves,” says Yerondais. Yerondais’ advice for renovators

1. Make a wish list. Give careful consideration to the desired spaces required today and into the future, how they relate to one another, and how you would like your lifestyle to be. One’s home is often a reflection of you and your family’s level of interaction, and when creating a new or renovated home there is a wonderful opportunity to think about this.

2. Understand exactly how much money you are able/willing to spend, and get professional assistance in matching the budget to your wish list.

3. Seek professional advice. The money spent on the services of an architect at the inception of a new home or renovation will be a cost saving down the track. As designers, architects are trained to conceptualise the needs of their client, and organise its construction in the most cost efficient way possible.