With so many decisions required during the building process, it can sometimes be easy to forget why you fell in love with a house design in the first place. For many of us, it happens before you’ve even set a foot inside the front door.
You only get one chance to make a first impression, as the old saying goes, so how you present your home to the street can impact on everything from whether the postal service feels safe delivering parcels to the resale value of your home.
Depending on the choices you make, it can also connect you to the local community - or become a barrier between you and the neighbours.
Often, it starts with what’s already happening in your area.
Clarendon Homes Design Manager Ryan Barnett says understanding your local streetscape - what the neighbours’ houses look like and how they sit on their blocks - is the first step.
“With knockdown/rebuild projects, there are contextual considerations where it’s about how the facade will suit the streetscape and the look and feel of the suburb,” he says. “For greenfield, it can be driven by developer guidelines with material requirements.”
While it may feel a little restrictive, often it can help narrow the field for some designs that may have up to 12 facade options.
Thankfully, the days of bland, uninspired facades have passed. These days, most homeowners are looking for articulated facades that mix materials, especially for two-storey homes, to create a welcoming ‘face’ to visitors.
If choosing the right design and materials seems a little daunting, Ryan says there’s generally a failsafe formula you can apply.
“Articulation and material selection is extremely important,” he says. “We are seeing face bricks teamed with a rendered component and then perhaps some natural stone. Normally three different materials is ideal and tonally, they should complement each other.
“You don’t want to use too many materials because then it looks like a bit of a circus.”
Display centre homes are often a great source of inspiration, says Ryan, because builders will take the opportunity to showcase a skilled use of materials.
Right now, buyers are enamoured with Hamptons-style facades, with their mix of weatherboard cladding, face brick and render but Ryan expects French Provincial facades to gain popularity in coming years.
Budget will often play a part in the decision-making process as well.
“What adds to the cost are things like balconies and flat roof designs and the more contemporary-looking homes in general,” Ryan says.
But the architectural look of your home is just one part of the story. Increasingly, homeowners are becoming aware of the importance of landscaping to set the tone for the whole house.
As director of premier landscaping business Secret Gardens, Matt Cantwell says the front garden is critical in how people ‘read’ your house from the street.
“Planting lets the house settle into the landscape,” he says. “We identify which angle most people will enter from and and then we frame the view of the key parts of the house, showing off the architecture.
“It’s about getting that balance between the structure and the horticulture, indicating to the viewer what they will find on the inside.”
He says the first question he always asks new clients is who their front garden is for.
“I always ask clients ‘is the front garden for you to enjoy and take advantage of the site or is it to present the house to the street?’,” he says. “How they respond will have an impact on the volume and the planting density.”
While for those in busy areas privacy is often a priority, Matt says homeowners are increasingly interested in connecting with those around them. This desire might be expressed in subtle ways, like visually connecting the planting in your garden with that of your neighbour’s to make your own garden feel larger, or it might be more direct.
“We find for some clients the front garden is a social space and you get a sense for that when you arrive,” he says.
Look for spots in the front garden or veranda that might be suitable for morning or afternoon coffee which can invite casual contact with passersby.
“More and more we are turning our front gardens into a back up spot to sit,” says Matt. “It’s easier to protect yourself from summer heat than it is to capture winter sun. Ask yourself where you’ll sit in winter to warm up.”
If you’re keen on a more active connection with your community, you’ll need a reason to be in the garden. This could be as simple as planting flowering plants that you’ll want to pick, or something more elaborate.
“A kitchen garden might be appreciated,” Matt says. “Our customers have come to understand that there is no conventional garden. We assess the garden on the merits of the site.”
But there are some practicalities which need to be taken into account. Homeowners in busy areas may prefer to install a front fence, which will be subject to council regulations.
“Fencing has to drop to 1.2m (at the front) and be 50 percent transparent,” Matt says. “Council requirements are generally about trying to improve the streetscape and soften the presentation (of the house).”
Pathways to your front door should be clearly understood and reasonably accessible. That doesn’t mean they have to be boring, says Matt.
“Steps and staircases can provide beautiful detail, especially if they are cantilevered or underlit,” Matt says.
And don’t forget the letterbox. In these days of online shopping, Matt says some homeowners have requested elaborate delivery chutes to keep their purchases safe and secure.
While investing in a front garden to match your beautiful new facade might sound like an expense you could do without, evidence shows that it is a sure fire way to add value to your property from the get-go, with some predicting landscaping can add up to 15 percent to the value of your home.
That’s value that will increase over time as the garden grows and matures. Sometimes, money does grow on trees.
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