SIMPLE, TEXTURED & AFFORDABLE…
As Australia emerges from COVID-19, new trends in home design and function are emerging. New home design trends, of course, are reflected in higher demand for on-trend building materials and hardware products. JOHN POWER investigates ‘what’s hot’ in the building materials sector.
COVID-19’s impact on housing design and function have been profound, but it is only now – in light of the full context of this two-year-plus pandemic – that more permanent design and market trends are becoming apparent.
At the time of writing, home construction and refurbishment are responding to four major forces: the prospect of rising interest rates, which places pressure on homeowners to make savings wherever they can; a likelihood of plateauing (or even falling) house prices over the next two years, leading owner-occupiers and investors alike to pay greater attention to the pricing of services and materials; historically high trade labour costs, which also encourages price-consciousness as far as building processes are concerned; as well as a culture shift from ‘home’ to ‘home/office’, which enhances the appeal of separate or combined leisure and work areas to meet the complex needs of multiple family members.
In other words, affordability, privacy, and multifunctionality are at the forefront of customers’ minds.
‘Affordability’ typically means ‘simplicity’ of design; indeed, building products company James Hardie describes ‘beautiful simplicity’ as a defining feature of its hypothetical House of 2022.
According to architect Joe Snell, James Hardie Ambassador, “The pandemic has shown us that a home is more than a shelter. The home of 2022 must be flexible and not as stagnant as they once were. Homes need to provide for entertainment, eating, working, exercising, and retreat. Work is now ever-changing, but the home remains the hub – with flexibility the key.”
Snell, alongside James Hardie’s Marketing Director Cathleya Buchanan, agree that homeowners are inspired by clean lines and pared-back designs with achromatic colour palettes. That means conservative colour schemes that can accommodate different uses are in vogue, while extreme and characterful colours and complex combinations are less popular. Textures, on the other hand, are gaining importance.
“Profiled cladding products like Linea™ Weatherboards are being painted crisp white and contrasted with black window frames, black fascia and guttering,” Snell and Buchanan say. “Hardie™ cladding with modest details like Axon™ Cladding, which looks like vertical joint timber or large-format panel Hardie™ Fine Texture Cladding – a fibre cement wall panel embedded with a fine texture to create a modern aesthetic – are becoming a canvas which highlights homes with simple shapes and hidden rooflines.”
Timber screens and integrated greenery, they believe, feature strongly against a receding, dark, cladding background.
Snell notes two trends in particular that will be present in 2022 include resort-style dwellings for ‘home holidaying’, and Scandinavian-inspired functionality.
“Resort-style homes with similarly designed pools, a fresh weatherboard beach look, and a pergola, with no need to add further decoration, will help create a year-round holiday aesthetic. Those seeking more of a pragmatic, industrial working house will opt for the Scandinavian look.
It is pure and highly practical with a clean aesthetic and will suit a lot of people working from home.”
In keeping with simple colour schemes and an emphasis on multifunctional spaces, Snell suggests that home entrances will gain growing significance as ‘welcoming hubs’ for guests, friends, and potentially work colleagues, complete with textured cladding, enhanced lighting and seating.
Work-from-home trends are vitally important, as homeowners try to accommodate the needs of adults and children under one roof.
As Buchanan observes, the proportion of people working from home in Australia was about eight per cent in 2019 but was estimated to be around 38 per cent in 2021. Working from home, she says, has highlighted the real need for dedicated workspaces that are not bedrooms or living rooms.
“It is important to have work and non-work zones to create separation and allow family members to decompress from increasingly busy, long, and stressful work; especially, when we do not have the commute to put distance between the two,” says Buchanan. “Dedicated sound-proof ‘Zoom rooms’ for online meetings are increasingly being identified as needs rather than wants.”
This trend is likely to result in elevated demands for soundproofing and partition materials, as well as dedicated workstation fitouts.
There has been plenty of press coverage in recent months highlighting shortages of timber stock due to the legacy of bushfires in 2019–20, inadequate local plantation reserves, COVID-19-related supply chain bottlenecks, and the low-priority status of Australian markets on a global scale.
As construction-grade timber supplies become harder to source, it is likely that there will be an increased demand for small-volume ‘feature’ timber products designed to deliver a wood aesthetic in high-visibility areas of the home. Admittedly, this trend may be some way off, but alternative timber products manufactured with eye-catching composite materials and engineered effects may drift from specialist stores into mainstream hardware outlets over time. Readers interested in cutting-edge developments in engineered timber products might wish to attend the Timber Offsite Construction (TOC) conference in Melbourne on June 21-22 2022, can visit www.timberoffsiteconstruction.com.
“We are entering a new global phase for building construction with engineered timber and mass wood gaining major acceptance from substantial productivity, financial, and ‘green’ benefits available to developers and builders,” conference organisers say. “Faster construction times, higher-quality buildings, less site labour, less waste, less disruption, less environmental impact, and importantly lower project cost are key to major growth trends underway.”
Mainstream media, the majority of which echo broader building product fashions in favour of single-colour, interestingly textured products, are influencing mass-market demand for tiles.
Wildly coloured, heavy-impact products are out; instead, designers this year are more likely to be interested in special-finish ‘lookalike’ porcelain tiles that have the appearance of stone, wood, terrazzo, travertine, or other organic effects. With affordability being a key determinant of selections, simple designs without complex patterning are likely to maintain dominance. Natural, neutral, pale colours with earthy or soft plant-based references are gaining momentum.
‘Lineal’ tiles are also gaining a presence in the market. These long, skinny, rectangular tiles often boast deliberate blemishes or multi-shade hues to suggest earthy, organic origins.
The backlash against manufactured stone products continues to strengthen.
Speaking before the New South Wales Parliament late last month, CFMEU NSW Secretary Darren Greenfield said, “Silicosis is a killer and manufactured stone products pose an unacceptable risk to workers and must be banned.
“Nearly one-in-four engineered stoneworkers who have been in the industry since 2018 are suffering from silicosis or some other dust-related disease. When you consider the high mortality rate of silicosis, this shocking fact must prompt immediate action.”
“Manufactured stone is not essential to our economy – it is an architectural fashion which has only existed since the 1990s. This unnecessary and deadly product should have no place in Australian homes and workplaces.”
“The writing is on the wall for this killer product and now is the time to implement a ban.”
Preferences for non-toxic materials for kitchen and bathroom benchtops, splashbacks and similar work surface applications are likely to reinforce demand for alternative (safe) synthetic materials, MDF panels, tiles, or natural timber materials. Natural stone may face challenges in a price-conscious market.