There are a lot of trade-offs involved with designing and building a home – unless, of course, money is no object to you.
When designing and building a home, the big decision around opting to go for a single- or double-storey house can stump many people.
From costs and floor plans to land size and aspect, there are key considerations that are not only going to help enhance your lifestyle but also ensure you maximise the features and benefits of your property too.
We spoke to David Maiolo, director of custom home builders RODA, to find out how to approach such a conundrum.
Consider your family needs and lifestyle
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the path towards the most appropriate solution begins with an appraisal of your current situation, as what works for one household or family won’t work for another.
Consider the needs of the family members who will be living in the property, and how you like to spend your free time.
If you have children, Maiolo says the greater privacy and sense of separation afforded by a double-storey home might work best for you.
Roughly 90% of his clients who are in their late 30s or early 40s plump for a design that spans two floors, as kids can muck about upstairs without infringing on their parents’ relaxation time.
In these circumstances, “upstairs is very simple in design and economical in its finishings. And downstairs is normally a bit more upmarket… as that’s where your guests are going to be,” Maiolo explains.
Building a double-storey home will also leave more room for a backyard, as the footprint used will be much smaller; although couples with very young children, or elderly individuals with limited mobility, will have to weigh these benefits against the safety concerns raised by a staircase.
According to Maiolo, those who stick to one floor should consider positioning their bedrooms and studies at the front of the house, so that the kitchen, living, dining and alfresco areas can be integrated into one, open-plan living area at the back.
Assess the layout of home
When deciding whether to go for a single- home or double-storey home, consider the layout you are trying to achieve and what kind of flow you want to create in your home.
If you want an open, seamless flow from space to space where a large living area opens out onto the garden, a large single-storey floorpan might help you best achieve your goals.
Conversely, double-storey homes can be more flexible in terms of layout, as they allow for real separation of spaces. Some homeowners prefer a double storey home in that with a traditional layout of living areas downstairs and bedrooms upstairs, it allows homeowners to hide the mess of a busy life upstairs from guests.
Some homeowners with older children may choose to have the living and master suite upstairs with a teenage retreat downstairs.
Consider the costs (and your budget)
Building up is more complicated than building out, and it also requires the hire of costly scaffolding. Which is why Maiolo tells clients that, on average, it will cost them 30% more to build a double-storey home than a single-storey home of the same size. (To put that figure into perspective, one of Maiolo’s recent projects – a 260sqm single-storey home on a 460 sqm block in West Preston – cost $480,200 to build.)
“In specification, [the difference in costs] is nothing. It’s more in the actual construction – scaffolding, steel manufacturing, stairs, balustrading,” he says. “Clients are essentially paying for things that they will never see.”
And they’ll also have to wait a lot longer for the finished product, Maiolo adds.
That said, the extra construction costs can be offset by savings on the land price, as double-storey homes can be built on blocks as small as 250 sqm.
According to Maiolo, an overall decrease in plot sizes in Australia means that more of his clients are now opting for that second floor.
Think of the area and the neighbours
Coming up with a set of impressive architectural drawings and concepts is one thing; executing them is quite another.
For starters, you’ll need to secure council approval for your plans – and that often involves keeping your neighbours happy, to minimise objections. According to Maiolo, those building single-storey homes generally find it easier to do this, as overshadowing is less of an issue and neighbours “don’t like things that are bulky and stick out”.
That said, the style and size of the pre-existing residential buildings that surround your plot should provide a good indication of what your local council would deem acceptable. If all your neighbours live in double-storey homes, then there’s a good chance you’ll be allowed to build one. Indeed, Maiolo believes a single-storey in such surroundings would look “insignificant”, and so choosing to build one could have negative consequences for your future resale price.
Maximise the aspect of your property
And it’s not only your immediate surroundings you should take into account. From glittering city skylines to hypnotic ocean waves, views lend homes a sense of place and belonging, offering their inhabitants temporary respite from the stresses of the day.
If your property has lovely surrounding, water or city view, this might be the deciding factor in your decision to go up. Plus, if you can add view to your home features it will add value to the property.
In fact, in Maiolo’s experience, this invaluable connection to nature is often the main reason why people splash out on an extra floor.
“I’ve had a lot of clients that have wanted to go double-storey simply to maximise their views,” he says.
“We’ve even ordered drone footage to see what the view would be like if they decided to go double-storey.”
Not to mention what an investment it can be to add a second storey to your home. Not only will you potentially add “views” to your list of home features but you are potentially doubling the floor space and adding extra rooms which will all significantly add value to your home.
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