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Lockdown has altered how we use space

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People are inhabiting their homes differently and want open-plan areas as well as rooms where they can work or be private

Open spaces, extra rooms, and smart home design are among the world’s most in-demand architectural trends as people look to balance time alone with the need to remain connected to those living with them.

Green architecture is also a growing trend in the way residential properties are designed and developed. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is the value of relationships and the importance of simple and sustainable living, so it is no surprise that those who are able to are having dream dwellings designed to their specifications.

Open-plan living appears to be the design of the future as the main areas of the home become communal spaces to interact with loved ones. Whether it is entertaining guests or just enjoying family time together, people want to keep connected.

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However, this does not mean homes will no longer cater for privacy as, countering the open-plan design trend, there is the need for people to have spaces such as man caves, she sheds and rooms where they can spend time engaging in hobbies or enjoying downtime.

And there is also the need for office and study spaces following the global switch to remote working and home learning. This integration of communal and private space is referred to as “broken-plan” design, says Chris Cilliers, chief executive and co-principal for Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty in the Winelands.

“No one can deny the benefits of open-plan spaces which create a sense of sociability, allow for roomier and brighter living areas and enable multiple functions to be performed in the same area.

“However, with Covid restrictions in place, there is a greater need for privacy and personal space and for us to add boundaries to our living and work zones so they don’t constantly spill over on to one another.” The most practical and economical solution is to shift from open-plan to broken-plan living.

“In a nutshell, broken plan is still an open-concept design but with the focus on integrated living. You retain the spacious airiness of open-plan living but, through the clever use of the available space and the creation of distinct zones, you allow for more flexible use throughout the day.

“Essentially, you create separate personal hubs in your home for working, family time, dining, study and leisure. “This also adds visual interest and enhances the liveable aspect of an open-plan area.”

Another trend in residential architecture design is additional “main bedrooms” to cater for the rise in multi-generational living and house sharing. In conjunction with a growing emphasis on family connection, many friends and relatives are choosing to live together for a number of reasons including being able to pool resources – financial and other – or save money to buy property.

Indoor-outdoor living is not a new concept in home design but, similar to the factors influencing the need for open-plan spaces to connect and interact, it is here to stay. As people spend more time at home, they want to be able to experience beauty and fresh air in their gardens and outdoor areas. Of all the architectural design trends, however, the biggest is probably the move to green living.

And while concern for the environment is a huge motivator for this, cutting back on the costs associated with on-grid living is also a push factor. This is especially true in South Africa where rising utility tariffs and unstable supply of these services is a reality.

When it comes to home improvements, says Arjun Khoosal, chief technology officer and co-founder of Kandua.com, more South Africans are looking for solutions that will reduce energy and water consumption, to save money and to reduce their reliance on utility providers.

“It’s no longer unusual to see solar panels or rainwater-harvesting tanks. Smart home systems are also emerging as a way to make homes more sustainable and less reliant on the grid.”

For the owners of luxury properties, there is an increasing demand for homes that offer the best in comfort, practicality, functionality, convenience and style, says Cilliers. After a long year of spending an inordinate amount of time at home, it’s no surprise that the “less is more” trend of the past few years has been supplanted by “bigger is better”.

Citing a recently released 2021 report published by the Coldwell Banker Global Luxury programme, she says nearly 55% of the 40 luxury specialist respondents reported additional square meterage was the prime buyer priority that changed between 2019 and last year. Many listed megamansions; expansive homes with large gardens; family compounds and even private islands as the ultimate social-distancing retreats.

HOW TO SWITCH TO A SMART HOME – ONE STEP AT A TIME

A smart home involves the connection of appliances, devices and systems to the internet, enabling the automation and remote control of things like lighting, temperature and security, says Kandua.com’s Arjun Khoosal.

He advises those concerned about hefty upfront costs to take it one step at a time.

Smart lighting solutions

Most people are aware of the energy savings achieved by replacing incandescent lighting with LED bulbs but smart lighting solutions can take this to the next level.

“These systems allow you to adjust the brightness, turn lights off and on based on time or motion sensors, and even change the colour of your lights. You can control everything from your phone or laptop or have things manage themselves by selecting an automated setting.”

Automated temperature control

When it comes to keeping your home cosy in winter and cool in summer, he notes that combining traditional solutions with new technology reduces your reliance on expensive heaters or air conditioners.

“For example, you can install automated window shutters or outdoor pergolas that respond to weather conditions to take advantage of the warming power of the sun and then also seal all the gaps around windows and door frames to make sure you keep the heat in.”

Smart strips

Khoosal says a simple way to deal with appliances and devices that continue to draw power even when they are turned off – such as gaming consoles, laptops, TVs, coffee machines and microwaves – is to use a smart power strip.

These strips not only offer remote monitoring and control, and cut off energy supply to specific devices when they go into standby mode, but surge protection too.

Water savings

If you have an irrigation system, it’s easy to install a timing switch so it automatically goes on and off at set times, giving your garden only as much water as it needs.

Inside the home, he says the key is to keep washing machines and dishwashers clean and well maintained or to upgrade to newer, more efficient models.

Network connection

A good, reliable internet connection is the backbone of any smart home. For larger homes especially, it is more than just plugging in the wi-fi router that your internet service provider supplied. “You may want to get a pro to set up the network properly, so all your devices work,” Khoosal says.

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