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What To Consider When Designing A Home In The Southern Highlands

Designing A Home In The Southern Highlands
How Cadence & Co design unique homes for the Southern Highlands

The Southern Highlands is a unique region. We have space – lots of it. An abundance of nature in our backyard (both literally and figuratively!). And we have four VERY distinct seasons, from hectic heat in the summer to snow (sometimes!) and frost in the winter. And those winds…..! Ouch.

And boy, do we cop it when Mother Nature is feeling a little cranky – droughts, floods, bushfires – she’s thrown it all at us Highlanders recently.

So how do we design and build homes that make the most of our natural landscape, country life and the weather that is so unique to our region?

We asked Michael Kilkeary, Head of Architectural Design for Cadence & Co, about the core principles he and his team work with when designing homes in the Southern Highlands.

1 // Designing for the seasons

The Southern Highlands has those four distinct seasons that can be a little extreme sometimes (putting it nicely!) so addressing that at the beginning of the design process means you can totally work those extremes to your advantage!

“You get a strong sense of season in the Southern Highlands. You can really respond to the different times of year and make the most of the colours and the temperatures,” Michael points out.

“We look for the opportunities on each site around what the seasons are doing. Where is the sun? When is it there? How can we get the winter sun into the living spaces in the colder months?”

“It’s about focusing on the orientation of the home to maximise the thermal performance and the outlook or view. That’s the tricky thing! Finding the balance between those two elements.”

“And I really enjoy incorporating the trees and colours of the area into the design of the house, making the most of the landscaping and what people see when they look out their windows.”

2 // Designing for the environment

Building sustainable and environmentally friendly homes is a core principle of the Cadence & Co ethos, from the materials they use to the infrastructure they build into the homes.

“Recycled and natural materials such as stone and timber work in beautifully with the natural landscape of the Highlands,” Michael says.

“We also incorporate smart, environmental design features such as hydronic heating and double glazing to maximise a home’s efficiency and minimise the impact it has on the environment for years to come.”

3 // Scale and space

One of the reasons many of us love living here is because of the space! Bigger blocks, hobby farms, vast acreages – it gives us more options, but Michael recommends we don’t get carried away.

“There’s a sense of scale in the Highlands that is great to work with, but you don’t have to go big just for the sake of it. It’s all about context and balance and creating a home that is beautiful and functions efficiently,” he says.

“What’s the point of having a long, cavernous hallway if you’re only going to walk through it twice a day and it costs hundreds of dollars to heat?”

The team is working on a project at the moment that has challenged them to think creatively about designing a house for a couple whose extended family come and stay with them in the Highlands regularly.

“Most of the time, it’s two people living in the house but when kids and grandchildren come to stay that number can go up to 10 or 12 people in the house at any one time,” Michael says.

“So we created zones and wings, but in a way that didn’t ‘close’ the house up when it was just the two of them. Thermal efficiency was also important. We don’t want to waste money and energy on spaces that don’t have anyone in them.”

So, yes, efficiency is important but if you’ve got the extra land space and you want to spread out a little too, then that’s so fine!

“People building in the Southern Highlands have options and space to work with, which means they can add in those extra spaces they really want. Workshops, studios, multi-car garages, wine cellars, a library….”

You had us at wine cellar, Michael!

4 // Changes to the way we work changes the way we design our homes

Once upon a time, a home was for sleeping and relaxing and eating – not working! Well, that’s all changed.

Even before the global pandemic (yes COVID, we’re looking at you!), Michael was seeing a trend towards people working from home more often.

“People have been moving from Sydney to the Southern Highlands because of it’s proximity to the city and the sense of escape it offers. Many still have an office in Sydney but mostly work remotely from the Highlands,” he points out.

The challenge? Merging a productive and efficient work environment with a relaxing, home environment. While technological infrastructure plays a role from a functional perspective, Michael also gets down to the details of how and when a client works from home before incorporating a workspace or office into the architectural plans of a home.

“We had a client who needed to be online when the US was primarily online, so he was in his office from very early in the morning. We positioned his office to catch the early morning sun, so he wasn’t in the dark all the time.”

5 // Designing for living

One of the benefits of bespoke architectural design is the amazing impact designing a home for how a family or couple truly lives can have on their future and the energy of a home.

“We look at how clients live, what they want to achieve in each space and how they interact in those spaces,” Michael says.

“Who is going to live here? What space will they use and when? Do they entertain a lot? Cook a lot? Do they prefer the indoors? Or the outdoors? If we ask all these questions and more, we end up with a jigsaw puzzle of spaces that are important to the client.”

“From there, we work out the ideal position for each room and then pull all those spaces together in a way that flows beautifully, works efficiently and creates the ideal experience for each space.”

Wow! We had NEVER thought of it like that!

“We’ve designed wellness spaces for clients because they love to meditate and do yoga. We’ve positioned a large fireplace to become a focal point in an open plan living space because a family loves to gather around it. We’ve designed spacious and inviting kitchens with large island benches as a feature because the kitchen is the hub of the home where the kids do homework and parents entertain friends.”

“For me, I really enjoy nutting out the planning of the house around how it is going to be used,” Michael says.

“If you get that right, then everything else that is layered over it – interiors, materials, furniture, landscaping, lighting, colour, technology – will work.”

Cadence & Co Southern Highlands specialises in quality residential design, construction and landscapes. Their work ranges from small projects to creating some of the finest homes, swimming pools and landscapes. Quality workmanship, creative architectural design and seamless project management are hallmarks of a Cadence & Co project. Meet Joe Proud, the local heading up the Southern Highlands office of Cadence & Co. And check out this gorgeous reno project the local Cadence & Co team worked on!

You can see the full article at The Fold