Great home design starts with small steps

August 10, 2015

Housing for Life

When I was a kid, the weekend ‘family outing’ usually involved ambling through the neighbourhood and pointing out the homes we liked to each other. My mum was a teacher and I think she loved that me and my brothers were her weekend students. As we walked through Napier, NZ’s art deco capital, my mother would encourage us to appraise the houses and buildings we saw.

Little did I realise, as I was wandering through the neighbourhood to the backing track of a Disney tape playing on my shark shaped walkman, I was forming a mental scrapbook for the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of home design. Today, thanks to the likes of Pinterest, we can form ‘digital home design scrap books’ from across the world. But how can we use them in our own home projects?

Building up a home design scrapbook is an essential tool for guiding your decisions.

Anyone who has done their fair share of home gazing will know that great homes demonstrate a range of different aspects of good living, both inside and outside. Achieving a home design that accommodates a diversity of life styles and life scenarios is a balancing act. Think about the  requirements of the people that will be living there – both now and in the future – and start collating images of the sorts of experiences and functions you’d like to build into your new home. This will enable you to weigh up which functions you want to prioritise in your home.

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How can I create a home design scrapbook?

Achieving a design that works well is about gathering as much information as possible.

Before starting a project – take some steps towards building up your own mental scrapbook.  Revisit your favourite houses, walk through the neighbourhood and weigh up the pros and cons of the homes you’re looking at.

Don’t forget to also look beyond your neighbourhood, as it is likely to only have a limited number of examples. It’s important to ensure you understand the full range of opportunities for your future home. Talk with your friends about the homes and design features they love in their neighbourhoods.

Check out examples online, the ADM has a growing library of real life examples from Auckland and abroad. You can also use Pinterest to create your own digital scrapbook of projects, ideas, features, products and materials you love. Or peruse the sites such as , or for more inspirational homes.

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By building up your exposure to great home design you can be more directed in your engagement with your project.

Use your home design scrapbook to draw up your vision statement and to start outlining your objectives.  This preparation work will help lay a foundation for the rest of the project, and will be a constant reminder of what you first set out to achieve.

It will help you to make better decisions and can reduce the chance of making costly mistakes later on. While you may feel like you’re standing at the bottom of a steep mountain at this point, going through this preparation will enable you to be more directed in your approach as experts become involved and knowledge is gathered.

Now you have built up your home design scrapbook you can start thinking about the following…

Spaces and their uses:

Think about the indoor and outdoor spaces you want to have in the house.  Try setting them out in terms of quality instead of quantity.

Rather than writing ‘Lounge equals 3×3′ try ‘a space to entertain’ and instead of ‘Home Office equals 2×3′ try putting down ‘a space to work from home.’

Having a better idea of the functions you require will help you to work out smarter ways to get more from the space you have available.


Think of the location as the key lifestyle outcomes.  For example, 10 minutes from the bus stop, five minutes from the park and four minutes to the diary.  Try listing them in order of the lifestyle outcomes that are most important to you.  This will help you to evaluate whether a site is the right one for your requirements.

Users now and in the future:

When designing a new home, it’s important to think long term about the various life stages and scenarios people may go through while living there.  Considering accessibility may mean that in the future you or your family won’t have to move out of your house if your circumstances change.


List the key design performances you want your home to achieve such as being warm during the winter and cool in the summer, having decent soundproofing between the living spaces and the bedrooms, being energy efficient to run etc.


Be realistic about cost.  The houses estimated market value should always be kept in mind. Also remember, sometimes it is worth spending more upfront.  For example getting a good designer and project manager, as well as investing in long-life materials can equate to huge savings down the line.

Time schedule:

Factor in the demands on your own time.  Designing and building a new home is a considerable undertaking. Many people underestimate how much of their own time will be absorbed when they start the building process – even with a great project manager on board.

Talk to the experts as early on as you can.  Planners, architects and architectural designers, your bank manager, real-estate agents and lawyers will all help you to form a better understanding of what’s possible and appropriate on your site.

Want more information?

On the ADM you’ll also find a step-by-step guide to developing a new home, filled with practical advice and handy checklists that you can use to build into your brief.


Learn from other great Auckland based projects.  Click on the links below.

Kāinga Tuatahi is Ngāti Whatua Ōrākei’s latest terraced housing project in Ōrākei.

Blake Greens Apartments is Horncastle Home’s new 2 storey apartment project in Millwater.

Kupe Street Ep 1

Kāinga Tuatahi

blake greens

Blake Greens Apartments


Article by Toby Shephard and Hellen Robinson


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