Will your home be too big? 4 tips before you begin

You may have specific ideas about what you want in your future home.

But will your home be too big? And will it cost too much?

Here’s 5 tips before you begin working with an architect or designer, to help you during your pre-design phase.

If you’re starting out on your design process, or perhaps you’re still researching and getting ready.

Now … as you pull together all your wishes and wants for your future home, and identify the rooms, spaces, items and inclusions …

Do you really know what you’re asking for?

I find that it’s really common for homeowners to have specific ideas of the things they want their future home to include …

They present their ideas to their design professional, who then starts the design process, and the clients anxiously await their first concept presentation …

And when they all come together for their first meeting, those clients are then quite shocked to see just how BIG the house is that they’re asking for.

It’s not uncommon for this to happen.

And – also not uncommon – they then have to begin the process of reducing and removing, to bring the home down in size, figuring out what they’ll forego, or shrink overall.

For some, the next steps to do that can be a no-brainer. When they’ve seen the outcome of their written brief presented as an initial concept drawing, there can be an immediate realisation of..

“Oh no – we don’t need that much – let’s fix that up now and make things smaller, or eliminate that space, etc etc!”

For others, the next steps to do this can feel quite tortuous. Especially if they’ve had input on costs early on which have set a target for the total square metres of their home size, they know they’re exceeding it, but they can’t work out what to give up.

So how do you learn more about what you’re asking for, before you get a design professional to draw it up?

Here’s 4 tips to help you do this:

#1 Start with maths

Inside HOME Method (and it’s also included in my mini-course, Set + Stick to Your Budget), I have a budget spreadsheet that includes a calculator to work out the total square metres of the home your brief is outlining.

To create this for yourself, you simply need to calculate the area of each room you’re wanting to include, then add some room for storage, hallways and general circulation (we have percentages in the UA calculator).

Don’t forget to include garages, covered outdoor areas, and any other built elements you’re including.

Once you’ve got all those figures, you can add them up for your home’s total number of square metres. That’s the maths bit

#2 Review the areas of homes you see online and in your research

Australians build amongst the largest homes in the world, with our average being around 240m2.

For many, that figure of 240m2 actually sounds really small … so it can be a shock to think it’s an average, AND that it’s a large average.

But, 240m2 is still a lot of space when it’s designed functionally. And homes smaller than this can feel spacious and enjoyable for families when the design is done well.

This blog has a great diagram in it by shrinkthefootprint.com that compares our average to that of other countries (it’s in square feet, which you can divide by 10 to get an approximate for the equivalent square metres).

As you start to review and audit these home areas, you can compare them to your total. Another helpful resource is this article which shares suggested m2 per person in the home based on different home sizes as well.

#3 Audit your wish list

If you’ve discovered your wish list creates a bigger home than you anticipated, then it’ll be much easier to reduce / remove and change whilst it’s words in a brief, than when it’s a floor plan you’re reviewing.

You’ll find you can be much more objective when revising a written document that outlines your desired inclusions, rooms and spaces.

Once your home starts being designed, and you start to visualise occupying and enjoying future spaces and rooms, it becomes much harder to maintain that objectivity and cull if necessary.

Really think about how you’ll live in your future home, and prioritise the spaces you’ll use the most. There’s a great article that quotes a 2017 book called “Live at Home in the Twenty-first Century”.

The book includes 32 case studies of families moved about their home. It found that over two-thirds of the time in the home was spent in the kitchen / living spaces. Then 18% in the bedrooms, and 1 to 6% in the other spaces (that includes all those expensive bathrooms and ensuites!)

Thinking like this can be helpful with rationalising and prioritising what really matters, and where to invest your budget and create space for your lifestyle.

#4 Start your design process to help you prioritise

If you’re still struggling with doing this yourself before you dive into your design process, you can get your design professional’s help.

Get early cost advice to determine realistic and current square metre rates for the standard, finish and location of your future home.

Divide your total construction budget by that square metre rate, and you’ll have a target size for your future home based on your budget.

Plus, you have a list of all the spaces and rooms you want in your design brief (that can be larger in size than your budget currently allows).

Ask your designer, as the first round of concept designs, to present you with:

a concept design that meets your budget,

and a concept design that meets your brief.

This will help you see the consequences of what you’re asking for – and where priorities may need to shift. And it’ll be much simpler to determine how important your requests are to you, when you see the consequences of what you’re asking for in a floor plan design.

Once you see both options, you can then decide that:

the option that meets your budget still delivers on the goals you have for your home OR

you can extend your budget to achieve the option that meets your brief, because it represents value to you OR

there’s a solution to be found somewhere in between those two options

If you’ve never done a project before, and you’re not someone who is used to dealing with floor plans and home design, it’s totally understandable to not know the impact of your initial wishes and wants, and what they mean for your home size overall.

Help yourself get a realistic understanding of what you’re asking for, so you can work effectively with your team, and save time at the commencement of your project.

Avoid the scenario that so many get themselves into, where they’re at the point of commencing construction, and their tender prices all come back significantly higher than they can afford. By then, you’ll be very invested (emotionally and financially) in the design you’ve created.

Or worse still, is moving into a home and realising it lacks intimacy and cosy comfort, because the spaces are oversized in scale.

Set yourself up to be clear on what you’re really asking for, so you can get a home that suits you, your budget, your site and your lifestyle.


This course will guide you to make your future new home or renovation a reality whilst staying on track with your $$$ >>>>> https://undercoverarchitect.com/courses/set-stick-to-your-budget/

Square Metre Rates: What are they and how can you use them? >>>> https://undercoverarchitect.com/square-metre-rates/

How to create your design brief >>> https://undercoverarchitect.com/podcast-how-to-create-your-design-brief/

Access the support and guidance you need to be confident and empowered when renovating and building your family home inside my flagship online program, HOME METHOD >>> https://undercoverarchitect.com/courses/the-home-method/

Learn more about how to get started with your home design with the Happy Home Design mini-course >>> https://undercoverarchitect.com/courses/happy-home-design

Access my free online workshop “Your Project Plan” >>> https://undercoverarchitect.com/projectplan

Written contracts, protect yourself

This case highlights the importance of Written contracts , protect yourself.

Importance of Agreements for Residential Works are in Writing, Even Amongst Family.

By Chamberlains Admin

The recent decision of the New South Wales Supreme Court (Court) in Anjoul v Anjoul [2021] NSWSC 592 (Anjoulhas re-emphasised the importance of ensuring agreements for the completion of residential works are in writing, even amongst family members. Although the Court found that this can be remediated in a later agreement subject it to it being entered into without evidence of duress or unconscionable conduct, the agreement between the parties will ultimately be subject to the statutory requirements of the Home Building Act 1989 (NSW) (HBA).

April 2009, Ashley Anjoul (the defendant) was issued an owner-builder permit by the NSW Department of Fair Trading for the property at Winston Hills (property). After receiving the permit, the defendant then engaged her former brother-in-law, contractor Jerry Anjoul (the plaintiff) to organise subcontractors to complete the renovation works. No written contract was entered into between the defendant and the plaintiff.

In early 2010, the works were completed. In mid-2013, the plaintiff became concerned that the defendant would not reimburse him for payments made to the subcontractors. Between 31 October 2013 and 14 November 2013, a deed was executed by the defendant and the plaintiff. In the deed the defendant acknowledged she was indebted to the plaintiff in the amount of $700,000.00. Due to the increase in the consumer price index, when the plaintiff filed his amended statement of claim, this amount increased to $743,353.45.

Around the time of executing the deed, the defendant’s husband was arrested and incarcerated for indictable criminal offences. As a result, the defendant suffered significant psychological and physical medical conditions.

The plaintiff maintained that he paid all the subcontractors and was entitled to the reimbursement from the defendant. The plaintiff did not tender any evidence of contracts, invoices or payments made to the subcontractors. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant was in good health at the time of executing the deed and that there was significant negotiation with the defendant as to the terms of the deed.

The defendant maintained that the plaintiff was barred from accessing reimbursement because of the statutory requirements under the HBA for a a written building contract agreement (s7), for the contractor to be licenced (s19) and insured (s92).

The defendant claimed that although she signed the deed, the deed was unenforceable because her signature was the product of duress and undue influence. The defendant held that the deed was only signed by her based on the reliance of the plaintiff that this would protect the property from being seized by the NSW Crime Commission in the active indictable criminal proceedings against her husband.

Additionally, the defendant claimed that the value of the works was less than the amount claimed by the plaintiff and that the amounts claimed were irrecoverable under the statutory requirements of the HBA.

The defendant also filed a cross-claim seeking an order that the deed was void and unenforceable under the Contracts Review Act 1980 (NSW) (CRA) because of the plaintiff’s unconscionable conduct.

The Court dismissed the defendant’s claim that there was no debt due under the deed. His Honour found that the plaintiff was not barred under the HBA from his claim of a reimbursement because even if the plaintiff entered into contracts with the subcontractors in his own name, he did so as an agent for the defendant who was the owner-builder, and not as a contractor which required a building license.

Although His Honour dismissed the defendant’s claims that under the deed there was no debt due, His Honour found that the deed was an unjust contract under the CRA. As a result, the deed was unenforceable under applicable equitable principals of duress and unconscionable conduct.

However, His Honour found it would not be conscionable for the defendant to enjoy the whole benefit of the residential renovation works without compensating the plaintiff for his efforts as agent for the owner-builder defendant.

Due to the inadequacy of the evidence for payments made and invoices available to the Court, His Honour gave the parties an opportunity to determine the appropriate amount of compensation that the defendant should pay the plaintiff.

The post Written contracts, protect yourself appeared first on Australian Owner Builders.

Why buy home & Contents?

Read this article by Gary Su on the importance of property insurance for buyers during the purchasing process.

It is surprising the number of times buyers overlook the requirement to protect their interest in a property they are purchasing.

When a buyer signs an REIQ contract to purchase a property in Queensland, clause 8.1 of the contract provides that the property is at the risk of the buyer from 5:00 pm on the first business day after the contract date.

Our initial letters to clients purchasing property always advise them to take out insurance on the property as soon as possible after the contract is fully executed.

Why is property insurance so important as soon as the contract is signed?

The most obvious reason why insurance is required would be in the event of unpredictable and severe weather conditions such as hail damage, flooding, fire etc.

These unpredictable weather occurrences are becoming more and more common. Therefore, it is fundamental that buyers protect themselves by insuring the property they are purchasing rather than risk ending up with a damaged property either in part or in full, at settlement.

In the event of a conditional contract

A conditional contract is a contract where there are still conditions which need to be satisfied, such as finance or building and pest etc.

For example, consider this scenario:

  • You have signed a conditional contract for purchase of the property but have not arranged for any insurance;
  • Before settlement and when the contract is still conditional, the roof of the property is damaged in a hailstorm;
  • You are now faced with purchasing a property which has suffered hail damage.

In this scenario, the vendors may still have insurance on the property. Your conveyancer or solicitor may be able to reach out to the vendors to determine if they would be prepared to rectify the damage caused through the vendor’s own insurance policy.

The vendor can maintain their right to refuse the request, but for the sake of ensuring that the contract is not terminated due to building and pest or finance issues, the vendors may  agree to make a claim on their insurance policy.

In the event of an unconditional contract

An unconditional contract is where all the conditions of the contract such as finance, building and pest etc have been either satisfied or waived. 

Using the same example above, if the contract is unconditional, it is slightly more complicated as the vendor now does not have any motive to avoid the contract being terminated.

Rather, the vendors can and may issue a notice to settle on the settlement date regardless of the condition of the property. Further, the vendor may have cancelled their insurance policy due to the contract being unconditional.

Unit purchases

If you are purchasing a unit as part of a Community Title Scheme, the Body Corporate will most likely already have building insurance and therefore this may not apply to you. Nevertheless, you should still consider purchasing contents insurance to ensure the fittings and fixtures in the unit (not covered by building insurance) are also insured.

The Property Law Act – property “unfit for occupation”

Section 64 of Property Law Act (Qld) 1974 provides that a buyer may revoke a contract and obtain a refund of their deposit if a dwelling is damaged or destroyed either before the settlement date or before the buyer has possession of the property and, as a result of that damage or destruction, the dwelling is now unfit for occupation as a dwelling.

This section has effect regardless of any contractual stipulation such as special conditions contained in the contract.

The term ‘unfit for occupation‘ is open for interpretation by a court.

Some interpretation of the term ‘unfit for occupation’ includes: 

  • Damage or destruction so significant that no person would be reasonably expected to live in the dwelling;
  • A dwelling can still be unfit for occupation if only part of the dwelling is destroyed. For example, in a 1-bathroom house where that one bathroom is destroyed, the dwelling would be unfit for occupation as it cannot be used as a dwelling without a bathroom;
  • Temporary damage may not necessarily result in the dwelling being unfit for occupation.;
  • A local government notice such as an enforcement notice may be used as evidence to support a property being unfit for occupation.

It is not possible to predict if, when or the extent of damage to a particular property will occur and whether the damage would satisfy the requirements of the Property Law Act, so as to allow the buyer to legally terminate the contract under the Act.

Ultimately, in the event of an unconditional contract, if the vendor does not accept that the dwelling is now ‘unfit for occupation as a dwelling’ and requires the buyer to proceed with the settlement, the buyer’s only option will be to commence proceedings to have the matter determined by the courts. 

Find out more information on Australian Owner Builders here

The post Why buy home & Contents? appeared first on Australian Owner Builders.

Key ways to shorten a renovation or build timeline

What if you don’t want your project to take a long time? Can you shorten the timeline of design, building or renovating?

Is it possible that a shorter timeline can be realistic for your project?

If you’re planning a reno or new build, it can already feel overwhelming (especially when starting out).

And then, when you add price rises, supply delays, legislation changes and economic challenges to that, it can feel BIG.

One great thing I’m seeing homeowners do right now is that you’re creating a longer (time) runway for yourselves prior to your projects. You’re researching and getting ready, sooner. I think this is awesome, and more necessary than ever.

Can you shorten your project timeline? In some ways, yes.

Because as you start to dig into your project and what you need to know, usually 2 things happen:

#1 you realise how much you don’t know

#2 you realise how much longer this will take than you first anticipated

And because it’s going to take longer than you possibly realise right now, it’s useful to surround yourself with a team that can look ahead on your behalf.

Plus, staying informed about upcoming changes in the industry and your local legislation is also worthwhile.

What if you don’t want your project to take a long time? Can you shorten the timeline of design, building or renovating?

In some ways, yes.

If you’re building new, you can choose a home off-the-plan, as this will reduce your design time. Architopia and Homeful are some options we’ve talked about on the “Get it Right” podcast.

You could also choose pre-fab, which could potentially shorten construction time, and if you choose an existing design, shorten design time too.

But if you want a custom home or renovation, built specifically for your site and family, those options may not be suitable for you.

So, rather than trying to shorten the design process or the construction process, structure your project to save time in the overall workflow.

What do I mean by this?

Well … most handle their project workflow in a really linear fashion. Hiring one consultant at a time, and passing the design through each person individually.

This is usually done to save on fees, as individual professionals (your designer, engineer, energy efficiency assessor, etc) will be involved over smaller timeframes and doing less work generally … but it can often result in delays, extra costs (in re-doing and fixing things) and a much longer process overall.

Instead, where can you group these individuals together?

And where can you overlap their work so that they’re collaborating and solving the same problems together, as the work is happening?

Yes, this may initially cost more in professional fees. But it will considerably save you in avoided mistakes and re-doing work. And, it’s the best way to incorporate efficiencies and cost-saving opportunities as your design and drawings are being done (rather than after they’re finished).

This may mean that, early on in your project, you’re most likely assembling a team of:

a designer / architect (not sure who to use? This may help)

a builder (under a separate pre-construction agreement)

a structural engineer (learn what they do here)

a town planner (if a DA is needed) a building certifier / surveyor

an energy efficiency assessor / TPA

(You can check out Season 4 of the podcast to learn more about these roles).

You may not be paying them all from the get-go. (Some may be willing to provide input knowing their fee-paying work comes later).

You may be paying some a very small amount, with their chunkier fees to come when they step into the process more fully.

Or you may have a fee agreement with all of them that reflects their collaborative involvement, and fees are stepped out over stages.

But what you do by involving all of them, is that you get all that intel informing your project as it happens. And your timeline shrinks as a result of them working efficiently together, streamlining the steps involved in your project journey.

And, they can look at your project (and your dreams for it) and be giving you a heads-up about upcoming changes to legislation (such as the NCC 2022 changes that will to impact projects from 1 May 2023 onwards).

You also avoid what someone told me about today: that their builder said it’ll be 12 months to even get a quote from their timber supplier (not the actual materials themselves).

Because when the builder is at the design table, and lining up suppliers, they can be sharing where you may need to change materials and products based on real-time industry delays and price-rises.

Whilst you’re still designing.

I believe it’s a false economy to hire one person at a time.

And I think you waste a huge opportunity where this know-how and individual expertise benefits your home.

As projects are costing more, and the cost of mistakes is much more significant, who you use and how you work with them becomes more critical.

And being informed and educated will help you do this really well.

That’s why you’re here isn’t it?

Please know – the simple fact you’re investing this time and energy in your project preparation already puts you in a really great position.

So, if you’re nervous about your project, I totally understand. That’s really normal. This IS a big deal.

And there’s a huge amount of (mis)information out there at the moment about the state of the industry, the $$$ and what’s going on in building and renovating.

But if you’re here, learning and researching … and listening to the podcast … getting yourself educated about the steps involved, and tapping into reliable and experienced professionals who can help you.

If a renovation or new build is what you really want to do, keep at it. As you may have heard me say – it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.

So do the right training now so you can run that marathon like a pro.


Who should you use? Architect, building designer or draftsperson [Part 1] >>>> https://undercoverarchitect.com/podcast-who-should-you-use-home-design-part-1/

The Process to Help Your Home Design be on Budget and Simpler to Build | PAC Process >>>> https://undercoverarchitect.com/podcast-home-design-on-budget-pac-process/

Season 4 talks about the roles of the people in your project >>>> https://undercoverarchitect.com/podcast/season-4/

Editions of the National Construction Code >>>> https://ncc.abcb.gov.au/editions-national-construction-code

Working with a builder during the design process, with Duayne Pearce | PAC Process >>>> https://undercoverarchitect.com/podcast-builder-process-pac-process-duayne-pearce/

Season 13 talks about the ‘next big steps’ to take in your project >>>> https://undercoverarchitect.com/podcast/season-13/

Access my free “Your Project Plan” online workshop and awesome bonuses now >>> https://undercoverarchitect.com/projectplan

Access the support and guidance you need to be confident and empowered when renovating and building your family home inside my flagship online program >>> https://undercoverarchitect.com/courses/the-home-method/

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Must Read if you are rebuilding after flood: Managing building process as owner-builder

Original article: https://www.nationaltribune.com.au/rebuilding-after-flood-managing-building-process-as-owner-builder/

If you’re planning to rebuild your home after a flood, you need to decide whether you will hire a building practitioner registered with the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) or manage the building process yourself.

If you choose to be an owner-builder, you are not just taking on the significant role of the builder during construction, you are also taking on all of their responsibilities. This can be very satisfying but is hard work and may not be any cheaper than using a builder.

Before you can start as an owner-builder, you must complete construction induction training through a Registered Training Organisation and obtain a Certificate of Consent from the VBA to carry out domestic building work.

The VBA also requires you to demonstrate your understanding of an owner-builder’s duties and obligations by completing an online knowledge assessment.

As an owner-builder, you can either contract out all or part of the building work to qualified tradespeople, or complete the work yourself, except for work that must be done by a registered or licensed tradesperson (e.g. plumbing, gasfitting or electrical work).

If you contract out part of the building work and the total cost for that work (including materials and labour) is more than $10,000, you must enter a major domestic building contract with a registered builder or registered tradesperson.

Certain trades – such as glaziers, painters, and floor and wall tilers – do not need to be registered with the VBA, unless they are taking on two or more trade roles and the contract price exceeds $10,000.

If the contract price is more than $16,000, registered builders, contractors and trades must provide you with a copy of their domestic building insurance to cover you if they die, become insolvent or disappear. This is in addition to their contractual obligations and warranties.

As an owner-builder, your role comes with certain responsibilities. For instance, you must appoint a registered building surveyor and obtain a building permit for your project before construction can commence. Your building surveyor will also carry out mandatory inspections during the build and issue an Occupancy Permit at the end of the project.

During construction, you must maintain occupational health and safety on site and check that all completed work complies with the building regulations and standards associated with Victoria’s Building Act, Domestic Building Contracts Act and Building Regulations.

The VBA also recommends owner-builders take out liability insurance to cover a range of risks, including public risks, accidents, theft, fire and storm damage, and personal injury.

Before applying for a building permit, it is important to get a realistic estimate of the cost of building work from an architect, building surveyor, quantity surveyor or registered builder. Owner-builders often underestimate their project costs and run out of money before construction is complete, so adding 10 per cent to the estimated cost is recommended as a contingency.

Consideration also needs to be given to the cost of materials and labour. Owner-builders will typically pay more than a registered builder for materials and specialist trades, such as plumbers and electricians, while long distances or work in remote areas may add additional costs.

When hiring tradespeople, it is important to check that their qualifications and registration allow them to do the work you require. The VBA’s Find a Practitioner portal lists registration details for many industry professionals, including builders, building surveyors and plumbers.

Once building work is complete, owner-builders (like registered building practitioners) are responsible for repairing any major building defects up to 10 years after an Occupancy Permit was issued, even if their property is sold or resold. This protects new and subsequent owners should problems arise.

The VBA’s Owner-Builder Study Guide (PDF, 2156.97 KB) outlines essential information about being an owner-builder, including the responsibilities of the role. It also sets out the steps you must take to complete your application.

The post Must Read if you are rebuilding after flood: Managing building process as owner-builder appeared first on Australian Owner Builders.

Building a New Forever Home on Large Block of Land | Undercover Architect Member Review

Nathan and his fiance are building a new forever home on a large block of land (1500 sq. metres).

Listen as Nathan shares more about his project and the value he gained through Undercover Architect’s online course during the new build process.

Nathan shares how the cost of the online course was relatively nothing in comparison to how much he saved on his build.

Good day, my name’s Nathan from Tasmania. And I’m a teacher. So I live in Launceston, Tasmania, which is in the north of the state. And my fiance and I purchased a really nice block, which is about 1,500 square metres. And we didn’t really know what to do with it, and so we started to look for the answers. 

And as part of that process, we came across the Undercover Architect, which really helped us in actually selecting the block, because we knew that orientation was important. That’s been a good start. 

So it is a new build for us. It’s the first time we built and hopefully the last. So we had a real part of, I guess, philosophy of this being our forever home. 

Do it once and do it right. And that really resonated with us strongly from the start with Amelia. 

And my fiance’s not really into the podcast or anything like that. It’s all me. But it’s been, yeah, it’s been a really good process. 

What concerns did you have before you started?

Oh, absolutely. So I mean, the first thing is around getting it right. So we purchased the block in February of 2019. And we probably started the design process in April. And we only just got our council approval back recently, that’s not because there’s been a delay in getting our development approved, but it just took a long time to get it right. 

And so working, I guess, with the Undercover Architect, particularly, on the interior design course, which we signed up for, which is Interior Design 101. It’s been awesome, really awesome to help us get right.

What challenges were you worried about before you started?

Yeah, so it’s the first time that we’re building and the last, as we hope. And so we, as part of that process and knowing, you know, that we will only do this once, we inherently knew that there was a lot of pressure around that, trying to get it right for something that we’ve never done before. 

I mean, building and renovating, I think people sometimes have the perception that you just, you, you’ll be fine and that you know.

As Amelia says, you actually don’t know what you don’t know. And the more that we’ve gone through this process, it’s just been phenomenal what we didn’t know. 

And now what we’ve been able to do, is actually been working through really, with skilled professionals and seeking out the help from places like the Undercover Architect, that we’ve been able to, I guess, avoid some dramas. 

And there might still be more to come because construction hasn’t started yet. It’s going to start in a couple of months. We are in the process of getting a contract drafted up at the moment,  so yeah, so certainly, yeah, we did have some anxieties around cost. 

And from the podcast series, as well as interior design, we learnt about getting a professional Quantity Surveyor, and so in the early stages of our project, getting priced up. And we wanted our designer which was great. But we took that one step further to an independent party, which was the Quantity Surveyor, to make sure that our build was actually on budget. And that was good. 

It was a really reassuring feeling to go that extra step that we wouldn’t have otherwise known to do.

How did you first discover Undercover Architect?

So the way I found the Undercover Architect was, I remember googling what is the difference between an architect and a building designer. And so in the very first instance, I mean, I knew that architects had probably the highest level of qualification in terms of time spent at university from the other professions. And so we got a quote from an architect. 

And we were in shock at the first instance, because we, we, don’t know what you don’t know. And we didn’t expect that it would be sort of around the mark that it was. 

And so I naturally went to Google, and I thought, what, what does this person do in order to charge that money? So I wanted to understand it better. And so I googled, what’s the difference between an architect and a building designer? 

And I’m certain now, and this is yep, this is exactly right, is that the first Google search that came up was from this website called the Undercover Architect. 

And so when I went, and I teach history and english, and so I’m a bit of a critical reader, and I thought, ah, this is just an architectural website, she will just be saying how much better an architect is than a building designer, but I was completely wrong. 

And the transparency in what she wrote and the objective nature around, she said, well, you know, an architect’s good for this, a building designer is good for this. I kind of thought, oh, that’s, that’s really interesting. 

And so I think, a week went by or so and I probably just ended up on googling something else around building or selecting land, or whatever it might have been. And so I came across it again. 

And I reckon as I went through the website, I saw a link to the podcast. And I’d recently bought a new set of headphones at that point in time. And so I just wanted something new to listen to. 

And I remember on Spotify, I thought, I’m going to type in Undercover Architect and see what comes up. And so it was there, and I just watched episode one. And, and we knew after building … buying our block of land that we weren’t going to build for at least another twelve months, because we were saving up money and all those sorts of things. 

And so, over that twelve month period, I’ve watched up until probably the last episode. I … Truthfully, I’ve just been busy, I just haven’t tuned in, but I think I’ve watched all the episodes. 

So I think there’s a hundred and a few but I’ve definitely watched at least 100 of them. So yeah, it’s, you know, it turned from an accidental kind of, oh, this is interesting, into something I just really became quite full blown into, as time went on, which has been great. 

And so now, I sort of follow Amelia on Facebook and in the different channels. And that’s how I learned about the interior design course, because that was one of the seasons on the podcast, which is awesome.

Did you explore any other options before joining Undercover Architect?

Yeah, look, it’s really interesting. And I suppose in summary, and Amelia will probably laugh at this, like, I would have done all the courses really, if I could, but we, you know, it’s about balancing out the needs of yourself and your partner and whatnot. 

And we sort of had a budget around what we could spend. And the more we learned about design is that, not that it’s a bottomless pit, but you can certainly involve a lot of people. And so we were sort of strategic around … well the podcast was an awesome sounding board for me. And I felt like I picked up a lot of information from it. And so we were selective around the courses that we went for. 

And I really wanted to work with an interior designer, because, I remember distinctly, in one of the series of the podcast, is that Amelia was talking about lots of variations for build happen by the ground stage, but also, with clients changing their ideas, or in the tiles they want. 

Or the builder might put in an allowance, say for $20,000 in the kitchen, the client just signs and goes, yeah, that’s awesome. And when you’re on a contract, you then go into the joiner and say, okay, ‘I want this, this, this and this. And inevitably, the bill comes out at $35,000. 

And I think I’m correct in saying this, but in Australia, the client pays for the variation in cash, plus the variation margin. So if you selected this kitchen that’s $15,000 over your allocation, then you either have to rob that from somewhere else in your build, or you have to pay for that, the difference plus a fee, which is a variation fee. 

So the anxiety around how much is this going to cost, I said, well, there has to be a better way. 

And so that’s why when we’re looking at the Undercover Architect, and specifically the interior design course, there was a lot of talking around getting what’s called internal elevations or internal drawings done. So that you can actually get your kitchen drawn up in, in a two dimensional drawing from all the different aspects. 

And in doing that, you can actually then take that to a builder before you sign a contract. And the builder looks at that, and then really accurately prices that up. They can see whether you’ve got drawers, cupboards, whether it’s a stone benchtop, what’s the splashback, and so on and so forth. 

So we really, as busy people, wanted to make sure that once the builder started that every single decision, within reason, had been made. So that A) it’s been costed for correctly in the contract, and B) we don’t have to be on site making variations. 

So I remember that Amelia talked about this really clearly that in your bathroom, your vanity can either sit off the floor or off the wall. If it sits off of the floor, the plumbing runs through the floor, typically, and if it sits off the wall, then the plumbing goes through the wall. 

So lots of people in Australia want it off the wall, it costs more, it needs to be double framed, and the plumbing needs to go through the wall and so on. And so what often happens on site, is that people will come in and the builder will put the vanity down on the ground, and they’ll say, oh, we’d actually like that on the wall. 

And so you’ve got this concrete slab with the plumbing in it. And now all of a sudden, you need to remove that and put that into the wall. And so that could be thousands of dollars, that, that you can no longer spend on your landscaping or, or your window furnishings or your fence or whatever it might be in the build. 

So we were really conscious through learning, learning, learning and observing. Absorbing as much as we could to try to make as much of the decision making up front, so that it was done at the end. 

And there’s a really good saying, I’ll probably get this wrong, but it’s around effort, in like, when I feel like, when you’re building a house, you need to make 80% of the effort decision making in the design stage and then the building only requires 20% of the effort. 

But from what I’ve seen on Facebook pages and other things is, so many people don’t take the time, or effort or cost up front to make those decisions. And they inevitably pay for them on site. And they have the added stress. And so building is just a really horrible experience for lots of people. 

I know Amelia’s talked about that as well and so we really want to, to not have that experience. 

We want to have every duck in a row, so that when we’re on site, we’re just checking that things are getting along as we wanted them to, on budget, on time, and we have a good result. And who knows how it will go because it hasn’t started yet. But we’re trying our best.

Because you don’t know what you don’t know. So true. 

Like, that’s the biggest take home message from all of this. So knowledge is power. Definitely when you’re building and renovating.

What have you learned from the Undercover Architect courses?

Absolutely. And just there’s just so many little things that you don’t— know. I mean, I mean, the interior design course is, it’s about function to a degree, but it’s also around the aesthetic and all those sorts of things, which is important, when you’re trying … and you spend so much money, money on a house. 

Most people want to make it look cohesive to a degree between spaces, and so we got some really valuable tips around the types of toilets to select from, from the course. 

And colour psychology, you know, what colours elicit, what moods and when you’re selecting carpet, what to know, I mean, to me, I just thought carpet was carpet, but there’s loop, cut, twist, the ounce-age of the carpet, all of these things. And it was really interesting. 

It actually helped us to select better people to work with throughout the process.

And so I’ll give an example, where we went into a couple of carpet stores and I was looking for a particular ounce-age of a carpet. Now Australia obviously uses metrics. So we don’t talk in ounces. But carpet, the density of the pile is measured in ounce, the higher the ounce, the more luxurious, and sometimes durable the carpet is, depending on its type. 

And so I remember going into one retailer who operates nationally, and I said, “oh look, I really want to know what the ounce-age is of these two carpets, to make a bit of a comparison”. And they said, “oh, we don’t, we don’t work in ounces here, that’s not, yeah, we don’t do that.” 

I thought okay, well, the carpet weighs … the carpet weighs something, so they know. But it just helped me to kind of differentiate between what, what I guess, companies really knew what they were talking about and were willing to help and go that extra mile, versus those companies who weren’t. 

And if that question was difficult in the sales room, I can’t imagine how much more difficult that carpet retailer would be once we’d actually purchased the product, if there were any troubles. 

So that lens around going in there … Rather than going in there to kind of learn about the products, because at the end of the day, a lot of these places try and sell the product. Rather than learning about the products, it was actually going in there to check knowledge, you know, and make some educated comparisons, and not get drawn into a sales pitch. So I think that’s been really, really good. 

As I said, we took it one step further around employing an interior designer, because we really wanted those internal elevations to help with our costs and our surety around things. But you know, my fiance and I, you know, we have different tastes. And so going into a tile shop with hundreds of tiles, was not going to be a productive use of our time. 

So even if we hadn’t saved money in that sense, we certainly saved time. 

And got a better result by working with a skilled professional who actually knows the difference between tiles, and what do you get at what price point, and so on and so forth. So the decision making process is really good. 

Even without taking it that far though, Interior Design 101 actually gives you lots of information about how to just narrow your selections down. You know, it’s about, I guess, almost helping you to understand what you like and dislike before you get into a showroom. 

So that once you’re in there, you’re only selecting between a few things, as opposed to going to the shop like a deer in headlights, not knowing anything, asking the salesperson, I want this, and then getting pushed into a maybe an inferior product or something that’s not actually going to suit your long term needs. 

So it was important for us to select the things that we actually want, and to be sure about it. And so after we’d selected all of our taps with our interior designer online, we were able to go inside to Reece, and not get overwhelmed by the showroom, just go in and look at two options, and then make a really simple choice from there, which was just awesome.

Did the Undercover Architect course save you drama + stress?

That is, that is a really good question. And I think through the process of listening to the podcast in conjunction with the course, and then working with an interior designer as well, as an accessory to that, that way, we’ll probably account for a whole range of mistakes that we otherwise would have made. 

So I can give an example, I suppose, is something that I think will work really well for us, and that is that we were going to select a particular tile to go as our kitchen splashback. 

Now, we wouldn’t have realised this without actually knowing to check with the manufacturer, but the size of the tile was actually greater than our splashback area, but the tiles weren’t going to look good laid landscape, they were going to be better laid portrait. 

And so we were going to have huge amounts of waste off of the top of the tile, that would have, we would have paid for the whole box, and effectively thrown out 30% of the tile. 

Now you always have wastage, that’s a given, but going in, knowing to look for the size of the tile, and finding out which ways it was best going to be laid for waterproofing, and those other aesthetic reasons, we were able to kind of change our mind around a tile selection so that we had less wastage, which is good. 

And tiles quite often, I mean, the tiles that we’ve selected are going to come from Spain, so they have a three month waiting time outside of COVID anyways. So you really need to get those quantities right in the first instance, because you’re either going to have a whole box that sits in under your garage wasted, effectively thousands of dollars, or you’re not going to have enough and then you’re going to have to select a different tile, and then you’ve got three boxes here that you could never use, because you didn’t order right from the first place. 

So yeah, really challenging and something that you need to think about in the first instance. That’s for sure.

Did you have a favourite part of the Undercover Architect course?

Well, I think it’s definitely saved us money, although I can’t measure that, because we haven’t made the mistakes. But I mean, for me, we’ve paid, I think it was $397 or $297, or whatever it was for the course, but if you think about that example of the tiles that I just gave, I mean that that would have saved us, I don’t know the difference in the price, but it was certainly more than the price of the course. 

And so time and time again, what this course has proved to us is it’s just helped us to narrow down our focus on what matters. What’s going to provide us with a functional, durable and usable home. Because I think that without this course, we would have spent money in inappropriate places. 

So we’ve learned exactly where that durability kind of mark is. It’s a family home, it’s a forever home. And so you can get really good durability out of a tap for $200 or $300, you can also get the same durability out of an $800 tap that’s more aesthetically pleasing. 

So for us, it was about kind of hitting that point of, how long do we need this to last. And then, you know, trying to match our budget to that. 

I mean, another example might be in a bathroom where it’s more expensive to tile up to the ceiling. But bathrooms are quite often places that endure a lot of mould and mildew. And so for us, you know, it was about saying, okay, well, if we don’t want to deal with that, it’s about having good ventilation in the first instance. But how can we tile up to a higher level to avoid a bit of mould and mildew and those sorts of things, so it obviously wipes off better from the tiles. 

And so we had to then manage our budget around or how expensive can our tiles be if we want to tile up higher? Can we still get the same look and functionality from a cheaper tile that’s going to last? And we could. Because tiles will cost you $50 a square metre to $400 a square metre. 

So now, I guess the Interior Design 101 course equipped us with the criteria for each of the selections in our home, that enabled us to really get the most out of it, for the biggest bank for buck, I guess you could say. 

So there’s a couple of things that we might have spent a little bit more than we needed to, which is just purely because we wanted to. And there’s some other things that we’ve been able to strip right back. 

And yeah, be able to save that money and invest it elsewhere, or take out a smaller mortgage, which is always nice.

What would you say to others thinking of joining this Undercover Architect course?

Well, I think that the course, it’s a yeah… You’d be silly not to. That’s the kind of the down way of saying it. But I think for us, you don’t know what you don’t know, and I think it’s really important to understand that all professions exist because those people have undertaken a lot of study and have a lot of knowledge. 

And certainly by us getting involved in this course, we have learned so much about interior design that we didn’t think was even a thing. I didn’t know that you could have internal drawings done or anything like that. 

But by doing so, we’ve undoubtedly saved thousands of dollars I would imagine.

And got a better result than we otherwise would have on our own.

So I guess, being vulnerable in the understanding that we don’t know what we don’t know, and embracing the opportunity to seek help when we can, is really good. And Amelia’s help is so impartial, there’s no sales gimmick around it. It’s just her sharing her knowledge that she’s built up over many years, hundreds of projects. 

And it’s been very, very useful for us. I couldn’t think of anyone who wouldn’t find benefit from this, unless you are in the industry and highly experienced yourself. 

Because we’ve worked with some professionals who really, if we’d have had more due diligence, we might have selected with a little bit more intensity. Who, who haven’t actually known certain things around what we were trying to achieve, and have, you know, pushed back and said, no, you can’t do that. 

But being equipped with the knowledge of Interior Design 101, we’ve been able to say ‘no, that is possible’, and been able to get the result that we wanted. I mean, our design, so yeah, we’re forever grateful, I guess, for being part of the course. And I mean, the money spent on it, it’s so insignificant in this game with your budget. 

I mean, really, you could change a tile from a $79 square metre to a $78.50. And you would save yourself thousands and be able to buy the course. So I just, yeah, I don’t understand people’s logic around, you know, I couldn’t afford that. 

But it’s the same idea of, it’s a really, it’s a challenge, isn’t it? Because you’ve got to let people know what the benefit is, in order to pay for it. But yeah, it’s just been amazing. So do it! Do it, is the, is the overall message. You won’t regret it.

Is there anything else you would like to share about the course?

I mean, like colloquially, I call it the ‘too hard tax’. So if someone doesn’t know how to do it, or they don’t want to, they slap on the two hard tacks. And so getting the knowledge that you don’t have and being really open to the fact that you might not know everything about building a house, because I haven’t done it before, has really helped us to respectfully say to the people that we’re working with, that we expect more from them. 

And I think that that’s, that’s the mark of, you know, a really good professional, is that they’re always willing to do more and more and more, so long as your communication is respectful with them. 

So it’s certainly equipped us for difficult conversations if we’ve had to have them, But we haven’t had too many, because you’ve selected really good people to work with. And Amelia has really helped us to understand, what does a good architect look like? What does a good engineer look like? What does a good landscape designer look like? And so on, and so forth. 

So I couldn’t, I couldn’t encourage people enough to get involved with the Undercover Architect. If anything, it is just the most amazing springboard for you to gain knowledge and then go out and test that knowledge with professionals.

And you don’t have to have every professional on your team. That’s definitely fair enough. And people have different budgets. But interior design, I think, is a really forgotten profession, because as much as it’s important to get your walls in the right places and your structure correctly, you actually live on the inside. 

So why wouldn’t you spend money on getting professional advice around what that inside looks like?

When things go wrong in your project: 5 Tips to Know

What happens when things go wrong in your project?

Every project has its good and bad days.

Learn how to navigate the problems with these 5 tips.

Even with THE BEST preparation, the most amazing team, and all your ducks in a row, when you’re doing a custom renovation or new build, it’s exactly that: custom.

Which means the first time is the only time, and it’s your future home.

This is one of the reasons I talk to my HOME Method members about remembering that even though you’re working with companies, you’re dealing with humans.

The whole process of designing, building and renovating your family home can be a very human-to-human process.

And humans have things go pear-shaped. Humans make mistakes. And humans react differently to stress, frustration and disappointment.

So, how do you navigate this in your project?

Well, here are some tips:

#1 Know how you behave when the chips are down, or you’re under stress

I’ve seen homeowners really work on themselves as part of navigating their project, as they know that they aren’t great with difficult conversations or handling stressful situations.

It’s one of the reasons many join HOME Method … so they have a place to come not only for information, but also for support and guidance in navigating those challenging situations. And in clarifying the best next steps, which can immediately alleviate stress in any project situation.

#2 Build time into your process to get to know your team well

Creating your future home is an involved process where you’ll be having intimate conversations, discussing money (which can be all sorts of prickliness for people) and relying on your team for their expertise and experience.

This works best when you can trust your team, feel comfortable to speak openly and frankly, and feel listened to and supported. Those kinds of relationships take time to create and foster. Allow for this time.

#3 Look for a solutions-based mindset in those you work with (and cultivate one in yourself)

The best team members I’ve seen, and personally worked with, will approach challenges with a solutions-based mindset. 

Instead of getting angry, flying off the handle, physically damaging something, swearing and yelling (I’ve seen all of that on a building site and in an architectural office), they’ll manage their reaction. And then they’ll figure out what can be done to sort things out.

#4 Work with people who manage your expectations

Look for team members who, right from the start, are telling you what you need to hear – not what you want to hear. Who are clear and open about the process of working with them, and can demonstrate to you what that looks like. 

This includes them explaining in advance what will happen if hiccups and hurdles should occur.

#5 Have somewhere to go for impartial advice when you need it

Sometimes, when people have a vested interest in your project, that can change how they present what’s possible (so it works better for them). Hopefully you’re not working with people like that, but it can be useful to have someone or somewhere to check in with, that’s impartial.

I’m often being asked “Is this normal?” and helping HOME Method members understand if the situation, the proposed solution, and the options being presented, are in keeping with industry standards or problematic in anyway.

Fact: There are some really not-so-great (and actually terrible) professionals operating in this industry.

Fact: I get equal parts frustrated and saddened when I hear of the ways some professionals take advantage of, or poorly care for, homeowners (and their dreams and budgets).

And interestingly … the nastiest, most aggressive, (often full of expletives) and threatening messages I receive online actually come from industry colleagues.

I don’t expect everyone to agree with what I say or do here at Undercover Architect.

But I do hope it’s only me they’re threatening like this, and they still handle his clients and colleagues with respect and kindness.

There’s no place for bullies in the construction industry anymore.

Respect and kindness is what you deserve when working with paid professionals to make your home a reality.

In my opinion, that’s what professionalism looks like. Don’t settle for less.


How to Communicate with Your Project Team >>> Episode 194

Your Project Mindset (Why do we do what we do?) >>> Episode 218

How to stop sabotaging your reno or new build >>> Episode 195

How to have tough conversations with your team >>> Read here

Building and renovating your home without the drama >>> Read here

Bad builder? Bad designer? Bad service? Here’s what to do >>> Read here

Access my free “Your Project Plan” online workshop and awesome bonuses now >>> https://undercoverarchitect.com/projectplan

Access the support and guidance you need to be confident and empowered when renovating and building your family home inside my flagship online program >>> HOME Method https://undercoverarchitect.com/courses/the-home-method/

Creating a Forever Sustainable Home | Undercover Architect Member Review

Sally purchased a large block of land with a dream of building a forever, sustainable home.

Listen as Sally shares how she was able to create her forever sustainable home confidently, with the help of Undercover Architect’s online courses.

My name is Sally. I live in South Australia. I grew up in a small country town called Strathalbyn. I moved to the city and travelled a lot. And I’m actually a firefighter and got married, had kids. And basically, we wanted to move back to do more of the country life and to be close to family. And I bought this beautiful big block about 12 or 13 years ago, with the dream to build a house on it. And then when I met my now husband, and had the kids and everything sort of fell in place. So now we’ve moved back here hoping to build a life for ourselves back in Strathalbyn. And, yeah, I guess that’s about it really.

What concerns did you have before you started?

I’ve never built before. I didn’t, I didn’t know, you know, the challenges and, and what it could be, you know. I feel like there’s just so many unknowns that now you know. I was very ignorant to the processes and, and the things you could do to build a sustainable house without spending a million dollars. So yeah, it’s been a journey. And then when we got the ability to build, we just wanted to rush, rush, rush. 

And then we realised there were actually all these stumbling blocks in the way and making sure we got things right. And we’ve been lucky that we did decide to actually change tack. We were with a builder we didn’t get a good vibe with. And we then moved builders. And it wasn’t, we loved him, but it was just we weren’t communicating really well. 

And, and then, yeah … So then now to be … And we actually got married on this block of land as well. And so it’s got a lot of sentimental value to us. And it’s definitely us building our forever home and wanting to be here forever. And yeah, the views are stunning. 

That’s our house. And this is our view. It’s a bit messy right now. But yeah, it’s not bad. So this is, yeah, this is our dream.

What have you learned from the Undercover Architect courses?

I wish I knew Amelia’s podcast existed years ago. I basically, I started listening to them, and we’d already signed our contract before I listened to her podcast on contracts and signing, and it was really listening to her podcast going, damn, I should have done that, didn’t do that. And which is fine. 

I’m pretty accepting that we are going to make mistakes, and it’s not going to be perfection. And we could have done things better. But you can always do things better, I guess. And where we prefer to focus on the things that we can change and the things that, you know, we can do better still. And yeah, it would have been amazing if I had found her podcast earlier. 

I absolutely would have joined the online course and the community because it just would have been amazing and perfect for me. I’m a bit of a control freak, which I’m still learning how much though. But I’ve done a lot of it myself, and a lot of trial and error.

 And the unknown of architects and designers was really quite scary to us. We didn’t realise that we should have engaged with the designer independently. We thought that was something you did once you signed on with your builder and the build, you know, that, you know, they manage that for you. And we just, yeah, we were just so unknowing and didn’t realise all the mistakes we were making. And even now that we’ve made them and it’s too late, it doesn’t matter to us. 

I actually prefer that I’ve known, I’ve made those mistakes, and that there’s some, you know, ability to have a bit of grace with some of the areas but also know where they can trap us. 

And I guess that’s why I joined the Interior Design course, because it was one of the courses where I still had a lot of say and a lot of ability to make changes and do it right. Particularly with the electrical and tiling. Even just little intricate tiling things and making sure, questioning, you know, styles and, and where it starts or not having raw edges and stuff that I, you know, I wouldn’t have thought of, but obviously I want. 

I’m like, oh yeah, I don’t want that in my job, or whatever. And making sure things were happening properly. And knowing that, you know, choices that I thought I would have ages to make that I actually needed to make, you know, last week. So it’s been great for that. Amazing.

How did you first discover Undercover Architect?

You know, that’s a really good question. I was trying to rack my brains to figure out how I came across it. I think I was Googling something in my rabbit hole of trying to find good information about something and I think I came across it. 

And I only just kind of discovered podcasts in their entirety about six months before, and was already obsessed. And because we live in a regional area, it takes me an hour to get to work every day. So I just love listening to them. So I can’t actually remember how. But yeah, once I got on to them, I just, I was listening to them at one and a half speed just to get through them as quickly as I could, because every single podcast had so much great information. 

So I, yeah. And it was interesting, because I was listening … I think it was the interior design stuff, because that was such a stumbling block for me. And I think she just started her interior design season. And I was listening to them and I’m like, oh, hang on, I need to go back. I need to, I need to listen to all the others. So I actually stopped listening to them and then listened to all the other ones first. And yeah, no, it was a smart decision to do that for sure. 

But now I tell everyone that will listen, I, you know, I put it up on my Facebook and I’m in a couple groups for energy efficiency, or if I know that someone’s building, I just say, look, do yourself a favour and listen to that Undercover Architect. It’s so frustrating that, not like … Because it’s the … Most of….

It is the most amazing resource hands down and it’s free, you know. It’s ridiculous how much information is in there that can save so much money. 

They can save so much heartache, and stress and, and it’s an opinion that doesn’t have the other agenda of, this is how I like to do things. This is how I want to build your house. This is the windows that give me the biggest kick back. And this is the thing I like to install. 

It’s actually just, it is honest and true advice that you can then take and then put it into your own situation and process and, and, and inquire about, ‘oh, why aren’t you doing this for the build? Or why haven’t we considered using this company or this heating?’ And just asking those questions, and it’s just, I’m so much more informed. 

A lot of people say ignorance is bliss, but I prefer to say knowledge is a gift. To have that knowledge and to be able to act on it. I feel so lucky. It’s great.

What made you decide to join the Undercover Architect online courses?

One of the things that, because I was considering it, because I do think you know, there was a lot of great information even just on her podcast and then I thought well, you know, I should get it and then I’ve got better access to everything. 

There was also a couple of discount codes offered in it as well that was like well you know, it’s worth giving it a go anyway because I’m probably going to use this company because they sound so amazing, and like a great product, and all of the product companies that she has actually, you know, backed and had on her, on her podcast have just been amazing. I’ve used a couple of them myself already and just been so impressed. 

So yeah, I just thought well, and I also, yeah…

I felt like Amelia is giving all this knowledge and advice in our own time and is so giving. And I wanted to pay her. Like, I think she deserved it. 

And I’m like, and I knew that, if that was what was available to everyone, that to get that extra information and the extra questions, because obviously podcasts need to be a certain time, as well. And some of the interviews you could tell they’d gone deeper into things and I wanted to know it all, you know. I wanted to listen to it all. I wanted to know all the advice that they had spoken about, and all of the discussions they’ve had. 

And her and Frances, and her utilising Frances, particularly in the interior design podcasts, you know. She’s an experienced expert in her own right, but to acknowledge that. To be able to access someone that it was their bread and butter of interior design, that was what they lived and breathed. I think that was so humble, but also so fantastic, because it’s a different point of view in a similar area, and field, but, but different, you know. She’s more into the design, whereas Frances is into, specifically the interior design. 

And I thought that was great. They worked so well together, and their conversations were always so giving of just so much amazing advice that I didn’t want to miss out. So to know that there were longest transcripts. Yeah, that was something I was willing to delve into.

What are you doing differently because of this Undercover Architect course?

There’s so many things. Engaging TileCloud, they’re an amazing company that she recommended, and we use them and their design help to pick out tiles, was so overwhelming for us to pick tiles. And to have that design help and be with a company that only had great tiles on their website and made it just so easy when you’re time poor, especially with two young kids. Going to the shops with a two and a four year old to pick tiles is not fun. Yeah, we definitely used that. 

And there’s a couple other companies that Amelia has steered us towards that we just know we’re going to get great help and great service. And we have engaged with them already and found that thus far. We’re still in the early stages. 

And being aware of our electrical layout and the importance of pendants and choosing size well before. We thought you know, like now this is when we’re making those decisions instead of, we would have left that way later and would have been too late to be like oh, can we put a pendant here once it was all clad in and whatnot. 

So doing all that, there’s just so many things. I’ve learned so much about the importance of engaging an interior designer and not thinking we can just do it all ourselves. 

So it just gave me a lot more confidence, which was great. And that, just that, that really neutral advice, which was just, I think. so important. It’s not someone that has an ulterior motive. 

And it’s what I wanted to say before. Yeah. There’s no ulterior motive with what Amelia is providing, it is all just really good sound advice, that gives you the opportunity to make informed, great decisions, which I’m so grateful for.

How have you benefited from doing Undercover Architect’s courses?

I think I’ve avoided being boring in, for the fear of doing wrong things. So avoiding just picking boring tiles, because, you know, it’s, it’s just too much of a commitment to do something different. And I think it’s encouraged me to actually, you know, put my own stamp on it and to utilise the other design teams with TileCloud, which was suggested and Liz Hayward and her interior design company, you know. 

It’s given me a lot more confidence to step out a little bit and do something a little bit more personal and also use colour. The stuff on colour psychology has just been amazing and was really great to listen to. And it gave me the confidence to use more colour in the home and on the walls instead of just going neutral and safe. 

You know, we don’t want to be safe. This is our house we want to live in forever. We want it to be cosy and warm and inviting and us. And it’s definitely given us more confidence to put our own stamp on that. And, and to get to commit to that a bit more. For sure.

Grand Designs House of the Year: Your Home Design

The Lessan House by McGonigle McGrath won Grand Designs House of the Year. 

How can you apply these design ideas to your home design?

Here’s my tips.

A while back, I caught an episode of Grand Designs (the UK version) sharing some of the contenders for ‘House of the Year’ in the main architectural awards there.

And there was one house that caught my eye … the Lessan House. 

Designed by McGonigle Mcgrath, it’s set in a rural location, and uses a barn-like form in a really sophisticated way. It’s got some beautiful zinc roofing, and a really crisp form, that’s really simply laid out.

However, that’s not the main reason I was really taken with it.

What I found stunning were the strategies that the architect and homeowners had employed to manage their budget, and still achieve a really beautiful home.

Compared to some of the homes it was up against, it was low budget. And these are the things it did beautifully.

Light and volume are a big deal in this home

The raked ceilings, large areas of glazing and well-oriented layout mean that the home is filled with light in all locations. And the high volumes (with use of some mezzanines) creates a lovely effect in what is quite a compact footprint. In addition, skylights bring light in the tighter areas, or ensure that west-facing areas still get morning light.

Intimacy is created through colour changes

Some designs get it sooo wrong with volume, and create cavernous homes that lack intimacy. In this design, a horizontal line is run around the entire home, with grey below, and white above. As you travel through the home, you can see how unifying this is overall – and calming as a result. And how it helps reduce the scale of spaces without taking away from their grandeur. It’s such a clever device and so beautifully done.

Low cost materials get bang for buck

The architect talked about the choices they made with materials to keep the costs down – including a VERY low cost brick for the walls. By laying it with clean mortar joints and painting it, they managed to bring an elegance to a very low cost material. Could you do this with your project?

The homeowner created a home for them

The couple who live here have adult children, and wanted to create a place they could return to and happily stay. So, they made a decision that all bedrooms (including the main) are equally sized and laid out. And they only included one bathroom. The owner makes a great point about cleaning, and about everyday use of the home plus what they prioritised and valued.

Below are some pictures of the home, where you’ll see that horizontal line, the beautiful volumes, and the simplicity of the design.

This is the thing about design … it’s actually REALLY hard to keep things simple. 

Because we naturally can’t restrain ourselves. 

We want to trick things up, make them seem more decorative, or high end. Like it only matters if there’s A LOT and MORE.

It actually takes a huge amount of discipline to pare things back to an elegant simplicity that will be timeless as a design.

I’ve often found, when designing, I’ll start with simplicity, move through a WHOLE heap of complexity, to finally get back to simplicity again.

Push your way through complexity. Crave simplicity in your design. Because it ultimately brings calmness and sanctuary to your home.

Inside the living / kitchen / dining area – study in mezzanine above | Lessan House (from iview) by McGonigle Mcgrath

Looking down from the study area | Lessan House (from iview) by McGonigle Mcgrath

The kitchen and dining – lit from both sides naturally | Lessan House (from iview) by McGonigle Mcgrath

The hallway, showing the continued horizontal line | Lessan House (from iview) by McGonigle Mcgrath

A snug on the western end of the home | Lessan House (from iview) by McGonigle Mcgrath


We discussed enoughness on the Undercover Architect podcast. >>>>> Episode 243

Here’s 5 design tips for your ceilings. >>>>> Episode 253

Join the ‘Kitchen Design Challenge’ here >>> https://undercoverarchitect.com/courses/kitchen-design-challenge/

Join ‘Interior Design 101’ here (which includes the Kitchen Design Challenge) >>> https://undercoverarchitect.com/courses/interior-design-101/

Access my free “Your Project Plan” online workshop and awesome bonuses now >>> https://undercoverarchitect.com/projectplan

Access the support and guidance you need to be confident and empowered when renovating and building your family home inside my flagship online program >>> https://undercoverarchitect.com/courses/the-home-method/

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