There is little doubt Janelle Fitzgerald’s new home in central Kyabram has improved the quality of her life and provided a sense of security, grounding and independence for her future, however it’s the delicate balance of simplistic and contemporary design that shines through on this project.
The original brief to Realm Building Design was to create a simple but interesting and contemporary space, one that reflected Janelle’s desire for order and a state of minimalism, without being cold and sterile.
Janelle was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) – a condition of the central nervous system – 20 years ago and now lives with some physical limitations. This had a significant influence on the design, and the need to be practical and functional both now and into the future, but above all else it needed to be beautiful.
As a designer on the project and director at Realm, Janita Norman explained how the layout of the home and overall ‘fit’ had to be practical, easy to live in and accessible – quite the task on a particularly small allotment where space was a premium.
“We knew Janelle’s home had to convey minimalistic expression, where the design was simple yet complex at the same time,”Janita said.
Essentially the floor of the home needed to be completely flat – no steps, stairs or thresholds – to accommodate the potential need for a wheel chair later in life, and although this sounds simple enough it took a great deal of discussion and planning to incorporate these specific requirements for both indoor and outdoor spaces.
And for Janelle the results have been stunning.
She loves the open and airy feeling of her home, its bold lines and the quiet statement it makes, and she loves the north-facing aspect and warmth from the winter sun on a cold day.
Janelle also loves the connection her home has with the outside world, and how on a warm summer day there’s a seamless connection between indoors and outdoors thanks to the extension of key elements from the interior to exterior spaces.
The most striking of these elements is an island bench, which appears to penetrate the wall, continuing from the kitchen bench through the outdoor entertaining area.
This, together with the green wall, which acts as a backdrop to the outdoor area, extends the focal point through the large glazed doors and beyond the veranda structural supports – an integral part of the design – through to the rear fence line.
The seamlessly integrated outdoor lounge, made from the same engineered-decking product as the deck, takes pride of place and the entire outdoor space beckons as an important living space.
Clever design is key in the fact that Janelle is also able to see the moon from her bed at night with deliberately placed panels of glazing orientated to capture views to the sky.
When asked which aspects of the overall design and build Janelle was most pleased with she explained how “working in conjunction with a building designer just wasn’t difficult”.
“There seems to be a perception that ‘package homes’ are the easiest and therefore the best way to go, however you often end up with an ‘ordinary’ home,” Janelle explained.
“Creating something unique and beautiful is not hard or expensive and even ‘ordinary’ people like me can do it,” she said.
Janelle encourages those considering a build by design to have a clear vision and stay strong and true to this vision.
“Don’t dilute your dreams by trying to save a few dollars or taking shortcuts along the way – surround yourself with a team who you can communicate well with and understand what you want,” she said.
For someone who also works from home, creating a practical, inspiring and motivating space was important for Janelle.
“It was really important for Janelle to have a home that comfortably provided these spaces and that they worked together,” Janita explained.
“As designers we know that having home as work can often dominate the space. Therefore all parts must work in harmony,” she said.
The final result for Janelle was a office located at the front of the home accented by a feature corner window with frameless glazed panels to provide natural light and a stunning connection with views to the garden and the street.
This natural light is a dominant design feature throughout the build and can be enjoyed from anywhere in Janelle’s home – adding to its spatiality, beauty and practicality.
Any reservations Janelle had prior to building her new home have been washed away with a “sense of security and grounding and a new-found independence for the future”.
“Building this house was an absolute pleasure. We’ve all heard horror stories about building, so I entered into this project with a fair amount of caution. The design process was a joy – Janita and Amy took the time to listen and understand what I wanted and needed. They also took the time to get to know me, and the style I was looking for,” Janelle explained.
“Surprisingly the project has also given me the confidence that anything can be done,” she said.
This ease of process for Janelle was due to the Realm team being beside her all the way, not just for the design process, but for the entire build. This care and attention has also extended post build and Realm is still part of Janelle’s journey to assess how the building is settling and if it is delivering everything she expected.
The feedback on her home has been unanimous from those around her – absolutely beautiful – and Janelle explains she feels quite humble to have worked with “such a creative, talented expert team who are so passionate about what they do”.
“With their knowledge of products and building techniques, Janita and Amy took the design to the next level and far beyond my expectations,” she said.
Surrounding herself with a professional and supportive team was key to the success of this project and Janelle explains the building team at Howcon Homes “was amazing”.
“As well as being a pleasure to work with they brought expertise and experience that ensured an efficient, professional build,” she said.
For Realm the ultimate reward for effort is seeing how well Janelle has settled and although she lives close to the centre of town there is quiet, calm and tranquillity in her contemporary-style home.
“This new home is a perfect expression of Janelle and that is the best outcome we could ask for as designers,” Janita said.