Can a Renovation Prevent Family Feuds at Christmas?
This article was published by Houzz Australia. Please find a link to the full article here.
As we settle back into the rhythm of another year, many of us are reflecting on our summer break and the time shared with our nearest and dearest. For some of us, Christmas is a single day where we arrive, eat, drink and socialise, before heading back home. For others, including myself, this time is spent living with my extended family, all under the same roof.
Nick (pictured crouching on the left), with his family at Christmas
I grew up in regional Australia and every Christmas my wife and I (and this year our baby daughter), my sister and her family, and my brother and his family, all return to the nest to share the holidays with our parents in East Gippsland. This is a joyous time, although needless to say tensions can run hot when trying to balance sleeping arrangements, mealtimes, bath times, wake windows, personal space, pets inside, day drinking and inter-generational parenting values…. Being the architect in the family, I found myself in the middle of countless conversations about extensions, bungalows, ensuites and room dividers, which lead me to the question: can a renovation prevent family feuds at Christmas?
It depends, associating some family differences with the surrounding built fabric would be futile, and I also recognise that Christmas is an immensely difficult time for many Australians facing greater challenges than the occasional family squabble. If you are fortunate enough to be considering changes to your home to accommodate the festive season, I’d recommend looking within the footprint that you have and speculate how the changes would be used for the other 50 weeks of the year.
This would involve creating clever design solutions with adaptability, using movable parts such as large sliding doors to open up an expansive living area or divide a space into private lodgings. Transforming joinery units can be designed to become fold-out beds or desks, and still accommodate much-needed storage. Perhaps a home office space can transform into a quiet and peaceful bedroom, or a forgotten storage area into a secluded reading nook.
Another cause of potential angst is the use of wet areas and facilities. The addition of a powder room or ensuite may help to keep family members out of each other’s hair. We don’t want a house filled with unused toilets, but a carefully considered upgrade to include a decent-sized trough/baby bath or enough bench space for multiple toiletry bags, can be a welcome change.
Sketch drawing of a new bathroom for a loft in Brunswick
Another potential source of space is the backyard. Christmas means summer, and while not all of us can enjoy the great Australian dream of a large backyard, if you do have some space around the house, look for any underutilized areas. Maybe a bedroom can have a private door accessing an outdoor area with a table and chairs, or a hammock, or even an outdoor shower (with hot water of course!). These spaces can become a refuge from the bustle inside the house and be landscaped to best enhance every slice of heaven that you own.
Landscaping at a recently completed project in Middle Park
Christmas and family dynamics can be an unsolvable puzzle, but if you’re keen to accommodate a temporary influx of rowdy visitors, there are ways to make dynamic changes that can also improve your home for the rest of the year. If all else fails, you can always just rent a house down the street or book into a nearby caravan park, so you can sneak away when it all gets too much.
- Words and images by Nick Johnston