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It’s [Double] Storey Time

As populations grow and the demand for land rises, multi-storey homes are catching the eyes of more and more Australians. Increasing the available space on your property – without you having to sacrifice any of your backyard area – leaves no room to wonder why they are so appealing. Here, Kirrily Ireland catches up with James Jankovski, director of Woodsman Projects, to discuss the benefits of multi-storey homes, and how your single-storey dwelling can move up in the ranks.

Here’s The Storey 

If you’re currently on the prowl for a new home, or in the midst of making building plans, it’s worth considering a double-storey home for all the perks they provide. As Jankovski puts it, double-storey homes are excellent since they allow homeowners to utilise “the rear yard of your allotment to create creative spaces”. Since you’re building up rather than out, you’ll often end up with the same amount of front and backyard space as a single-storey dwelling – if not more – plus a greater number of rooms of a similar size, giving you the best of both worlds. Jankovski says, “Given the current market trend and bigger allotment sizes becoming increasingly rare, I definitely foresee a trend of multi-storey homes becoming more popular and trying to achieve clever design and spaces for growing families.” About forty percent of homes already have more than one storey, proving to be the obvious solution to smaller, narrower lots. If you’re working with a generous piece of land, even better – you’ll truly have no limits when it comes to additional features, from guest bedrooms to home theatres, rec rooms and home gyms. Let your imagination run free.

Take this one step further and look into a custom designed multi-storey home, rather than scouring  the market for something that fits your needs  exactly. Consulting directly with a builder or building  designer and discussing your vision with them is the  best way to achieve the double-storey home of your  dreams. Customisation will allow you to “[choose]  the right builder for your needs and [explore]  designs that will fit your unique requirements of the  home”. Whether you opt for a custom design or are lucky  enough to stumble across a ready-built dwelling  that ticks all of your boxes, consider making one of  those boxes a second storey. Between the flexibility  you get with the size of your home, the better use of  your land, and even the fantastic views, multi-storey homes undeniably have a one-up on the modest  single-storey abode. 

Raise The Roof 

If you’re already well and truly settled into your  single-storey home but the benefits of multi-storey dwellings have caught your attention, there’s no  need to stay grounded. Adding a second storey to your home is a fantastic way to gain extra space – with certain factors and budget permitting, you can  practically double it. 

The ‘build up, not out’ concept of double-storey  homes is particularly effective for pre-existing  homes if you want to create an extension but don’t  have the square metres available. While land size  is often at a premium, the airspace above the home  is usually quite abundant. For example, Jankovski  notes that “for our inner-city Fitzroy North project  [featured above], we added a double-storey extension to a single-storey Victorian cottage, as  the land was minimal. Adding the second storey  allowed us to significantly increase the home’s  footprint, without sacrificing the backyard”. 

Of course, expanding upwards will require several  drastic measures, so any homeowner should be  prepared to face difficulties during the construction  process, including “site access, existing conditions  of [the] original home, [and] subsequent costs of  revamping the lower level”. Adding a second storey  won’t come cheap or easy, but the benefits will pay  off. The job will go far smoother if you find the right  person to achieve your vision. “Do your homework  on the builder,” Jankovski says. “Has the builder  done a similar project before? How long did the  builder take? How was the previous client dealt  with? Allow for contingencies in the budget [as  well].” 

You’ll also need to work within your local zoning  regulations and neighbourhood plan, which  generally involves ensuring your home is still safe  during the event of a fire or flood, and that it won’t  disrupt your neighbours both when it’s being built  and in the long term.  

A vertical extension will affect the ground floor, too;  in the planning stage, you’ll need to figure out where  best to place the staircase, which “can pose an issue  with the existing layout and design”. Employing a  skilled architect to help you consider the positioning  is advisable. Some homes may have a clear spot,  while others may be a little trickier to configure, but  don’t let this deter you.

No Flaws In The Floorplan

Whether you’re constructing a double-storey home  from the ground up or transforming your original  single-storey abode into one, it’s important to work  out an effective floorplan on your second level.  “This all depends on the existing structure and  layout,” Jankovski says. “The client’s needs and  requirements also come into play.” If you already  have a kitchen and living area downstairs, the  floorplan may come more clearly, with a few additional bedrooms and an extra bathroom thrown  in the mix. However, you could also take advantage  of the new, spacious blank canvas to replace  a cramped and outdated kitchen, literally and  figuratively taking it to the next level. 

A second storey is a great opportunity to create a  balcony area too, which can be utilised in a myriad  of beneficial ways, from a private elevation accessed  through the master suite where you can enjoy the  surrounding views, to an outdoor entertainment  space to share with family and friends. “However,”  Jankovski warns, “you will need to check regulations  for overlooking requirements, ensuring that it does  not look into private spaces and habitable rooms  of an existing dwelling.” Nobody wants a nosy neighbour!

Future Proof It 

Multi-storey homes do, of course, come with a few  drawbacks, especially depending on your lifestyle,  age and family arrangements, all of which should  be taken into consideration. If you’re entering your  twilight years, or have elderly parents living with  you, climbing stairs may pose a physical hinderance,  and will likely require you to install a lift or stair rail  escalator as an alternative.  

On the plus side, according to the expert, no real  additional maintenance will be required in the long  term, so long as you choose your building materials  wisely. For instance, “cladding that will age and  weather is not advisable as it requires considerable  maintenance to add to its longevity”. 

Although these drawbacks show the less  glamourous side to multi-storey homes, all they  need is a little future-proofing. You’ll want your  double-storey beauty to last as your forever home,  so do your research, put in the work, and reap the  benefits for years to come.

By Kirrily Ireland
Melbourne Home Design + Living Magazine