Hicaliber Team

Get These Three Reports Before Paying Your Builder’s Deposit

There are three key reports that every new home builder should order before committing to a builder’s deposit.

  1. Soil test
  2. Site survey and levels
  3. Detailed property report

It’s so important to know what you’re getting into before you start building, and these reports will give you incredible detail about the characteristics of your block. Most importantly, the information from these reports can help you work towards getting a fixed quote, avoiding costly surprises and headaches down the road.

Your builder can arrange these tests and reports on your behalf, and it may cost less than you think.

1. Soil Testing

Your building certifier, structural engineer and council will require a soil test to be completed to ensure foundations are adequate to support the new home. However, many people don’t realise that this test can also help you financially.

By far the biggest unknown in building a new home is what’s under the ground. As a result, this is often where the biggest cost overruns come from. Getting a soil test before paying your deposit could possibly eliminate this risk, as you will be able to get more accurate quotes. This could potentially save thousands of dollars in increased site costs later in the process.

Bearing capacity

The first thing a soil test provides data on is the bearing capacity of the ground. From the data obtained by soil testing, it is possible to know the weight the soil can support per unit area.

This data helps determine the foundation the engineer will need to design for your house. There are established guidelines for foundations and footings, and more unstable land may require deeper footing/slab. Often builders will quote a standard foundation/slab, so a soil test will help them quote more accurately. As footing issues can be costly, getting a soil test before paying your deposit could remove any potential surprises down the track.


Bearing capacity is important for determining foundations sizing, and also the soil’s reactiveness. Soil testing is necessary to get an idea of soil reactivity i.e. the likelihood of the soil moving, contracting or expanding. Additionally, soil testing allows professionals to check for any physical or chemical abnormalities on site that may pose a risk to your house in the future.

Soil reactivity is graded by class as follows:

  • A – Non-reactive, stable
  • S – Possible light movement
  • M – Possible moderate ground movement
  • H – Possible high ground movement
  • E – Possible extreme ground movement
  • P – Problem site

While classes A to S will usually require a basic foundation, all other classes will most likely need additional reinforcement. Problem sites are extremely prone to ground movement, hence you will need to discuss your options with a structural engineer before building anything on this kind of land.

Fill / scrape recommendations

A soil test will also help a builder provide more accurate site fill and scrape recommendations. Sometimes a site may have been filled by the developer, or the builder may need to fill the site in order to build the house level. If the fill is more than recommended or not compacted as recommended, this can cause you problems years later. This also applies to how much the top soil on your site can be scraped from your site.

How is a soil test performed?

Soil testing is a task performed by geotechnical engineers. They utilise specialised equipment to drill into the ground and collect samples at various depths. Upon further analysis, it is possible to classify the site and get a soil report outlining any conditions.

Each site is tested individually as you can’t rely on what’s been built on neighbouring properties as a guide or what’s happened during pre-development of the site. Depending on the field test some building blocks may require soil samples to be taken for further laboratory testing.

Although soil tests don’t guarantee certainty, they do allow foundations to be designed and priced more accurately.

2. Site Survey & Levels 

In addition to a soil test, we recommend getting a site survey done at the same time. A site survey gives you more detail about your block, and will give you the following elements:

Wind rating 

A wind rating assessment will give the designer the expected loadings which need to be designed for in the structure to suit wind gusts and speeds relative to your block. 

Retaining walls 

Existing retaining walls on your lot or neighbouring lots can have quite an effect on your foundation design and cost. They can create different loads/stresses in the ground which need to be allowed for. 

Slope of block 

Building the floor level or levelling the platform on a sloping block is expensive. Having accurate levels done enables this work to be priced more accurately. 

Site levels & contours 

To the naked eye a block of land could look flat, but a site levels & contour report will show the shape of the land. Identifying various heights and falls of the block. It may help to identify fill that could have been dumped there during the development or possible underground water courses. 

This information will help a good builder to design the correct structure orientation, location for your new home. 

As part of this report other items that are often identified include: 

  • Is there a gas connection point at the site? 
  • Is sewerage connected to your site? 
  • Is power connected? 
  • Are water and water mains connected? 
  • Is there a storm water pit? 
  • Is there a discharge point? 
  • Are boundary pegs on the site? You need to be sure it’s the correct site. 
  • Is the subdivision complete? 
  • Will the levels on your site change? 
  • Is there existing fencing? 
  • Are there any site barriers? 
  • Are there trees on your site or adjoining sites? 
  • Are there footpaths on your site? Is there a roll over kerb, a kerb opening or a vehicle crossing point on your site? 
  • What stage of development are neighbouring properties in? 
  • Is access to your site good, difficult when wet or steep? 
  • Are there any retaining walls on yours or neighbouring properties? 

3. Detailed Property Report

The third thing you’ll need before receiving an accurate quote from your builder is a detailed property report. This will complete the picture on what to expect before commencing building on your block. It will help you to make decisions upfront that could potentially prevent delays, complications and additional costs further down the road.

A detailed property report will provide you and your builder with answers to the below questions:

  • Is your land prone to flooding? your land may have been a flood zone a few generations ago. It may look very different today after smart planning and drainage programs. don’t risk finding out after you have paid a deposit that you can’t build your dream home, or that it is going to cost a substantial amount to raise your floor level. 
  • Is your land subject to infestation by termites? As voracious wood-eaters, termites serve a distinct purpose in forest ecosystems: they break down dead trees, allowing new ones to grow in their place. When humans come along and clear forested areas to construct new homes, it’s like removing a dinner plate and replacing it with an all-you-can-eat buffet of wood! That food source could be your house, and you need to know if termites live in your area. There are a variety of termite protection systems around that can send the termites packing. depending on what system you or your builder uses, there may be some design implications and ongoing maintenance requirements.
  • Is your land in a bushfire prone area? The government has designated bushfire prone areas and protection standards for building works in designated bushfire prone areas. This information and a BAL rating must be obtained to complete design and specification work on your new home. 
  • Is your land subject to any town planning schemes or restrictive covenants? For example, your perfect block of land could be next to a potential freeway or zoned for industrial use or even public acquisition. This could potentially reduce your resale and end up costing you more money. Some heritage overlays can severely restrict the design, colours and look of your new home. 

In addition to these important elements, a property report can also provide information about:

  • Designated land works 
  • Alpine areas
  • High corrosion areas
  • Temporary fencing requirements
  • Sewage
  • Proposed freeways, parks, industrial & farming land 
  • Building height restrictions 
  • Building setback restrictions 
  • Landscaping restrictions 
  • Subdivision information
  • Heritage design requirements

Interpreting The Information

A soil test, site survey and property report will give you a lot of information—this can often be overwhelming! A good builder will help you interpret the jargon and incorporate all the considerations into your quote.

Tips From a Builder: Save Money With a Fixed Price Quote

Before you sign a building contract, it’s incredibly important that you’re confident the quoted price is accurate. 

Although it is impossible to estimate the cost of building to 100% accuracy, a fixed price quote will ensure that your contract is as close as possible to what you will pay at the end.

What is a fixed price quote?

There are many things a builder should take into consideration to reach the final price in their quote—such as the type of block you are building on, the style of home design and also the level of inclusions you want.

Fixed price quoting is where you, the owner, get a quote based on actual costs rather than an estimate. This is the safest option because you can plan your budget, secure in the knowledge there will be no hidden extras.

Time and effort

A fixed price quote means time has been taken to assess the job including every aspect of the build from earthworks to finishing. It may take some time to collate all the costs, however the wait is definitely worth it. 

To conduct a fixed price quote, your builder will need:

  1. The results of your soil test, site survey and levels, and a detailed property report
  2. Your complete choice of fixtures & fittings 
  3. The details of your custom or modified plan 
  4. Specifications to your requirements

As part of the fixed price quoting process, you should also get a concept plan of your house. 

What’s the alternative to a fixed price quote?

Most contracts allow for some extra charges for things like hitting rock, extra foundation work, interest on overdue payments, etc. Most of these variables can be broken down into two categories: prime cost items and provisional sum items.

The Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995 states that: 

A prime cost item is: An item (for example, a fixture or fitting) that either has not been selected, or whose price is not known, at the time a domestic building contract is entered into and for the cost of supply and delivery of which the builder must make a reasonable allowance in the contract. 

A provisional sum item is: An estimate of the cost of carrying out particular work (including the cost of supplying materials needed for the work), …. for which the builder, after making all reasonable inquiries, cannot give a definite amount at the time the contract is entered into. 

Builders that overuse prime costs and provisional sums essentially give rough estimates of what something might cost. For example, a builder may allow $5,000 for earthworks but once the job starts it might end up $20,000 because the job was not reviewed properly. A fixed price quote will help you avoid surprises like these. 

Fixed Price Inclusions

In addition to reducing or eliminating prime cost and provisional sum items, a fixed price quote should clearly detail all the inclusions of your build.

The type of inclusions offered will vary from builder to builder—depending on the market and the most common style of housing—but some of the high quality inclusions to look out for are: 

  • 2.55m high ceilings
  • 25 degree roof pitch
  • Level of quality of mixer fittings
  • Quality of tiles 
  • Laminate/stone benchtops
  • Ceiling and wall insulation
  • LED lights

If you require additional inclusions or customisation, this should be negotiated and included in your fixed price quote.

Tip from a builder: make sure you get a complete fixed price quote that covers all stages of the building process. Some builders will offer a fixed price quote from the slab stage up—the foundations/slab stage is the highest risk area for cost overruns, meaning that this type of quote isn’t truly reflective of your final costs.

The Benefits of A Fixed Price Quote

A fixed price quote will undoubtedly save you time in the long run, and potentially tens of thousands of dollars. The benefits of a fixed price quote include:

  1. Avoiding difficult decisions that arise from ‘unknowns’. If there is a $20,000 surprise 3 months into your build, you will have to decide to compromise or accept a higher price (and potentially apply for additional finance). A fixed price quote will help you avoid this difficult decision.
  2. Helping you to accurately compare builders to one another
  3. Reducing the build time and time spent going back and forth for pricing and decisions
  4. Potentially eliminating the need for expensive lawyers and your state’s civil and administrative tribunal
  5. Reducing stress, as the risk is transferred to your builder
  6. Getting exactly what you want!

When you first start considering which builder to go with, make sure they have a fixed price policy. Otherwise, your dream home might end up costing you more than you think. 

How to Design a Stylish Laundry

Often neglected in the home design process, it’s so important to get your laundry design right, and make the most of this highly functional space.

Functional Laundry

Functional laundry design in the Longreach Display Home, Dalby, QLD

Your laundry space should allow room to manoeuvre with bulky items and cleaning supplies, so as to prevent adding any pain points to your housework.

Many modern laundry designs also revive the concept of the “mudroom”, a secondary entry to your house that can be used to store footwear, outerwear and school bags.

Take cues from the kitchen

If you have a keen interest in styling your laundry to be an asset to your home, a great place to start is to mirror the styling of your kitchen.

Your kitchen and laundry both hold a similar function in your home, in that they are primarily a place for performing necessary household duties among other secondary functions. They have the job of housing many similar appliances, including washing machines and other appliances which are placed under benches or stacked. Their similar features can also include sinks, cupboards and shelving.

They are also often located relatively close by to one another, as a practical way of keeping plumbing foundations less complicated during construction. It is relatively easy to then draw parallels between the two and draw styling ideas accordingly.

The laundry in the Freshwater Display Home in Brookvale, NSW pairs the laundry styling with the kitchen by making use of similar oak timber features, tapware, crisp white benchtops, and dark black panelling. This ensemble makes for a dynamic and expressive laundry space, which echoes much of the features from the expertly designed kitchen area.

The laundry in the Freshwater Display Home uses the same textures and finishings as the kitchen

Other things to consider

To finish designing your stylish laundry, consider these tips:

  • Streamline your laundry by hiding the plumbing inside your cabinetry and choosing an inset sink
  • Keep it fresh by adding plants and ensuring there is natural light through a skylight or doorway
  • Add luxe elements like soap and a candle as a stylish finishing touch

Designing the Perfect Outdoor Living Space

As Australians, we love the outdoors. We love the sun, the fresh air, and the lush, feel-good greenery.

That’s why it’s so important to take the time to design a considered, functional outdoor living space.

Whether your perfect outdoor living space is a deck overlooking your garden, or an alfresco for entertaining your guests, these are some essential things to consider when designing this area.

Create a shaded area

Creating an area of shade is an absolute must in your backyard. Living in Australia, we are both blessed and cursed with our bright, warm sun.

Shaded Area

Create a shaded area, Broadbeach Display Home, Drouin, VIC

To design a comfortable and functional outdoor living area, there needs to be a generous amount of shaded area to protect yourself from harsh sunlight, annoying glare and create a cool area to sit and relax in.

Shelter is essential

You can’t talk about shaded areas without talking about shelter. A comfortable shaded area is achieved through quality and well-designed shelter.

The key to a functional outdoor alfresco area is in providing adequate cover from the weather.

And the same goes for decked backyards. Roofing solutions offer a sense of permanence, weather protection and pulls together your outdoor aesthetic.

Think of the weather your home will endure. Throughout most of Queensland, you are likely to experience mild and dry winters, but have tropical summers with plenty of rain. If you’re by the ocean, you’ll have to consider the sea salt and spray. Your roofing solutions should be weather-proof and location-appropriate to ensure you and your home are properly protected.

Bring the indoors, outdoors

It’s common to consider “bringing the outside in” when designing our homes, but we rarely ever hear “bring the inside out” – but we should!

Creating a seamless connection between your inside and outside areas gives the illusion of a larger space and enables a more functional, open plan experience. Your alfresco area should be both open to the backyard and connected to the inside.

A seamless connection between indoor and outdoor spaces, Parkview Display Home, Taylor, ACT

A well-stocked barbecue area, dining setting and outdoor kitchen with a sink can also make your life easier—think about what you’ll need to entertain guests or enjoy a Sunday summer lunch with your family.

Make a checklist for its practicality

If you want to make sure your outdoor living space is perfect, simply design a checklist.

Think about these questions before you put pen to paper:

  • What will the area be used for most? Is it for me-time, family-time or entertaining?
  • Where in your backyard will the sun be the harshest?
  • What part of the day will you use it the most – morning, afternoon or evening?
  • How often will you use it be used in winter?
  • How will the weather conditions affect maintenance?

This checklist will help you plan for longevity in your materials and furnishings, as well as plan your shelter and shade locations. But more importantly, thinking these questions through will give you a proper visualisation of the purpose of your outdoor living area.

The Rules of Modern Bathroom Design

There’s no denying that your bathrooms are extremely important areas of your home. Some think that a rain head and a big tub are all you need to make the perfect bathroom, but there’s much more to modern bathroom design than meets the eye.

There’s also a long-held myth that designing a bathroom should be all about making practical choices.

Bathrooms should not just be about functionality! They are also a unique opportunity for beautiful finishing and design choices.

Modern bathroom design can mean different things to different people. But there are a few basic rules you can follow to make sure your bathroom is both enduring and on-trend.

Start with a neutral base

By starting with a neutral base for your bathroom’s colour scheme, you won’t have to fret about it becoming outdated or out-of-touch. A modern bathroom design makes great use of white, black and grey as well as other neutral colours.

Choosing these colours as a base for your palette, from tiles to basins allows you the opportunity to add impact through colour in items like taps and basins, accessories, art and towels. This way, your bathroom can evolve with your changing tastes and colour trends.

Add visual interest

Think of visual interest as an element that grabs someone’s attention. Taking time to consider and balance these ‘interesting’ details can take your bathroom from an average 5 to a solid 10/10.

Consider how you could add contrast or texture to your bathroom design through your:

  • Vanity
  • Tapware
  • Tile and grout choice
  • Basin
  • Accessories

Make the most out of the space you have

Space isn’t infinite, and the key to modern bathroom design is working to create as much space as possible.

You can do this by using large, thin-framed mirrors to create the illusion of space, or investing in transparent glass shower walls that will open up your bathroom.

Glass Shower Walls

Glass shower walls will open up your bathroom, Freshwater Display Home, Brookvale NSW

De-clutter through storage solutions

De-cluttering through storage isn’t a new concept for the home – but it’s even more important to consider this in your bathroom where space is often tight.

You can use floating vanities and cabinets to design a more minimalistic and streamlined look that frees floor space and gives the appearance of ample room.

Include geometric shapes where possible

Geometric shapes can take your bathroom design game to the next level. You can easily implement sleek and simple squares and rectangles in your vanities, storage areas and sinks. But you don’t have to feel ‘squared’ in by just these shapes. You can add a unique flare to the geometric shape principle by using egg-like shapes to soften the edges of you bathroom.

Perhaps one of the simplest ways to add geometric shapes is through your tiling. They’re a great way to impact your bathroom—they’re a fantastic design feature that will give your bathroom character, and something you need to consider when designing.

Consider how you’re going to use different tiles in different ways, Freshwater Display Home, Brookvale NSW

You could break a bathroom wall with two different feature tiles, or perhaps you can use your feature tile on your bathroom floors and let it travel halfway up your wall.

Add fresh flowers or plants

We’ve talked about geometric shapes and neutral colours – you won’t be surprised to learn that one of the biggest risks in adopting an uber-modern bathroom design is that it can feel sterile or cold. One of the easiest ways to soften your bathroom is to add a touch of warmth using fresh flowers and plants.

An orchid or new succulent will brighten your morning hygiene routine and give your bathroom a cosier and more relaxing appeal.

Treat yourself

Freestanding bathtubs are an extremely luxurious inclusion to a modern bathroom. If you have the space, they’re a beautiful sculptural element to include in your ensuite design.

Whatever style you decide, use these modern bathroom design rules to create functional, beautiful spaces that are a private sanctuary for you, your family and guests.

Choosing a Colour Palette for your Home

Choosing a colour palette for your home is a big decision. After all, it’s more than just deciding on a paint colour and buying some throw cushions. To do it right, you must consider all of the surfaces, finishes and inclusions across your whole home.

It’s understandable for this to seem like a daunting task, but by learning a few simple rules, tuning in to your personal preferences and following your gut, you’ll feel like a colour palette expert.

Before you start

Your floor is going to dictate a lot of your colour choices, including the colour of your walls and your furniture. Use the floor as the foundation for your colour palette in every room, and you’ll be off to a great start.

Make note of your lighting

Lighting will always affect your home interior planning – especially when it comes to colour. Depending on the availability of natural light, the season and the types of light bulbs you use, the hues and tones of your room will alter.

For example, the natural light in south-facing rooms bring out the best in cool and warm colours – dark colours will look brighter and lighter colours will glow! You may want to consider how you want your room’s colours to interact with the lighting, and how you can best utilise the light to amplify colour.

If you’re building a new home, your builder will be able to help you understand how your home is positioned on the block, and therefore how the light will affect your key living zones.

Consider the mood

Your colour palette is as much about creating a mood for your home as it is an expression on your personality. Remember that the selection of colours can determine the ambience of your space.

Warm colours are known to inspire vibrance and confidence and a great for promoting intimacy, while cooler tones can relax and bring a sense of calmness to your area.

Your personality and taste are crucial here. Trends come and go, and you want the mood of your space to really reflect who you are.

Remember colour theory

Basic knowledge of colour theory is a must when developing a colour palette. Finding the right foundation for your colour palette can help create clarity for your vision. The three basic colour schemes are:

  • Monochromatic colours. These are various shade of the same colour. Choose a monochromatic palette for a more minimal aesthetic, adding depth with prints and patterns in your furniture and fabrics.
  • Analogous colours. Often soothing, these colours are next to each other on the colour wheel and work to bring a cohesive and harmonious look to the home. Imagine blues paired with teals and greens.
  • Complementary colours. By using two opposing colours on the wheel, like blue and orange, you can create an atmosphere of high-energy. Black and white, while not on the colour wheel, are also technically complements. This is perfect if you’re wanting a bold and dramatic look.
Black and white colour palette: Stamford SL Display Home, Terranora, NSW

Be inspired by local landscapes

We are blessed in Australia to have such a stunning landscape – it would be a shame not to make use of it.

You could pay homage to the great Australian bush by adding pops of native greenery or be inspired by a nearing beach and include coastal tones. By featuring some natural elements, you can achieve a cohesive look with your outside environment. Plus, bringing the outside in is said to boost your overall wellbeing and happiness.

A living room filled with furniture and a large window
Coastal colours: Northside Display Home, Bahrs Scrub, QLD

Colour trend: warm neutrals

Neutral tones are a tried-and-tested classic that aren’t likely to go out of fashion. Choose the right neutral colours and your home will exude pared back elegance and warmth. Think white paired with greys, browns or anything muted.

A living room filled with furniture and a large window
Warm neutrals: Vista Display Home, Julago, QLD

You can create a relaxed and peaceful environment by adding texture with rugs, cushions, and artworks.

Colour trend: re-welcoming blue and green

Though blue and green never really went out of style, these two colours are well and truly back in the colour palette spotlight.

Blue tones can provide a peaceful and warm ambience to your home, while lighter shades can make the room feel larger. Green tones are a great way to bring nature into your home. They symbolise the natural elements of earth, clean air and encourage natural light.

Want to learn more about home design? Why not check out our Guide to Modern Hamptons Style.

What is a Butler’s Pantry, and Do You Need One?

Hosting a dinner party? No matter what you do, everyone always ends up in the kitchen. Your guests are ether chatting to the cook, making drinks, helping prepare food or getting in the way!

The kitchen is the heart of your home, and with the rise of open plan living, the heart is more exposed than ever before.

This isn’t at all a bad thing, as it gives you the opportunity to consider your kitchen differently. Kitchens are now treated in a more sculptural way, and you want them to be aesthetically cohesive with the look of your living space.

So, if the kitchen is a thing of beauty, what about the dishes? Lunchboxes? Toasted sandwich maker?

Hiding all these things away is easy when you have the right kind of functional storage space, and with the modernisation of kitchen spaces comes the resurgence of a centuries-old tradition—the butler’s pantry.

The history of the butler’s pantry

Butler’s pantries became popular from the 1850s onwards, primarily in affluent households with a butler and wait staff. In addition to a range of household duties, the butler was often responsible for managing the pantry items and serving food. ‘Plating up’ happened in the butler’s pantry, and then meals were served in the dining room.

Throughout the late 19th century Butler’s pantries started to become popular in middle class homes too. Although these households didn’t have staff, this space was used by family members for storage and food preparation.

From the 1940s, storing and preparing food became easier. Fridges and freezers became popular and the pantry moved into a singular kitchen cupboard.

Bye, bye butler’s pantry.

This feature has laid dormant in a home designer’s toolbox for more than 50 years, until now.

Functional kitchen design

In recent years, butler’s pantries have exploded in popularity. These days, a butler’s pantry is less about accommodating wait staff, and more about functional kitchen design.

A butler’s pantry will help you in three key areas, making everything from everyday meal prep to extravagant entertaining a breeze.


The butler’s pantry is the perfect place to store and use big, bulky appliances. Things like stand mixers, coffee machines and juicers all belong in a butler’s pantry.

A butler’s pantry helps keep your bench space clean and tidy: Palm Cove Estate Display Home


A butler’s pantry is the perfect place to do messy meal prep, before moving your ingredients into the kitchen to cook. Peeling and chopping vegetables, making sauces and assembling salads are all great butler’s pantry activities.

Clean up

A butler’s pantry is also the perfect place to go from dirty to clean. If you choose to add a sink and dishwasher into your butler’s pantry, you can do all of your day-to-day kitchen cleaning out of sight.

The saviour of entertaining, a butler’s pantry also allows you to hide all your cooking mess until after the night is done. After all, the last thing you want to see when you’re relaxing with an after-dinner drink is a pile of dirty dishes.

Do you need a butler’s pantry?

A butler’s pantry might seem like a luxury, but we’d argue otherwise. ‘Luxury’ generally implies a degree of frivolity, but as we’ve proven, this home design feature is seriously useful.

View all G.J. Gardner’s Home Designs with a Butler’s Pantry.

10 Master Bedroom Design Ideas

The Master Bedroom isn’t just any room in the house—it’s your private sanctuary. It should be your favourite room in your home, where you can let go of the day’s stress and simply relax.

Stuck for ideas on decorating or designing your master bedroom? Check out these ten master bedroom design ideas that will never go out of style.

Navy comfort

Kimberley Display Home, Greenbank, QLD

A well-dressed bed is often the hero of a master bedroom design, and this is no exception. We love a theme, and the navy palette in this bedroom is totally timeless.

Minimal magic

Broadbeach Display Home, Drouin, VIC

Sometimes, less is more. This master bedroom design heroes a plush bed with a grey and white palette, while small indoor plants and timber furniture add warmth. The overall aesthetic is totally refined (and one Marie Kondo would be proud of)!

Clever contrast

Longreach Display Home, Dalby, QLD

This design uses a light, neutral palette with darker details in the throw, cushions and armchair. The two-toned panelled feature wall adds architectural interest—this dimension and detail are mirrored throughout other areas of the home.

Make a statement

Parkside Display Home, Cumbalum, NSW

When done wrong, dark panelled walls can make a room feel tight, dark and outdated. But when done right—oh, boy is it timeless! This dark veejay panelling combined with the delightful bedside pendants makes for a total statement.

Perfectly private

Parkview Display Home, Taylor, ACT

Now how’s this for a clever master bedroom design idea? The semitransparent curtain allows filtered natural light without compromising on privacy. An understated, modern aesthetic is achieved with grey and green, with a necessary pop of plant life to bring the outside in.

Pops of pink in Modern Hamptons

Freshwater Display Home, Brookvale, NSW

Modern Hamptons design uses classic materials and textures from the traditional Hamptons look, with a contemporary interpretation of the colour palette. This master bedroom adds pops of pink against neutral tones, channeling the coastal, relaxed aesthetic of the Hamptons with the fun-loving Australian personality.

Traditional Hamptons

Sunbury Display Home, Rothbury, NSW

Is traditional Hamptons more your style? This master bedroom design features a white and blue palette against natural wooden features for a result that is both calm and warm.

Velvet and hardwood

Elwood Display Home, North Lakes, QLD

Nothing says elegance and sophistication like dark hardwood flooring paired with a velvet bedhead. Add pendant lighting to the mix and you have a master bedroom fit for a king (or queen)!

White on white

Manhattan Display Home, Baringa, QLD

This stunning master bedroom uses a monochromatic palette with layered texture for depth and added interest. Topped off with beautiful, large windows, this design will ensure you’re getting your daily dose of vitamin D.

Neutral classic

Elwood Display Home, Glenmore Park, NSW

This bedroom channels coastal design with the panelled feature wall, and uses classic furniture and decor to complete the look. Statement bedside lamps make for a room that will feel like a seaside Airbnb, every night of the week.

Planning your dream home? Get in touch with your local G.J. Gardner office and turn your Master Bedroom Design Ideas into a reality.

How to Design a Functional Kitchen

Over the past 20 years, the kitchen has transformed from a hidden room in a home to a multi-generational, multi-purpose space.

The kitchen’s role is no longer limited to cooking and washing up. Now, it’s also a living and entertainment area—a space where the kids do their homework, and parents check emails, make drinks and entertain guests.

With the kitchen being the heart of the home, and usually integrated into an open plan design, it’s important to consider this space in an aesthetic and sculptural way. Fixtures and facades suddenly become a whole lot more important when you can see them from your living area.

Sunbury Display Home, North Rothbury, NSW

But you have to strike the balance. The ultimate goal? A functional kitchen design that doesn’t compromise aesthetic.

It’s something that is definitely achievable, and while you can still have that brushed brass tap you’ve always dreamt of, there are key areas to consider to make sure your kitchen really works.

Must know: Five-zoned approach to kitchen design

The five-zoned approach to kitchen design is the holy grail of kitchen design, and is becoming an increasingly popular framework in which modern kitchens are built around.

Five-zoned kitchen design is a way of categorising and simplifying the ever-diversifying ways that modern kitchens are used. Kitchens have evolved into more than just an area for cooking, and are now just as much a living space.

These five zones are:

  1. Consumables – where you store your perishables and non-perishables (pantry & fridge)
  2. Non-consumables – where you store your tools for cooking and eating (cookware, crockery, utensils)
  3. Cleaning – areas that go from dirty to clean (sink, bins, dishwasher)
  4. Cooking – your cooktop and oven
  5. Preparation Space – your bench space

Kitchen functionality is about determining how these five areas interact with each other and how you will use them in your daily life.

Use practical exercises to plan your layout

You may have heard of L-shaped, U-shaped and galley layouts. Before you rush into choosing one, we recommend using practical exercises to visualise how you will use the space.

For example, in order to satisfy your normal weekly grocery shop, you will need to be able to maneuver an armful of groceries easily. They’ll be moving from the bench space to the consumable zone within a few steps in an ideal scenario. Otherwise this task may become just that little bit more tedious!

Something else to consider is washing up. The cleaning zone should be positioned so that you can put away clean dishes and utensils without too much effort. This may also reduce water splashes!

You can extend these imaginary exercises to every activity you do in your kitchen—meal prep, making lunches, baking, even cleaning and taking out the bins.

While you’re running through these ‘mental checks’ always come back to the five zones and consider how their positioning can make these daily tasks easier.

Small kitchen design and the working triangle

The working triangle is a kitchen design framework that was coined in the 1920s. It’s relatively simple—the theory states that a kitchen’s three main work areas (sink, refrigerator, stove) should form a triangle.

Manhattan Display Home, Baringa, QLD

This approach allows you to access your consumable zone, cooking zone and cleaning zone with ease and ensures a path free of clutter. It is especially useful for small kitchens that need to utilise space to create comfort and convenience.

The working triangle can help eliminate clutter and obstacles, as you must ensure there is a smooth flow of traffic between each of the triangle’s ‘points’.

A simple but effective way to incorporate this is by adding your bin to your storage area. Otherwise, your free-standing bin may become something of a sticking point in your kitchen plan.

You can never have too much storage

It can be easy to fall into the trap of ‘bench-as-storage’. You’ll promise yourself that you’ll keep it tidy and stay on top of managing the space… but the truth is, you likely won’t.

Ample, smart storage space instantly de-clutters your kitchen and provides you with easy access to your appliances when you need them.

You can never have too much storage in your kitchen, but you also want to make sure that it’s the right kind of storage.

You don’t want to simply stack your pots and pans and have your everyday food processor pushed right into the back of a cupboard. Every time you need something, you’ll have to unload everything from the shelf or drawer, then pack it all away again.

Your new home consultant will be able to help step you through the myriad different types of kitchen storage available—from custom spice drawers to slide-out and magnetic racks, there’s a solution for every type of cook.

Integrate your appliances

We told you we liked storage. And integrated appliances take this concept one step further.

Simply put, integrated kitchen appliances have fronts that match your cabinetry.

Integration is almost like ‘storing your appliances’ — it helps reduce the visual clutter in your kitchen. From a functional perspective, it also can help you save on space, and makes your kitchen much easier to clean.

If you have the budget to accommodate, they’re an absolute must in a modern kitchen.

Putting it into practice

So where to from here?

A great place to start is to consider what your biggest constraints are and working backwards.

At the end of the day, kitchen design is a bit of a science. Taking the time to consult an expert will pay dividends, ensuring you aren’t running circles around your kitchen every time you prepare a meal.

A Guide to Choosing Your Home Design Online

If you’re planning to build a new home, part of the process is inevitably deciding on a home design. It’s an incredibly important decision, one that will impact the way you and your family live for a decade or more.

Although the process can seem overwhelming, choosing your home design online might be easier than you think! Particularly when you’re armed with the right tools and knowledge to make the right decision.

The tools you’ll need

When choosing your home design online, there are four key elements you can use to make your decision:

  • Floor plan
  • Renders
  • Virtual tours
  • Display home photography

Floor plans are not a new concept, but they will become your best friend when it comes to your online home design journey.

A floor plan (usually supplied as a downloadable PDF) enables you to visualise the layout, dimensions and volume of the house. It will include walls, windows, doors and stairs as well as furniture and fixtures so you can get an understanding of how the space might be utilised.

For all its functional worth, a floor plan does fail in giving you the essence or ‘feel’ of a home design. You can’t truly understand how furniture might affect the space, or how the different elements of your house interplay. That’s where virtual tours, renders and display home photography come in.

These visual assets are the perfect way to get a feel for the home design’s ambience and space, giving life to the vision of the floor plan and helping you observe how the dimensions translate to a three dimensional space.

So now you know what to look at, what are you actually looking for?

Details to consider


Land suitability is arguably the most important factor you need to consider when selecting your home design. The size of your land, the slope of the block and its general location and orientation dictates how you can maximise space and natural light.

A main consideration with land and home design is how the home can best harness natural elements – most notably, sunlight. The key to an inviting space is a floor plan that welcomes natural light and concentrates it in communal living and entertainment areas.

Consider how the floor plan harnesses natural elements: Fernbank Estate 305 Home Design

Check the floor plan for the location and dimensions of windows and doors, and keep an eye out for inside-outside living and entertaining spaces that will allow you to take advantage of natural light. Your living areas should be mostly north-facing, meaning they’ll catch the afternoon sun.

When you’re considering land, you’ll also want to note that build costs acan be impacted by the land type, shape and accessibility. You will need to consider your block and how it will impact your overall budget before settling on a home design. Land factors that will drive up your build cost include fall, fill, easements and covenants.

  • Fall indicates how sloped the block is. Building on a sloping block can present unique engineering and design challenges. This can drive up the cost of your build.
  • Fill relates to the amount of soil you will need to purchase to level your block for building.
  • Easements and covenants will determine the types of features you are able to incorporate into your design, particularly the number of storeys, extensions and the inclusion of a pool.

Use of space

Space is another obvious element to consider when designing your home. Key things to look out for include:

  • Storage and shelving — do you have sizeable storage needs?
  • Flexible areas with moveable walls or barn doors
  • Potential placement of furniture

Open plan living is generally accepted as the best way you can maximise the space in your home, however, designs that are too “open” can lead to intrusive noises that carry through the house.

It’s important to balance an open plan with privacy and noise reduction, so consider how the floor plan is zoned to take this into account.


You may not be familiar with the concept of zoning, however you will have definitely felt the effects of bad zoning at one point or another in your life.

Have you ever lived in a house where you can hear the television from your bedroom? This is a result of poor zoning.

In relation to home design, zoning helps determine where you situate your bedrooms in relation to your communal areas. How you zone your home will affect how noise carries and the amount of privacy you have.

The rule of thumb in zoning is to allocate a buffer zone (generally a living room or rumpus room) between the master suite and the other bedrooms to allow for privacy.

You should also look for floor plans that have noise-prone areas located at the rear of the house. This will generally concentrate the bulk of noise in your house away from neighbours (depending on your block) and in an area where it will not carry through the rest of the home.

All of G.J. Gardner’s floor plans are designed with a contemporary lifestyle in mind, but you may want to start considering customisations based on your lifestyle.

Your lifestyle, now and later

While your house may not be your home forever, it should suit your life for at least a decade. You should choose a design that reflects your everyday activities, while also taking every opportunity to make living easier and more comfortable.

Consider how you like to live now and how you would like to live in the future.

Do you love entertaining? If the kitchen is the heart of your home, your home design needs to reflect this.

Do you have young children? Large and easily accessible family spaces may suit you best.

Or do you have moody teenagers? Perhaps a home design that allows for privacy with a secondary living space suits you better.

Are you time-poor? Consider how you could incorporate low-maintenance materials and landscaping into your design.

Considering your lifestyle will help you further narrow your home design choice, as you start consider what is going to work best for you and your family.

Have some questions or ready to take the next step? Get in touch today.

Or, learn more about the G.J. way by reading How to Design the Perfect Home — insights from our lead designer Peter into the key principles that guide the G.J. Gardner Design Process.