South Africa’s first lockdown in 2020 saw many homeowners getting to grips with DIY and home renovation – and not necessarily to increase the value of their properties but, rather, to transform their abodes into spaces they were happy to be locked down in.
So, just as lifestyle trends have changed over the past two years, so have the designs of our homes, or at least the types of homes most people want.
One of these advancements is the growth of environmentally friendly living which has become a non-negotiable for many people, whether they are homeowners looking to live more sustainable lives or buyers demanding green homes.
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A thoughtfully designed and well-maintained exterior sets the tone of the whole property, inside and out, says Grahame Diedericks, manager principal for Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty in Midrand.
“Most people realise that kerb appeal is a vital aspect when selling one’s home, but we often don’t stop to consider how much an appealing outdoor space also adds to the lifestyle and enjoyment of the inhabitants.”
He says current trends include both large, bold design elements and also smaller upgrades that one could tackle in a weekend.
“Even the simplest of changes can make a significant difference, adding unique character and style – and very often value - to a property.”
If your home’s exterior needs a facelift, or you’re renovating or building a new home, Diedericks recommends the following features to consider:
- Textured surfaces
Integrating visual texture into the home’s façade can help to highlight the home’s strongest architectural features and bring added depth to the exterior.
“Visual texture can be achieved in many areas, including the window trim, roofing, and fascia, and a number of materials can be used, including wood sidings, stone, shake shingles, and board and batten.”
- Black accents
Various shades of black can be used, including ebony, onyx, and charcoal. The colour can be used for door trim, window trim, porch banisters, and eaves. The accents can be partnered with paler colours like grey, brown, stone or white.
- Tone variation within one colour
If you prefer a less stark contrast, he says this is a more subtle way to introduce interest through colour.
“In other words, stick within the same colour family when selecting accent colours for trim and roofing. For example, light grey walls with a dark grey trim or light brown siding with dark brown trim.”
- Feature walkways
Diedericks says a walkway is not “merely a path to the front door”, it also guides the eye to a home’s entrance”. Walkways should be kept neat and tidy at all times. Use interesting stone or paving, line the walkway with colourful flowers or perhaps have it meandering instead of straight.
- Outdoor fireplaces
Fire pits have long been a popular addition, especially in warmer climates where evenings are often enjoyed outdoors. However, the new outdoor fireplace is a less informal and more permanent fixture designed to make the patio or garden feel like an extension of your home.
- Free-standing outdoor lanterns
Exterior lighting is not only a good safety precaution, but can also have a massive impact on your kerb appeal and, in this respect, free-standing lights are making a comeback – for two good reasons.
“They’re very attractive features and the light they give off is closer to eye level than that of path or overhead lights, making them useful additions to long walkways,” he explains.
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Green building – and living
When you invest in your home, Diedericks says it’s important for you and prospective buyers to not only know that the materials you used will last, but that they are from a sustainable source.
Universal Paints and DIYgirls Interior – a turnkey interior design and manufacturing company, offer the following tips for getting the balance right.
- Start with sustainability
It’s a good idea to focus on investment pieces, in other words, items that will look as good in five years’ time as they do today. This is important because sustainability isn’t just about how an item is produced – although the manner in which factories handle waste, effluent, and emissions are critical, too, it also involves how long you can use it before it needs to be replaced.
“To improve the longevity of your home furniture and decorative furnishings, it’s important to make informed choices: yes, you can upholster outdoor furniture with indoor fabric, but it will fade, perish and tear, and may be damaged by mildew because the materials have not been engineered to withstand the elements. In contrast, and as with paint, a fabric that is UV and mildew resistant will stay fresh, for longer,” the two companies say in a joint statement.
- Materials matter
According to the International Union for Nature Conservation (IUCN), more than 300 million tons of plastic are produced every year, and 14 million of them end up in our oceans, where they go on to make up 80% of marine debris. The bottom line is that refusing plastic can make a big difference. So too can opting for products that have been sustainably produced.
DIYgirls recommends investing in furniture that is upholstered in eco-friendly fabric. One of their preferred fabric choices is eco-label which is made from plastic harvested from the sea. It isn’t just manufactured responsibly, but also contributes to recycling.
“There’s a wide range of environmentally friendly options out there, you just need to be pointed in the right direction.”
- Put pressure on suppliers
Nothing refreshes a home quite like a fresh coat of paint, but while you’re considering colours and finishes, give a thought to what’s inside the paint, too.
Until January last year, most of the paint available on South African shelves contained lead, despite the fact that this is known to be a cancer-causing toxin that is hazardous to the environment.
“Next time you’re painting make sure you’re buying environmentally friendly products that are free from harmful chemicals and are proven to be good for people and kinder to the planet.”
- Start responsibly
When starting a paint job, many people give little thought to the old paint they strip off the surface of the object that’s to be given a new look. The problem is that these paint peelings are often washed into storm water drains, where they can cause harm.
“Instead, collect all old paint and place it into a container, which can be returned to a paint manufacturer who will discard it responsibly. The same goes for any leftover paint remaining from a home makeover: instead of dumping it, return it to the manufacturer to be disposed of correctly.”
- Remember to recycle
Recycling is a cornerstone of sustainability – the more plastics and other materials you can return to the system, the less virgin plastic will be used.
“Look out for recyclable materials when you’ve completed your home refurbishment: the containers used for paint are a great example. If you’re not sure how to recycle them, return them to the manufacturer.”
- Indigenous plants in landscaping
Diedericks adds that not only are indigenous plants easier to care for, but homeowners will also be benefiting the environment as they are water-wise and species like bees will thrive.
“Plus, South Africa has an absolute wealth of indigenous plant species ranging from hardy succulents and fynbos to delicate flowers, majestic trees, shrubs, and bulbs.”
Jacques van Embden, managing director at Blok, says first-time home buyers should ensure that any new development or property they are looking at buying has modern appliances, fittings, fixtures, and infrastructure. While this can be boring and difficult to find out, he says these are the things that can end up costing them money.
“An ancient geyser can be so expensive to run and has an overly negative impact on the environment. Efficient and environmentally designed and fitted homes can easily save 50% of the ongoing monthly costs for water, electricity, and waste. So making sure your building has covered these will be good for your pocket and for the earth.”