12 must-haves for Australian homes


With an emphasis on a good balance between work, rest and play, the unique Australian lifestyle presents loads of opportunities for making the most of your home as a place of comfort, entertainment and quirky appeal. Run through this checklist and see which, if any, areas you’ve been neglecting, which would enable you to live the Aussie dream at home. Oh, and if you’re worried about being a slave to the masses, don’t be – for each must-have, there’s an inspirational idea to help you break out of the box.

1. A swim-up bar

Sure, a bar inside offers lots of fun while entertaining guests, but if you’re a pool owner, there’s something extra cool about a swim-up bar that makes it feel like you’re on holiday. A ledge on which to rest drinks is a must-have inclusion.

OUTSIDE-THE-BOX IDEA: Don’t risk having your guests milling about with empty glasses – add a self-service ice trough to keeps drinks cold. Bonus: you can hang out with your friends rather than being stuck behind the bar.

Browse photos of pool designs for more ideas

2. Folding walls 

Indoor/outdoor design provides a wealth of living, dining and entertaining options and it can be as simple as incorporating folding, sliding or telescoping walls into the layout. This home’s kitchen/dining area extends out to the balcony with the help of a NanaWall glass wall system.

OUTSIDE-THE-BOX IDEA: Why limit yourself to one wall of stackable doors when a room can be opened up to the garden on two sides?

3. A skylight 

Take advantage of our bright, sunny skies by installing a skylight or two. They work well in dimly lit areas of the home such as hallways and bathrooms, and can be custom made to fit. Best of all, they are very affordable considering the dramatic impact they make on the room they illuminate.

OUTSIDE-THE-BOX IDEA: Triple the light coming through your ceiling by positioning three skylights side by side. Coupled with a glass splashback, your kitchen will be filled with feel-good natural light all day long.

The benefits of skylights

4. Indigenous art

Contemporary Aboriginal artists are gaining national and overseas prominence for their intricate, vibrant works influenced by storytelling traditions. Authentic paintings, rugs, cushions and other furnishings can be purchased from galleries. This painting of two women by Jack Dale Mengenen takes pride of place in an Adelaide home’s hallway.

OUTSIDE-THE-BOX IDEA: Don’t limit yourself to one painting. Aboriginal art is so diverse in form and colour that it’s easy to introduce the perfect artwork into each room in the house. The paintings are different, but sticking with one style throughout your home can create a coherent flow.

5. A quirky letterbox

Let your imagination run rampant with a letterbox with a difference – it would be unAustralian not to! You could take inspiration from nature, repurpose an old drum or buy one designed by one of our talented Aussie artists. The options are endless and it can express a cheeky sense of humour too.

OUTSIDE-THE-BOX IDEA: Upcycle vintage signs or wooden boxes to add eclectic charm to the front of your home. A tin or corrugated iron flip-top lid will protect the timber from the elements.

6. A barbecue (of course)

What would an Australian backyard be without a humble (or not-so-humble, if your budget allows) barbecue? Even apartment dwellers with a modest balcony can usually squeeze in a tripod model to cook up a sausage sizzle.

OUTSIDE-THE-BOX IDEA: If you have the space, think beyond a built-in barbecue and add a pizza oven too. It’s an instant crowd pleaser when you’re entertaining, and is fun to cook in.

7. A coffee machine

The average Australian drinks 9.2 cups of coffee per week and the popularity of coffee-making machines is on the rise. Interestingly, this hasn’t impacted adversely on cafe visits, possibly because consumers have developed a taste for ‘real’ coffee over instant.

OUTSIDE-THE-BOX IDEA: If you don’t have a built-in coffee machine, there’s no need to feel envious. Turn your coffee maker into part of a coffee station, with all the fixings at hand to make your morning routine a breeze.

8. A water feature

Possibly the quickest and easiest way to jazz up a yard or balcony, a water feature with a recycling function offers huge versatility in terms of design, size and budget. 

OUTSIDE-THE-BOX IDEA: Help your water feature look as good by night as it does by day with some clever underwater lighting.

Work with a pro to get the most out of your outdoor space 

9. Ceiling fans

Most of us enjoy comfortable conditions for much of the year, but in many areas of Australia, having the means to cool your home is essential to avoid sweltering through the mid-summer heat. Tossing and turning on a hot summer’s night without a fan in your bedroom is no one’s idea of a good time. And don’t discount ceiling fans if you have air-conditioning – fans keep air moving and make air-conditioning far more effective. Plus, in winter, turning a fan on low will force the warm air from heat sources to circulate better around your house.

OUTSIDE-THE-BOX IDEA: Don’t forget to install ceiling fans on your deck or other outdoor rooms – they improve airflow and keep mozzies at bay too.

10. A beer fridge 

It’s a great Aussie tradition to have a second fridge in the garage, whose purpose is to store beer and mixer drinks. For convenience and entertaining purposes it’s a great way to go. Just be sure to buy an energy-efficient model to avoid a power drain, and switch it off when you go away on holidays.

OUTSIDE-THE-BOX IDEA: Don’t want to take up valuable space in your garage or laundry with an extra fridge? Fridge drawers positions within easy access of outdoor areas are another way to go.

11. An outdoor shower 

Keen gardeners or those who spend a lot of time at the beach or in a chlorine pool will appreciate being able to rinse themselves off outside under a shower fitted with hot and cold water. The showerhead can be wall-mounted or a standalone model on a privacy screen, like this western red cedar design. Add some soap on a rope and you won’t get sand, chlorine and dirt traipsed indoors.

OUTSIDE-THE-BOX IDEA: An outdoor shower doesn’t need to be fancy. Timber cladding on the side of your house can create a beachy feel, and when it comes to washing the sand off your feet, you can’t go past a good old garden hose.

12. A water-wise garden

Save water and reduce maintenance with native or drought-tolerant plants such as lilly pillies. More low-water options include banksia, bottlebrush, spear grass, wattle, grevillea, mint bush, emu bush, yukka, cordyline and hakea.

OUTSIDE-THE-BOX IDEA: Why waste your weekends mowing the lawn when you can go wild with native grasses? They add beauty and benefit the local wildlife, too.

What is the non-negotiable item every Aussie home needs, in your opinion? Share your ideas in the comments section below.

 

Author bio:

Tamara M Stanley is a Houzz contributor, feature writer, editor and researcher for lifestyle, renovating and decorating publications. She can often be found surrounded by decorating magazines, ripping out pages for her dream home mood boards.

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