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Designing a legacy


We all know we will need to address myriad functional questions requiring solid, pragmatic answers when renovating or building. How many bathrooms do we need? What tapware do we buy? What bathroom tiles? And on it goes for the year or two of design and construction.

While sometimes overwhelming, these are the less-significant, easy questions to deal with. The far tougher and more important questions — with longer-lasting, broader impact — are all too often overlooked, remaining unasked and unanswered. Among the critical questions, few seemingly ponder or discuss this one: what sort of legacy do you want to leave for yourself, your family, your community and the world?

For many homeowners, legacy is synonymous with the narrow and most obvious dictionary definition — an economic legacy or windfall willed to recipients, either in the form of money, possessions or property. Given Australia’s ongoing housing affordability crisis, it’s not hard to understand this preoccupation.

However, what of the broader context? Of the desire to leave an emotional legacy, creating a family home filled with love and memories benefiting generations to come? What about an environmental legacy, such as the creation of a sustainable home positively impacting not just on your family, but the planet? Not to forget an intellectual and moral legacy of social and ethical values guiding you through all decisions, public and private. And equally important, an artistic legacy, inspiring and encouraging creativity and design excellence in others. All are worthy of consideration and contemplation before and during the design process in place of the common single-lens focus on resale and profit.

After a decade of visiting and reviewing hundreds of houses, it’s heartening to meet those all-too-rare homeowners who’ve comprehensively analysed the legacy they hope to leave. Young Sydney architect Jeremy Bull is one of them. As he worked to transform his dilapidated old terrace into a contemporary family home, Jeremy thought deeply about what he hoped to achieve. His answer is inspiring and thought-provoking. He resolved to gift a rare and wonderful legacy to his four infant children: the creation of a home designed to encourage the appreciation of extraordinary spaces. “We wanted to create a space that offered more possibilities than the mean average that allowed for an atypical experience,” he says. “We wanted to create memories and a sense of home and domesticity to give my kids a sense of a house that was outside the average.”

With four children under the age of five, it must be connected to the garden, open but private. Almost nothing should be on a domestic scale, nothing should be Gyprock and almost nothing should be textureless.

It must have the ability to “become a vehicle for exploration and memory” with a playfulness of texture, scale and pattern. It must include “significant amenity and equally significant aspirations”, be simple but sophisticated and a highly crafted piece of liveable, sustainable cabinetry.

His aim was a home in which space, light, scale and texture are used not just to create the most inspired and inspiring warm family environment, but as a canvas for children to understand and appreciate aesthetics and the value of design.

The benefits are both immediate (in ensuring a wonderful, enriched quality of life for his family) and long term (in ensuring his children understand the value of beauty, creativity, light, air, nature, design excellence, scale and the volumic generosity of spaces).

What a wonderful example of truly thinking for the future and of others, creating a wonderful, positive legacy that will be valued, respected, honoured and passed on without doubt.

It’s been said that it’s not what we leave for others that really matters, but what we leave in them that matters most. If we can design with that in mind, the world can only be a better place. So what sort of legacy will you leave?

Written by Trisha Croaker

Originally from Home Design magazine, Volume 19 Issue 1