“I never thought I would be able to afford to live in a house that’s this nice."
At Architopia, we’re passionate about designing architectural homes that are affordable to build. We sat down with Architopia customers Paul and Monica to discuss their newly built L Shape House in the coastal town of Port Fairy in south-west Victoria.
Paul, a professional Firefighter, and Monica, a Pilates instructor (both in their 30’s), moved to the coastal town of Port Fairy a few years ago and soon bought an affordable block of land within walking distance to the beach.
We ask Paul why they decided to build instead of buying an existing home. “We used to live in an old house built in the 60’s. We did some renovations to get it as efficient and comfortable as possible, but it always felt cold and pretty miserable to live in” he tells us. “We wanted to build a house that would last us a long time, something comfortable that our family could grow into.”
Paul wanted a house that was energy efficient and had a smaller impact on the environment, while Monica, originally from Tasmania, wanted a house that was filled with natural light and warm in winter. Monica was previously a financial advisor, so it was also important to her that they had a realistic mortgage. “I’ve seen so many people over extend on their mortgage and go way too big on the house - even though the bank is telling them they can afford it. I didn’t want to sacrifice our lifestyle that we enjoy, just to get a big house with a big mortgage”, she tells us.
Image: The L Shape House features sustainably sourced timber shiplap cladding.
When we ask them what sort of house they were looking to build, Paul is quick to jump in. “We didn’t want a volume built house. Whenever I’d drive through the outer suburbs of Melbourne, all the houses looked the same. I did not want that in any way, shape, or form”. Paul and Monica looked at modular and prefab housing options, “we liked that they were different and a little more architecturally designed” Monica says, but they quickly discovered it was beyond their budget. “We found prefab homes surprisingly expensive” Paul adds. “I liked the designs, but there was definitely a premium placed on the price and it quickly got out of hand as soon as you chose something that wasn’t small and pokey”.
When asked if they considered using an architect, Paul is quick to respond “I can definitely see the value in having an architect through the whole process, it was just too expensive and way out of our budget. So it was never an option for us”.
Running out of options, Paul tried designing the house himself. “It was not very elegant, not very efficient, and it would have cost a lot more to build than this [Architopia] home - and it would not have been nearly as good” Paul tells us. “There is a skill in making an efficient use of space. We had some sketches and ideas on paper, but it felt a bit uhhh and not perfect”, Monica adds.
Finally, after being told about Architopia by a close friend, Paul and Monica settled on the L Shape House and purchased the Premium package. “It was perfect”, Monica explains. “Architopia turned out to be the perfect blend of affordable but also architecturally designed”.
Image: The L Shape House features large north facing double glazed windows which captures plenty of natural light.
We ask them what they like about the design of the L Shape House. “The house doesn’t have a large footprint but the clever design makes it feel bigger. Things like higher ceilings, the L shape, wider hallways, large double glazed windows, and natural light, all make the spaces feel bigger, special, and unique”.
“We really liked being able to see the Architopia design [online] and see if it would fit on our block before we bought it” Monica explains. “After we bought the design, we took the plans to a draftsperson and made some changes to suit us better”. Paul and Monica added a study space, a workshop, changed some of the storage options, and modified the kitchen slightly. Paul jumps in, “The fact that we already had the plans [and computer files from Architopia] meant it was easy for the draftsperson to make the changes. It saved us a lot of money as well”.
Paul and Monica got referred to a good local builder and from that point forward they worked with him and his local draftsperson. “Once we had the design and plans from Architopia, we had no real need for an architect anymore” Monica explains. “If we had technical questions we went to our builder, and if we had any questions about the design itself, we could go back to Architopia for advice, but honestly we never needed to”.
It was Paul and Monica’s first time building a home, so we're keen to find out how they found the process. “It was pretty straightforward actually. Because we had all the plans [from Architopia], we could get a really accurate quote from the builder right from the start. In the end, the final cost to build the house was the same as the initial quote we received from the builder”.
Image: High ceilings and light filled living areas in the L Shape House.
Speaking of price... at Architopia we pride ourselves on designing homes that are cost efficient to build. So we ask them how the build cost compared to other standard Australian new homes. “The cost was very similar to a standard volume built three bedroom house” Paul says. Monica adds, “It’s probably a bit smaller on paper, but it’s a lot nicer, it’s a better finish, and it suits our lifestyle much better. We were surprised how affordable it was to build”.
It’s now been one year since Paul and Monica moved into their completed Architopia home and we're keen to hear how everything is going.
We know how important energy efficiency is to Paul, so we ask him how much they've saved on their energy bill so far. “Well, our total energy bill was about $500 for the whole year” Paul tells us enthusiastically. Monica quickly follows up, “at our previous house we were spending $500-$600 a quarter on our energy bill ($2,000-$2,400 a year) so we’re saving about $1,500 a year. It’s incredible.” We did the math on this - if Paul and Monica stay in their home for 25 years (a standard mortgage term), they will have saved $47,500 (and lots of carbon emissions). Not bad at all!
After living in the house for a year, we ask them if they enjoy their Architopia home. “It’s amazing” Paul tells us. “I love when it’s cold, rainy, and howling winds outside, and I can sit inside without the heater on and it’s toasty warm - because it’s got that passive heating from the design of the house”. Monica adds her thoughts, “And when we do turn the heater on, the house retains the heat because it’s well insulated. I also love the natural light coming into the living areas. It gets into the whole house and it honestly just makes me so happy!”
We finish up by asking Paul and Monica if they have any advice for other people who don't want a volume built house but can't afford an architect. “I’d just say that there are definitely options out there other than the Metricons and JG Kings. You don’t have to have one of those homes.” Paul says. “I’d definitely recommend Architopia as an alternative, 100%. I’m so happy with our home. It’s actually everything I ever wanted in a home.”
Monica closes out the discussion, “I never thought I would be able to afford to live in a house that’s this nice - and also this architecturally designed. It’s not something I thought we’d ever be able to afford.”
Image: Happy Architopia customers, Paul and Monica.
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