7 Design Tips for the Perfect Granny Flat

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How to build a granny flat for your parents

Granny flats are an increasingly attractive option for retirement living. They allow people to live closer to their families and stay independent for longer. But like any home, a granny flat has to look and feel right!

A granny flat can go very wrong without certain design elements. With the right know-how you can build a beautiful granny flat that’s great to live in and complements your existing property.

Capital Gains Tax Exemption for Granny Flats

Good news: In July 2021 the government introduced a capital gains tax exemption for granny flats.

That means if you’re building a granny flat to support a disabled or ageing family member, you’ll be exempt from a capital gains penalty when the property is sold.

And with around 3.9 million pensioners in Australia, we could be seeing many more granny flats built.

Make Your Granny Flat Amazing

Granny flat designer Melanie Miller was inspired to start an architecture degree after her grandmother went into aged care. She wanted to perfect granny flat design so ageing relatives could live closer to their families in style and comfort.

“Downsizing does not have to mean downgrading.”

“Downsizing does NOT have to mean downgrading,” says Mel. Now she designs beautiful granny flats all day at her business, Funky Little Shack.

Here are her seven expert tips to build the perfect granny flat.

“The Treehouse” granny flat by Funky Little Shack.

Seven Tips to Build the Perfect Granny Flat

Maximise space: A granny flat doesn’t have to feel small inside. It’s all about using the space well. Think big rooms and minimal corridors, high ceilings, clever storage spaces, and good use of glass to bring the outside work in.

Decks make all the difference: Guess what? Council limits on granny flat size don’t apply to outdoor areas. A deck is a great home extension. You can build the widest deck you want, connecting your granny flat with the outdoors.

Capture the best views: When you design your granny flat you get to choose where each room faces. Where does the sun fall? Do you want to see the main house or the garden from the bedroom? Capitalise on this so your favourite rooms have the best aspects on your property.

Having a granny flat on your property means grandparents can live closer to family. (Photo: Sergiu Vălenaș on Unsplash)

Maintain privacy and independence: Privacy is a common concern among Mel’s clients. How do you maintain privacy when your parents are in your backyard (and vice versa)? After all, you do live your own lives!

Again, design principles come into play. Be strategic about where you position your granny flat, its rooms, windows & shades, and what materials you use. Landscaping can play a part too.

Complement the architecture of your existing home: “If you really want to add value to your home, choose an architectural style and colour scheme that complements the look and feel of your existing home”, says Mel.

Do this by making a mini version of your main home, matching the architectural style & colour. Alternatively, make your granny flat contrast with your main home. This is a great idea if you want to modernise a property with an older-style house.

Check with your local council first! Some councils require your granny flat to match your main home in some ways, especially if it will be visible from the street.

Cut bills with sustainable design: Some key sustainable design principles can keep your granny flat naturally insulated year-round.

1) Orientate your granny flat toward the north for shade in summer and sunlight in winter.
2) Use high ceilings to keep rooms cool. Filter out hot air through high vents or whirly birds.
3) Place sliding doors and windows in strategic spots for natural cross breezes and natural light.
4) Insulation in external walls and ceiling protects your interior from the heat and cold.

Accessible design: Accessible design elements make your granny flat safe for ageing loved ones. Think wide doorways, entrance ramps, large walk-in showers, and reinforced bathroom walls for handrails.

A granny flat done well could be truly rewarding in the years to come. It takes planning to combine the right design elements into your ideal granny flat, so make sure you get expert help where needed.

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