How to upscale and improve your existing home

There is no doubt that we Australians love to renovate.  Rather than move, we prefer to upscale and improve our existing homes.  Growing up in England, for me the focus was more on decorating your home.  With so many older style houses and smaller blocks, the emphasis was just on improving the interior, but I soon saw once I emigrated here that Aussies were more into large scale, full-on renovation projects.  With an estimated $2.2bn spent on alterations and additions in the first quarter of this year, there is no doubt that the popularity of upscaling and improving existing homes has not abated.

As I write this feature, many of us are in self-isolation and the world has slowed its pace considerably.  However, I am hopeful that the upscaling trend will continue when we are back to some kind of normality.  Being confined to the home, particularly with many of us now working and learning in the same environment, there is no doubt that thoughts will be moving to how to extend for more space!

How to upscale and improve your existing home

Image: Atlas Architects

How to upscale & improve your existing home with James Hardie

Joe Snell, architect and James Hardie ambassador, provides tips on how to question your home addition plans to ensure that they are right for the way you live.  It is tempting just to think that you should extend or add a bedroom for re-sale purposes, but it may not suit the way that you and your family use the space.  “While increasing square feet is an obvious benefit of any home addition, it should also be an opportunity to consider your block and how you live, to define the new space and redefine the entire home”, says Joe.

How to renovate with James Hardie

Assess your current and future requirements

Do you want to upscale and improve your existing home?  If so, go through a typical day in your mind and consider how you and your family use your current space.  You will clearly have a budget in mind so think wisely about how this should be spent to ensure that the home you end up with is right for you.  Joe adds, “If you're a great entertainer or enjoy family meals, you might consider an extension to create a dining alfresco space that can be used all year round”.

How to upscale and improve your existing home

Conversely, if ensuring the whole family enjoys a silent night, you may choose to build a well insulated second floor addition.  You may also be able to combine these two goals by creating a cantilevered second floor over a ground floor deck”.

How to add an addition to your home

Know your home

“The basics of home design rely on five key concepts (light, sound, space, view and air)” says Joe. “Creating an addition offers the opportunity to harness these concepts to improve the experience of living in the home”.

How to upscale your home

If you are considering ways to upscale and improve your existing home, it's so important when you meet with your architect to convey what you want to achieve from the renovation.  If your architect has a clear indication of your needs, they can design a home that will be perfect for you.

Upscale and improve with a new addition

Joe has this sage advice. “A tried and tested way to do this is to create a Modern addition, as the style lends itself to large expanses of glazing, improving daylight into the home, as well as framing the views you want to capture.  In addition to naturally improving light levels, these windows can be used to encourage cross ventilation, raising air quality.  An extension toward the back of the home will generally create a quieter space away from the street and if placed on the ground floor can open up long lines of sight, giving a feeling of additional space.

How to upscale and improve your existing home

These images demonstrate Joe's advice perfectly.  The image above is a contemporary addition created with James Hardie's lightweight fibre cement cladding, which opens up the rear of the house and the sightlines leading from the traditional part of the house, below.

How to upscale and improve your existing home

I grew up in a Grade II listed house in London, and when we added an extension the Heritage Council advised that it had to be a contemporary addition.  This was so that you could clearly see which part of the house was original and of heritage value and which part was new.

As Joe Snell continues “a good addition doesn't have to meld seamlessly into an existing building, in fact there is a trend toward making a Modern statement that departs from traditional facades.  The trick here is making the two work together and not against each other”.

“While an addition creates an opportunity for a contemporary transformation, it has to work with the existing building by creating common ground while observing the basic tenants of the chosen Modern look.  From Mid-Century to Minimalist, these will generally include a bold, simple profile, large format glazing, a well-considered choice of cladding and colours, and a lack of ornamentation.  James Hardie's range of cladding can be mixed and matched to a specific look or to create a personal style.  Most come primed and ready to paint to any desired hue and resist flaking, warping or swelling, meaning they require less maintenance to keep the look”, concludes Joe.

Upscale and improve your home

Builder: Rural Building Company, Margaret River

Make more room

Joe's final tip concerns space saving ideas.  “Compared to brick, products like Matrix panels, Axon Cladding, Linea Weatherboard and Stria Cladding all provide subtle benefits to floor space.  Using these products can add up to 100-130mm additional depth at each external wall, as they have a thinner profile than brick.  Double brick and brick-veneer walls are generally 230-270mm thick while these cladding products are 130mm”.

Upscale and improve with James Hardie

A wide range of cladding to upscale and improve your existing home

I often work with clients who are looking to upscale and improve their existing homes using James Hardie's lightweight Premium Fibre Cement cladding.  The benefits are that it is naturally lighter which means it is generally less expensive to create cantilevered upper levels.

How to upscale and improve your existing home

Linea weatherboard is a very versatile look which suits a traditional country style and is perfect for a coastal style home.

How to upscale your existing home

Axon cladding is a contemporary look which I love painted in dark tones.

How to upscale and improve your existing home

Stria cladding gives you a seamless modern look and works well with vertical Axon cladding.

All images from James Hardie

How to upscale and improve your existing home

Whether you're making room for a growing family or to get more out of your home, it's important to think about adding more life to your home, not just more space.  Find out how to get a modern look and added functionality for your home at

If you are planning to upscale and improve your existing home, I have heaps of free e-books and checklists in my Free Resource Library.  You can sign up for free here.  I also have an online colour consultation service, so if you are struggling to find the right colour scheme, I can assist.

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