Article: Speak Easy

Looking Back On  Kiwi Homes From  The Year 2118 with Michael BoturLooking Back On Kiwi Homes From The Year 2118 with Michael Botur

It’s hard to predict how people will live in 2118. Climate change may lead to a slight population decline, with less land, although at the same time, there are going to be bucketloads of people (the UN estimates there will be 11.2 billion earthlings in 2100).

Populations will move; you would imagine NZ will face pressure and we’ll see higher-density housing everywhere. Presumably the people of 2118 will look back on houses built in 2018 the same way we look back on villas built in 1918. There remain 85,000 villas, many of which remain cold and draughty, with single pane windows, poor sunlight and crappy bathrooms and kitchens (see the crappy bathroom and kitchen in my 1925 house as an example). 

Now, I’m not an architect, so it’s a good thing I have one in my Business Networking International (BNI) Group – Chris Howell, from main4 architects – who can give perspective on how future Whangareians might look back on our 2018 standards.

A common house model at the moment – single storey homes with brick or tile exterior and a hipped roof – is pretty reliable and should have some longevity, Chris reckons. The villa of the 1880s-1918 era lasted; 100 years later, plenty of us live in renovated villas. However, a style which doesn’t date so well is that of the 1990s. “We had postmodernism – houses plastered, no eaves with parapets, the Mediterranean style home. There was nothing wrong with the house but it didn’t suit our climate. Every generation has a style of house, it’s fashionable whether it’s in or out. The older the house, your villas are less likely to go in or out of fashion. Villas are non-offensive, whereas the 1960s and 70s styles went out of fashion.”

The features within the house sometimes come to an end, too.

“The garage always used to be separate then got closer and closer. Now we’re moving onto garage carpet which is not uncommon.”

Chimneys – which are part of most villas and have a consequent effect on the layout of the kitchen and lounge – are hardly ever included with new builds. “As soon as the gas fire came along there was no real need for a chimney. And as soon as the council started restricting wood-burning fires there was a slow-down. A chimney is a luxury now, something nice to have. The heat pump is more standard [with new builds].”

The three key areas where people have the option to spend money to give the house a lot of personality are the kitchen, en suite and deck/patio/courtyard for outdoor dining in our increasingly-warm atmosphere. These are the parts which could really distinguish a house 100 years from now.

The kitchen is often prioritised for attention because it’s the part of the house people outside your family are likely to encounter, Chris notes. While the kitchen may have been separate from the lounge in the past, flow between kitchen and lounge is now a typical expectation.

“Kitchens are moving beyond being just practical. They’re now an aesthetic feature, something to show to friends and fit to be seen by guests.”

An ensuite bathroom off the master bedroom, too, is one of the defining features which, 100 years from now, could signal that a house was built in the Year Of Our Lord 2018. “The ensuite is now being made more visible to the bedroom, they’re not locked-away little rooms any more. They’re more generously sized. Also the covered outside area [to allow] al fresco dining.” Al fresco dining is something even the quarter-of-a-quarter acre sections on the outskirts of Auckland allow. “Ranchsliders going to the courtyard, certainly they’re an added extra. You are seeing more and more, just like the kitchen is becoming expensive.”

Here’s hoping we will be allowed single storey freestanding dwellings 100 years from now, if there is room, although I’ve got a column coming up in which I explore, how cities are infilling. Denser dwellings are coming. 

Michael Botur has published journalism in NZ Herald, Herald on Sunday, Sunday Star-Times and Mana and he writes a lot of fiction. He moved to Whangarei in 2015 and was ecstatic to be able to afford a house here.

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