Whether you have an elderly relative or a teenager who is ready to live more independently, the solution might be in your backyard. A granny flat is a separate dwelling set on the same block as the main home. It’s ideal for giving a family member their own space while still keeping them close.
With the help of licensed builders, Martin built this six-by-five-metre studio for his mother-in-law, who is also a grandmother. Marrying form with function, this snug and engaging home is comfortable, decorated in neutral tones.
One of the features that can elevate a granny flat from average to amazing is a north-facing position, as in the case of this unit. Glazed double-doors and sidelights let in plenty of sunshine, bathing the flat in light and warmth.
A three-quarter-height wall provides privacy between the main living area and the bedroom, with the top window letting in abundant natural light. “A gap at the top also allows the reverse-cycle air conditioner to effectively heat the entire unit,” says Martin. Double-glazed windows are an extra defence against cold weather.
Any number of small design considerations are what make the space a success. A full kitchen and laundry were not required here, but good storage was a priority. In the kitchen, flatpack shelving and cabinetry keeps the essentials organised and tidy. Pale walls, neutral flooring and decor help to enhance the home’s sense of openness, and furniture and decorations have been chosen to cater to the compact proportions, rather than add clutter. A sliding door between the living area and the bedroom doesn’t require the same opening space as a hinged door. And wall-mounted tapware in the bathroom saves room on the vanity top, while a wall light beside the bed avoids cluttering the small bedside table.
Other choices are personal touches, such as fitted carpet underfoot and lever-operated mixer taps. These are easier to use than twist models.
If your granny flat is housing an elderly relative, ensure it has the hardware they need to make life easier, such as lever mixer taps and door handles. Safety is an important consideration. Where possible, choose slip-resistant flooring such as carpet inside, and use grippy safety tape in outdoor areas such as patios. A flat site is ideal but, if there are any steps, make them safe by fixing non-slip tape to the surfaces and including a handrail.
An extra, liveable building in your backyard can be a great addition to your property, whether you want it for a family member or as an investment. However, council building requirements for a granny flat vary significantly. In many jurisdictions, the maximum allowable floor space is 60sqm, but some councils may permit larger secondary dwellings up to 80sqm. Block size is also a factor; 450sqm may be the minimum required to accommodate a secondary dwelling.
“Check with your local council before starting your approval process, because sometimes council rules override district law,” explains Chris Clarens of Blue Gum Granny Flats. “Normally, you can obtain approval quite quickly for a granny flat, but if you are in an area prone to flooding or at risk of bushfire, there may be additional requirements you have to meet.”
There may also be restrictions on how the dwelling is used. In some states, for example, the flat must be inhabited by an immediate family member and share services (such as power, water, sewer and driveway) with the main home. The layout will depend on planned usage, but it may also have to take into consideration regulations imposed by councils - the number of bedrooms, for example .
Functional inclusions might be more than a matter of personal choice. A simple laundry integrated into the bathroom or kitchen makes a studio space more self-sufficient. However, if you plan to lease out your granny flat (local laws permitting), it will need a full kitchen, including a stove. Separate access can make life easier regardless of who is using the space, but it’s imperative if you’re renting it out. Water, gas and electricity for your tenants must be separately connected, as well.
Check out our guide on easy ways to create a multi-use garage.
Photo Credit: Lean Timms