Granny Flat Design Interview

Granny Flat Design Interview

In this interview James Stroud and Bryan Canavan sit down over a coffee and chat about the considerations that go into creating a functional and beautiful Granny Flat design.

If you are considering a Granny Flat style extension or inclusion in a new build, this is essential listening before you go any further.


James Stroud: It’s James Stroud here from Stroud Homes and I’m enjoying a chat with Bryan this morning, who’s our lead sales consultant here at Stroud Homes and he’s been telling me that we’ve been getting a lot of demand for granny flats. It’s really interesting to see the trends that are emerging in the new home building arena and the reasons behind those; it’s quite interesting to see that there’s very, very solid reasons behind the recent phenomenon of building a granny flat or a dual occupancy home or even a duplex. Later on, we might actually talk a little bit about how these buildings are distinguished from one another and how you might identify which strategy is the best for you and your family.

So, what can you tell us about granny flats, Bryan?

Bryan Canavan: Well James, as you said, the level of interest and uptake is up quite strongly and we’ve notice this over anything from the last 6 – 12 months. Even just this morning, I had a young couple in, just had a new baby and the grand parents wanted to sort of move in together, so rather than having to bunk in to one home, it allows both parties to have basically their own home but all under one roof.

James Stroud: Okay, so this young couple, what would be some of the advantages in their particular case of building a home like that?

Bryan Canavan: There are several and perhaps it would vary from person to person but certainly with this one, it gave security to both parties, security when they’re both there, that the young couple know where the grandpa is. He’s getting a little bit elderly but the fact that if anything does happen from a medical point of view, they’re only literally seconds away. Also a security that generally mom and dad are away from home during the day and grandpa is going to be home most of the time. So there’s almost like a built in security guard so to speak.

There’s that nice little convenience side of things, which relates to babysitting, so you’ve got almost like a built-in babysitter, giving mom and dad a little bit of a break from time to time. I would think that certainly it’s part and parcel but cost is another thing. I mean to build say a 1 or 2 bedroom home as opposed to a separate door, as opposed to being under the same roof, it’s a huge cost saving, so it just makes it so much more affordable.

James Stroud: Yeah, it makes good sense all around, doesn’t it? It’s just an easy way to basically solve a lot of problems for families in terms of their housing needs.

Bryan Canavan: Absolutely. If you look at the more medium to longer term, maybe grandma and grandpa is not going to be there forever, the reality is around about that time your children are starting to get to the stage where they want their privacy and rather than having them to move out, there’s an opportunity there for them to move into that part of the home. We’re seeing, with the market having so much demand, you just know it’s going to help with your resale as well because they are proving to be extremely popular.

James Stroud: Yeah well Bryan, you know one thing that I see from my point of view as a builder, I know a lot of trades obviously and I’ve seen a few cases where a plumber will have an apprentice, and he may actually, as part of the employment package, offer to have them in the granny flat. That way he can quite easily make sure that the young fellow is ready for work every morning because he just lives next door.

Bryan Canavan: Yeah, it just all makes sense, doesn’t it? The one probably common thread that I’ve noticed with just about everybody is, well they all broadly want a granny flat but virtually no 2 are the same. It allows them to actually customize a home. Had a lady or a couple in fact, but the lady wanted a sewing room, so they only wanted one room as far as the bedroom goes, so we built her a little sewing room that’s specific to their needs. Obviously that’s one of the reasons why you would build your own house anyway. You get to choose and fashion it to your needs but certainly with the granny flat, that’s very much the case.

James Stroud: That’s probably a good point you raised too, Bryan. Because these homes do end up being a bit larger, we’ve gained a fair bit of experience in the last little while making these homes fit the land, and one thing that I’ve noticed about the designs that is coming out of your team there, Bryan, in the last little while is that the homes don’t look like they have a granny flat attached to them anymore. We’re starting to do these single garages where one of the garages is for the granny flat occupants and one of the garages is for the main house. We’re finding that the designs are evolving to the point where they look very nice on the block and there’s no discernible way that you can pick that there’s a granny flat attached.

We probably should talk a little bit about the options involved with doing a granny flat. What do you think, why would some people choose a granny flat that is detached from the house out in the backyard and why would other people want one that is attached to the home. What would be some of the factors that they would be considering?

Bryan Canavan: It’s interesting and I suppose it is a little bit of a personal choice. When people come to a point where they’ve decided that they’re both going to rebuild, I haven’t come across anybody who actually does want to do it that way. The ones that we’re doing are totally detached with the existing housing but I suppose it maybe just a matter of privacy. That does come back to the point, James, that we’re just talking before though with the customization in that you have the capacity to either have very much clear and defined walls in line as to where your house starts and the granny flat starts and so on, but also I find a lot of people are quite happy to have that but they’d like to use the common alfresco, and we can design them in such a manner that there’s a sliding door that leaves from the living area from the granny flat and the same from the house on to the same alfresco. Sure it’s a bigger alfresco than normal perhaps but cost effective, again it falls under that umbrella of being such great value to do it that way.

James Stroud: Yeah, and if it’s a close knit family, they probably spend their outdoor time together anyways, so they’ve got their own little home to go away to but when they come outside the Queensland, weather is suitable for outdoor dining, most of the time I think would be fair to say.

Bryan Canavan: Yeah

James Stroud: It’s a good trend. So we’ve got attached granny flats, we got detached granny flats, I think attached granny flats are always going to…in your experience with getting the home priced up with their estimate Bryan, the attached ones are much more cost effective than the detached ones.

Bryan Canavan: Absolutely, absolutely, yeah. Not just by a few thousand, literally by thousands and thousands of dollars. It’s much more cost effective. Also, if you think of, we talked about common areas before, you think about garages before, some of the ones we’ve done, the granny and the grandpa don’t need a garage. That’s fair enough but a lot do, so we can actually put either a car port or in most cases a separate garage and again it’s up to individual. We can have a wall between the single garage and the double garage from the home or we can just keep it open. Now you saw how cost effective that is to simply extend the roofline and the slab rather than go over to a separate site and build a separate garage with the granny flat.

James Stroud: Alright, well look Bryan; I think that we should invite people who are interested in granny flats to contact us. We’re continually designing new granny flats to meet specific needs but in the process, we are finding that some of the designs are, you might say ‘distinguishing’ themselves as very good designs that can be reused and then there’s other designs that we’re just developing for families that have approached us only recently. If you are thinking of doing a granny flat, it’s a good idea to call in and speak to Bryan and find out what the latest trends in granny flats are and how you can solve your needs with a granny flat.

Bryan Canavan: Absolutely, and you are quite right in that there’s one design in particular that we’re working with that we’ve already in the process, well we’ve built one and in the process of building the second. They’re virtually identical. Clearly that’s a design that works and it is one that has got the 3 garages, separate single garage, 2 entries for the front door so there’s no reason for each party to come and go to disturb the other party, but for whatever it is and that one seems to work and has been very well accepted. Even as a starting point, have a look at that one.

James Stroud: Bryan, while we’re talking granny flats, I think we should maybe just get into the technical detail a little bit of how a granny flat that’s attached to the home differs from a duplex. I think that would be an important distinction for our viewers to understand. Being the builder in this conversation, maybe I’ll delve in to that a little bit.

Bryan Canavan: Yeah.

James Stroud: Granny flats generally are…a home with a granny flat attached generally is for one family and once you go to something that’s more of a dual living or a duplex-type building, you will be putting a firewall in between. That’s probably the main difference. The firewall does bring a little bit of cost with it but the benefit that comes with the firewall is that it allows you to legally rent that smaller dwelling or either dwelling independently of the other. Once you put that firewall in there, it becomes a mini-rental property. You can help out with your mortgage payment, help fund your retirement, maximize your returns from your building by using that other side. What we are seeing a little bit is people’s children grow up and they’re 20, then they’re 25, then they’re 30 and they’re still at home and they might even get married and just find it very comfortable at home, at least with a party wall down the middle you may be able to charge them some rent.

Bryan Canavan: Yeah that makes perfect sense, sort of in a legal sense of what we’re talking about before, with the progression of where does the granny flat go and granny and grandpa have moved on. That’s obviously another possibility there.

James Stroud: And I think the other thing we should mention, Bryan, is that the council seemed to be getting more and more comfortable with this scenario. Maybe if you wanted to clock back 24 months, there is a few ripples in getting these approved for building, but are you finding now that they’re going through a lot smoother?

Bryan Canavan: Absolutely. We haven’t had any pushback from the council. It’s probably cost-effective housing when you think about it. Most councils have seen that dilemma, where they’re trying to provide high-density housing from ever increasing population. I guess this falls into that category.

James Stroud: Yeah, it’s a step in the right direction I think. I don’t know, I think we’ve pretty well covered all the benefits of granny flats.

Bryan Canavan: Yeah I think so, and I’ll just say whether it is the granny flat or a dual living or a duplex, they tend to have common advantages.

James Stroud: Yeah and I guess we should point out that people can go to our website and they can review the garage options and the granny flats options and basically already mentally have a bit of an assembly you might call it put together. We’ve got pre-designed garage, extension options and obviously some very, very popular homes that have a very well thought of floor plan as it is. We’re finding that people can quickly and easily pop in and see us and we can put together a design that fits their block, fits their family, fits their budget and delivers them some of the benefits that a granny flat or a dual living or a duplex provide.

Bryan Canavan: Absolutely James. As you’re aware, with those last couple of weeks, we’ve had professional photography done so we’d be more than happy to send out some internal shots, which does help a lot of people who look at plans and doesn’t mean a lot; if they see the internal photos with furniture in there. We’ve got those in file as well.

James Stroud: Very good, Bryan. Thank you for sitting down with me and talking about granny flats and dual living today. I hope that we can find solutions for many more families in the future.

Bryan Canavan: Yep, no problem. Thanks so much, James.