South Africans, says Bill Rawson, Chairman of the Rawson Property Group, are as susceptible to trends and styles in home design and décor as any other people in the world, even when they do not realize what is influencing their choices.
This being the case, said Rawson, any home owner wanting to add value to his property, particularly if he is about to sell it, should consult with an experienced estate agent on what features buyers today regard as popular and if possible ensure that these are incorporated in his home.
On the question of colour schemes, Rawson said that although white, off-white and soothing neutral toned plastered walls are still the first choice of most home owners, face brick is again proving popular because it offers big reductions in maintenance, particularly in the coastal areas. And in the lower and lower middle price brackets, he said, face brick is an obvious choice.
Pastel shades, said Rawson, are now very much in favour and it is common these days to find that pale greens, blues, pinks and yellows are increasingly used. In certain modern houses, particularly those on the Atlantic Seaboard in Cape Town, there is a growing tendency to be really bold on one or two interior walls, giving them striking red, black or other strong colours.
Ceilings, said Rawson, have come a long way in the last two decades and no middle class home these days can afford to have hardboard ceilings with peg joints. These, although perfectly efficient, are seen as suitable only for affordable housing. There is, however, a growing tendency for ceilings to be removed altogether and for the trusses to be sanded and painted, thereby making an attractive ceiling. This move, he said, usually involves adding insulation to the interior roof. Wood strip ceilings are also acceptable today in workrooms, gymnasia and family rumpus rooms but are generally regarded now as unsuitable for living rooms and bedrooms.
Lighting, too, said Rawson, has entered into a new era, one in which hanging lights and chandeliers are increasingly seen as old fashioned. Recessed down lighting is now what most people prefer and it is almost essential today for such lights to have strength level adjustments on the switches. With power costs rising so fast, LED lights are definitely the smarter choice.
Natural materials, especially wood, stone and thatch, are now highly prized and there is a growing tendency to clad both interior and exterior walls with the beautiful white, light brown and honey coloured stone that we in South Africa have available to us. Nambian stone, said Rawson, is now being exported all around the world.
The trend towards natural materials, added Rawson, is especially noticeable in flooring; solid natural wood floors are today one of the first installations undertaken on most upgrades and there can be no doubt that they do add greatly to the value of any home – in most cases instantly adding more than double the installation cost. Laminated wood floors, said Rawson, have often been seen by many as a cheap alternative, but the plain truth is that they are today so well made that it is often difficult to tell the difference between them and genuine wooden floorboards.
The quality of tiles, too, said Rawson, has also improved out of all recognition, but judging by the plans he sees, they are now not quite as acceptable as they used be in the living and communal areas. They are generally kept now for bathrooms and kitchens only. Surprisingly, added Rawson, following the trend in Europe where wallpapers are almost de rigeur, wallpapering is coming back into fashion here, especially in the more upmarket homes. Certain wallpapers are extremely smart but also very expensive.
Full length glazing, especially when it forms part of a sliding aluminium framed door, is definitely another of the main improvements that home upgraders tackle. Aluminium windows and door frames are probably the most popular new feature that aspiring home upgraders can introduce and the big advantage is that not only are they aesthetically pleasing but unlike wood they are maintenance free and do not jam as a result of warping or expansion due to moisture.
The use of aluminium sliding doors, said Rawson, ties in with another highly desired improvement/transformation and this is quite possibly the most important: the ability to make a home suitable for indoor/outdoor living and entertaining. Fully glazed sliding doors linking with outdoor patios, which in turn link with the garden, are regarded by many as an essential on most homes today.
Similarly, said Rawson, open-plan interiors now almost always add value to a home. These days an open link from the living or dining areas to the kitchen is regarded as a bonus as it enables the family to talk to each other while food is being prepared. However, as a corollary to this, it is essential that the finishes and fittings in the kitchen be upmarket and attractive: granite, marble or expensive wood countertops, aluminium extraction fans and timber covered façades are big draw cards and add value. It has to be remembered, he said, that for many people the kitchen is the most important room in the house.
The main factors which will immediately detract from the value of the home, said Rawson, should also be admitted and all the evidence shows these are damp spots on the walls and cracks.
“It will,” he said, “often be said by sellers or estate agents that cracks can be easily remedied and are not serious, but shrewd buyers, quite rightly, distrust such statements and if there is evidence of cracks having been plastered and painted over they will be particularly suspicious. This is perfectly natural because there have been some very unfortunate cases where even homes approved by bank valuers have developed serious cracks in the first one or two years after transfer.”