House of the Week | Backyard investment

by Oliver Gaywood

Granny flats are a versatile addition to any property, giving an easy way to welcome home an elderly relative, to give a growing teen some extra privacy or to have somewhere for guests to stay.

For one property developer in Charlestown, it was simply a case of increasing the rental value of an investment property.

The builders say a development like this costs around $125,000, but may get as much as $350 a week on the rental market.

Despite early landscaping difficulties and the struggle of a triangular plot of land – which made it difficult to build the granny flat within planning rules while still giving tenants a sense of security, privacy and of having their own space – the owner is delighted with the outcome.

Teaming up with local firm Backyard Grannys, this development has the added bonus of being completely moveable. Built on bearers and joists, the whole installation can be lifted and relocated should the main property ever be sold.

In the meantime, tenants in the granny flat have access to a modern dwelling that eschews traditional visions of what a granny flat is. The development has two bedrooms, a bathroom/laundry and an open plan kitchen, lounge and dining area.

A small verandah at the front of the development allows tenants to enjoy outdoor dining as they look out over their private section of the fenced-in garden.

The decking is made from merbau timber, while the inside has bamboo floorboards which are both eco-friendly and easy to maintain.

Perhaps the highlight of the development is the kitchen, which leads to the dining area.

White Caesarstone benchtops give ample room to prepare meals and can be used as a breakfast bar, while large windows provide plenty of natural light.

One of these windows runs along the wall behind the hobs in place of a traditional splashback. Not only does this perform the same duty, but it lets in extra light and gives a view to the outside world while cooking.

Alex Mitchell, managing director at Backyard Grannys, is particularly proud of this feature. He said, “The window is frameless and the stone runs right to the edge like an infinity edge pool.”

The installation of the window wasn't a straight-forward process, however. “The splashback window is a special feature that required a lot of communication in the design stages between kitchen designers, architects and the window manufacturer. The window was custom ordered to suit the dimensions required as due to the long lead time we could not wait until we were onsite before confirming the order with the limited timeframe for the build.”

“Once we were onsite there was a lot of hands-on skill required to ensure that each step of the process complied with the tolerances required. This was completed by our own carpenters and supervisors but also relied heavily on the skill of subcontractors such as the stone masons from Edstein and our kitchen supplier SRD Kitchens.”

The kitchen looks out to a small dining area, with a glass-top table and four chairs in the corner of the building. This dining spot has glass sliding doors to one side and a window on another, again creating a light, airy feel.

Beside the dining area is the lounge, with a teal fabric sofa and a small side table facing the entertainment unit.

Two bedrooms, each with built-in wardrobes, complete the granny flat. In all, the flat has a floorspace of 60 square metres.

The outside of the granny flat matches the high quality interior. Vertical cladding is mixed with Colorbond infill panels in the gable ends and the skillion roofline is particularly striking.

Tenants of the granny flat also have direct access to the road, rather than having to walk past the master home, increasing the feeling of privacy. The surrounding garden space also opens up the granny flat to families who want the luxury of green space for their children or pets.

Alex Mitchell explained, “The client's brief was to create a secondary dwelling on their property for the purpose of increasing the rental income. They wanted the secondary dwelling to be visually striking and look like another dwelling with its own street frontage rather than being in the backyard of the main dwelling like a typical granny flat.”

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