Before you buy, or build, a duplex, it’s smart to consider what features you will need and what other buyers or renters will want.

As the popularity of duplexes has risen, the design choices have also increased.

Duplexes aren’t what they used to be, says Robert Gullo, Operations Manager of duplex specialists Rawson Homes

“Today they feel like standalone homes with bright and open living spaces, and options including contemporary bathrooms and master suites, walk-in robes, and private studies,” he says. 

While you could hire an architect to help you realise the duplex of your dreams, the good news is that most of this is available in off-the-shelf designs, and you can shop around online or in person.

Here are eight, here-to-stay features that you can incorporate into your building or renovation project.  

Tip 1 - Use neutral tones

Notice we didn’t say white. While all variations of this shade have been popular with builders and renovators, interior designers are shifting away from minimalistic white interiors.

Maybe because we’re spending more time at home, we want more colour in our lives.

The safest way to add it, however, is still with accessories – brightly-coloured cushions, art, vases, ceramics and other home design touches. If you’re a follow of interior design fashions, yellow, blush and navy are all on-trend in 2021.

When it comes to paint, however, go with neutrals and warmer, earthy hues, from rich creams to light terracotta, to open up a space, especially in a duplex. Lighter colours can make a space look bigger.

Wallpaper is still having a moment and, again, a classic, yet glamorous neutral pattern and hue will help your property retain value.

Tip 2 - install open plan kitchens

Kitchens, not living rooms, are the heart of any home. For that reason, an open plan kitchen that allows friends and family to interact is still in demand.

It should include a kitchen island with seating at which it is possible to have a light meal, or a drink. This two-for-one area is even more essential in a duplex where space may be at a premium.

Choosing glass tiles, subway tiles, or solid stone for your splashback is on-trend now and is likely to wear well, while marble or stone benches, or laminate imitations depending on your budget, remain a great choice.

Ideally, the kitchen should be close enough to the outdoor entertaining area that you could easily access drinks,or carry prepared food to an outdoor dining table, not just the indoor one.

Tip 3 - Create al fresco entertaining areas

Creating a functional and inviting entertaining area, even in a small garden, is key.

When designing this space, think of your outdoor area as an extension of your living space and style it accordingly.

Consider a small cooking area, or a built-in barbie, and don’t forget about shade, through plantings, a shade sail, or a built roof extension, as well as ambient lighting.

Tip 4 - Build study or office zones

With more people working from home, or carrying out a side hustle to earn extra cash, a home office or study area is essential.

In a small space, such as a duplex, it may be compact enough to fit in a nook, or a closet; or it may be part of an area such as the living room. A sliding door, or built-in screen, may be all you need to separate the two uses.

Tip 5 - A master bedroom ensuite

This one is all about convenience and luxury. Even in a duplex, it feels indulgent to be able to access a bathroom straight from the master bedroom.

Of course, if the duplex has two bedrooms or more, the bathroom should be easily accessible to all, or there should be another bathroom or, at least, a toilet.

Tip 6 - Green credentials

Solar panels, improved glazing and even eco-friendly building materials will continue to grow in popularity as home design features as buyers and renters seek ways not only to reduce costs but to do their bit for the planet.

Healthy green features, such as an under-sink water filter, are also sought after.

Making sure your home or duplex capitalises on natural heating and cooling opportunities, through cross flow ventilation, good insulation, and the right positioning on site, will add green appeal.

Tip 7 - Lots of storage

Even if you decluttered when you downsized, you can never have too much storage.

This is especially important in small homes such as duplexes.

Extra roomy garages are also popular with rents and buyers who want to use some of the space for a side hustle.

Tip 8 - Ensure you can age-in-place

Accessible design means that ageing in place is much more likely to eventuate, thanks to the application of proven and well thought through universal design principles.

Comment from our CEO

Downsizing.com.au CEO Amanda Graham said: “One the great benefits of building a new duplex is that it can be designed with the latest accessible design features to allow them to be safely occupied by people who may develop mobility issues as they age, or family members with a disability. 

“Design features can include trip-free showers and balcony rails, slip-resistant flooring, grab rails in bathrooms and wide corridors and doors which can accommodate wheelchairs if needed.”

Find out more: 

Read more in our series

Downsizing.com.au has prepared a series of stories about duplexes, to help guide downsizers who are considering embarking on a duplex build. Click on the links below to find out about:

Helen Hawkes is a business and lifestyle journalist who has written for clients including CPA Australia, Westpac, Colonial First State, The Australian Financial Review, QSuper and the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees. She is also the owner of interior styling and homewares business The Little Green Room. Helen has bought and sold five houses and is currently planning a comfortable retirement.