Home Design

Developing your home design


The design process is a consuming task. The nine steps below will teach you the basics of the process that is followed by design professionals in the building industry. Follow this process and you will have a better chance of designing a home that functions well and works aesthetically.


Tools you will need

  1. Sketch paper: you can purchase purpose made sketch paper from an art supply shop, but grease proof baking paper works just as well and can be purchased from your local supermarket for around $1.50 a roll.
  2. A3 Drafting board: these boards are portable and come with a ruler that attaches horizontally to the board. It can be purchased from an art or drafting supply shop for about $90.00.
  3. Adjustable set square: this item is an adjustable clear plastic triangle that is essential in producing straight, angled, and vertical lines. This can also be purchased at an art supply outlet or drafting supply shop.
  4. Pencil: you can purchase a specialised drafting pencil (clutch pencil) but a standard lead (graphite) pencil will do fine. If you do purchase a clutch pencil buy one with a very thin lead otherwise you will then need to buy a clutch pencil sharpener which is different from a regular pencil sharpener.
  5. Eraser: white Stanley erasers are the easiest to use and you can purchase these from the supermarket.
  6. Ruler: you can use a regular rule for drafting in 1:100 scale but if you want to draw the building at a smaller or larger scale you will need a scale rule from a drafting shop. These typically cost $10.00.


Nine basic steps of home design

The nine home design steps shown above summarise the design process that is taught to architecture students. If it seems a little "full-on" don't be discouraged, it just takes practice.

At the very least we hope we have provided you with enough knowledge of the home design process that your enhanced ability to communicate with a professional building designer or architect will speed up the entire process of constructing your new home.


Seven deadly sins of home design

It has to be bright, open plan and roomy!

There are seven common mistakes that people make when designing their home and here are some ways to help you avoid them.

The 1st deadly sin: Not orientating living spaces to the North.

This is the biggest mistake most people make when designing their home. There is nothing worst than living in a home that is cold in the winter and hot in the summer

Ideally if you can have all rooms facing north you will be able to have perfect sun for every room in the house but if you are restricted by a suburban block the following rules generally apply.

(1) Locate all living areas to the north of the floor plan.

(2) It is preferable to locate the kitchen to the north or north/east.... so you can enjoy that beautiful morning sun while sipping your cup of tea…

(3) The main bedroom is preferable on the north/east.

(4) All bedrooms should be protected from western afternoon sun as much as possible – buffer these areas with the laundry, store rooms, the garage or a heavily insulated wall.

(5) Window overhangs/shading – 900mm is the optimal shading depth over windows to the north on home sites with excellent sun penetration – if your site is shaded by trees or neighbouring house you will need to vary this accordingly.

(6) Minimise window and door opening sizes on any west facing walls.

(7) Insulate all external walls

The 2nd deadly sin: Not enough research

Many people don’t research enough before they purchase their property. Site constraints will greatly affect the design program of a home and it is important to purchase well to avoid headaches with the plan program and budget blowouts.

Remember these few points before buying your property

(1) Site slope – the flatter the site the more economical it will be to build.

(2) Call your local council and ask as many questions as you can – always ask, “Is there anything else I should know or is there anyone else I should speak with”? If you don’t ask quite often you won’t get all the information you need for a well informed decision.

(3) Uncommon land zoning (other than standard residential) may require that Flora and Fauna studies maybe carried out. This report is an extra cost and may restrict the building envelopes and the proposed dwellings’ sitting.

(4) Avoid geotechnical nightmares by thinking twice about purchasing sites that; are steep or rocky, have clay substrates, noticeable fill or are surrounded by lots of vegetation.

(5) Bushfire prone land – if your site is considered prone to bushfire attack (by the Rural Fire Service) your budget could also suffer another blow during the council approval stage. Bushfire reports and sprinkler systems maybe required before your development can become a reality

For more information about the site analysis read:

The 3rd deadly sin: Too open plan

Open plan is not the 'be all and end all' and can often cause privacy and acoustical problems difficult to reverse.

The modern trend for living spaces is to actually design houses so that there is a good compromise between the large open space and the intimate cosy spaces. Large open internal spaces, combined with flat walls and hard floors increase the internal reverberation of all noises created inside and outside the home.

The reverberation of noise can be reduced by:

(1) Design the open plan area with a few more walls than you had planed on – see the ‘quiet - open plan’ example below.

(2) Install more absorbent flooring such as modern rubber, new age linoleum, cork or carpet
Apply soft furnishings to windows - curtains over blinds as they absorb more noise and the more folded the curtain the better absorption quality it will have.

(3) Use soft fabrics on lounges, extra cushions and large rugs – they all absorb small amounts of noise.

(4) Plan to have standard height ceilings - 2400 or 2700 - to reduce noise.

(5) Install noise reducing products – Both Boral and James Hardie manufacture insulation batts as well as panel applications to reduce noise entering spaces. Speak with your local paint supplier about acoustic applications.

The 4th deadly sin: Not designing your house for your family

It is very important to analyse the way you and your family live and ensure this is reflected in the design of the home.

For example if you have a partner and three small children the following would need to be expressed in the design program:

(1) Family/play room – to be located next to kitchen which has doors out onto a sunny and safe outdoor play area – the kitchen can view this outside space easily.

(2) Lounge area - close to kitchen but can be acoustically cut-off from noisy areas such as the kitchen and family room.

(3) En-suite in main bedroom – very private from main area of bedroom – not to open onto main area of bedroom.

The fifth deadly sin: Inappropriate external finishes

Once the final moments of construction are coming to completion it is easy to rush the final finishes. Take your time, a rushed or forced decision, can make or break the visual appeal of your home and possibly future resale.

Undertake some essential research to ensure you are able to make a well-informed choice about how your house will fit into the landscape

(1) Pick external building claddings that age well – note clay bricks will only date well if they are of good quality and used appropriately.

(2) Look through old magazines/books from second hand retailers to see what would still look good today .

(3) Drive through your neighbourhood – what products fit into the local area? .

(4) Talk to people who are building – tell them about your project – its amazing what kind of leads you can get by just talking to anyone!

(5) Get well informed about any choices you need to make and beware of people that try to convince you by saying, “trust me I’ve been doing this for years”, what this usually means “ Lets do it my way and when you’re not happy with the final product I’ll charge you to fix it”! You need to feel confident about your decision and keep asking questions until you do.

(5) Visit your local real estate agent and ask them what they think about external and internal finishes and resale –BTW take note of these ideas but don’t adopt any if they can not work in with all the other things you are trying to juggle into the design

The 6th deadly sin: Making spaces too big in the wrong areas

People usually over compensate in space in the wrong areas

When professionals are costing new homes they generally describe spaces in per square metre costs so if you are on a budget only make it big where you really need to.

Reduce the size of your home by including multifunctional areas with out reducing the spacious quality you’re looking for:

(1) Reduce halls areas but don’t reduce the width to less than 1000mm (1 metre)

(2) Ask yourself “Can I deal with a Plantation Louvered fold-away laundry in the bathroom instead of a separate laundry room”?

(3) Think about designing the lounge area to be easily converted into a guest bedroom instead of two separate rooms.

(4) Plan your furniture to fit into a space well - windows that go to the floor do not work well with furniture planning

The seventh deadly sin: Not using standard construction techniques and material

Keep it standard silly – using standard type construction will keep the costs of your building down.

For example:

(1) Use 2400mm high flat ceilings – any higher and costs go up – raked ceilings are even more.

(2) Square set or shadow line corners are lovely but they are more expensive than cornices.

(3) Detailed lighting bulk heads look great but they will also cost a bundle.

(4) Use trusses in roof construction over rafters – rafters cost more and are more expensive to finish.

(5) Only design large spans where you need to, to reduce the requirement for engineers details – an extra cost.

(6) Single skin timber framing is the most cost effective to install and alter in the future if required.

(7) Sub-floor construction – the most economical is concrete pad footings with brick piers supporting a timber floor frame. Concrete slabs are more expensive.

(8) Avoid wall mounted lights that illuminate down the wall – this will require the plaster finish to be of a top level of finish – very costly

The trick of designing a well functioning home can be difficult for the lay architect and there will be many people during the construction process that will influence the final built product. You need to keep these influences in check and remain focused and vigilant about keeping your original design ideas in your plan.

Yes, designing and building a house can be an unrelenting juggling act but if you at least plan to avoid the seven most common design mistakes hopefully it will result in a well functioning and cost effect house that will sit well in the local landscape for many years to come.



customizable counter