Gratuitous space?

In our kitchen we have a huge island bench that is so full of stuff we have nowhere to put things. We have no pressure to put things away--soccer gear, mail, recipe books from last week will stay there until one of us breaks and tidies things up.

Part of the problem is that we don’t have what American’s call a mud room, so everything ends up on the kitchen bench. Having lots of space doesn’t always provide a solution.

Window walls

I was bought up in a 60s house with huge picture windows. These north facing glass walls have many benefits over the dark Federation bungalows of the early 20thC. They do however have their draw backs. Even with double glazing, controlling heat gain and heat loss is difficult.

Often as not, glass walls are used when there is a good view. A view however can be enhanced if it is framed with a smaller window--the window can still be generous in size but needn’t be floor to ceiling. This will allow space for say a bookcase below the sill.

While some floor to ceiling windows are necessary for solar gain, too many can inadvertently make the room seem smaller. If a room has one glass wall--you are essentially left to furnish a three sided room.



MBS-  multiple bathroom syndrome

When I built our last extension the en suite was used by the whole family for the first 12 months because the shower worked just a little bit better than our old one. We were all using the one en suite quite happily. I realised then that having  two bathrooms wasn't as necessary as I first thought.

Worried about sharing a bathroom? well put one of those vacant/engaged latches on the door so at a distance anyone can see if it is in use. This could save you the cost of an extra bathroom. Cheaper still is to teach your family the manners that are required to share.

see: Why Manners Matter by Lucinda Holdforth

While an extra loo is handy, remember our parents were bought up with one outside dunny.


Have you noticed how Australians go on about how many bedrooms a house has? how many bathrooms?

In a sophisticated but modest house each room has more than one use--The cabin of a boat or caravan  is an extreme, but good example of a sophisticated small space.

In Sarah Susanka’s book The Not So Big House she says each room of the house should be used every day.

My parent’s house had a walk-through laundry with linen cupboards one side, trough and w/machine the other and my bedroom was straight ahead.

--A shared bathroom (right) with doors to two bedrooms.

Studies can be in alcoves off living areas etc.

Coupe or station wagon?

I think it is acceptable to design a house for one person or a couple if that is all that is needed. Maybe build a two person house with the option of making it into a four person house when the time is right? I was lucky to be able to build without a mortgage so my approach has always been to design within your means. Don’t build a big house just to put a smile on the estate agent’s face!

What about resale of my investment you ask?

-well wrong website, obviously.

Extend or remodel?

The size/cost conundrums can be addressed by remodeling your existing spaces rather than making your house even bigger.

The average house size in the UK is 76 square meters, here it is more than 250 square meters.

Reconfiguring what you have with perhaps the smallest of extensions or just a new window can give you better value, particularly if it doesn’t have to go through the council approval process.

Remodeling doesn’t have to involve pulling walls out, it could be a case of putting them back in--or even a half height version. Dividing up a space can make it seem bigger especially if the new areas becomes more usable. (I learnt this from designing gardens.)

One level or two?

People who use stairs live longer. There will come a time when you can’t use them, but for most people it is in the last years of their life.

The benefits are a halving of roof and footing area. Two storeys make a more compact house and can lead to cost savings and energy efficiency savings.

Europeans tend to live upstairs and have bedrooms downstairs. There is no reason why we can’t do the same.