When planning the layout for your home there are some things you need to take into account right from the word go. Things like the direction the most important rooms will face, the elevation of the land and how many square metres you have to work with are crucial elements to consider when planning your floor plan.
Factors that will impact your home layout
The condition of the land will greatly affect the type of house you can build. The elevation of the plot may mean you need to build into the land rather than onto it. If you’re on the side of a mountain, for example, you’ll need to factor that slope into your planning. Or, alternatively, if you’re located on the beach, you may need to think about storms and flooding.
In terms of terrain, constraints may include the soil conditions, which can lead to difficulties when it comes to laying the foundations of the slab, rocky land that will make it harder to excavate if necessary, sandy soil which may lead to sinking and proper drainage. When looking at the land itself, it’s quite simple really, the flatter the site, the easier it is to build on. That said, building on a slope brings its own benefits such as, uninterrupted views and protection against flood waters.
Sun, wind and sound all come into play when it comes to the environment. Natural sunlight is one of the most important factors to consider. Firstly, it’s more economical to use the natural sun and second, it’s much better for the environment. For the best use of the natural light, orient your bedrooms and living areas to face north.
Understanding the sun’s path during the day will help you decide which rooms need to be placed where, in order to maximise the sun’s full potential. While wind can be unpredictable, designing a floor plan that will encourage a cross-breeze can save you thousands on electricity, especially in the summer.
Alternatively, if you’re on the coast, it may be a good idea to protect your garden with the building, so you can still enjoy the outdoors without being blown away. And finally, sound can play a major role in deciding where to play certain rooms. Anyone who has been woken up by the garbage truck in the morning will back us up here. If you want a certain room to be a quiet, peaceful space, best to consider the noise factor of your surroundings.
Want to avoid living on top of your neighbours? How close are they to the boundary? If they’re pretty darn close, consider putting rooms that don’t necessarily need clear windows in those spots, for example, bathrooms with frosted glass.
House versus garden
How large of a home do you want to build, and how much garden space do you want? This is a pretty crucial factor as the amount of outdoor living space you want will definitely encroach on your plans for inside. You also need to consider how much living space you need, and how many bedrooms and bathrooms you require. And when it comes to the indoor vs outdoor debate, there may be some compromises in store.
A floor plan that’s unique to you
Your lifestyle requires different needs to your neighbours and your home needs to reflect this. There’s no point in designing a state-of-the-art, massive, eat-in kitchen if you don’t cook. Of course, you do need to consider the resale value of the home (and let’s face it, kitchens sell houses), but there’s no need to spend hundreds of thousands on a space that you won’t use.
In the same vein, if you dislike being outdoors and prefer the creature comforts of your living room couch, well then, put your emphasis on the living space.
Another factor to consider is your children, if you have them. While you may want your children nearby as they grow up, when they’re teenagers, will they want their own space?
When deciding the layout, think about everything in terms of three categories:
The things you need are the amenities and spaces that are essential for your lifestyle. For example, how many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need for the people living in the house? What kind of living spaces and what kind of outdoor spaces will they need to be comfortable?
What can you not live without? For example, if you cook often, perhaps you need two ovens. Perhaps you prefer the sleek look so you want cabinets to hide your appliances. Maybe you have a lot of possessions and need ample storage space. All of these things are must-haves because they are a reflection of your personality, and bringing this to the table when designing a layout is what makes the difference between a house and a home.
The wants are what you would like to have in your home, but don’t necessarily need. Do you want a spare bedroom for guests? The question is, do you need a spare bedroom for guests? If you very rarely have anyone staying over, well then, why take up space in your floor plan?
Once you’ve created these lists, you’ll start to see a floor plan emerging.
Another thing to consider is how the layout of the house will serve you over time. If you plan on living there for years and years, perhaps it’s best to put a bedroom on the lower level. That way, it can be a teenager’s retreat or a master bedroom if you find you’re having difficulty managing stairs. Remember, your requirements in 20 years’ time will be completely different to your priorities now.
The most important thing to note however, is that there will never be a perfect floor plan, even if you design it yourself. That’s because you have to consider everything externally as well. And what you desperately want may not fit with the environment around. You may need to compromise somewhere, so always ensure you know your priorities and stick to them.
Peter McDonnell is the marketing coordinator at Kitome, Australia’s leading kit home supplier since 1996. With an intimate knowledge of the building industry and trends, Peter enjoys arming first time home builders with the advice to give them a successful build.