The Best House Shape

When you are looking at builders web sites the main things you can look at besides Facades are Floor Plans………But what is the best shape for the overall house?

Making good use of Winter Sun

If you have a Well Orientated site (Longest dimension runs East West) and you are not Shaded by tall trees or other properties the best shape will normally be a rectangle.

This will provide a long wall with North Facing Windows where most of the rooms can be warmed in the window. As the other dimension will be shorter the sun will penetrate well into the house. Just make sure you have proper eaves or a pergola to avoid the summer sun.

If you have got either a South or North facing site it’s probably best to go for as wide a house as you can fit on the block.

No Winter Sun

You should aim to provide the maximum amount of internal space compared to wall space. This is both economic in terms of wall materials and minimisation of heat transfer (Less heat lost in winter, less heat gain in summer)

The shape that fits provides the most internal space for minimum walls is a circle…….but not everyone wants to live in a yurt.

A couple of practical problems are:

  • Getting furniture to fit
  • Although the space is efficient the diameter is fairly large so larger round houses won’t fit into most rectangular blocks.

Don’t want a round house, then the next best thing is to make the shape as close to a square as possible.

Have you got a yurt or other type of round house?…….. What do you like about it?


See Bubble Diagrams if you want to design your own home plan


Starting House Design 1- Bubble Diagram 1

A big mistake in designing a house is to get involved in detail too quickly.

Rough sketches of a floor plan, which you can easily change, are the best way to start. . . . Much better than using a computer drawing tool which can  ‘Lock You In’ and stop you considering different ideas.

  1. Decide what rooms you need and the approximate size of the house (see How Much House?)
  2. Draw some bubble diagrams. . . . These are drawings where each bubble represents a room, or a feature of the house.
  3. Work quickly, while thinking, and discussing, how you want the various rooms to relate to each other.
  4. As you develop the plans try to draw the bubbles to roughly represent the room sizes, but don’t try to be too accurate.
  5. Because the drawings are done quickly you can easily do new ones as your ideas develop.
  6. Don’t throw the old one out though! You might want to go back to a previous idea.

The collection of diagrams will be a demonstration that you have gone through a process of developing a design rather than infringing someone else’s Copyright.

The above illustration is a tidied up version of the initial bubble diagram for our first Australian house. It was based on certain things we wanted in the floor plan. These were:

  • A rectangular plan to keep things simple and economical
  • A passive solar house with the main rooms facing North
  • A wood burning stove in the centre of the house
  • Our bedroom at the opposite end of the house to the children.

Next  I will show how we developed the initial bubble diagram to a refined version which we could then use to develop the final floor plan.


For more Posts about Design see Floor Plans


Starting House Design 2 – Bubble Diagram 2

Once you have a basic bubble diagram you can then start to develop it by:

Drawing Circulation Routes

  • Think about your block how will people approach the front door.
  • What rooms do you want to overlook approaching visitors.
  • Where do visitors enter the house?
  • How do you expect people to move from room to room?
  • How will people move through the house?

Organising Spaces

  • What kind of entrance do you want and how formal you want it.
  • Do you want the kitchen and dining area linked or separate.
  • Do you want a separate WIR and En-suite or walk through one to get to the other.
  • Should the family room and the rumpus room be separated from each other or be next to one another.
  • How much space do you need? . . A lot of people have trouble relating space to a floor plan…..See These Hints to get some help

Use Scenarios

When discussing the plans talk through ‘Use Scenarios’ for example:

  • Cooking a meal while talking to the children.
  • Children doing homework
  • Watching different TV programs in different rooms
  • Family meals
  • Having visitors round for a meal
  • Bringing the shopping home
  • Doing the laundry

This is what  I came up with


Post 3, in this series, will show how this diagram was developed into a final layout


For more Posts about Design see Floor Plans

Starting House Design 3

In two other posts (Bubble Diagrams 1 and  Bubble Diagram 2) I have described how you can start a design using bubble diagrams. When you are happy with the bubble diagrams then you can start working on how the floor plan will look.

At this stage use graph paper to make it easy to  draw things up quickly and change things. Don’t get too involved with exact dimensions the nearest 200 or 250mm (or foot if you use imperial measurements) should be fine.

The plan above was based on the bubble diagrams.

The features of this house are:

  • A rectangular plan to keep things simple and economical.
  • A north facing Passive Solar House with bedrooms lounge and dining room on the north side, all having 2m high windows or patio doors.
  • A full length veranda on the North side providing Shading from the Northern Sun
  • A single small West facing window in the laundry.
  • A single narrow East facing window in the bedroom.
  • A wood burning stove in the centre of the house with solid brick chimney for thermal mass.
  • Bathroom, en-suite, toilet, study all forming a Buffer Zone on the south.
  • A car port and fernery  was proposed on the south to provide a protective Microclimate.
  • Our bedroom at the opposite end of the house to the children.
  • Being able to see approaching visitors from the kitchen window.

Once you have got a layout that you can agree on, its time to think about getting it drawn up accurately.


Although we loved this house it wasn’t perfect . . . . here are some things we got wrong.

  1. The laundry was too small.
  2. The spa bath was hardly used in the ten years we lived there. . we would have been better off making the bathroom smaller and the laundry bigger.
  3. The connecting door between the family room and the lounge. . . we found the kids would walk in front of us through the lounge in getting from their room to the kitchen!



For similar posts see Drawings and Floor Plans