26 May

Design basics – a few thoughts

There is a fabulous, but hard to find book ‘A Pattern Language’ that identifies and discusses 253 separate elements of habitable buildings and spaces. It’s a great read. On a less complicated front there are a few simple aspects of design that we at Leaderbuild instinctively look for. Missing some of these is not a deal breaker for a great house but they help.


Will the site be noisy, overshadowed by trees or buildings, or subject to natural hazards like high winds, flood, or fire? Stand back and consider the big picture. Have a look around at other buildings and the vegetation - are there any hints? What extra development might happen in your chosen locality? How far is the nearest public transport?


Bush fire travels very fast up a slope and the greatest risk in Victoria is from the North and Northwest. So, a house at the top of a long north facing slope isn’t ideal.

But a north aspect is brilliant.

In summer the sun rises in the east (always!) and travels in an arc over the top of the house, setting in the west.

In winter, the sun follows the same dawn and dusk rules, but travels in a lower arc on the northerly side. That means warm to very hot sun on the east and west of the house in both summer and winter but lovely warm sun to the north side of the house in winter.

From a design point of view, that suggests morning rooms on the east, preferably with deciduous tree shading, almost no windows on the west and living spaces on the north.

Almost no sun will ever shine through a south window so that soft light is good for bedrooms, bathrooms, and laundries. We often locate the kitchen in the northeast corner for warm morning sun.

Natural ventilation

Placing openable doors and windows opposite each other allows air to flow.

Light filled spaces

If possible, have two sources of light to any room.

Interesting spaces

In the living rooms exposed trusses, a vaulted, or timber lined ceiling can make an inviting memorable space. Bedrooms tend to be more cosy and more economical flat ceilings may be fine.

Space relationships

On an initial consult before any lines are on paper we like firstly like to identify what spaces both indoors and outdoors are needed? Bedrooms, play and study, dining, lounging, and cooking areas and sizes are listed.

Will there be a need for a massive pantry or an outdoor kitchen?

Next, we think about relationships. Is there a baby grumbling in the corner so a nursery bedroom near the master bedroom, or are the kids headbangers and so a space about 2k from the house might be good?

Passive, solar passive, or who gives a damn?

A True ‘Passive House’ is built to very demanding standards of insulation, airtightness, ventilation etc. This can add a substantial cost and whilst brilliant in deep snow Europe,  might be overkill for some.

A well-designed ‘solar passive house’ meets as many sustainable principles as possible

  • Orientation for solar gain and exclusion of excess heat
  • Accurate window shading
  • Double glazing
  • Thermal mass
  • High level insulation and building wrap
  • Natural and mechanical ventilation (such as fans)
  • Airtightness
  • A holistic and integrated hot water and heating plan
  • Provision for solar panels and as technology advances, batteries including your electric car.

Finishes and furnishings

It is good to have durable floor finishes at entry points, the kids will never de-boot, and softer surfaces in the hopefully far away bedrooms.

It’s a great idea to think about all your furniture including grandpa’s ugly coffee table and the double king size electrically operated waterbed. It may be hard to place your much-loved stuff in a room with many doors and extensive windows.

Not only but also:

Where will you grow veggies, (sun needed), contain the Rottweiler and place the practice putting green? Will you be patriotic and install a Hills hoist?  

Log onto ‘Your Home’. It's brilliant.

Do you have more questions?

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