The Australian Dream Series


Home design - Getting started

For people designing their new dream home, invariably the first stumbling block or initial thought is - how do I go about it? Where do I start?

There are basically two approaches to designing your home which we'll look at in a moment, but firstly it is important to take in, that which ever approach you follow, the amount of knowledge you have in relation to home design could be crucial to the success of the project.
That is not to say that you have to be able to physically do the design yourself or know all the building regulations or even be able to put it all together
     - that's what you'll be paying your Architect or Building Designer to do -
but you do need to know the basics of home design and what will work for you and suit your individual requirements.
By all means be guided by your designer, but when he or she puts forward an idea or a layout, be in a position to be able to say " wait a minute, I don't think that will work for us. What about if we….."

Some items will be easier than others to work through, and past experiences will provide a major input.
Ask any house wife what doesn't work in the current kitchen layout that she's using and the answers will be quickly forthcoming.
Don't rely on your designer to ask all the right questions. No matter how skilled they are they can't get 100% inside your head and visualise exactly what you are seeing.
If your minds 'a blank canvas' you'll be relying greatly on their preferences and ideas, which could be a recipe for disappointment.

Two approaches that can be taken when designing your home.

There will be those who will compile a design brief for their Building Designer, detailing their individual requirements, their budget and an idea of the total size that they would like to build to and then leave it to the designer to produce an initial concept design.
In this instance your design brief to your Building Designer should include a rough sketch of your desired room locations in relation to one another, together with a detailed description of your requirements for each individual room.

For example: Laundry- 'space for single trough, washing machine, ironing board to fold out from wall, 3 door broom cupboard, one to be lockable for poisons; enough space for dirty clothes basket; trough to be in the bench with at least 1 meter beside for sorting clothes etc. Outside door to be full glass (plus window) - want a lot of natural light.'
                 Bedroom 3 - 'Enough room for a double bed; built in robes, 2 met hanging space plus area for shoes etc; study desk area to fit books and computer.'
                 Kitchen area - 'Microwave above wall oven; double bowl sink; dishwasher; pantry large enough to include 1.8 met freezer unit; overhead cupboards for storage; large window over sink for views and to pass food to outdoor entertainment area'.
Main bedroom - 'at opposite end of home to other bedrooms looking to views of lake. Morning sun??'.

You should also provide a copy of the site details showing the dimensions, direction of north, the contours of the site, vegetation including the location of trees etc., the direction of any views or features, and the direction that summer hot winds and cool breezes and winter cold winds come from.
Any pictures from magazines - it may be a picture of a kitchen layout, a fireplace detail or even an outside deck area.
Any item or information to enable your designer to envisage your proposed style and layout and to develop an initial design.

The second method is often taken by people who want more control, with a hands on approach and wish to work out the total floorplan layout themselves and then present it to a designer or draftsperson to detail the design and prepare it ready for submission for building approval or for pricing by a builder.
This option is often taken with the thought of also possibly reducing design costs.
The items in method 1 will hold true with the exception that the 'sketch' plan will be more detailed with dimensions, defined room positions and fixtures etc.
The amount of detail that is put into the drawings can be as varied as you wish or that you are confident in doing.
Some sections of the design may be exactly what you want and are to be 'set in concrete'. Others may be less so.

Which ever method you choose the following pages in this section will provide the information to enable you to "pull your design together".

For those looking to compile their own floor plan, listed below as a reference are some of the prominant dimensions.
An item often overlooked or dismissed, is the amount of area that walls can take up and eat into your budgeted total squarage.
Walls in the average home will account for approximately 10% of the floor area.

External walls for a brick veneer home, allow 240 millimetres. (110mm brick, 40mm cavity, 90mm stud wall)
Weatherboard external walls, 90mm  (framing material is also available in 70mm but not commonly used)
Double brick external walls (solid brick), 270mm
External walls to a garage (standard non waterproof wall), allow 230mm.
Internal walls, timber framed, 90mm,
Internal single brick walls 110mm.
Room sizes in modules of 300mm work best to suit material lengths therefore minimising wastage.
Room sizes on plans are denoted not taking into account wall lining thickness. i.e. a plasterboard lined room width denoted at 3900mm would, in its finished state be 3880mm ( minus 2 times 10mm plasterboard thickness).
For cupboards built into the frame, such as Linen Cupboards, Robes etc the normal allowance is 600mm from inside to outside. i.e. on a standard 90mm internally timber framed home, a 510mm internal measurement to the cupboard.
Kitchen cupboards allow 600mm in depth. 900mm bench height.
Vanity units 600mm depth. 800mm height.
Standard shower bases are generally 900mm*900mm.
Toilets - internally 900mm wide (min) by 1650mm long.
Standard door sizes to bedrooms etc are 820mm in width. Wider openings and approaches may need to be employed for wheel chair access.
Hallway widths a minimum of 900mm ranging to 1200mm depending on location, length, and style of the home.
Stairways allow 900mm width clearance.
Window sizes are generally standard (to work brick sizes) for all styles. Further information is provided in 'Window sizes and locations' 


Individual requirements >>