Some Home Design ‘Rules of Thumb’

I’ve been reading my extensive library again and found some gems (and my comment) from between the wars that are still relevant today but completely ignored by most non-architects and builders:

  • Bathrooms should be conveniently placed near the bedrooms they serve, but WCs screened as far as possible – The ‘family bathroom’ as sold by estate agents does not always meet the needs of home-owners. Separate toilets can reduce queues! The usual requirement for privacy makes the modern ‘fashion’ for placing the required downstairs toilet next to the front door an insane decision in most cases.
  • Oblong rooms are often more convenient that square ones – The greater wall area for the floor area can make for easier placement of furniture.
  • Where privacy is required, doors into the room should be hung as to screen the room from the person entering – This provides a small amount of time for the occupants to ‘prepare’. Many houses in the UK at present are far too small to accommodate this politeness as around 300mm or more is required between door and the adjacent wall!
  • Light fittings should never be placed in the centre of the ceiling – This is a good one because if they are the light is wrong for reading, dressing, cooking and most other room activities. Ceiling lights mounted near windows in bedrooms prevent people dressing and undressing creating shadows on curtains.
  • The orientation of rooms is also important and the recommendation for most people would be for breakfast areas to face East and studies North for example – My own home, dating from the Thirties, has all main rooms facing roughly Southwards. ‘Servant’ spaces, kitchen and the smallest bedroom face North, there is also a Southwards facing balcony outside the second bedroom allowing it to be used for sunbathing in complete privacy. All very simple things that need considering when you are designing or looking for your new home.
  • Another obvious one to think about is that many new homes have the bottom or the stairs facing the front door. Why? The stairs are most often used whilst in the house and you end up having to walk the length of the stairs to walk back up them. When considering a new home it is worthwhile thinking about such things so that current inconveniences are not simply repeated needlessly.
  • Another somewhat obvious one is to ask yourselves whether you need a ‘cellular’ or ‘open plan’ solution. Families can ‘want’ cellular because that is what they are used to, or may want ‘open plan’ because they’ve been seduced by magazine pictures or TV programmes: cooking is smelly, washing machines and dishwashers noisy, separate rooms is quieter, open plan is useful for families and entertaining. There are solutions to conflicts, and that is what architects are trained to do. Solve design solutions.


If you are in need of an architect, why not employ one? There are only three RIBA Chartered Practices in the whole of the Kettering Borough!