11 Home Design Rules You Should Never Break

As Architects and Architectural Designers it becomes second nature as to what things do and don’t work when designing a home, both for function and aesthetics. These are often never discussed so see below a selection of eleven home design rules you should never break. 

1. Never Change The Type of Cladding on External Corners
Changing the type of cladding only ever looks good on a house when done in an internal corner. For example, imagine a gable end, which is a very tempting location to put a feature cladding. However, if the two corners are a simple right angle, the change in the cladding will look out of place. To stick by this rule many homes have ‘wing walls’ on the gable end to pictureframe the feature cladding in and ensure the change is on an internal corner. 

2. Never Join Two Types of Lining on a Flat Surface 

Picture yourself inside the home you’re designing. Think of one of the large walls or expansive ceilings, and the rule is to never change the lining of that wall or ceiling in the centre of that expanse, without a change in direction. This can look wrong for many reasons, the difference in thickness of the linings creating a lip, the textures with the same light on them clashing, and it’s just not pleasing to the eye. The change in direction doesn’t have to be a 90 degree corner, only needs to be an angle of sorts to make the different linings look great. 

3. Never Have a Line of Sight From Living Areas to Bathroom Doors 

Fairly self-explanatory, and quite obvious. Who wishes to be looking through to the toilet from their kitchen, dining, or living space. Or those freak mishaps whereby the door swings open when someone forgot to lock it. Generally speaking if this rule is adhered to then it also reduces the chance of smells wafting from the bathroom through to the living area. 

4. Never Use Internal Gutters

Some designers would scoff at this rule, and they have a point. Internal gutters can be designed to be fairly fool proof, however having been through the ‘leaky homes’ years and having seen many homes leak as a result of internal gutters, they’re just not recommended. Unless you’re spending millions on your home and need them to create a certain look or style, steer clear of them totally and seek advice as to different roof and gutter options before installing an internal gutter. (Note: Roof valleys are fine, most gable and hip roofs have these) 

5. Never Use Membrane Roofs

With the variety of roofing types and styles nowadays there is no need to use a membrane roof. Colorsteel, tiles or shingles are all better options. We’ve heard many horror stories of membrane roofs leaking, no matter how brilliant the installation is, you don’t need to know a lot about water runoff to realise that giving a roof slightly more pitch (3 degrees is pretty low) and making it out of one solid material is a better idea than membrane roofing which has more chance of water pooling and seeping into your home. 

6. Never Mismatch the Head Height of Windows

This rule can be broken in certain occasions however generally speaking the head height (top) of all windows around a house should be the same. The most common height is 2100mm, however we often upgrade our clients to 2200mm, especially when the ceiling height is higher than the standard 2400mm ceiling, say if it’s 2550mm or 2700mm. Having the higher windows helps keep everything in scale. Mismatched head heights around the outside of a house don’t look very good, unless they’ve been designed for a specific cause or to look architectural. Arcline often matches the internal door height to the window heights for consistency through the entire house. 

7. Never Start Designing Without These 4 Things

Know your zone, easements, covenants and consent notices. See our other blog post explaining each of these. Each of these four items contain a list of rules and regulations which you have to comply with for your section. Some properties have a minimum house size, or selected materials which you must use. The zoning will indicate the area on your site you can build in, the maximum height, and other district council rules. Consent notices are enforced by the council and Covenants are enforced by other owners in the subdivision around you. All these things can greatly affect the design of your home. 

8. Never Build On a Site That’s An In Progress Subdivision 

Arcline gets many clients who have put a deposit down on a piece of land and want to start designing their home prior to the Titles being issued. This is fine, however we don’t recommend proceeding to build your home until the Title has been issued. You may get approval to start building on the property before you legally own it, but remember that the developer still owns the site, and if things go messy, it’ll be a battle and you will potentially loose any money you have already invested in the site and project. Not only this but councils don’t appreciate homes being built on sites that ‘don’t exist’ (have no Title) so its a challenge to get a building consent. 

9. Never Squeeze a Standard Plan Onto Your Site 

Standard plans are often cheap to purchase. This makes them attractive to buy, but remember the building platform on every property is different. Faces a different way, different contours, access, services, prevailing wind, rain, and views. Think long and hard about how you actually live in a house, what spaces you use, where the sun is during the day, and consider custom designing your home to suit your site and lifestyle.

10. Never Cut Corners

It’s a common trait of mankind to take what appears to be the shortest route to a destination. This is the same with building a house, and often times cutting corners in the design or build can have large repercussions down the line. A regular question we get asked is whether to just build the house without consents, to save some money. This is simply corner cutting and impacts on getting a mortgage, insurance, house build quality (as no inspections), house value and most importantly the sale price of the house down the track. 

11. Be Nice to Your Neighbors 

Crazy rule? Not really. Your neighbors can do you a lot of favours (or disfavours) during your project. Oftentimes we have to seek permission from the neighboring property to breach a council rule, or to use their land for moving an item into or out of the build, and if you’re not on speaking terms with them this can be a very difficult exercise. Building sites are also often targeted by thieves for equipment and tools and if your neighbors are keeping an eye over your project this can be a great prevention. 

A final word… 

There’s various opinions on whether the above home design rules are ok or not, but we’re stating these rules from 25+ years of experience in the building industry. Yes, the above 11 items can be done, and have been done thousands of times in homes built around the country. And for every point there’s another way to do it that’ll have a far better outcome. 

So happy designing, and if you wish to have our professional input on your home design, get in touch today

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