If your budget is sufficiently big and your plot will take a house of considerable size, you are in the lucky position to build a home much larger than the norm. However, badly designed large homes can be sterile, commercial in feel, imposing in an intrusive way and difficult to live in.

Here’s how to get your new home off on the right track.

Defining ‘Large’
This article focuses on how best to design a larger home, which we define as anything above 280m². The typical self-built home comes in at around 220m² and the average newly built developer home is slightly less than 100m².

The Layout

A larger home requires a specialised layout designed to take into account the extra space — not just ‘scaled up’ from standard

When it comes to the layout of your large home, the mistake many people often make is to go for a conventional arrangement. This results in over-large spaces which are often devoid of any interest or character.

Zoning is a good way to use space

Create ‘zones’ in larger rooms to use your extra space successfully

Large Rooms That Work

There is an optimum size for each room based on what will actually need to go in it (ie furniture and space for its occupants). As soon as you begin to increase a living room beyond these optimum sizes, the proportions are lost and it will not be successful.

The solution is to sub-divide rooms into different spatial zones for different activities. Design the space to have a central zone for the primary activity with offshoot areas. For example:

Living Room Zones:

  • central formal sitting area
  • casual sitting
  • TV watching
  • games/media areas

Kitchen Zones:

  • central cooking and food prep area
  • breakfast
  • sitting
  • TV

Bedroom Zones:

  • central sleeping area
  • ensuite
  • dressing
  • sitting
  • study
  • balcony

Getting Flow Right

You will also need to broaden your thinking and break away from convention when it comes to how your rooms are connected.It is not always going to be viable to use corridors to link spaces. It is simply not practical or desirable to end up with perhaps a 10m-long corridor linking one room to the other.You should look to allow each space to flow into the next and enjoy the layout ‘room-to-room’ rather than through connecting corridors. This will also allow natural daylight and solar heat to flow through the building.

A games and cinema room

Cinemas and games rooms make good use of space in a larger home

Big House, More Rooms

Home cinemas, libraries and gymnasiums are popular indulgences in a larger home, but consider how these could be best incorporated for maximum enjoyment.A home cinema works best in a basement due to the want for minimum natural daylight and better acoustics.A separate building away from the house is best for a swimming pool for a strictly controlled climate and also to house a dedicated plant room for the pumps and filtration systems. Connect the pool house to the main home with an exciting link building.A gymnasium is likely to be a fairly well-appointed room with multiple apparatus and perhaps a spa and sauna too. These features may need a similar infrastructure to the swimming pool so locate it on the ground floor and as close as possible to the pool.


I would strongly advise you to consider incorporating more than one staircase. From my experience, as you get up to homes of 450-500m² and beyond, a single staircase becomes too disconnected from the further extremities of the house.Have a staircase exclusively for the master bedroom suite and locate this near to where you will spend most of your time, and then place the second staircase at the other end of the house which would serve the remainder of the bedrooms for other family members and guests.If you have young children perhaps have one or two bedrooms near to the master suite for feeds and supervision.It is often a nice touch to place your guest rooms near to the pool and gymnasium to enable your guests to enjoy your leisure facilities before meeting you at breakfast, for example.

A curved feature staircase

Take advantage of having the space to include a feature staircase

Corridor & Staircase Widths

You will want to enjoy the space you have to the maximum, so consider double-height gallery spaces with balconies above. Such areas, when combined with a large proportion of glazing, will really hit the mark and will amplify the whole experience.Make corridors and staircases double-standard width to be in proportion with the rest of the house. Corridors will be around 1.5–1.8m and I would typically increase a staircase width to 1.2m.


As size increases, so does the bulk, mass and scale and if you know anything about planning, you will know that these three words are considered sacred by most planning officers and can either make or break a scheme.A standard square, rectangular or L-shaped footprint will not be successful on a larger home as it will result in disproportionate bulk, scale and mass (and windowless voids near the middle). Break the design down into component parts, so as to fragment the bulk both physically and visually.Physical fragmentation can be achieved by using different:

  • gable spans
  • roof pitches
  • ridge heights
  • eaves heights
  • floor levels

Visual fragmentation can be achieved by using different:

  • materials
  • finishes
  • building techniques
A large self build using a variety of structures to break up mass

Using a variety of roof pitches and materials physically and visually fragments the bulk of a large home

If you are in a position to design and build your own home and have the added benefit of being able to do something on a scale beyond the norm then, as always, take valuable time out to establish your brief and requirements and use a designer who has the relevant experience and portfolio to match.

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