If you’re planning on building a home in an inner city area or popular suburb, it’s quite likely you’ll be building on a small block.
Narrow blocks and small lots are becoming increasingly common in Australia’s biggest cities, given the escalating land prices and push for urban infill. Consequently, many more small blocks are becoming available, due to enterprising property developers or owners cashing in and subdividing their larger blocks. To maximise your property investment, it’s essential you step outside conventional thinking and instead, ensure you choose the appropriate house design for your small block.
How small is a small lot?
In Australia, a small lot is defined as having:
- an average width of less than 15 m and/or area less than 450 m², or
- an area less than 600 m² (excluding accessway) if a rear lot.
A narrow block is defined as having frontage anywhere between 8.5 m to 12.5 m.
If you’re lucky to have found yourself a fantastic, albeit small, block of land in an enviable city location, congratulations! Now, the next step is to make sure your purchase pays off by only using a builder familiar with the complexities of council regulations and requirements of small lots, and that throughout the process, can communicate well with you – and keep the neighbours happy.
When it comes to building your home on a small or narrow block of land, the following tips are worth considering.
#1: Make the spaces work hard for you
Instead of having a room for every function, make sure each area can multitask. For example, you may not have a dedicated room for a study or office, but instead, build a nook somewhere in the house such as under a stairwell. For each room, make sure there’s plenty of built-in storage in every conceivable space. Don’t just include essential wall-to-wall storage, think of clever storage spaces under stairwells, tables, and even under furnishings such as beds and chairs.
#2: Create a feeling of spaciousness
Keep ceiling heights high, where possible, to give the illusion of space. At a minimum, go for 2.7 m ceiling height. Also consider the orientation of your home. Try to have your living areas north-facing. North-facing rooms will have loads of natural light, which will give a far more inviting feel to your new home throughout the day.
On the subject of orientation, ensure areas hard-hit from the sun are protected by awnings or other external shading devices to keep the house cool in summer.
#3: Think open-plan living
The last thing you want in a compact home is loads of pokey spaces. Keep things flowing nicely with kitchen areas that flow into living areas, which follow into alfresco areas, and so on. Open-plan living designs will also make it easier for your home to benefit from natural light.
Create a good indoor-outdoor connection
Get creative when it comes to your indoor-outdoor connection. You can reach the outdoors in more ways than just the alfresco area. For example, a narrow side walkway can be made a feature if designed correctly. What was once a boring boundary wall could be transformed with green, leafy creepers for an instant and very private garden feel. Plant some hardy, low maintenance plants such as ficus or prickly pear for added lushness, and you can feel as though you are stepping out into a tropical garden, while also creating an extra sense of spaciousness to the adjoining rooms.
#5: Include lots of light
Ensure your design allows for light-filled spaces. The more light you can have inside your new home, the more spacious it will feel. Small, narrow homes can easily feel depressing when lacking natural light. Add as many windows as possible, particularly on the north-facing side and use skylights in tricky areas like bathrooms when you can. If privacy is a problem, consider adding transparent window coverings after the build or even an electrical privacy glass (switch/smart glass) that can turn off external viewing with the click of a button.
#6: Keep a neutral colour scheme
With compact homes, light, neutral colour schemes will add a sense of spaciousness, while loud, conflicting colours will clutter and confuse. Light colours will also reflect the light, keeping the area looking spacious and inviting.
#7: Consider sliding doors
Consider installing a cavity sliding door rather than a traditional hinged door that opens onto a hallway, causing obstruction.
#8: Go vertical
If you’re economising on garden areas to maximise the living areas in your narrow-block home, try a vertical garden. Even vegetable gardens can be created on a wall. But do your homework and make sure you’re planting the appropriate plants in their ideal environment – and that you can reticulate them properly.
#9: Move your garage to the rear of the home
If your small lot has a back laneway , consider just a single garage at the rear of the home. This will free up a considerable amount of space and is likely to make the front of your home more attractive.