Take full advantage of your block’s potential

4 May 2021

Humphrey Homes City Beach architect residence

No matter what size your block is, there are ways you can use it to your advantage and build a home you may not have initially envisioned.

Humphrey Homes Architect Helen Marchesani said orientation was the number one driver when choosing any block size or shape and designing a home to best speak to the site.

When looking specifically at narrow, smaller blocks, she said room positioning and function was also a crucial aspect, in addition to orientation.

“Position the main habitable rooms such as the kitchen, living and alfresco to make the most of the northern light, and the least habitable rooms such as the laundry and sleeping quarters in the southern part of the home,” Ms Marchesani said.

“Narrow-shaped blocks also respond well to light corridors, for example using skylights and viewing corridors such as courtyards with an abundance of glass.”

Ms Marchesani said a feeling of space needed to be established on a smaller block, so using high ceilings and a light interior aesthetic was one way to do this.

Another beauty of narrow blocks is if you are not sure whether you can fit your ideal floor plan across one level, you can move upwards.

Ms Marchesani said separating living areas over two levels was a great way to make the most of these types of blocks.

“We recently designed a ‘house within a house’ in Swanbourne for a local couple to rightsize,” she said. “The day-to-day living is enjoyed predominantly on the lower floor by the owners, and the upper floor is used when family stay.

“The upper floor has two bedrooms, a bathroom and a sitting room which can be opened or closed as the need calls.”

For the more expansive, larger blocks, Ms Marchesani said the same principles applied in that orientation was still key, with drones being used to inform the design, looking at potential views afforded by the block and checking the neighbour’s privacy requirements.

Regarding what can be implemented on larger blocks, there is great opportunity when it comes to outside zones.

“Larger blocks also mean functional courtyards in that they can be summer courtyards, winter courtyards, evening courtyards or drying courtyards, depending on location and proximity to the internal rooms,” Ms Marchesani said.

Whether it is large or small, corner blocks have dual opportunities for clever design, with Ms Marchesani saying you essentially have two elevations to work with as there are two street presences to consider.

“We are working on a home in City Beach that is designed with two purposeful elevations on each, with a different function and aesthetic,” she said.

“On one side, privacy is maximised with a large rammed concrete wall. The walls anchor the entrance and offer intrigue with glimpses of what is to come through glass window panels.

“The other corner sees the home completely open up with the interior and exterior fully open to the street. Privacy is achieved with perforated mesh screens which sit strategically around the exterior of the home.”

The site costs should also be factored in no matter what type of block you have, according to Ms Marchesani, as they all need to be prepared correctly for the foundations of the home.

A general rule is that rocky land with steep gradients tend to have higher site costs, yet allow you to be more playful with design.

What to look for in a block:

  • Orientation – does it allow for a design to make the most of solar passive principles?
  • Location – is it where you want to live with good amenities for different stages of life?
  • Size – can it accommodate the way you like to live today and in the future?
  • Height – does it offer views if you build up?
  • R Codes/zoning/council guidelines – do you know what you can build and how based on the block’s classification?

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This story first appeared in The West Australian's New Homes liftout on 1 May, 2021.