10 design tips for small house plans | Genius Homes (2024)

Are you planning to build a small house? Whether it’s a granny flat, second dwelling, two-bedroom house, or a tiny home, there’s a variety of ways to make the most of your small space.

In this article, we explore the most popular features of small homes and the considerations to make when designing a smaller space.

Small homes vs Tiny homes

While they are often used interchangeably, a tiny house and a small house are not the same thing. The main difference is that tiny homes are restricted in size and are typically around 37m2. On the other hand, small homes usually include anything below the average house size. For example, the average house size in 2023 was 136m2.

Secondly, tiny homes are typically designed and built to be mobile. In most cases, they are built on a trailer rather than a fixed foundation. However, small homes are built in the same way as a conventional house and permanently secured on the site. For example, second dwellings and granny flats are common examples of small homes.

Can I build a granny flat on my property?

Provided you meet the local council’s rules, your second dwelling can share the same title as your existing house, meaning you don’t need to subdivide. However, you may need building consent and/or resource consent, depending on your location and relevant council. Ask our team for more advice today.

10 considerations for small homes

Designing a house can be overwhelming, especially when you’re limited by size. Fortunately, in our years in the industry, we’ve learned the key considerations that will ensure your design suits your lifestyle.

1. Insulation standards and Healthy Homes compliance

When living in a small space, energy efficiency and comfort are crucial. That’s why our first tip is to ensure your small house meets the required insulation standards. This is especially important if you ever want to rent your second dwelling to tenants as the space will need to comply with the Healthy Homes standards.

2. Heating and cooling

Maintaining a comfortable internal temperature is crucial to the comfort and functionality of your small space. In addition to effective insulation, you will need to install an efficient heating and cooling system. In most cases, we recommend installing a heat pump as this achieves both heating and cooling in one unit, making the most of your available space.

Explore Genius Homes heating and insulation specifications

3. Ventilation

Adequate airflow is another crucial factor when maintaining comfort levels in a small space. Our advice is to ensure your small space has enough ventilation to achieve a cross-breeze as needed. We also suggest installing openable windows and doors that are sheltered from the wind and prevailing weather.

4. Sewage and amenities

Just as with any house, you will need to plan for the various site services, such as water, power, and sewage. If your site has an existing dwelling, you may be able to use the same connections. Either way, you will need to consult your local council for your next steps.

With the Genius Homes prefab method, this can be completed at the same time as the factory construction of your small home. This means the project can be completed more efficiently and isn’t held up by site work.

5. Lighting

In a small space, you need plenty of lighting to maximise the functionality of your home. We recommend installing a combination of downlights, wall-mounted lights, and adjustable lights. To ensure your smaller home doesn’t feel too cluttered, we recommend installing recessed ceiling lights and sconces. This reduces the number of lamps you need and keeps surfaces clear and tidy. If you have a small space, you may also want to think about installing skylights to increase light without taking up wall space.

6. Windows and doors

With a small house, window and door placement is relatively limited. Think about functionality and accessibility, prioritising an easy path through the home. If doors are too difficult to get to, the space restrictions will be far more obvious.

We suggest opting for a few larger windows rather than a lot of smaller windows. This will help the space feel less cluttered while still allowing plenty of natural light in. Large windows will also make the space feel bigger and champion the outside views.

7. Outdoor living

In a small house, the outdoors is an invaluable extension of your available living space. To make your house feel bigger and to maximise functionality, try to create a seamless indoor-outdoor flow from your living room to the backyard. By adding some shelter, a seating area, a table, and a barbecue, you will make your small house feel a lot bigger.

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8. Storage

In small houses, having enough storage is crucial for minimising clutter. By designing your home with enough built-in storage, you can ensure everything has a place. At a minimum, try to find a house plan with built-in wardrobes as this will reduce the need for bedroom furniture.

We recommend thinking about all the items you typically use in a day or week. From there, try to find a place in your house design for those items to be stored. Depending on the items, try to install wall hooks, towel rails, cabinetry, drawers, and shelving.

9. Ceiling height

One way to make a small space feel bigger is to raise the ceiling height. By opting for a mono-pitch or gabled roof, you can adjust the height in your interior space and add interest to the building exterior at the same time.

For example, our 1-bedroom Horizon design features a clever gable roof style, making the middle of the room higher than the sides. The Pukaki 2 features a mono-pitch roof and is higher at the front than at the back. Both roof styles create a sense of space inside, distracting from the small floorplan.

10. Flooring

In small houses, your floor coverings are an effective way to divide up the space. For example, if you want to define clear zones within your house, consider using carpet in the living room and vinyl wood flooring in the kitchen and dining.

However, using the same flooring throughout the home can also make it feel larger by creating a seamless appearance. For example, installing laminate wood planks from your kitchen through the living room and bedrooms is a great way to trick the eye that the space extends further than it really does.

Small house plans

Here at Genius Homes, we have a variety of small houses in our standard range. By choosing from these designs, you gain a seamless process, clever small-space design, and cost-effective construction. Find our 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom layouts below.

2 bedroom tiny house in NZ

Our 2-bedroom homes offer a functional space to suit your lifestyle. These layouts are perfect for short-term accommodation, granny flats, second dwellings, and small sections. Browse the range to find your ideal design.

Explore 2-bedroom layouts

Small house layouts

Our cabins are ideal for second dwellings, granny flats, Airbnb’s, and other short-term accommodation. With 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom, and an economical living space, these designs are perfect for small living. Browse the range now to find your ideal small home.

Browse the Cabins Range

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