If you are looking for a site to build a new house or thinking about making your present home more livable, what should you consider in the planning your new house or addition when it comes to the interiors?


How can I get a better orientation for the really important rooms in the house? If I have a view of a golf course or waterfront home, how can I optimize that view? Of course, the house should be oriented so that the best views are from the living room, family room, and master bedroom. But sometimes this view is directly west from the house, which means that the sun would be in your face in the late afternoons. This is a problem to overcome and requires a creative solution. The way to deal with this in a new house is to orient the house in such a way as to avoid this altogether. Since you can’t move the view, move the house. Create a courtyard and put some spaces on the other side of the courtyard. Simply play with the house plan until the view can be kept but without the western sun in your face. It is not easy, but sometimes a creative solution can be found.

In Florida the best orientation is to face the most important rooms east and south. This allows for the morning and noon sun to enter and for the rooms to pick up the breezes from the east.

If you are going to buy a parcel for a new house, consider the orientation before buying it. This decision is going to affect your final house design greatly!


I like to make my bedrooms a minimum of 12’-0” wide. When I am designing I always layout the furniture to make sure that I have enough room for the bed(s), the dresser, and a high boy dresser. If it is to be a child’s bedroom, I make sure I can put a desk in there as well. I consider the circulation and make sure the path to the bathroom and the doors make sense, that there is enough room for the door swings and the furniture.

With the advent of “green” design, I tell my clients that if they want to be “green” to get as much cross-ventilation in their bedrooms that they can so that they can turn off their air-conditioners at night.

Lastly, I try to make it so that two walls can be the back to bed(s), so that if the client wants to rearrange his room and not get bored with the layout, he can.


Master bedrooms should have double walk-in closets. The minimum size for one of these is 6’-0” x 6’-0”, although to fit a wider door, a 6’-4” width is preferable.
For the other bedrooms, I like to have one wall with the closet a minimum of 6’-0” width and 2’-0” of depth.

Linen closets

Generally, I make my linen closets 24” deep. However, if I am tight for space and there is another linen closet in the house, I might reduce the linen closet to 16” deep.

Master Bathrooms

A standard bathroom is 5’-0” wide which is the size of the most basic tub. I like to make my master bathrooms larger by either using a large tub (3’-0” x 6’-0”) or by adding a shower (4’-0” x 4’-0”) or a double shower (4’-0” x 6’-0”) or both. A large counter minimum 6’-0” wide with a double sink is a must. If we have the room I like to leave 3’-0” in front of the vanity and also in front of the bathtub and shower areas as a minimum. A bench in the shower, a minimum of 16”, preferably 18” deep is a nice addition. I like to create a niche in both the bathtub and shower for the shampoo, etc. The vanity for a house with a woman in it, definitely needs a bank of shallow drawers.

Some people like the idea of putting the toilet in a separate little room, but I have never liked it feeling that it would be claustrophobic. But if you want one, make it at least 3’-0” wide x 5’-0” deep.

Family Room, Breakfast, and Kitchen Combination

For most people who have informal lives, this combination of a family room, breakfast, and kitchen as one big room makes for a wonderful livable house. This is particularly true for those who still have small children.


For a double sink and a dishwasher, you need at least 5’-6” of space together. I like floor to ceiling pantry closet and a drawer above each floor cabinet. Kitchen heights have traditionally been 7’-0” high but the cabinets look really beautiful when they go to 8’-0”, especially when the kitchen ceiling is at 8’-0”. As far as functionability, for people who are getting up there in age looking to their retirement, they might consider a 5’-0” turning radius in the center of the kitchen for future wheelchair use. In the years to come, as the baby boomers age, this item could be a real selling point to seniors.


Hallways need to be a minimum of 3’-4”, preferably 3’-6” to 4’-0 in larger homes.
A double garage can be as small as 20’-0” x 20’-0”. In fact, I have seen them as small as 19’-4” deep, but with these small sizes, you need to measure your cars before you buy them and make sure there is nothing else in the garage. I like ample space for my garages, so for a single car garage 12’-0” x 24’-0” and for a double car garage, 24”-0” x 24’-0” is a good size.

Laundry room

Laundry rooms should be a minimum of 6 feet wide. Where the old washers and dryers took up just 2’-4” in depth and 2’-4” in width with 3’-0” in front of them, the new front loading washers need at least 2’-4” in width but at least 31” in depth. Also, you need additional room in the front since the door opens out and with the same 3’-0”, you would be in the way.

Trellis or Pergolas

To me there is not a more important space than an outdoor living room. I love to put a trellis or pergola in the front of backyard. On the front it serves as a front porch, in the back, it makes for a wonderful private entertainment area. In Florida I think this space is essential.
Should you want to find out more about the orientation possibilities or what you can do with the property you are thinking of buying, call me at 305-552-5465 or email me at mcastellanos.arch74@gtalumni.org  Maria Luisa Castellanos, 2010.

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