Written by Jake Brady

Less is More. How to Design an Architectural Home on a Narrow Block

Building on a narrow site can be challenging – you can’t just approach any Illawarra builder to construct a stock standard home and expect everything to be fine. It takes time, research and an experienced South Coast builder to create a functional and stylish home on site like this. While this is true, it’s important to note that a narrow block doesn’t have to mean compromising on space or design; in fact, there are many ways you can implement an architectural design onto a narrow block. 

At Smartbuild South Coast we’ve got years of experience working on a range of sites across the Illawarra region – we’ve built on blocks of all shapes and sizes. We work closely with both our clients and our team of trusted architects to create a design that suits both our clients’ needs and their site requirements. Our preferred designers are the best in the business, meaning they can design a practical home that fits within your budget. 

Here are 5 ways you can achieve an architectural home design on a narrow block:

High Ceilings

This is a huge trend in architectural design at the moment and is a great way of making your South Coast home feel more spacious. When building on a narrow block, you’ll want to bring as much space as possible into the home to avoid feeling cramped or crowded. High ceilings are a perfect way to do this. 

If possible, opt for ceilings of at least 2.7m or higher, which will bring an immediate sense of air, space and light. High ceilings are also an interesting design feature and add a feeling of elegance to any space. This can also be an energy efficient solution when it comes to cooling your home in the warmer months.

Make Use of Space

When designing a home on a narrow block, you should work closely with your Illawarra builder and their trusted architect to create a floorplan that makes the best use of space. Selecting open plan living areas over separate spaces can be a great way to maximise the area and add a greater sense of space. 

Interior walls can make a home feel dark and cramped so by removing these and combining kitchen, living and dining areas, you’ll instantly feel like you have more space. It’s also important to implement clever storage solutions in a narrow home, to ensure all of your belongings have a place, and thereby reducing clutter. 


When considering a narrow home design, materials are important to think about as some take up more room than others. This is why it can pay to engage an Illawarra builder early on in your build as they can work with their trusted team of architects to achieve a design that maximises space in every way possible, while also reducing cost. 

For example, steel is a far more slender material than masonry and other materials and can provide larger openings for windows and doors that brick walls cannot. Concrete and glass can also be good options for walls and windows as they are relatively thin materials. Of course, you’re not expected to know the ins and outs of every building material and nor is your architect – to achieve the ultimate architectural home design on a narrow block, you need to work closely with both your South Coast builder and their architectural team. 


Due to their close proximity to fences and interior walls, narrow homes have a tendency to feel dark and gloomy. A light-filled design will counteract this, making your home feel bright, spacious and open. Be sure to include plenty of windows, skylights and sliding doors that open onto your garden or outdoor area. A light and bright colour palette will complement this nicely, allowing light to bounce and reflect off interior walls and fill your home. 

Build Up

While there are many ways to make a narrow block feel more spacious, the reality is you only have so much space to work with. Sometimes to create a functional design, you will actually need to create extra space. Building an additional storey allows you to add extra bedrooms, bathrooms and living areas, without encroaching on your front or back yard space – this area will be very precious on a small block, especially if you have pets. 

In some cases, you could also consider a 3-storey project, even within the R2 Low Density Housing Zone, which is possible to get through council with the right planning and designer. At Smartbuild South Coast we have overseen a number of these projects and have experience with council and planning requirements, giving your project the best possible chance of success. Split levels or mezzanines are also a great design feature that’ll give you a feeling of more space without intruding on what’s already there. 


To find out more about how you can achieve an architectural home on a narrow block, get in touch with the South Coast builders of choice – call Jake and the team at Smartbuild South Coast now!