What is a good size house for a family of four?

With the average building size having declined significantly in the last couple of years, one might wonder what a good-sized house is for an average family of 4 and what factors to consider when hunting for a home. 

A regular, average-sized, new freestanding house for a family of 4, consisting of 2 adults and two children (each child in their own bedroom), measures about 146m². A sectional title unit can average at about 90m². (https://businesstech.co.za/news/trending/190002/the-size-of-your-home-in-south-africa-is-shrinking-heres-why/)

It is a fact that average house sizes have been getting much smaller. However, a 146m² South African home is still quite spacious compared to average home sizes around the globe. (http://shrinkthatfootprint.com/how-big-is-a-house

While it might be difficult to imagine how a family of 4 fits into a home of only 45m², the question might arise as to what are the factors to consider when hunting for a home that will be a comfortable size. This would largely depend on the family’s lifestyle.


The size of your house will impact different aspects of its uses and possibilities, so consider these items when making a purchase:


Decide which comforts should be close by to complement the way you like to live. Location can genuinely enhance your lifestyle without it slicing into your house-buying budget. Make sure that your chosen neighborhood matches up to the amenities that will suit your family’s lifestyle. For instance, with gyms and restaurants just around the corner or located comfortably close to your home, there is less need for a garden or a large entertainment area. 


Consider the initial financial commitment as well as ongoing bank payments, levies and rates, and taxes. This is one good reason to buy more affordable or smaller. For the future, it also makes sense to buy with a broader re-sale market in mind than buying a larger, more expensive property. Plus, with some capital set aside for achieving your “want to have”, such as renovating some of the spaces to suit your needs, it makes it worthwhile to compromise on size.

Amount of Bedrooms

The ideally suited number of bedrooms will vary from family to family. The bottom line is, if you have enough bedrooms in the house, the required amount of space for the rest of the house might be less. This can also be seen from the opposite angle; if the bedrooms are on the small side, one must consider that the inhabitants will spend more time in the shared living areas, hence the space allocation becoming more in these areas and bedrooms being mostly reserved for sleeping. 

Stages of living

Also, consider the stages that your family might find themselves in. If you have small kids, you might consider having a shared bedroom, freeing up another room for guests, a playroom, hobby room, or home office. 

Outside vs. Inside

You might have to choose whether you are happy to forfeit outdoor space in place of indoor space in the pursuit of affordability. People with busy lives prefer to not have a lot of outside space that will inevitably lead to maintenance and upkeep. There are also property options to consider. Country Estates, for example, have freestanding houses, townhouses, and flats that share small parks, trails, and pools for those who enjoy the outdoors. This is ideal for people who do not want the maintenance that comes with a large garden.


It makes a lot of sense to include the cost of the property’s maintenance into your budget. Some buildings require more money and more time and depending on the size and age of the building, this will undoubtedly impact your choice. An older, larger home might have charm but may need more upgrades, repairs, and renovations. If you are interested in an older property, make sure you have the time and budget to invest in these extras.

Short term or long term

Suppose this property can be considered a “starter home”. In that case, it may be sufficient that for now, a smaller property is sufficient, whereas buying the ideal home when you are more settled financially, could be considered to have more amenities and therefore more space allocated to luxurious living.

Whereas some of us grew up in a society that believes that “bigger is better”, expanding your footprint does not necessarily have to be the only way to go. To have more space seems like a necessity. Still, it could also be seen as more effort, more rooms to clean, a more significant financial investment, more rates and taxes, and more maintenance.

The appropriate term should be “right-sizing” (https://www.apartmenttherapy.com/downsize-with-kids-36921978) as it creates a more realistic focus for our time, meaning “people make decisions that are right for them”, as well as function outweighs upgrading on size. So, now that lifestyle has been taken into account let’s look at the allocation of space towards the various main functions within the house.


There are many opinions about this topic, and the importance shifts to various options within differing cultures. At a time, the most essential room was regarded to be the Dining Room because this is where family and friends would gather and socialize. Still, other people also give importance to a Meditation Room, Entrance, Kitchen, Master Bathroom, and Outdoor Area. (https://www.luxurypresence.com/luxury-real-estate-the-five-most-important-rooms-in-the-house/the)

 It has been my experience, however, that the following rooms can make a really big difference to how much value we get out of our family living experience:


The kitchen, often also called “the heart of the home”, could certainly be seen as the most significant gathering space in the house and the cooking activity often becomes a daily family experience. The same could be said for entertaining your friends and close family, who come over regularly. When they visit, it is our culture to share a meal, often involving cooking it together and which more than often happens in the Kitchen.

A comfortable overall kitchen length should start with a minimum of just about 3 meters, to serve the average family, but it is the one room where a few additional meters or features can very effectively add value in terms of your lifestyle. 

The Kitchen should be proportional to the size of the house it is in. It makes sense to say that it would feel wrong if the Kitchen was too small in a large house, but what would “feel” right for a more compact house? 

In the past, kitchens were “smaller, separated and removed from the rest of the home” and “used almost exclusively for cooking that could be closed off to conceal the mess”, but nowadays we know that this is the place where family and friends love to interact and in fact, the Kitchen is even referred to as “the new living room”. (https://www.sarahhayesdesign.com/post/diving-right-in-the-heart-of-today-s-home-the-kitchen)

In determining the ultimate size for a family kitchen, the first question you have to ask, is “How many chefs in the kitchen?” This means, how many people will be cooking in the Kitchen at the same time because this would determine how many cooking stations need to be created. It makes a lot of sense to create these different zones or cooking stations, especially for a family, because as each area is defined for the particular activity engaged in, there is less chance of people stepping over each other when tasking in the Kitchen.

For instance, if someone is baking, while another is busy cooking the family breakfast at the stove, it would be practical if all the baking equipment is stored in the area where this activity is taking place. It makes sense to store everything close at hand to not have to interfere with the person at the stove, which might even be dangerous, as much as unpleasant. 

Defining different cooking zones will keep everyone in the Kitchen happy in their own space and activity and ensure that more people can effectively utilize the Kitchen at the same time. 

By creating different cooking zones in the Kitchen, it can help you have a more practical kitchen, that can be utilized by more people at one time, will cut down the preparation time, and will even add an aspect of safety. Each station could take up a counter space of a minimum width of 70cm to 1,2m wide per person. This is how: 

The Food Preparation Station                                                           

This is an area where food gets prepped or prepared before it gets cooked. In some cultures, or families, this will involve one station for preparing vegetables and another station for meat dishes. These areas should ideally be located close to the “cooking zone” and the “food storage zone” (pantry cupboard or fridge), to be functioning at its optimum. Preparation will involve for the following items to be located together: A prep bowl, chopping boards, knives, graters, bowls, and a bin.

The Food Preparation area should typically be about a minimum of 70cm wide, to comfortably give one person enough elbow room to work in.

The Cooking Station

This is the area dedicated to cooking and would usually include a cooktop or hob and some space on either side of the cooking area. This space, as mentioned before, would be located next to the “Food Preparation Station”. Together with cooking, we usually have space where we would base or spice the food about to be cooked and also where the sauces are prepped, as they are essential to the cooking process. The storage component for this area should include one or 2 large pot drawers and a drawer for cooking utensils and a storage area for spices and condiments.

The cooking area is determined by the size of the cooking apparatus, which can typically be 60cm to 90cm wide. An additional area of a minimum of 45cm to one or both sides result in a worktop width of 105cm in length to about 1,5m long for a larger kitchen.

Other specialized areas could include:

 The Breakfast Station 

This is potentially a very dynamic area, where a lot may happen in a very busy time of a family’s day, the morning before work and school. At the breakfast station, everything is conveniently grouped. It is the area dedicated to small appliances that are typically used for the preparation of breakfast, such as a kettle, toaster, coffee machine, egg boiler, and even juicer and blender for smoothies. 

The crockery and cutlery used for the morning breakfast session should also be located in this area. So, storage for items such as cups, glasses, small plates, cutting boards, and its associated food items, such as bread, butter, cereal, coffee, and tea can be stored at arm’s length in this area                                             A breakfast station could function with a minimal worktop length of 90cm, but about 1.2m should be comfortable.

A Baking Station

This area will preferably include a large preparation surface, especially if the baking activity involves rolling out dough and mixing with many different ingredients and equipment. A set of drawers for a rolling pin, spatulas, measuring cups, and spoons, as well as a few large under counter cupboards or drawers for baking pans and cake tins, as well as storage of food items specific to this activity, could include the storage of the dry ingredients, such as flour, sugar, nuts, icing sugar and the like. Equipment and small appliances such as hand mixers or kitchen aids and bread-making machines are often also used in this area, so do not forget that you might also require the use of a plug point.

An efficient baking area should include a work surface of at least 70cm wide and 60cm deep and sufficient under counter storage.

A Social Area

Do not forget to add a little raised counter with chairs if you have space! What could be more practical than to have a few chairs reserved for guests, where a glass of wine or coffee can be enjoyed for keeping you company while you are cooking? Or where homework can be done by schoolchildren while the parent is busy preparing the meal? Having a designated seating area such as this keeps the guest or kids out of the busy areas while promoting sociability. 

The same concept can be created by having a kitchen table inside the kitchen area. If you enjoy a sociable kitchen, a kitchen table is one sure-fire way for this one room to be enjoyed by many at the same time. A kitchen table can also double up as additional worktop space when needed.

Dividing the Kitchen into different areas makes using the Kitchen more effective, especially for a family. It keeps everyone out from under each other’s feet, as some might be helping themselves to coffee at the Breakfast Station, while others are busy prepping, cooking, or even cleaning. 

So, it would be safe to say that the size of the Kitchen is important, yes, but the layout will determine whether space is used to its optimum in suiting the lifestyle of the family that brings it to life.


Most homes for a family of 4 (or a 3 bedroomed house), will typically have the following bathroom configurations: 

  1. The Main Bathroom with a toilet, wash hand basin, and shower or an added bath. In this case, it is also still popular to have the toilet with an additional wash hand basin in a separate adjoining room, which can also be used by guests.
  2. An En-Suite bathroom to the Main Bedroom, to be used by the parents, with a toilet, wash hand basin, and shower and/or bath, including the Main Bathroom with a toilet, wash hand basin, and shower (or bath), which can be used by the general occupants and guests. It is also still popular for the Main Bathroom to be divided into 2 separate rooms, side by side, one containing only a toilet and wash hand basin and the other that has a bath and shower and wash hand basin and often another toilet.
  3. A large house might have one En-Suite to every bedroom plus a Guest Bathroom or toilet, but you might find that the 2 above scenarios are the norm. 

Either way, here are some pointers to consider when making a choice:

Toilets: It is a good standard to have at least 2 toilets in a household. 

A toilet with a wash hand basin is usually about a minimum of 2m long x 90cm wide.

Wash hand basins: 

Good practice includes having at least one wash hand basin per toilet and if you have a washroom with either a shower and/or bath, this room would also have a wash hand basin. 

If space allows, one often finds En-Suite Bathrooms with 2 wash hand basins, especially if the is room is luxuriously large. This allows a couple to comfortably use the room at the same time, especially in the morning when rushing to get ready for work.

A wash hand basin requires a space of at least 70cm wide in front of it by its user or a width of 1,4m for 2 wash hand basins side-by-side.

The Bath:

 It is practical to have at least have one bath per household, especially if you have small kids, but a bath has become unpopular with water usage becoming restricted and some households no longer have a bath at all.

Small baths are generally considered to be around 1,5m to 1,6m in length, with a width of 70cm, while a big bath can be 180cm long and upwards.

The Shower: 

For a household of 4, it is preferable to have at least 2 rooms to wash in, each containing a shower or one with a shower and one with a bath. A combination bath and shower is also a good idea for a household requiring both facilities. Having a slightly bigger shower can be an important re-sale value.

A shower can be as small as 80cm x 80cm, but a comfortable shower is at least 90cm x 90cm wide. 

Too many new homeowners, the number of bathrooms in a house can be the main factor in choosing a new home. It is a modern convenience that we have grown accustomed to, but for others, the following rooms or areas are just as important: 

  • An additional wash-up or Scullery and Laundry Room or area
  • A Home Office or desk space 
  • An outside Entertainment Area 


A Scullery could be seen as the “Engine Room” of the household. This is the room where we process the dirty dishes and laundry. 

A Scullery can be small with a length of about 1,35m, with a floor space of about 4m² and house just a sink cupboard and storage for brooms and buckets, or a larger Scullery could incorporate a full Laundry and can be up to about 6-8m² or bigger.

The Scullery became popular at the time when Kitchens became an open plan. Kitchens became the main feature of the Living Room, but there was still a need to have a messy utilitarian area.

“For busy families, a scullery is a part pantry, part prep kitchen, and part convenience store. Individuals who love to entertain and do so frequently are also ideal candidates for sculleries.” (https://www.millcreekkb.com/what-s-a-scullery-and-why-do-i-need-one)

A Scullery leading from the Kitchen is a very practical room to have in a family home, this is evident, considering that a Scullery typically incorporates:

  • A cupboard with a sink and dish dry rack 
  • Appliances, such as a dishwasher, washing machine, and tumble drier
  • space allocated to folding and ironing of washing
  • laundry baskets
  • a cupboard to house brooms, mops, and vacuum cleaners
  • a utility storage cupboard for buckets and detergents
  • bin cupboard or space for bins and recycling 
  • an additional fridge or freezer 
  • an additional pantry cupboard
  • a trough for washing clothing or larger items, such as a braai grid

A Scullery can be uniquely tailored to however your family operates and this is why it must be the most convenient additional room any house can have.


In the past, a home office was considered a feature that many people would love having in their homes but didn’t necessarily see as a significant need. In the past year, our focus has decidedly changed and we have adapted the way we work and learn, and a Home Office space has moved up a notch on the priority list.

A Home Office or desk space with a minimum of 900mm – 1,5m long and would include a desk, good lighting, a power supply, and some storage.

Every household will require some sort of workspace, from where to pay the bills, manage some documentation and make phone calls, and if you decide to sell your house, this extra space, even if it is only a nook is viewed as a practical asset.

While not everyone has found themselves working remotely as a permanent option, it has become the norm to spend time working from home from time to time. At first, this change was difficult for people to adjust to, but for most workers, it has become essential. “Having access to a home office is, for most remote workers, a necessity now and for the future. If you are being asked to work from home, you need a proper office set up so you can work effectively and maintain productivity.” (https://saterdesign.com/blogs/news/5-reasons-why-you-need-a-home-office“)

A study nook only requires a desk space, a PowerPoint, and some storage. Ideally, space should be suitable for making a phone call and an online meeting or doing your weekly online shopping. Many people are also engaging more in online studying. Even schools are offering online classes in part and taking online courses has increased in popularity.


Even with only a small outdoor space, adding just a bit of an outside living area can add and greatly contribute toward maximizing the enjoyment of your home. Even if you add just a little sunny break-away spot, where you can spend a quiet moment, it could become a saving grace to a house that holds a fair-sized family.

An outside entertainment can be as small as 2 chairs and a café table, which will take about 3m² and for a braai with a full table, seating 8, you will need at least 15m.²

Whether you live in a townhouse and only have a balcony, people love to grill and enjoy the outdoors and here in South Africa, we have the added bonus of having a lot of sunshine. So, especially here, we should take advantage of our great weather to maximize our outdoor space to also add to our indoor space. A great way to enlarge an open-plan Living Room, Dining Room or Kitchen, is to have a glass door to the outside area. By having a door, preferably all glass, such as a sliding door or sliding-folding door, we can extend this room to the outside to accommodate many more people when we entertain. This is not the only place where we can benefit from having great weather to extend our living spaces.

By adding a door that can exit to the outside, we can completely change the feel of any room to make it feel bigger and more open. If this door is glass, it also lets in natural light, which enhances the living experience of any room. Here are some ideas for extending this concept to the other rooms in your house: 


By adding glass doors that open to the outside of any room, if space permits, you can create a little GREEN courtyard. Not only will this let in more sunshine and fresh air, but it will also make the room feel much bigger. Even if the outdoor space is close to a boundary wall, by adding some greenery, you can create a lovely atmosphere and increase your re-sale value.

A Bedroom with a green courtyard: 

You can create a little courtyard to the bedroom, by utilizing some paving, potted plants, or even a small deck or stepping stones amongst a planted area. 

This effect can be created even if you only have a 1m depth alongside the house.

A Bathroom with an outside shower:

A bathroom can lead to the outside to be connected to the swimming pool if you have one. If you do not have a pool, it might also be a great idea to add an outside shower in the left-over space alongside the bathroom.

Here too, a space of just 1m wide can be enough to create a shower and a green wall.

A corridor lightwell

A long boring passage can be turned into a lightwell, bringing natural light into a previously dark and uninspiring area of the home. 

An area as narrow as 1,5m is enough to make a passage feel double the size.


When it comes to the ideal size for a family home of 4 people, it is important to have sufficient space to live comfortably. As it is important to size your home correctly, even in the light of the fact that people all over having to downsize, you can add a great deal of value to your home and the living experience of your family, by “right-sizing” and by enhancing the potential that your property can offer.

This can be done by breaking up large rooms into smaller, usable spaces. By cleverly having a balance between larger rooms for family activities and more options for smaller groups or individual alone time, you can find balance, comfort, and harmony that adds value to the lives of yourself and that of your family.

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