What is a Good Size House for One Person?

Globally we’re experiencing a housing crisis, but we can’t shake off the idea of wanting a nice big home as space is often equated to comfort. “The more space I have, the more room I have for my stuff or people to come over.” However now that we’re transitioning to a “Tiny Home” movement. How downsized can we go? It’s a broad question that can be broken down to suit your personal needs: In terms of what you can afford financially and what you feel comfortable with. After all, you will be spending most of your time in this space — 24/7 if we go into another pandemic lockdown.

A good size house is to have a Studio or 1 Bedroom apartment with an enclosed bathroom. This would total a minimum of 3 rooms: 1 bedroom (private space), 1 full bathroom (toilet, shower and lavatory) and one “living space” that has your living, dining and kitchen (semi-private). This concept can be expanded as needed, divided with walls or just screens and furniture if one open plan space (studio).

A basic rule of thumb as defined by the International Code Council (ICC) is to allot 100-400 square feet (or 9-37 square meters) per person. This however is relative to a person’s culture, lifestyle and comfort in space. The ICC also requires a minimum area of 70 square feet (or 6.5 square meters) for habitable space, which only allows for a single bed and passageway beside it. (1)

Rules of Thumb

Being mindful of the housing shortage and the need to scale down in home size, the International Code Council updated the requirement needing a 120 square foot habitable space to 70 square feet. The idea is to have the minimum dimensions of 12 x 10 feet for the Living Room and at least one bedroom at 7 x 10 feet. This takes into consideration ceiling height, proper movement circulation and airflow. (1)

So what is the Goldilocks size of “just right”? The New Zealand Planning Auckland Council suggests a minimum width of 3.8 for major spaces. This allows for the combining of major areas such as the living room, dining room and kitchen as one fluid habitable space. Key points and excerpts taken from the Auckland Design Manual by the Auckland Council are: (2)

  • Living and dining rooms should have a minimum width of 3.8m
  • Circulation space of 0.80 meters around furniture and walls
  • Access to bedrooms and bathrooms should avoid crossing through the middle of living spaces, instead movement should be directed around the edges of these rooms.
  • Clear access around a Dining Table should range from 0.60-0.70 meters

Image from Living and dining spaces – Auckland Design Manual

A common rule is to dedicate more floor space to where you spend most of your time, usually your bedroom and kitchen (needing a lot of counter or storage space). Again, this is relative to the person’s daily lifestyle. It doesn’t make sense to enlarge a kitchen if the person doesn’t cook, or to provide a big living room if you prefer watching TV in your bed. (3)

Image from the ICC, 2015_irc_sigchanges_p46-7.pdf (iccsafe.org)

How Much (Money) It Takes

As an upfront cost, one would put out more money on materials, labor and time spent with each square foot added to the home. The cost multiplies drastically as more walls means more paint, insulation, tiles and more furniture to fill up the space. Design elements will also scale up, like doors and windows should be bigger than the standard to be proportionate to your building and not look dwarfed.

Unfortunately this doesn’t have a quick return of investment as it also costs money to ensure the facade doesn’t look old, repaint every few years, the tiles or roofing isn’t cracked, your garden is tidy and kept well — so that in the event you do sell this home, the value doesn’t depreciate.

General cleaning alone of the floors, kitchen and bathrooms can already be a hard day’s work or a good amount of money spent in labor, or more cleaning detergents and materials. Not to mention a larger home means your appliances work harder to cool or heat your space. Imagine having that lavish 6-seater lounge open to a double volume or high ceiling. Air-conditioning that space takes a machine with higher horsepower, expending a lot of energy to keep the room cool vs. a quaint 50 sqm living room. (3)

Let’s say you don’t use all the spaces in the home and therefore don’t need to clean or cool them all. There’s still money spent in long term maintenance and property tax, for 50% of the areas you use only 10% of the year? Less? (4)

Even if you end up selling the home for more than you bought it, all the maintenance in heating, cooling and cleaning is money you won’t get back.

Imagining One’s Lifestyle in a Space

However, “Less is More” isn’t automatically the best solution.

Are you a chef, gymnast or fashion designer? Does your job require you to store a lot of bulky items? Does your hobby require big sports equipment or perhaps you are an avid collector of mugs? Do you have pets? These factors are worth considering the extra square footage for, to make daily life easier.

Image from https://i.redd.it/scpu0ca9mix21.jpg

Some may find that “living in a pod” concept cool, others might feel extremely claustrophobic like in a coffin. How would living here make you feel?

Which is why it’s equally important to be honest with yourself in terms of “how does the space make you feel?” A good basis is to take off from your personal experience with existing spaces. Try and recall places you liked and disliked to see what works for you and what just doesn’t sit right.

See below how each culture has their own baseline for minimum space per person. (5)

Image from How big is a house? Average house size by country – shrinkthatfootprint.com

Location, location will always play a factor in what your home needs to provide. Do you take a bike to work? Walk? Public Transportation? Or a private car? Imagine having to undergo a strict 2-week lockdown in your home. Can your home sustain you physically, mentally and emotionally?

Is there a grocery or convenience store a few blocks away? Or is it a far off drive, needing a larger pantry or food storage to last you. Is there a patch of green nearby you can unwind in? Or do you need a small garden even at your balcony ledge to get a semblance of nature?

It all follows.

If you have a laundromat close by, maybe you don’t need a dedicated laundry area. Maybe your favorite activity has a studio you can walk to as your home gym. —-Your own home doesn’t need to provide all these spaces on its own.

Home For the Future?

Personally, I would rather allocate my funds for a new home towards two things instead of a bigger space:

  1.  A Great Location: not needing garage space and money to own and maintain a car. Or worse, to suffer the stress of a commute. (6) Having a central location can be more expensive, but pays for itself when you use your surroundings as extensions of your home.
  2. Quality Smart Furniture: Opt for items that can withstand wear and tear, are easy to clean and maximize the space. A lot of new space saving designs are further explored in our article on What is the Minimum Size for a House?

Often the pitfall of having a huge home is resorting to skimping on cheaper finishes to ensure the entire space is designed and finished. These cheap finishes and furniture have a higher chance of causing you renovation problems much earlier than expected, or can be made of toxic material that will lead to chronic health problems.

Use your city as your backyard! The local coffee shop as your office, a nearby studio as your gym and park as your garden!

Ask yourself, do you see yourself living in this space in the next 10-20 years?

If so, will it be a life with kids and dogs running around the backyard? If not, then perhaps this home only needs to suit your lifestyle now. Leave some room for the future to reimagine and plan itself out.


  1. International Code Council. (2015). International building code. Falls Church, Va. :International Code Council,
  2. Auckland Council. (n.d.). Living and dining spaces print. Living and dining spaces – Auckland Design Manual. Retrieved February 2022, from https://content.aucklanddesignmanual.co.nz/sites-and-buildings/terraces/details/guidance/the-building/sections/terraced-housing-space/living-and-dining-spaces/Pages/default.aspx
  3. Geffner, M. (2020, May 18). Just right: How much square footage fits your family? NewHomeSource. Retrieved February 2022, from https://www.newhomesource.com/learn/how-much-square-footage-fits-your-family/
  4. Adcock, S. (2021, April 19). This study suggests that you’re wasting a ton of Home Space. Think Save Retire. Retrieved February 2022, from https://thinksaveretire.com/think-you-need-a-2000-sqft-house-to-be-comfortable-think-again/
  5. Wilson, L. (2014, November 11). How big is a house? average House size by country. shrinkthatfootprint.com. Retrieved February 2022, from http://shrinkthatfootprint.com/how-big-is-a-house
  6. Gorey, J. (2017, February 17). Tiny House? mcmansion? how much space a person really needs. Boston.com. Retrieved February 2022, from http://realestate.boston.com/news/2017/02/17/tiny-house-mcmansion-how-much-space-a-person-really-needs/