What is the Ideal House Size for a Family?

If given a choice between two homes, we’ll always look at the bigger floor area as a plus, right? Space gives us a perception of safety and security for our lifestyle and future. This idea of space is experienced globally.

Chasing your dream home for your family may be daunting. Saving up and making that big step can never be easy, especially as that huge investment is supposed to last your family for years! However there are ways of scaling it down while not compromising on your “dream home.” It is just about knowing how much space you need and how well you use it.

Ideally, a house should have 3 rooms: 1 private space (bedroom), 1 common space (living-dining, kitchen) and the bathroom. For every additional person added to the home, if they are not in a relationship that allows them to sleep in the same bedroom, there should be an additional bedroom.

 Living Space# Bedrooms# BathroomsTotal Area
Family of 33 pax (* 55 sq.ft)2 (*400 sq.ft)1-2 (*12.5 sq.ft)977.5 sq.ft
Family of 44 pax (* 55 sq.ft)2-3 (*400 sq.ft)2-3 (*12.5 sq.ft)1,445 sq.ft
Family of 55 pax (* 55 sq.ft)3-4 (*400 sq.ft)2-3 (*12.5 sq.ft)1,900 sq.ft
Family of 66 pax (* 55 sq.ft)3-5 (*400 sq.ft)3-4 (*12.5 sq.ft)2,367.50 sq.ft

Then allocate 2 seats at the common spaces for every bedroom ex. 2 Bedroom Home has a 4 seater Dining Table & Sofa. Homes in the U.S. today range from 1500 to 2500 square feet (140-232 square meters). This range is a safe, comfortable area as over it, may be considered too large due to burdening costs. Taking off from the International Code Council (ICC), the allotment is 100-400 square feet (or 9-37 square meters) per person. Note this figure considers the minimum requirements for a “habitable space” (or sleeping space) per person.

Average size of families homes

The average number of people in a household around the world is 4.9 people. Some countries may house more (as in Sub-Saharan Africa with 6.9 people) or less (Europe or the U.S. with 3).

40 years ago, the average American home was 1,687 sq. feet with a household of 3 people. Today that floor area increased by 1,000 square feet, but the number of people was reduced to 2.50. (2)

Image from Today’s new homes are 1,000 square feet larger than in 1973, and the living space per person has doubled over last 40 years | American Enterprise Institute – AEI

It seems the phenomenon of “living large” is widespread, with 1000 square feet allotted per person. (It may help to look at this figure as your maximum cap.) (3)

Another reason why it’s so hard to predict how much square footage you’ll need is that you may have completely different priorities for a home than the previous owner did. Do you want the loft as a guest room or home gym? Should the extra space be a formal dining area or home office?

Assuming a 1,500 square foot home, National Association of Home Builders recommends how much area you should allocate for each room:

• Master bedroom – 12% (300 square feet)

• Other average bedrooms – 16% (432 square feet)

• Master bathroom – 6% (154 square feet)

• Kitchen – 12% (300 square feet) Dining room – 8% (192 square feet)

• Family (great) room – 12% (296 square feet)

• Living room – 9% (223 square feet)

Time-saver standards for building types. McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing

We can apply that same principle above in order to get a ballpark figure of area for a house depending on family size:

 Living Space# Bedrooms# BathroomsTotal Area
Family of 33 pax (* 55 sq.ft)2 (*400 sq.ft)1-2 (*12.5 sq.ft)977.5 sq.ft
Family of 44 pax (* 55 sq.ft)2-3 (*400 sq.ft)2-3 (*12.5 sq.ft)1,445 sq.ft
Family of 55 pax (* 55 sq.ft)3-4 (*400 sq.ft)2-3 (*12.5 sq.ft)1,900 sq.ft
Family of 66 pax (* 55 sq.ft)3-5 (*400 sq.ft)3-4 (*12.5 sq.ft)2,367.50 sq.ft

Data for Living Space from “Time Saver Standards for Building Types”; Bedroom and Bathroom Dimension from ICC; and Bathroom ratio taken from What is the ideal ratio of bathrooms to bedrooms? | Sansome & George (sansomeandgeorge.co.uk)

Areas above made use of the stated maximum bedrooms and minimum number of toilets. It does not include circulation, garage and storage space. Note this table assumes 1 couple as parents with persons 3 and up as their kids. This value can be further lessened if 2 siblings share a room, or increased if each bedroom owner wanted their own bathroom, or a powder room (half bathroom) for guests.

The U.S. averages also state:

• A small house = less than 1,000 square feet

• An average home = 2,500-square-foot range

• Large homes = 4,000 square feet and up.

Data above taken from the “How much square footage do I need for a new home?” by The Plan Collection.(3)

Note that these standards of measurement differ per country’s building code. Say in the U.S. the minimum floor area for a kitchen is 5 square meters while in the Philippines, is 3 square meters. Although these can be used as a baseline for the minimum, the American Planning Association in 1952, stated the minimum areas for rooms in a home are as follows:

Table from Minimum Requirements for Lot and Building Size (planning.org)

Living Large or Living Smart?

Smart Floor Plans and Layouts

If the Tiny Home can move families into spaces under 500 square feet, perhaps we don’t need as much as we’re living with now. The difference a good floor plan can make lies in its careful planning and zoning. Privacy can be achieved with movable walls, partitions, or simply moving a space on a higher floor.

A great example was achieved by Katsutoshi Sasaki + Associates in designing the Imai House in Japan.

The house is 3 meters wide and plays with the room heights to match the room’s need. For example, the children’s bedroom only needs a height of 1.3 meters, giving the additional ceiling headroom of 4.4 meters to the living room. It makes use of hybrid spaces, giving common rooms at least two functions, such as the corridor as a study area and storage. It also asks to rethink typical home spaces, can the inner garden be a dining area? All this while arranging the rooms in such a streamline flow and circulation to not need any corridors. (7)

If living in a house, maximize the use of expanding indoor functions to the outdoors. If in an apartment building, the common spaces like the roof deck as a garden are at your disposal (and already paid for by you anyway). Expand the concept further and see how the taxes you contribute can serve you further. Your favorite coffee shop could be your workspace or the nearby park and playground as your garden and kids’ play room.

Images from Katsutoshi Sasaki’s Imai house is just three metres wide (dezeen.com)

We don’t all need to find a superb driveway to squish into. A general rule to follow is the “Bedroom Living Space Ratio“: Allocate for two people in the dining-sitting area for every one bedroom in the house. (8)

A better thing to invest in instead of more floor area is excellent layout planning: What is the experience of the Living- Family Area? Can it adapt to accommodate more people when needed? Does it foster interaction?  How are the bedrooms laid out in relation to each other? Does it give security for the parents yet privacy for the kids? Does your home overlook a garden? Is it located near critical facilities? — See how great planning and foresight in design can affect how you use your time in a space. (5)

Assessing the Generation Gap

Perhaps you have 2 kids, with another one on the way and would like a bedroom for your parents to stay over when they visit or retire in the future. It is common in some cultures to live with extended family. In Asia it’s actually rare for people to live alone. However, if we blatantly plan out to provide all these spaces at once, the home area will drastically increase and the price skyrocket. (9)

Image from With billions confined to their homes worldwide, which living arrangements are most common? | Pew Research Center

What age are your kids in? Can they share a room or bathroom? Are they in a stage of moving out of the house soon? Maybe by that time, the kids’ rooms can be converted into that guest space, game room, or library you want to enjoy in your retirement.  (3)

Expanding the idea of space zoning with time in a matter of years (or decades even) keeps your home adaptive and grows with your family needs. It’s also a great tactic in not needing to shell out all the cash now and pressure in setting all designs early on.

This way, you can build funds towards a quality home rather than rushing to get it all done. You can avoid resorting to cheaper compromises left and right. You can also make informed changes as you encounter problems living in the house. Architects can only plan so much, but it’s all still a giant prediction that what they design will serve your family long. They cannot predict what new hobbies, trends or lifestyles you might get into, which makes this a great plus tactic in building a new home.

Check in with the Cultural Factor

In the United States, it’s common for big homes to have a formal and informal dining area. In the Philippines, it’s common to have a “dirty kitchen” besides the actual kitchen and a servant quarters integrated in even the smallest of apartments. Many Chinese people will not buy a home if the Feng Shui is giving bad energy (or bad “chi”).

We cannot separate culture and how it relates to the functions of spaces. Take these into consideration during the early stages of space planning. Can you imagine having a home in the L.A. suburbs without a provision for a garage?

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

Notice in the image above how countries with expansive land and expendable income have higher values. Yes the study is greatly linked to average income in the country, however it’s also true that the space you have caters to the country’s lifestyle. Are items commonly sold in bulk? Are cars there bigger than in other countries? Is it an urban or suburban area? (10)

Leave Some Room for Personal Space

The solution isn’t always to scale down if it’ll bring us a mental breakdown.

It’s worth noting the psychological impacts space can have on us. For some family dynamics, a bigger space means less conflict, having your own spaces to retreat to rather than always being together. For others, they feel too isolated and hardly get to see each other in the same house. There’s a reason we’ve come to equate space to comfort. And heck if you can afford it, why not save yourself the stress. (11)

In a Nutshell

If we build more, we’ll fill up the space. We will always find a way to clutter. Building bigger actually encourages us to buy more things and store them. We don’t really see how we could be wasting space and its long term cost implications. But the stuff will keep piling up.

When you have the opportunity to choose a new space to live in, it pays to talk to an architect in exploring and challenging this concept of, how can I maximize the uses and time spent in this space?

Beat the bigger is better, need to impress and show off success, having made it and living large. Battle the “need” to host and entertain guests if you really don’t.  You don’t need to conform to the “Mc-Mansion” or “Tiny Home Movement”. The perfect ideal home will work in all dimensions of social and financial life. There’s no shame in wanting and needing space, just be sure you actually do use it.

We need to be truthful about the space we feel comfortable in enough to call home.


  1. International Code Council. (2015). International building code. Falls Church, Va. :International Code Council,
  2. Perry, M. (2014, February 26). Today’s new homes are 1,000 square feet larger than … – aei. AEIdeas. Retrieved February 2022, from https://www.aei.org/carpe-diem/todays-new-homes-are-1000-square-feet-larger-than-in-1973-and-living-space-per-person-has-doubled-over-last-41-years/
  3. Bakke, T. (2021, March 8). How much square footage do I need for a new home? The Plan Collection. Retrieved February 2022, from https://www.theplancollection.com/house-plan-related-articles/how-much-square-footage-do-i-need-for-a-new-home
  4. Wagner, K. (2018, July 11). Our homes don’t need formal spaces. Curbed. Retrieved February 2022, from https://archive.curbed.com/2018/7/11/17536876/great-room-house-size-design-square-footage
  5. 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/
  6. Gowen, Z. (n.d.). Here’s why 1,500 square feet is the best size for a home. Southern Living. Retrieved February 2022, from https://www.southernliving.com/home/1500-square-feet-home-size
  7. Amy Frearson, A. (2014, March 28). Katsutoshi Sasaki’s Imai House is just three metres wide. Dezeen. Retrieved February 2022, from https://www.dezeen.com/2014/03/28/imai-three-metre-wide-house-katsutoshi-sasaki/
  8. 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/
  9. Kramer, S. (2020, July 30). With billions confined to their homes worldwide, which living arrangements are most common? Pew Research Center. Retrieved February 2022, from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/03/31/with-billions-confined-to-their-homes-worldwide-which-living-arrangements-are-most-common/
  10. 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
  11. 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/