Square footage is about more than just size. It’s about the actual livability of your home. Whether you’re designing your own place or shopping for an existing home, square footage is one of the first considerations. It shouldn’t be just an arbitrary number you think will work, but a calculation based on how your family lives, works and plays. By taking your lifestyle, budget and costs into consideration, you’ll be able to find a size that isn’t too big or too small – but just right.

Collect this idea

square footage

Consider the rooms where your family spends the most time. Photo: Izumi Tanaka

Family ties

The size of your family definitely dictates the size of your home. That being said, some families can do with a little less. A great rule of thumb is that for every bedroom in your home, you have the room for at least two people to sit in any space. If you have three bedrooms, there should be enough seating in the family room for six. Four bedrooms? Plan for a dining space that can seat up to eight. It’s a simple way to calculate how much space you need in each room to keep your family comfortable.

The entertainer

Another factor to take into consideration is the frequency and type of entertaining you do. If you prefer to stick with your family and only entertain around the holidays, you might be able to downsize some of the larger living spaces in your home. If, however, you love entertaining, you’ll need to plan accordingly. Putting more square footage into general living areas like the kitchen and dining room will serve you better than using up all of your square footage in bedrooms and bathrooms.

Collect this idea

Maximize space with rooms for each generation. Image: Centre Sky Architecture

Generational space

More and more families are living in multi-generational homes and the strain in smaller, older homes can be apparent. Just 10 or 20 years ago, homes were designed with one nuclear family in mind. Today, rising living costs mean a family home might also house grandparents, students, parents and grandkids, too. When everyone is sharing spaces, even a larger home can feel cramped. When planning for size, make sure each generation has a space to call their own. Whether it’s a finished basement hangout for teens, an office for parents or a sunroom for grandparents, designating a space for each generation makes the most out of every square foot.

Budget concerns

Your budget definitely factors into how big (or small) your home is, but it doesn’t necessarily dictate the size. Some families might max out their budget for the biggest home possible. Others might opt for a smaller home with higher-end finishes. Talking to your contractor or real estate agent about price per square foot can give you an idea of the size and type of home you can get in your budget. Some homes might give you more space but have cheaper finishes, while others are smaller with higher-end fixtures. Deciding what is more important to you can help you maximize your budget.

Utility costs

All square footage is not created equally. Don’t forget that each part of your home will need to be lit, cooled and heated. Just because you can afford to build a bigger house now doesn’t mean you can afford the bills that come along with running a larger home. If you’re unsure of how much you’ll pay each month, ask some of the existing residents of your new area. If you’re purchasing an existing home, the seller can help give you an estimate of monthly utility costs.

Collect this idea

Double up rooms to save on space. Image: Chairma Design Group

Dual purposes

One last thing to keep in mind – especially if you’re designing a new home – is that some rooms don’t need to have just one purpose. By creating dual purpose rooms, you can maximize square footage without increasing your home’s footprint (while still getting exactly what you want). Combining your mudroom and laundry room or craft room with a home gym means you get the function of a larger home without paying for more space.

When it comes to square footage, size definitely matters. But remember that bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better. With the right floor plan and some clever design, you’ll be able to get all the space you can afford – and then some.