Design can seem like a pretty trivial matter sometimes. Many people associate it with unnecessary excess. With froufrou. (Not you, of course, you're great). Yes, design can seem all throws for your couch. An avalanche of cushions between you and bedtime. VIGNETTES. And the like.

But in reality, good design is much more than that.

Good. Design. Will. Change. Your. Life. (It'll probably save the world too, who knows). And though I'm prone to exaggeration, this is not one of those times.

Now, it's around this time of year the panic starts to set in. March tricks you into thinking the weather is great and life is peachy and everything's fun. But it's not. Because soon we'll have to wind our clocks forward or backwards or whichever way it goes, but it doesn't even matter because who winds a clock anymore anyway, am I right? And that means WINTER IS COMING (and that I'm not above using a GoT reference to get your attention) and, really, it's all downhill from here.

Cue design. Because it can help you out in the toughest of times - i.e. when you're curled up, foetal position, desperate to stay under the covers because it's grey and miserable outside and it's going to be freezing in every part of the house, so you're just going to cancel today and stay exactly where you are, thank you very much.

In contrast, a well-designed home will feel light and bright, even on the bleakest of days. It will warm up quickly and stay warmer for longer without much help from your heating system. And if winter decides to bless us with a smattering of sunshine, it will suck up those rays like a hungry echidna sucks up ants. Cute, right?

So, if you're planning to build or renovate, here are a few ways you can harness design to make winter more tolerable. Sure, there may not be enough time to summon the warming glow of good design this winter, but at least you can dream of a lifetime of relatively pain-free winters in the future. Vision board it.

North Light

Sometimes I feel like a one-song Spotify playlist on repeat, because I'm ALWAYS saying (typing) 'north light'.

North light. North light. North light. See?

And yet, people still ask me, 'which way should my living room face again?' So while my future has me sitting in a corner of the nursing home, facing the wall, muttering 'north light' to myself, your future should have you basking in the free and natural warmth of, you guessed it, north light.

Even if your block faces entirely the wrong direction. Even if there's no view to the north. Or you have some pesky neighbours over there. There are some tricks you can use to have all of the light anyway. Yes, you can have your cake and eat it too. Because of course you can, because why would you want a cake if you can't eat it? Why is that even a saying?

Also, a heads up for our friends in the Northen Hemisphere, every time I say 'north' you can just sub that out and replace with 'south' and stop looking at me funny.

And for those in the tropics, ignore everything I've just said, pour yourself a cool drink and go back to being slightly unhinged.

North Facing Living Spaces Provide Space and Light to This Home

You can use your reno as an opportunity to reorient your living spaces to the north like the architects did at this home in country NSW.

South Terrace Alterations and Additions Joinery, Concrete Floors, Kitchens, Ceiling Fans, Clerestory Windows, Lamps, Living Areas

Or grab north light via some funky 'funnels' like this home does.

Light Cannon House by Carter Williamson Architect (via Lunchbox Architect)

Better yet, light 'cannons'. Because what house isn't instantly better with cannons?

No More Living in Darkness; This Saw Tooth Roof Brings the Light

Or use a saw-tooth design to force your home's hand into facing the right way. 'I will have my light, god-dammit', you will say as you arm-wrestle your cold, south-facing home into a winter's delight.

Sugar Gum House sits where the foothills of the Otways meets the surf and glows as the sun sets

And if your view is in one direction and sweet sweet north light is in the other? Face the view, obviously, but make sure you have some clerestory windows to catch the light like the architect did at this home

Thermal Mass

So once you have all of that sexy light and its sensual warmth, what are you going to do with it? Once the sun goes down, it's out of your life and you're alone and cold. Again.

You lock that shit down with thermal mass, that's what you do. Thermal mass is like a bank for warmth. And I believe it has very good interest rates. It absorbs warmth during the day and then releases it slowly overnight so your house maintains a moderate temperature.

Laneway House Black Tapware, Kitchen Cabinets, Timber Kitchens, Kitchens, Lounge Suites, Clerestory Windows

So to incorporate thermal mass, you could try going reverse brick veneer, like this home (which is actually designed to keep its cool in Townsville, rather than warmth, but it's the same principle, I promise)

Carlton Cloiser Timber Houses, Brick Houses, Desks

Or this home that brings the bricks inside in Carlton.

Long Courtyard House by Scale Architecture (via Lunchbox Architect)

You could have an exposed concrete floor to soak up the rays.

Cape Schanck House White Houses, Water Collection, Thermal Mass

Or, you could let your creativity out of its cage and put a water tank inside.


Unfortunately, I don't have any pretty pictures of insulation. 'Insulation is more of an experience than a thing' (said in my most hipster voice). Not true, it's totally a thing. But not a very pretty thing, really. Suffice to say, stuff everything with insulation. EVERYTHING. And you'll feel warmer this winter and probably pay less on your heating bill. Smart.

Stay Warm

So rug up, it's going to be a truly horrendous winter. But create some light at the end of that bleak tunnel by making a commitment to yourself. 'I hereby swear to use the power of design to warm my winters from here on in'.