Opinions please: Best direction for house to face

polkadotsJanuary 7, 2009

I know there is a lot that goes into this - view, natural landscape etc. BUT, in a perfect world where the views were all equal and there weren't any constraints, I would like to know what you think is the best way to orient a house (which way would the house face?). I am trying to figure which way would be best in terms of sun, heat, light coming in, etc. The house would have the main living areas (family room, breakfast room, master) at the back. The kitchen could be on either side, depending how you flipped the house plan. It would be located in the midwest, if that makes a difference to you.

Any input would be appreciated - this group always has such good reads on things like this. Thank you.

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I have heard south facing is the best for heating.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 8:56AM
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Assuming you don't live somewhere that's righteous hot, you should probably put your main living areas facing south. You'll get great sun in the winter and if you plant the right kind of trees to shade those windows in the summer, you won't heat the house up too much in the summer. You definitely don't want a room you watch TV in facing east or west, or you'll get bad glare when the sun is low in the sky. Our bedroom faces north and east and every morning I get blasted by the sunrise - makes for kind of a harsh awakening (of course, if I got off my duff and put up some better window treatments, this wouldn't be an issue anymore, LOL!

Good luck!

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 9:22AM
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In the Midwest, the main living areas with large windows should be facing south if the site allows that. Have large overhangs on house so that the sun's angle in the winter will be low on horizon helping warm the house while in the hot summer the sun's angle will be much higher. Thus, in the summer the large overhangs protect the house from the heat of the sun. Also plant deciduous trees on south side and evergreens on north side. Protect west side also from strong winds and sun.
I like the kitchen on the east side of the house with maybe a small breakfast patio out there.
I used to design homes and studied architecture in the Midwest. One of our school projects was to design an energy saving home. Nowadays there are so many innovative ways to design a home that helps save energy.
Look at Frank Lloyd Wright's homes and the way he used large overhangs and natural materials to make the home design part of the landscape. He wasn't so good at roofs though. His tended to leak. Oh, well.

Good luck. Get yourself a good architect for the design.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 9:33AM
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I've always wanted a house where the back living space facing west. You get to see beautiful sunsets and don't have the awful southern sun beating in the windows (and on the patio) all afternoon.

We have lots of windows in our family room and have to close all the shades to watch TV in the afternoon with our southern exposure. Kitchen gets hot, too.

DH has a problem with the front door facing east, however (long story). :)

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 9:35AM
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I'm in OK. and it all depends on your window treatments and if you have a patio cover or awnings for the West sun which is the worst.

This is why I love plantation shutters, I can control the light in the main rooms.

A couple of months ago our house faced the east and a lot of pasture and wheat fields, with the driveway facing the north.

Now our house faces the north and the road! lol The large room we added has North, East, and West windows, but it doesn't matter because of the shutters. I can have it sunny or completely dark, depending on the mood I'm in. I love dark rooms on hot summer afternoons, it makes me feel like it's snowing outside. lol

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 9:35AM
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Think it depends on where you live really. Here in TX most people prefer backyards on the east. ITs because the west sun is so hot you can't be by the pools in the afternoon. Also pools heat up too much then your sitting in hot bath water! What I'd like most was a house that I could get some cross ventilation going on nice days. I love to air out the house - so to speak. Most homes you can't do that - or at least not well.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 9:49AM
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I live in Tx. When we built our home, we picked a lot where the house faces north. On our west side we have only two windows and there is a house next to us which helps out with the afternoon sun.
Another reason I like the front to face north is that I love to plant impatiens and caladiums in front, which do better with some shade.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 10:19AM
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Parma, it would be even worse if your house faced west. In my old house the rooms that were on the west side of the house and not shaded by trees were like an oven.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 10:27AM
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Here in Dallas our house faces south -- lovely to have that sun all day! Right now -- The cats love to nap in sun patches throughout the morning and early afternoon hours!

But I do agree that the hot afternoon sun can be brutal in the summer -- but our pool (which takes up most of our very tiny North-facing backyard) does heat up nicely (I do prefer warmer water LOL!)

Our patio can be VERY hot as the afternoon sun dips down BUT after sunset -- it stays warm for late evening cocktails!

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 10:37AM
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I was living in northern IL and southern WI so my comments were related to that latitude rather than a TX latitude.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 11:04AM
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from my illustrated book of Feng Shui by Lillian Too:

"If you are in doubt about which way to position your house, look for land that allows you to face south. Many Feng Shui masters advocate this, based on the widely-held belief that the south is the source of warmth and wealth. The south is regarded as auspicious because it holds out the promise of warm summer sunshine and good harvests, while the north is considered the source of ill winds."

It's one way of looking at it. They also say that any hills should be behind the house. Of course, my own house faces north and has a slope behind it, down toward the lake. Duh! Anyway Feng Shui is interesting and one way of looking at the world that I thought I'd share with you.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 11:11AM
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Yes, Feng Shui suggests that a front door open to the south. We have that here, but for the way our house is arranged, it means that only the front living room gets the southern light. So I prefer it when the main living spaces face south. The best light. We had that in the last house and it was lovely.

I also understand that if you have a craft or art workshop, you want northern light, which I have here and it works well, so you might want to add that in if that's a consideration.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 11:19AM
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My first house was front on the north side, it was a bungalow. My current house is a ranch, the front faces the south , and back of the house is north. What I have found it that when I have the front and back windows open you get such a good cross breeze. I love to have the windows open when I am able. Mary

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 11:50AM
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threegrad, we have a row of evergreens on the north side of the property, and oaks surrounding the house on the other sides. Great wind blocks! Only thing, in the summer when the still hot sun sets, it still comes in the west windows even with a patio cover. Trees and good window coverings make a big difference. But it takes years for trees to grow! lol

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 11:51AM
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Lena M

How wise of you to ask this question!

I second what threedgrad wrote.

Site the bldg on the North side of the lot, with outdoor space to the South.

This is perhaps the most important single fact about a building. If the building is placed right, the building and its garden will be happy places full of activity and laughter. If it is done wrong, then all the attention in the world, and the most beautiful details, will not prevent it from being a silent gloomy place.
(Alexander Pattern Language #105)

Sleeping rooms or breakfast nooks on the East to catch the morning sun, kitchen, family room; garden on the South, Porch and Family room on the west for the evening sun. Use north light for studios or art rooms, maybe with a skylight on a house built with the north side into a hill or berm. Put skylights only on East or North facing roofs. Plant deciduous trees to block summer sun, and let in spring and winter sunlight. Try to keep the house no more than two rooms deep, so each room gets light from two sides.

Pattern 128 Indoor sunlight


Here is a link that might be useful: Christopher Alexander et al Pattern Language

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 12:02PM
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WOW - thanks! I left to take the kids to storytime and came back to all these wonderful responses. Thank you for all the input...now I need to digest it all. We are in the midwest, so we need to consider the heat and the cold. Thanks again for the information.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 12:04PM
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I want a house with a sunny backyard (gardener you know). But when I last shopped for a house I found that houses that faced north, so the backyard would be on the south side of the house were few and far between. For some reason most housing developments around here (the Seattle area) are laid out with the majority of the streets running north and south so the houses mostly face east and west. I assume that its because around here most people prefer an east west orientation, but I don't know why.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 12:23PM
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I have to chime in about the Feng Shui. With all due respect to Lillian Too, and others who say that the door should face South, that is based on a system that wherein houses are in China. The door is facing toward the warmth, which is South, in a colder climate. And btw, even Lillian Too would not say that all doors should face South; that's just her "cookie cutter Feng Shui for the masses" approach.

The most important thing to consider when utilizing Feng Shui principles in your building orientation is the lay of the land & the roads & waterways. Some systems also want to use your birth date, & the build date of the house; personally, I don't go there. I do think the geomancy, considering the energy of the land (including hills, roads, neighboring structures, etc.) is the most important aspect.

Some basics - avoid energy coming straight at your front door, like a T instersection, or waterway or road that curves toward the house. If there are hills, or a slant to the land, try to have the door on the low end of the land, so that the energy moves up towards you. Think of sitting in an armchair, cuddled with the back behind you & arms on the sides, & look at the big picture of the land & trees around you. Being in the "armchair position" is ideal.

The movement of the sun is also important, of course, but it depends on whether you're in a warm or cool climate.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 2:03PM
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East. The house must face east so that you get sunshine on the flowers in the front yard in the morning.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 2:23PM
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My absolute favorite home, was exactly as anita55's----facing north and sloping down to a lake in the back (south). In my mind, the back WAS the front. It was where life was lived. It was where family, friends, those we loved entered. It even looked like a front! The fung shui gods must have agreed. It was the home that held the MOST good health, harmony, peace, and tranquility.
The one I hope to build one day soon will be right next door facing the same direction!

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 3:03PM
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My dream house would be one w/ backyard facing the ocean (west) and the front facing east. We are coastal here and when the backyard face east, it can get a bit cold in the evening.

Talking a/b fengshui I have a friend that's really into this. When he was house hunting, there were 2 houses on the market on the same street. One was already in escrow. He brought the feng shui master to look at the 2nd house (still available) but the guy told him that the house in escrow has better direction. So my friend went and offer the buyer of that house 20K so that he would back out of the sale & allow my friend the chance to buy.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 5:16PM
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It depends on your latitude and your lot. But if you want to make the most of passive solar in a cold (like NE) climate, face as many windows as you can south. Not magnetic south, but solar south (varies about 10 degrees from magnetic south depending on your latitude). I just read a book (2 years after designing my house) called Solar Living Sourcebook - very "green". They say to face your longest wall that way, I think it was about 10% of sf should be window (so for 2500 sf house need 250 sf of south window). Can't do that much unless you want to live in a fishbowl!

The way our lot was (ledge, only 50 ft frontage for driveway) and the fact that I knew we wanted a front porch "farmhouse" colonial, or long walls face solar E-W. But we put garage on north side, no windows that side, 1 small garage door. Lots of windows everywhere else, including a bay on the south side of the FR to "track" the sun as it moves. Strong western sun is shaded by the 7ft deep porch on the 1st floor, and we keep shades closed. MBR has 2 windows on south, 2 on west, and has pocket door facing a big Eastern window in MBA (I bought a Roman for that and we keep the door closed in the summer so I don't wake up at 4 am). DS's room has 2 eastern windows b/c he has a hard time getting up for school, dd's has western so she'll sleep later. Kitchen and FR get morning and early afternoon sun (passive solar), LR (where TV is, so not a great choice for summertime after-dinner TV viewing) and DR get the sunsets, we like to sit on the porch rocker and watch. Though if we build a back deck, we'll eat out there in the summer and miss it, but at least then we'll be in the shadow of the house and be cool. Landscaping is non-existent and we have an 800ft long curved driveway so privacy is not an issue.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 5:17PM
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It definitely depends on your climate. I live in TN and we made sure our new house did NOT face south. We face north/northwest and across the back of the house we have a deep porch to protect that part from the brutal southern sun in the summer. Also we have trees on the west side.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 5:26PM
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For hot climates like mine, I like the kitchen eating area to face EAST and the major living areas to face NORTH (a steady, even light) or SOUTH (if it is well shaded). I have little use for WEST facing windows. Finally, I like every room to have windows facing two different directions -- because evens out the light and allows for cross ventilation (important in climates like mine where we eagerly await the delta breeze). Bathrooms are the only room in my house that violate the "windows in two directions" rule.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 6:05PM
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Polkadots, are you moving from your lovely home? (I assume you are not rotating the current one.)

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 7:48PM
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Thanks to all of you that have given your thoughts on this - very interesting to read and helpful. I appreciate you taking the time to respond.

Kelly, I am not moving yet. I am considering it. In a way I'm not sure why since I have worked so hard on this house. But then again, this house has things about it that I will never like. I think the fact that you can get such good deals out there right now with great interest rates is intriguing me. Of course I'd have to sell mine (I guess I'm hoping the updates I've done would help with that). The hardest thing would be to leave my BT floors!

Just doing my homework before jumping into anything. May not do anything, but I'd want to make a good decision. Thanks again.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 8:00PM
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deltabreeze...I too live in the south and hope to start our build this year. I do love a cross breeze but I'm having problems with the floor plan. We have decided to build a typical southern style home with front and back porches but that's about as far as we've got. Do you mind posting your floor plan to give me an idea of the placement of the windows, rooms etc. Our house will be facing northwesterly.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 8:31PM
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live in MN, our driveway/front door faces south. in winter time, snow melts faster on our driveway than the driveways on the opposite side of the street (facing north). our realtor told us this 'trick'.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 10:45PM
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ummm, our current houses faces north and it takes forever for the driveway to melt and the snow lingers on our front lawn for a long time too! Do you find that the inside of your house is dark with this orientation? Some of the lots I like would be south facing and I am afraid of the house seeming too dark. Thanks.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 8:11AM
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When we built our home we took into consideration which rooms would face which direction and what views they would have. We ended up with the front facing northwest and the back facing southeast. This way, our family room and kitchen nook (in the back of the house) get that great morning sun as well as light sun most of the day. The dining and living rooms (in the front of the house) aren't used much during the day, so it's not as important for them to have light during the day. Our sunroom faces mostly west so it's warm during the winter.

Our last house faced east and I loved to see the light streaming in, in the morning. But since the back of the house got the west sun, the kitchen nook and family room were horrible to sit in, in the afternoon and evening. I had to close the blinds during almost every dinner because of being blinded by the sun when sitting at the table.

Polkadots, if they're existing homes that you're considering, try to make an appointment to see them during the daytime so you can get a feel of the lighting. Something else to consider is if they have porches or deep overhangs. That makes a huge difference in how much light comes in.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 8:49AM
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Our house in Texas faces north and I'm very happy with that except for one room that has hardly any windows because the garage abuts it, but that problem is not related to facing north...

My only comment is not to have a MBR with full afternoon sun because in the summer it heats up and is hard to get cooled down for going to sleep at night. We had such a MBR in our last house in CA, on the second story, so it took almost all night to cool it down!

    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 11:55AM
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While there are advantages and disadvantages to having a house face different directions, one thing that I have always looked for is a detached garage, then you can have windows on all sides and cross ventilation it maximized. I have never had A/C, so having cross breezes on those hot days is important, almost as important as having plenty of windows on all sides of our home.


    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 12:31PM
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My ideal house would have the sun coming in the bedroom windows in the morning. The kitchen would get sun most of the day, so a south-facing position. And the living room would get the afternoon sun. This is because I crave sunlight in the winter and this way, the sun would be hitting the various rooms as I use them throughout the day. I'm in New England.

Traditionally, a lot of old New England homes have the kitchen facing north, because that side of the house would be colder in the winter. But the cold would be offset by the kitchen stove, which would have had a fire going all day, and which would make the room one of the warmest in the house. It would also be a bit cooler in the summer.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 5:12PM
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our living room faces south and we get quite a bit of light there. the dining room/living room face north (next to the living room) and are darker. however, since we don't eat breakfast and use that room mostly for dinner, it doesn't bother us that it's darker there.

the brightest room we have is our office with both south and east facing windows.

we don't have any windows facing west so can't comment on that.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 10:07PM
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As others mentioned it depends on where you live. Here in my area of the PNW the prevalent winds are southwesterly. Ideally, no one would have a main door facing SW.

Our house is very similar to lenam's drawing, except our back porch runs along the south side of the house. The fact that it's covered makes it usable year round.
For us and the type weather we have, our house location is perfect.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 11:14PM
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We live in the midwest too...currently, our living areas face the west. NEVER AGAIN!! That afternoon west sun is really hot in the afternoons (summers), and drapes are always closed.
For our new construction, we have the home oriented north/south with the living areas facing south. However, since the driveway will be directly north facing, we could have issues with snow and ice not melting/clearing fast enough. This will be the only drawback. Otherwise, I hear that the southern sun, although warm, is not as beating and direct as the west sun.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2009 at 9:13AM
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We're in central Oklahoma, zone 7. Our home was built sometime just after the turn of the last century, and was by necessity designed to take advantage of natural heating and cooling. The front door faces East, with the bedrooms on the south. There's no central AC, so all those double windows allow the breeze to cool the bedrooms as you sleep. I'm an early riser anyway, and I enjoy getting up to see the sunrise, but the added benefit is that the bedrooms are warmer in the winter. Thanks to the foresight of the original owners, there are mature deciduous trees on the south east and south west corners, so the house is spared an early heat up as well as the worst of the late afternoon sun.

Because the house sits near the bottom of a hill on the north, it stays pleasant in the warm months, (actually about 5 degrees cooler than at the top of the hill), and at night the temperature does drop noticeably; we're generally still using quilts on the beds until late May. OTOH, thanks to the micro climate on the south side of the house, we have roses that never loose their leaves. The living and dining room are on the north side and won't get hot until very late in the evening around August. I suspect it's radiant heat from the attic and insulation would help with that; it's something on our to do list. Other than insulation, I'd like to enlarge the back porch on the west side to extend all the way across the back of the house, and we have plans to add another window in the eating area of the kitchen on the west wall for better cross ventilation. I've been thinking about building a skylight/cupola with operable windows in the kitchen that would bring in light as well as the prevailing southern breeze when it gets too hot, but haven't studied the pros and cons enough to be sure.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2009 at 11:14AM
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I want to thank all of you who continue to respond to this thread. I am really enjoying hearing your opinions and how things work for you in your homes. Thanks again for all the input.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2009 at 12:22PM
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Lena's diagram is most helpful and the way I think of this. Important to realize west in summer is not west in winter and to think ahead how trees/ structures, neighbors etc will be effected. I have never thought of the direction of the house independently, rather rooms use with the landscape. Everyones lifestyle is unique, clearly learned if on GW for long, and your/family likes/dislikes are most important. Example, DD love the heat, I love it cool so she wants a bedroom S/W and I have to have N/E. Some love a warm sunny kitchen, I prefer it cool. Snow melt matters in the midwest, I'm from Indiana. Landscaping, location, one/two/three stories, covered porch size, overhang etc all change options. Location of garage to protect a space, trees, materials etc can resolve desires and view is worth consideration. I live in a CA fire zone so if I could design new to build, my home would be a Micky Meunig underground like Post Ranch Inn "Ocean.
I am so thrilled you think about this, cookie cutter houses lined up in a row facing the street and each other could be more attractive and special if each was at its unique angle. Example, I'd prefer the "front" beautiful and the garage in the back hidden behind a huge carport/pergola covered in Mme Alfred Carriere Roses because I don't want to see the garage and don't want others to have to either, but that is just one of my quirks- hubby is a car man and I have trouble seeing my garden from inside because of parked cars 8-(
Curious, exactly what "defines" what is the front or back or side?
Anyway, thanks for posting the topic, most interesting to read everyones point of view!

    Bookmark   January 9, 2009 at 2:03PM
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