The recent storms gave Sydneysiders their first dose of wintry weather for this year.

Maybe you haven’t fired up the heater just yet, but you probably thought about quilts and rugs and started planning winter menus.

Sydney does not experience cold winters by any means, but the fact that a heater is needed at all means that you should think about making your home easier to heat.

There are two basic principles that should guide you when designing for warmth.

Heat rises, and smaller spaces are easier to heat than large ones.

High ceilings look great, but heat will tend to hover under the ceiling leaving your living spaces cold. Some houses are even designed to take this into account, with bedrooms downstairs and living spaces above.

Open spaces are unfortunately very difficult to heat. When my girlfriend and I stayed in our friend’s warehouse apartment in Melbourne in mid-winter a few years ago we fought a losing battle to stay warm.

I don’t think we took our scarves and gloves off the whole week we were there.

This was exacerbated by the fact that it was a draughty old warehouse building, which contravenes Rule Number 3: well-sealed houses stay warm.

Not many people have open fires in Sydney.

I found this sad when I moved here, because it’s so wonderful to sit in front of an open fire in winter drinking red wine and listening to the rain fall outside.

These days though, an open fire is all about atmosphere and not really about heating.

You see, in terms of efficiency, they sit pretty far down on the list of heating options.

They are also very polluting, not only of the environment generally, but of your own home, so it’s worth looking at some other options when you think about heating.

Gas heating is one of the cleanest, cheapest and most eco-friendly forms of heating currently available, and comes in many forms.

If you’re not afraid of deception, you can actually buy gas heaters that look like open fires.

Disturbing though this concept may be, if you’re after the ambience of flickering flames and glowing embers, this may be the answer for you.

These heaters can even be installed in existing fireplaces or you can build one to suit. Gas heaters need a flue which must exhaust above the roof.

If you’re building a home you may want to think about sub-floor heating where coils are embedded in the concrete floor slab.

Central heating is almost unheard of in Sydney, but quite common in Melbourne and Canberra where the extended periods of cold weather justify the expense.

If you do have the luxury of planning a home from scratch then you should also think about the way that the sun can help warm your home.

Even in winter, the sun can be a vital source of warmth, but only if you think carefully about siting of windows and trees.

Windows should face north and be shaded in summer but exposed in winter.

This can be achieved through using deciduous trees, shrubs or vines which lose their leaves in winter, or a carefully designed or retractable awning which shades the glass in summer.

Never underestimate the effect that direct solar access can have on the internal temperature in your home.

If the sun falls on solid materials like concrete or tiles, then these will absorb the heat which will then re-radiate at night thereby continuing to heat the home.

Large expanses of glass will, however, be a disadvantage at night as heat passes very readily through glass.

Curtains will reduce this heat loss substantially and much more efficiently than blinds.

Finally, think about the finishes in your living spaces. Colours, finishes and soft furnishings all contribute to the feeling of warmth in your home.

I love to have ample cushions and throw rugs around to snuggle into. You may even want to have a collection of summer and winter furnishings that you can swap around to suit the seasons.

Anything that makes the long cold winter seem more bearable is the way to go.

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