We loved the openness of an "earthship" and decided to stay with the open rooms. We will have, however, some sort of folding or sliding doors on the bedrooms for privacy when we have guests. It took some thought as to whether we wanted sloped or vertical front glass. That decision came when we thought about how many hot days we have per year as opposed to cold days. Since we live at high altitude, we have only about 2-3 weeks of really hot weather in summer. We figured we could tolerate a little heat but were most concerned about keeping warm in winter. Sloped front glass won on that dilemma.
A note on the window dillemma: Snow collects on the sloped glass windows and then they have to be swept off, whereas vertical windows do not. We've had a few minor leaks in the corners that we've had to fix. We like the height of the windows for our high elevation since we need the extra solar heating but, if we had to do it over again, we would install vertical windows. The tire bales can be partially or fully buried under the windows to get the height needed.
Then there's the decision of whether or not to have operable skylights. The plans originally called for four in the roof. They are great at removing heat from the house but, since we didn't want to have that expense for only a couple of weeks a year, we dropped that idea too. For extra light in the closets, pantry, living room, and garage, we will be by installing solar light tubes, also called sun pipes from The Original Sun Pipe Company in Elgin, Illinois.
Our basic floor plan looks like this:
As you can see, this tire bale house is very much like an "earthship" but with very thick outside walls. The dividing walls between the kitchen, living room, and bedrooms are pounded earth tires just like in an "earthship". We're planning on building the bathroom walls with earthbags (similar to the sandbags used by the military and for flood control) instead of stone walls like we originally decided on. The closet and pantry will be built the old fashioned stick way so it will be easier to hang cabinets and clothes racks. This house is truly a hybrid.