While the Skyrim: Legendary Edition strategy guide gives all the information you require to create the perfect home in the wilds of Hjaalmarch, The Pale, and Falkreath Holds, it is well worth taking some extra time to plan out each of your houses to maximize their usefulness based on your style of play. With this in mind, the following three abodes have been created; you may wish to emulate each of them, or build a dwelling that incorporates some or none of the following appurtenances.
Windstad Manor: The Huntsman’s Retreat
Windstad Manor was chosen with the fish hatchery in mind, as no self-respecting forager would trek to find fish to catch, sell, eat, or use in alchemy. A full complement of other improvements (an animal pen, armorer workbench, grindstone, smelter, and stable) and servants (a steward, carriage, bard, and housecarl) completes the compound. A horse rests in the stables, should the need for swift tracking of prey be necessary.
A Shrine to Kynareth is a must, but adding all the other deities is helpful to obtain their various disease-fighting buffs. Add a smelter to allow interior weapon crafting, and fit the mannequins and racks with rarely-used items such as sets of equipment and clothing used only on rare occasions (for assassinations, bartering at shops, and the like).
West Wing: Bedrooms
Not the most thrilling of choices, but perfectly acceptable as the huntsman’s wife and adopted child sleep in this part of the dwelling. Aside from the spoils of the hunt, there are plentiful storage options here. This makes offloading the majority of your less important items easy. Use the different chests to drop various groupings of items (books in one, armor in another, et cetera) before you sort them out and display them in other parts of your house.
North Wing: Trophy Room
A spot of extravagance is always welcomed, especially for seasoned adventurers such as yourself. Essentially a minigame in nature, it’s wise to build your trophy display bases first, and then choose the animals you want to mount on them. After that, the great hunt can begin! Figure out the entities you want to show off by telling a “story” (“the time I slew in the snow”), and then find the components of that type (for example, a Frost Troll, Ice Wolf, and Snow Bear).
East Wing: Armory
Those with more of a taste for bladed or otherwise ferocious combat should probably pick the armory, as it has a large number of display cases and mannequins upon which to display the spoils of your adventures. Be sure to have some semblance of reasoning in the way you display your items. For example, a mannequin for your favorite Heavy Armor sets or Light Armor sets, a rack just for bows or one-handed weapons, and perhaps a different wall area dedicated to a particular set of equipment. Try to be as tidy as you wish … or simply drop everything in a pile!
Heljarchen Hall: The Alchemist’s Idyll
Why attempt to grow anything in this freezing tundra? Because ingredients thrive no matter where you build your home, and this particular location features a unique architectural improvement: the mill. Since you’re creating a variety of recipes anyway, you might as well grind your own flour for use in the kitchens. In addition, the entire set of improvements (an animal pen, armorer workbench, grindstone, smelter, and stable), as well as servants (a steward, carriage, bard, and housecarl) are also available. Don’t forget to plant the garden, which can serve as an overflow area to your greenhouse.
A full complement of shrines really makes your cellar stand out, but for the competent crafter, use this location to fight Skeevers and drop (ideally in neat piles in different parts of the room) the items you’d like to sort out, but haven’t found a place to display elsewhere in your abode.
West Wing: Greenhouse
Perhaps the most infuriating part of gathering ingredients is trekking to the ends of Skyrim to find your favorite berry, flower, or fungus. While you still need to extricate a Giant’s Toe the old-fashioned (and disgusting) way, any food or naturally-growing ingredient can be placed in this chamber before being (eventually) harvested. This saves on purchases from alchemists, and you can create a multitude of potions from otherwise-rare ingredients by planting and seeding. Although optional, try planting similar ingredients in the same area (a trough of mushrooms, for example); it’s aesthetically pleasing.
North Wing: Alchemy Laboratory
You’ve constructed a place where raw ingredients can grow and flourish. With a tower (with a great viewing platform and a possible place for a rare bird’s egg), as well as three floors of storage for your cultivated concoctions, you can proudly display your gathered ingredients and potions for all to see. This is the place to mix your ingredients.
East Wing: Kitchen
Make sure the mill outside is put to good use by installing a kitchen in the east wing; not only is the oven (a unique crafting station) available here, allowing you to create your own sweetrolls and other baking delights, but there’s plenty of space to decorate with food you’ve made at the cooking pot.
Lakeview Manor: The Warlock’s Lodge
This particular building site allows the construction of an apiary, which is quite handy if you have alchemist tendencies; the rest of the improvements (the animal pen, armorer workbench, garden, grindstone, smelter, and stable) are purely optional. However, stabling Shadowmere here might convey the sense of foreboding that you’re after.
Shrines are extremely important to those of a mage’s persuasion, as a Shrine to Akatosh (+10% Magicka Regeneration rate) or Julianos (+25 Magicka) is beneficial to your adventuring, and great to return to when needed. Otherwise, consider this area a large storage location where you can drop piles of detritus from your travels, before picking through them to display upstairs or carry with you.
West Wing: Enchanter’s Tower
Don’t build this tower just for the rooftop platform and amazing view of Lake Ilinalta; this is where your enchanting should take place, where a variety of equipment can be augmented easily and in safety. There are shelves, chests, and a mannequin to help you store your favored items, too.
North Wing: Storage Room
Any overflow from your items, armor, robes, weapons, and other equipment that you wish to show off can be proudly displayed in this chamber of chests, cupboards, and cases. Your very best items can take pride of place, along with the equipment you use the most, or are likely to need during future questing. To aid in finding everything, select various parts of the room to display particular types of equipment (such as all of your favorite staffs against one wall).
East Wing: Library
No self-respecting warlock is going to toil in the construction of a Hearthfire home without wanting a multi-level chamber to keep every single tome gathered during a lifetime’s adventuring. Fortunately, the library allows such hoarding to flourish. The numerous bookcases enable you to place all the books you’ve ever found, and you can be justly proud of this collection, reminiscing over a particular piece of parchment and the blood you had to spill to obtain it.
BONUS: Hjerim: The Lunatic’s Asylum
Perhaps the evidence of the murders and bloodstains (that still can’t be scrubbed out of the floor) of this Windhelm residence are intriguing to you? Does living in a residence that you can turn into a half-abandoned hovel appeal to you? Perhaps the soft, low voice of Namira speaks to you in your fevered dreams, telling you to carry on with the debauchery? Then why not collect every skull, body part, or other unpleasant offering you can, and drop them on the floor in a rapidly putrefying pile?
David Hodgson is the author of the official guide to The Elder Scrolls Skyrim: Legendary Edition. He has written 92 guides since 1996; eight guides with Bethesda. To call him a Skyrim expert is a serious understatement. Follow David at @DavidSJHodgson