A shop house typically consists of three parts: the front building, the rear building and a small area in the middle which connects the front and the rear of the house. This kind of house is normally called the connecting building and is usually a small court paved with stone. People often place a fish tank against the wall opposite the connecting building due to the feng shui. Behind the rear building, there is a kitchen and a backyard. This building style allows several generations of a family to live close together, while still maintaining privacy.
All shop houses have wooden interior posts and beams. Facades are either made of wood or masonry, depending on the period in which the house was built. Designed to cope with the local tropical climate, the buildings are structured to maximize air flow. Doorways within the houses are aligned with each other and with the streets. The alignment is practically on the opposite side of the streets, and as a result, with cooperation, all residents can benefit from greater air flow. Interestingly, this alignment of doorways does not correspond to the principles of feng shui. Given the large number of Chinese residents in Hoi An, the doorways alignment is quite surprising and reflects their adaptation to the local environment.