Open-plan living is having a real moment, but is that moment going to turn into a long-time trend. In this article we look at all aspects of open plan living and how it might suit you.
Open plan living is desirable by many, and over recent years the desire to live in an open plan home has risen, proven by the many renovations and redesigns occurring and conversations being had about it on popular interior design and renovation sites.
Why open plan living is so fashionable is another question. Sure it looks beautiful, enables a fluid movement between activities in one space, and challenges older interior design rules, but why has it developed such strong fans in recent years? In this article we will have a look at different aspects of open plan living, and hopefully help you in your journey towards integrated open plan living into your home.
So, What Is Open Plan Living?
Open plan by definition means no or not many diving walls separating areas of the home. This doesn’t usually mean all of the home, just the main bits like the kitchen, dining area and living area. With an open plan space you would have these main areas all flowing together with an open design and very few dividers. Bedrooms and bathrooms are able to be open plan, and aspects of open plan bathrooms and bedrooms can be created. You can also have aspects of open plan living knitted into your living space without it being completely open plan.
When Did It Get So Popular?
Strangely, we would previously value a house with more ‘rooms’ to list, no matter how small those rooms are. Nowadays, it is more about the innovative use of the space, and well designed zoning of an open plan space can be just as valuable as a space divided up into different rooms.
One of the reasons open plan living may have become to popular is because we are all open to ‘world trends’ now that we have the internet. So rather than a trend being in one market, it can essentially be in all markets, because of this global network we all enjoy. In Mediterranean design we are seeing the traditional architecture of a very anti-open plan design switch to the type of house more typically seen within American and British open-plan trends. Across the world, open-plan living right now stands for contemporary and modern living, which is why the popularity is worldwide.
The Benefits Of Open-Plan Living
So, now we know what open-plan living is and how popular it is, we can start to look at the benefits of it, and why so many of us are truly attracted to this style of living. Open-plan living is particularly popular in Britain because it works really well with the way our culture works at the moment. So many families don’t really do ‘formal dinnertime’ because people work from home, people work flexible hours, everyone is on their phone, tablet or laptop, so the way a home works is extremely casual and there is no particular need for divided rooms in terms of dining, cooking and relaxing at least anyway.
In terms of renovation, many older homes are being changed to be opened up and walls are being taken down. Not that long ago walls would be put up to list ‘more rooms’ but not any more; open, spacious and airy spaces are more desirable.
Some of the key benefits of open plan living are:
Encouraging Being Social – Living open-plan definitely encourages being social, which is what a lot of our technology leans towards these days. As a design, open-plan living really does impact how we all interact with each other. Most people who opt for open-plan living truly treasure the idea of living in a connected way, with zones all separating the space but also integrating activities and encouraging dialogue between those living in the space. Bedrooms and bathrooms provide privacy, the open-plan living area provide a social, open, comfortable and fluid situation where occupants can interact with the space and each other in a modern communal way.
A Relationship With The Outdoors
Open-plan living encourages us to be much more in touch with the outdoors. In other countries, this tends to be a given because the weather is much more reliable, so outdoor kitchens and open up living spaces are normal. In the UK, it is fairly new for this outdoor living to be a ‘thing’ so open-plan living is a way to dip our toe into it, without creating full outdoor indoor spaces. Essentially the more open, and light space is enabling the outdoors in without letting the up and down temperatures in at the same time.
Making The Most Of Space When Space Is At A Premium
Taking down walls to make a small space bigger is a really great idea because neutral colours and mirrors can only do so much to open a space up, sometimes you need to literally open the space up.
Encouraging A Better Mood
Both being social and getting natural light is meant to help our mood, so it makes sense that open-plan living encourages us to have a better mood because it naturally puts us in a position to unavoidably be presented with both mood-lifters.
Of course, open-plan living has to have some downsides. There is no ‘perfect’ way of living and there is a reason some opt not to live in a spacious, openly designed home. Some believe it is a trend and only a trend and will eventually become unpopular, and we will be putting walls back up where we once knocked them down.
Negatives of open-plan living:
Odours From The Kitchen
This is a common aspect of open-plan living you will find in most articles about it, because there is no getting away from it. The kitchen is at the heart of the open living space, so naturally anything you make will let off an odour which then fills the entire space. This may seem desirable if you think about the smell of freshly baked bread or freshly chopped salad, but immediately becomes an issue when you consider your housemate cooking fish, curry or eggs. In Winter this could be a particularly big issue as you can’t just open the door to get rid of the smell. This is however, why extraction is a common design feature with open plan kitchen diner designs.
Dirty Dishes & Clutter
Where we would once have a separate dining area so the meals cooked wouldn’t be on show to the respective dinner party guests, with open-plan cooking and serving, any clutter made from cooking is on show until it is of course dealt with. In modern kitchen diner designs however, different levels are incorporated into the design so that the preparation surface cannot be seen when guests are seated at the dining ‘zone’.
An open plan kitchen diner might seem like a wonderful idea when you think about everyone being awake, or everyone being OK with noise from cooking. However, if you think about people studying in the living area, or people cooking at a time others are asleep, an open plan cooking area might pose an issue. Walls are very handy for blocking noise!
When you take down the walls you take away the storage which is something most of us really value. This is a common reason open-plan gets the thumbs down from some people. Clearly there are ingenious storage solutions for an open-plan property, but the average person wouldn’t necessarily know about them. For any person considering the layout of a home; less walls equals less storage, it really is that simple.
This may not seem like an obvious issue because of course there are still bedrooms and bathrooms that are private. However, if you think about a family where perhaps a husband wants to watch a TV programme while children and their friends are cooking in the kitchen, and then say a wife wants to watch another TV programme in the dining area, you can immediately see how everyone could clash in terms of noise and activities. This is one of the key reasons zoning is so important in designing a successful kitchen diner.
Creating An Open Plan Home
If you believe the benefits of creating an open plan home outweigh any negatives, you now have the task of creating an open plan home. Of course you don’t need to do this without help, but during your research phase it can help to get an idea of what it takes to create this sort of space.
Clearly the very first thing to think about will be the layout, before you get to the fun part (the decorating!). Deciding where everything needs to go certainly isn’t easy and there is a lot to consider. Try imagining it with walls in place first, so you’re automatically ‘zoning’. When thinking about the placement of each space you can then try to imagine where key pieces of furniture might go – sofa, coffee table, dining table and so on. You could then think about how each piece of furniture will work in its own right – how any doors might open, how chairs have space to come out from the table and so on. This exercise is so useful in terms of allowing enough space in different zones for different areas to work well. If you can, work to scale so you can feel like what you are creating is accurate.
Follow these key tips for planning your open-plan home:
Once you have the layout down, you get to the fun bit – the interior design! The interior design is key to ensuring your open plan space flows properly. As with any space, neutral is a safe way to go. Neutral doesn’t have to mean emotionless though. Natural materials like wood and stone work well against pastels and creamy tones. Of course it is important to think hard about the overall decoration because it isn’t just a kitchen or a living room you are decorating, it is essentially your entire living area, so redecorating is not going to be cheap! Consider:
Take Your Time
Remember, it is so important to take your time in order to make the perfect open-plan home. In most cases with renovations, unless it is your trade, it is a good idea to enlist the help of an expert. With interior design, you can certainly have much more creativity but again it is a big space so don’t be afraid to reach out for help. In all cases, take your time – this is a big project that deserves a concentrated and patient approach for success.