I really like the idea behind open plan living – and if TV programmes such as Grand Designs are to be believed, the concept is very much in vogue.
However, I also like the idea of being left alone to get on with what I have to do – be that watching The Real Housewives of Cheshire in peace or secretly raiding the cupboard for sweets.
So, where do you stand on open plan versus separate spaces? Do you think that everything needs its own separate space or do you like the freedom of living with fewer walls?
Whether you’re pondering some home improvements that will bring down the barriers or looking for a new abode and deciding which style to choose, I’m investigating the pros and cons and of open plan…
You’d be forgiven for thinking open plan living was a very modern concept, but apparently it has been growing in popularity since it was made possible by considerable changes in architecture styles in the mid 20th century.
In the past (I’m talking many moons ago) rooms often fulfilled multiple functions, for example, providing cooking and communal space in one.
But this was mostly due to compact living requirements rather than any purposeful design feature – and was often associated with making the best of cramped conditions.
Now, open plan living has come to be associated with homes at opposite ends of the spectrum. Sprawling apartments with serious square footage along with small, new build homes that need to draw in light are both accommodation types that frequently make use of some element of open plan design.
So let’s examine the pros and cons and hopefully, if you’re making a decision on whether or not to knock down that interior wall, this will offer more clarity…
Open plan living pros
Perhaps the biggest factor that makes open plan living appealing to so many design enthusiasts is its ability to make decorating your home a much more logical process.
While being ‘open plan’ doesn’t mean taking down all the walls or physical barriers between spaces, it does usually ensure logical links between spaces where activities can be related.
This is usually (but not in all cases) a link between the kitchen and dining room for example – or living room and dining area. Along with enabling easier entertaining of guests in connecting relevant rooms, areas can then be associated through a décor theme that’s at least partially unified.
Fewer walls generally makes for better flow of light, which is why open plan design is often favoured in smaller homes that can otherwise feel dark and dingy – and with our unreliable English weather, it makes sense to make the most of the light!
Where people want to retain this benefit while retaining some element of separation, modern bi-fold doors like these from Vufold can provide a convenient compromise.
Otherwise, more temporary solutions can be provided by furniture placement. For example, living room-diners in many new build homes have contributed to the popularity of L-shaped sofas in recent years.
We had one ourselves until very recently but as our lounge is a separate area from the kitchen and dining room, it dominated the space too much and we ended up opting for three- and four-seater sofas.
There’s also the argument that by joining two spaces together you naturally have a bigger area to work with. This in turn allows for use of bigger pieces of furniture (such as the L-shaped sofa again) or large standalone shelves or even experimentation with statement walls and murals.
So it’s not just being able to link interior themes together that appeals to architects and designers, there’s also the possibility of going large with the decorating too.
Open plan living cons
However it is styled, open plan living rarely feels ‘cosy’ and the reality is that opening up a space may mean it needs a clever lighting set up along with higher heating costs.
Newer homes are often better insulated to compensate for this, but it’s not just fewer warm nooks and corners you risk missing out on; having an open plan living room and dining room could mean giving up a space away from the TV to enjoy eating or working in peace.
Likewise, you may prefer to prepare for a dinner party without the pressure of cooking in front of your guests.
I know that I definitely feel this way; I mean, what happens if you burn the meal? I’m someone who would definitely opt for a cover-up job rather than coming clean, but you can hardly be faffing around scrapping burnt bits into the bin while they watch and pretend everything’s okay can you?
Anyway, I’ve come across one writer who believes open planning is falling out of favour (and claims in her experience the layout style can encourage people to linger too long in the kitchen at parties).
In homes with kids in particular, there can definitely be advantages to having defined spaces. As a family of four, my experience is that we don’t all want to be watching the same TV programme – or I might actually to chat on the phone with a friend and be relaxed about using expletives knowing the kids can’t hear.
Also, you don’t always want to be eating around the TV or settling down on the sofa with the smell of food wafting around.
And I don’t think I speak for myself when I say those with doors to shut are often grateful of the small mercy of being able to hide mess in other rooms when guests arrive unannounced.
So, I hope that by offering all sides of the story you’re in a better position to make an informed decision.