OPEN PLAN IS DEAD: WHY YOU ARE BETTER OFF BROKEN
We’ve all seen the TV shows. Open plan is super-cool right?
Knocking down walls and opening things up, adding light, freedom and fluidity to the layout of your home. Its transformational. For several years now the concept of open plan living has been synonymous with modernity and progress.
It is the go-to choice for any renovation project.. or is it?
Open plan living is not without its critics.
Many cite the loss of privacy and quiet areas that open plan creates. Others miss the sense of ‘cosiness’ that more traditional layouts offer. There are often few useful walls against which to locate furniture and, because there is little space to hide things away, the need to keep the house spotless and tidy at all times can be tiring.
There are also acoustic challenges to large cavernous spaces, and they can feel like a draughty air-hangar if you are not too careful.
Open plan is not for everyone.
So where do we go from here?
THE TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGING
Walls are back!
The way we live has changed, and so the layout of our homes need to follow suit.
An increasing use of personal, hand-held devices such as smart-phones and tablets, is creating a greater need for quiet spaces. Many more of us are working from home, and our kids need a distraction-free place to study.
As a result, people are demanding more ‘fragmented’ space. We want the kind of home that can change to suit the needs of the family. A house that can adapt and grow with us over time.
Nobody is suggested a return to the functionally segregated and often wasteful ‘closed’ plan layouts. We want to keep all of the benefits that open has given us – we just want a better articulation of space.
A little separation can go a long way…
WHAT IS ‘BROKEN PLAN’?
‘Broken’ plan layouts offer the best of both worlds. A compromise.
Also termed ‘flexible plan’ living, this approach is essentially open plan living but with subtle divisions and added pockets of separation. Broken plan allows us to retain the appealing sense of light and space that open plan provides, with the added ability to escape the washing up and other people (!) when you want to.
It is essentially a more complex version of open plan living.
With broken plan you get a number of smaller, interconnected zones, rather than one big one. Space is able to flow from one area to the next, with visual links between them, but each zone retains its own identity and semi-specific function.
As with open plan, dedicated circulation areas are removed – allowing the house to be more compact and providing a greater sense of space – but broken plan also addresses the need for certain things to be hidden away (such as those dirty dishes).
While there is still a demand for grand kitchen and dining spaces, places where families can cook and eat and talk together, broken plan layouts might also include snugs, studies and television rooms instead of large lounge areas.
SO HOW CAN YOU GET IT?
A broken plan layout can be created relatively easily.
On a very basic level, you could simply use open shelving or fixed furniture items to divide a larger space into more distinct ‘zones’ that interrelate. You might vary the wall and floor coverings, employing different materials and textures to define different spaces within a larger whole.
Simply widening doorways and removing doors, rather than completely taking out a whole wall, can make a big difference in terms of connecting adjacent spaces. Even a change in lighting features, from pendents to wall-washers for instance, can help to reinforce a transition between different functional zones.
Split levels is another classic way of effectively dividing up a larger space without partitioning it off.
Varying floor levels and ceiling heights not only helps to define different functional zones, but adds interest and a sense of enclosure to the spaces themselves. Stepping ceilings down can create a more intimate, ‘cosy’ feel while stepping the floor up or down adds an element of drama and seclusion.
You can vary the width of rooms as well as height, transitioning from narrow to wide spaces to articulate different zones within a home.
Single walls that don’t run full height can also act as dividers whilst retaining the sense of one single space. Perhaps a double sided fireplace that provides glimpses through could be a good way to separate living and dining areas.
For ultimate flexibility, you might even consider sliding partitions that can divide spaces or allow them to be merged into one depending on the needs of its occupants.
A LOOK TO THE FUTURE
Whatever layout you choose for your home, the focus should always be on liveability.
People need to relate to one another and spend time with their loved ones, rather than being separated off around the house – but we still need privacy.
Also, just because there might be divisions, it doesn’t mean the house needs to be large. Multi-functional and adaptable spaces, that can be opened and closed on demand, and less space dedicated purely to circulation, will help you achieve the most efficient use of space in your new home.