Open plan living was all the rage a few years ago, and designers and architects were regularly extolling the virtues of this style of living. While the buzz of the new may have faded somewhat, like all good ideas, this one has endured beyond the fashion or fad stage to become a standard option when considering new builds and remodeling. It’s especially good for families because everyone can be in the same room without being under each other’s feet all the time, and it’s ideal for parents who need to keep an eye on young children while they prepare meals or carry out household tasks. As with any layout, there is no single design which works in every situation, so you need to think about how to use the space to best effect if you’re living with, or plan to adopt, the open plan format.
Rooms within a room
The best configuration for open plan areas is to have defined purposes for each section as if there are still individual rooms, but the walls have been removed. This helps to keep the design uncluttered and functional, as well as being more pleasing to the eye. Of course, the specific function of your space will depend on how much room you’ve got. On a small scale, having a kitchen diner or a dining and living room space are the first rungs on the ladder. Or if you have room, incorporating all three rooms into one open space. Kitchens are usually fixed points, so unless you’re planning a major remodel so you can re-site the kitchen, you’ll be working out from the kitchen area to your other functional spaces. When it comes to wall color or wallpaper design, you can bring the elements of the room together by using the same design throughout. Trying to decorate each area individually is likely to look disjointed and unattractive, so go for a unifying theme through the walls.
Adjacent to the kitchen is ideal, so you can converse with your family or friends while preparing a meal. It also makes it more convenient for carrying food and serving dishes out to the dining table. A dining area need only consist of the table and chairs so that it can be slotted into a smaller space or in a connecting area. If you think about separate dining rooms, other than the table, there’s usually only things like display cabinets or collections of family photos, which can easily be incorporated into the living room space. As long as you have room to maneuver without difficulty around the table, then any odd space will suit for this purpose.
The main features of your living room will be the couch and comfortable chairs for relaxing in, and the focal point which will probably be the television and/or fireplace. This is where it’s important to lay the space out like a self-contained room, rather than looking at the area as one big room with the furniture all around the edges. Using your focal point, position the furniture to face towards it. If it helps, imagine there are walls in place that give you lines to work from. You’ll find this approach provides a more cohesive and aesthetically pleasing layout. Other pieces of furniture can be placed towards the edges of the room, but still oriented towards the focal point.
You may find that once your rooms are laid out and have been decorated and smartened up, that your original furniture is looking a bit tired, or very often too small. A couch that fitted just right into a small living room will suddenly look swamped if it’s in a big open plan space. Or you may simply wish to have a change, choosing a design style that appeals to you now rather than living with something that’s looking off trend or a bit dated. Your two main choices are to look for a new piece that will match your existing furniture, or go for an eclectic theme where each piece is of a different style but they combine to make a pleasing whole. Have a browse around the Internet to see what furniture is available, and visit showrooms if you can to try pieces out in real life. There are many and varied options to choose from, for example, you can click here to view a selection of quality modern Italian furniture, or you could browse around a local antique shop if you prefer the vintage look.
Other spaces that work well as open plan
Beyond kitchen, living and dining areas, there are other possible uses for the remaining space, if you have the room. A den or playroom can make an excellent addition, as it gives your children somewhere to play with their toys without disturbing the main living space. It could be a quieter area for reading or doing puzzles, or you could have a games console and television set up. A small home office or study area for the kids is another great idea, as long as you aren’t likely to be disturbed by noise from the other areas.
Are there any disadvantages?
The benefits of open plan living are, as mentioned above, the ability to converse as a family, or when you have guests to dinner; plus the ability to supervise younger children while you get on with essential tasks. Fewer walls mean less to clean, too, which is always a good thing! The main disadvantage is that it will be noisier than individual rooms, as you won’t have walls to block the sound. If you don’t have a door to the upstairs, you need to bear that in mind if you’re partying downstairs and the kids are trying to sleep!
The benefits of social interaction afforded by open plan living are well worth considering, especially given the busyness of life and the limited time available to spend with your family. Open plan creates a warm, family-oriented space that will enhance your lifestyle and allow you to make the most of your time together, so if you have the opportunity to try this style of living it can make a big difference to your life.