In our survey of UK adults either looking to buy their first home or move in the next few years, 61% agreed that ‘open plan living spaces suit people’s lifestyles these days.’* The trend has been growing since the post-war years, as traditional formality has given way to more casual attitudes in the home. In this age, rooms are multifunctional and entertainment is all the time. As screens have become a constant presence, open plan living is more important than ever to help people stay connected with one another.
But does open plan work for everyone? We look at the pros and cons of this kind of layout, and a few things worth considering with an open plan property.
Encourages Shared Moments
Open plan brings everyone together. As formal dining has phased out and people are spending longer days in work, time together is no longer a given. Cooking, watching television, browsing on the iPad – all these activities can take place at the same time in an open plan room, with conversations flowing too. Plus, it’s a great layout for keeping an eye on children or entertaining guests. Above all, it’s a social environment at the heart of the home.
Promotes a connection to the outdoors
Image by Maxwell & Company Architects
Eliminating dividing walls can increase the amount of natural light in the living area and enable seamless access to the outdoors. Bifold doors from an open plan living space onto a garden are a sought-after feature nowadays. Patio doors leading onto a courtyard are equally as desirable. Open plan can inspire more alfresco dining and outdoor entertaining. It creates a closer relationship to nature that’s a pleasant escape from everyday routines.
Increases the sense of space
When space inside a property is at a premium, an open plan layout is a great approach. Where there would be diving walls, there can be space instead, and with more natural light spilling in, the room can feel larger too.
Space is ever more attractive to homebuyers with 70% of those we surveyed agreeing that ‘good sized rooms’ are something they’d look for in a home – the 2nd most popular factor. Open plan can create an attractive impression and potentially a more saleable property.
Flexibility with Furniture
Design by Adam Clark of Halliday Clark Architects
There’s more freedom to arrange furniture in an open-plan room and often the chance to introduce more seating than would fit in traditionally divided spaces. With this flexibility, open plan is usually well suited to families or homeowners that are big on entertaining. The layout can also work well for guests, with more room for moving things around and opening out sofa beds.
Goodrich Haze Oak by Woodpecker Flooring
In our age of everything digital, sharing time together is important. Yet, having the space to unwind alone is needed too. Open plan living can’t always offer a secluded zone in the same way traditional living rooms can.
Hence, the rise in popularity of the ‘best’ room that’s shut off from the open plan living space. For families, it can provide a calm, toy-free area. Or, for couples, the opportunity for one to split off and meet with friends without disturbing the other.
And yet the space for a ‘best’ room is rarely available. New thinking towards open plan aims to tackle this, introducing the concept of opening up or closing off spaces as and when required, with customised sliding doors or walls.
Cooking Smells and Mess
Goodrich Ecru Oak by Woodpecker Flooring
Kitchen smells and the sight of dirty dishes go hand in hand with an open plan kitchen-living room. While for many this isn’t a concern, not having the option to shut off the kitchen doesn’t suit everyone.
Open plan homes can be noisy environments with no way of shutting the door on sounds such as kitchen appliances and food preparation. With this at play, the living room-dining space with a separate kitchen remains a popular layout in today’s homes.
With fewer walls comes fewer opportunities for storage, something that’s top of the shopping list for today’s homebuyers. In our survey, 71% said they would like plenty of storage space with it ranking as the number one factor they look for inside a home.
Kitchen islands are often a key feature of open plan as they help to add additional storage. Zoning with open shelving or freestanding cabinetry can be a solution too. Yet, living with open plan often involves being very organised to avoid a cluttered feel – something that not all homebuyers would appreciate.
*Survey of 1,010 adults 18 and over across the UK commissioned by Woodpecker Flooring, August 2018. See more insights here