Open plan apartment layout Credit: Francesca Tosolini

Open plan versus broken plan: making your open plan space work for you

In recent years, open plan living has become more than just a design trend; it's become a lifestyle choice. New builds are often designed for multiple purposes as work has begun to creep into our living space. Multi-generational households and adult children remaining at home for longer can also become more challenging and force us to re-examine how we share spaces that can feel like they are no longer fit for purpose. Read on to find out how you can make your space work for your changing needs.

1. The Allure of Open Plan Living: A Social Connection Hub

So they aren’t all bad, open-layouts are popular for good reasons. They create a sense of spaciousness and flow, seamlessly connecting different living spaces. This helps to create social environment, allowing family members and guests to interact effortlessly while engaging in various activities. Whether it's preparing a meal in the kitchen, catching up on emails in the living room, or overseeing homework at the dining table, open plan living brings people together.

2. Navigating the Challenges: Growing Pains of Open Plan Living

As families expand, so do the challenges of maintaining an open plan design. The lack of physical barriers may result in a noisy, busy space and make it difficult to create dedicated spaces for various activities. Finding privacy becomes a balancing act, especially when balancing work, play, and relaxation in a shared environment. To counter this, incorporating flexible furniture arrangements- e.g. stools, extendable tables, sound-absorbing materials- think soft furnishings, or even room dividers can help maintain a sense of order and tranquility.

3. Exploring Alternatives: hybrid aka ‘broken plan’ layouts

If your open plan space is becoming a nightmare, e.g. toys finding a home in every corner, home offices on the sofa, and nowhere for a bit of peace, it’s time for a rethink. Think about the different functions you use your space for, and create a ‘zone’ for each function. Differentiating between zones in an open plan space can be achieved through thoughtful decor choices. Use area rugs, varying colour schemes, or distinct furniture styles to visually define specific areas. Statement pieces, such as unique lighting fixtures or eye-catching artwork can help to draw attention to particular zones. Furniture placement also plays a crucial role—strategically positioning sofas, bookshelves, or accent pieces can create a natural division of space without the need for walls.

Ultimately, whether you embrace the openness or seek a middle ground, the key is to design a space that aligns with your lifestyle and enhances the overall quality of your home.

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