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Open-plan living - the perfect choice for family life?

Wondering what open-plan living means, and what benefits it could bring to your family? Learn all you need to know in this article.

5 min read

Open-plan living seems to have a particularly strong allure for those looking to renovate family homes. According to our report into The Science of a Happy Home, open-plan living is one of the most desirable home features alongside private gardens and balconies. We look into just what an open floor plan is, what benefits it can bring to your family’s home life and some inspiration for how you might navigate open-plan living.

What is open-plan living?

When it comes to our homes, open-plan living refers to a floor plan or layout that limits boundaries between different spaces. For example, kitchens that have been extended to allow space for a dining area and storage space. Open-plan layouts usually join up rooms that have similar functions (like the aforementioned example of a kitchen and dining room) but, with the evolution of the home over time, it could also include anything from a children’s play area to a cosy reading corner.

The rise and rise of open-plan living

Our Science of a Happy Home report found data to suggest that around 6.25 million households are open-plan, but this wasn’t always the case. In fact, as explored in this fantastic article by The Spruce, open-plan living began to gain modern popularity around 1950. Until then, many UK homes had begun as small, mutli-functional spaces akin to small-scale open-plan living. Industrialisation brought with it increased wealth for many.

This new-found prosperity alongside rather reserved social norms led to the creation of separate spaces for specific functions. This accommodated servants to carry out their duties privately, out from under the family’s gaze. As time has moved on, the family structure has transformed to (generally) not include backroom staff and social norms have evolved to (again, generally) prioritise ‘family time’. The emphasis on shared time between family members has in turn been reflected in the connective nature of open-plan living spaces.

Separating spaces with open-plan living

Open-plan home layouts are popular with families for a number of reasons besides the shifting family structures of the late 20th and early 21st century. If done right, they look fantastic and can create a greater sense of depth to a space, increased openness and enhanced light. Take a peek at this beautiful open-plan kitchen and dining room from our portfolio for a flavour of what your property could look like. Appearances aside, read on for some more reasons for open-plan living popularity.

Shared space = shared time

Families that want to spend time together despite clashing schedules and responsibilities might benefit from choosing an open-plan layout. Think teens revising while the little ones play, in the same room as Dad cooking up a comforting weeknight spaghetti and Mum sending off the last of the day’s emails. Whatever your unique family schedule, picture if you could benefit from a little space-blending.

Get it bright

If you’re hoping to maximise the amount of light in your home, an open-plan arrangement could be just what you’re looking for. One of the most impactful ways to combat the kind of dark corners and cramped spaces that we associate with Victorian terraced houses is to knock down the walls and let more light in.

Space to entertain

During the pandemic, people became pros at entertaining themselves at home. This included – but wasn’t limited to – mastering the art of cocktail-making and elevated at-home-cooking. In our recent article about ‘how to bring your cooking passion to life with your perfect kitchen’, we explored how food and drink has transcended the practical on a wider scale in recent years. As a result, more people are seeking sleek open-plan kitchens made for entertaining friends and family.

Open-plan kitchen and dining room

Open-plan layouts and family life

For families with children over 5 living at home, our Happy Home report found that an open-plan layout is important to our home satisfaction. This links to our need for connected spaces that allow for a range of interactions.

It should, however, be taken into consideration that while open-plan living can enhance our sense of connection with one another, it can have a negative effect on how adaptable your space is. For example, if you have an open-plan home and find yourself hosting your teen and all their friends after school, your ability to create a private space may be challenged.

Inspiration for open-plan living

Commiting to a more open space at home should be done with consideration that a certain degree of privacy will fall to the wayside. That being said, there are some fantastic ways that we’ve seen open-place arrangements thrive. Here are just a few.

Keep it tidy

If you’re about to embark on the world of open-plan living, home organisation is about to get a whole lot more important. The innate openness of this type of layout means that any clutter on show is on show everywhere. What’s more, if you’re curating your space to be adaptable, you won’t want your kid’s favourite toys splayed over the kitchen surfaces when dinner time rolls around. Read Clever Storage Solutions for your Kitchen for some great insights into how to declutter and regulate your open space.

Create cohesion

Use complementary colour-schemes and a particular style throughout open-plan spaces to create a sense of flow. A large open-plan area could be a little jarring if you have segments that feel at odds with the rest. If you’re looking for some interiors inspiration, explore Homes and Gardens top colour-schemes for 2023.

Make a break

If you’re adapting to open-plan living and finding the connectivity distracting rather than beneficial, there are ways to carve out a sense of separation. This can be vital for parents working from home with little ones or (depending how chatty they are!) even working in the same room as a partner! Subtle signifiers like room separators are a great visual cue to calmly gesture that now is work time. Establishing this literal and metaphorical boundary is a way of protecting your time and adding a stylish furniture piece to your space.

Looking to learn more about whether open-plan living is for your family? Book a free architectural advice call with one of our in-house experts to get to know your options.

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