The availability of space and light in your home is always a premium when layout and design is being considered. Fact is, one can hardly trump the classic open plan living-area-dining-room combination by walled in alternatives, so let’s get down to the business of carefully considering what will make your open plan space successful.
Why would you?
Open plan living is great in many ways, but can be tricky to get right. The most common mistake is a space that feels like generic mess without delineation. Open spaces are ideal for family members to practice their individual tasks, e.g. cooking, office work or homework and still be in the same space and able to communicate with each other. This is a definite advantage for the modern household where families frequently only touch base in the evening. If you and your family members struggle to keep things tidy, an open plan space is possibly not a good idea, because it will be a reflection of you and if you are too busy to keep it tidy, it will only lead to irritation and conflict. Consider your lifestyle before you take down the dividing walls in your home.
Try drawing light from your windows as deep into the interior as possible by removing barriers in the path of light. Dressing the windows with sheer curtains or no curtains at all, depending on how private your home is positioned, will obviously contribute to this end.
It is probably a good idea to leave 75cm to a 1 meter blank space between separate areas to define the separation. Arranging furniture on or around rugs are great indicators that an area is intended for whatever happens on and immediately around that rug. Shelving, buffets, sofas, ceiling detail, woodwork and console tables or counters are excellent ways to define and link zones: repetitive use of colours, materials and textures could bind a space together and give an area its own identity.
A great advantage of open plan living is that large format furniture can be better accommodated in an open plan space since you do not have restrictive doorways. Don’t shy away from that oversized impulse purchase – in an open space, it will find its place of honour.
In the absence of walls, hanging art work could be challenging, but at the same time become an asset in defining your separate areas, visualise a dual purpose unit that is one thing to the living area and another to the dining area or for example the back of a suspended large format painting facing to a lounge area on one side, could serve a dual purpose as a screen for video projection to an entertainment area on the other side. Keep basic colours like whites and light neutrals the same to bring cohesion to the open plan space, but do use stronger colors to define the separate areas and underwrite tonal values through art. In the absence of available wall space, using even the surface of a door as a canvas might be an option? It is natural that the larger space you have created by your open plan design, would be better suited to extra large format works of art and since the artwork is visible for all the areas you are creating in your open space, more value is gained from your investment.
It is with entertaining that your open plan arrangements really come to their right. Multiple purposes in a space that’s only really large enough for one purpose, is a great take-away from open plan living. With doors that fold away, your outside and inside areas could merge to provide even more space where guests can mingle and wheelchair users can freely move about without thresholds, doorways or restrictive walls that inhibit their movement. Create an open plan space that can adjust to your entertainment needs by linking your open plan area to the outdoors and make sure you use flooring that will allow outside-to-inside living, such as wet little feet from a swimming pool running into the house. Living and dining areas are good combinations and if you want to include a cooking surface to keep the cook in the conversation, consider creating a separate scullery area from whence the humming of some kind of machine will not be part of your dinner banter.
While you want to make each function of an open plan room work separately, it’s also important to remember that it all needs to fit together. After all, it’s usually one of the rooms you spend the most time in, so you want to make it a friendly place to be. “You have a great opportunity to pull together a cohesive decorating look for your home,” Blomfield says, “and all the furniture pieces in the space need to work together to tell the same story.” This story can be told via some common themes, like a colour or texture that ties each part of the open-plan room together, or simply your choice of style throughout.
Open plan living sounds so wholesome, because open plan living is meant to be exactly that – interior design that enhances the flow of living and human interaction by the best possible utilisation of space and assets.