Have you heard of broken-plan living?
A room that serves more than one purpose otherwise known as a multi-functional or open-plan room has been popular for decades. It remains on the wish list of many people hoping to rent or buy a home.
Opening a room up can bring its own issues. For example, a busy mum might crave a room where she can get some quality alone time perhaps crafting, reading or planning a new business.
However, some mums do like that idea of seeing all the family as they go about relaxing, cooking or dining. It can make the family unit feel closer and safer.
Together with Harvey Jones, fitters of bespoke fitted kitchens, we take a look at the new kitchen trend that allows open-plan living whilst tackling some of the issues outlined above.
Living in open-plan spaces
When leading a sociable lifestyle, entertaining guests can be difficult in a cramped space particularly at times like Christmas and birthdays when numbers are big. This is why open-plan spaces can seem like such a convenient solution. For multi-functional rooms that include a kitchen, the benefits are clear. It prevents the cook from feeling isolated for a start. No more retiring to the kitchen for half an hour or more on your own to prepare meals. A bespoke kitchen scheme that includes an island or peninsula that looks out onto the rest of the space means that cooking and preparing food need no longer be a solitary process. A busy mum can ask for help and memories are made together.
Often also given as a reason for going open plan is the need to keep an eye on children. From toddlers playing and falling over a lot to teens doing (or not doing!) their homework, for busy families a space that performs several functions allows the family to spend time together even when they’re performing many different tasks. With so many worries about the things children can access online, an open-plan living space means you can keep an eye on things easily rather than worrying what they are accessing in their bedrooms.
House sizes are getting smaller year on year, and that’s why an open-plan kitchen/diner can seem like a good alternative to a separate dining room that may take up too much space. Formal dining is less common now anyway and too many dining rooms end up ignored or even becoming dumping grounds for clutter. However, a kitchen diner can be a good way of maximising space and design. However, you do have to be canny when planning a multi-functional room to ensure all zones work well together and recognize that this kind of layout will reduce privacy, particularly if you’re opening up the whole of your downstairs. Having nowhere quiet to play can become a problem and impact on your mental wellbeing. There are also the issues of noise from appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers. Housework always seems ever-present and never more so when you cannot file things in another room for a while. Fewer walls also mean less space to put furniture, which can lead to a room that’s crammed around the walls or jumbled in the centre. I have to admit that I am not a fan of open-plan living even thought I look at property shows and it appeals to me. In reality, it does not suit our family dynamic.
How can design move on from open-plan living?
As a new trend for 2018, broken-plan living can set the new precedent in interior design trends, replacing open plan in the future. The idea is to retain all the things you love about open-plan – particularly the light and openness – while at the same time zoning the space to allow for more privacy should you need it. Rather than doing this with colours and textures as you would in a true open-plan arrangements, broken-plan employs structural elements such as half-walls, dividing shelves, changing levels, walls of glass and even mezzanines to delineate and formalise areas for different uses. As someone who does not like open plan but does want to keep an eye on my children, broken plan could be my perfect solution. I could definitely fancy a mezzanine!
How does this trend look?
By cordoning off certain areas to create new spaces, ‘walls’ can be created by using boxed shelving and other furniture to define spaces that weren’t previously there in the room. I have done this with screens in the past. Of course, you don’t want to regress back to small and dark rooms, so don’t cram the shelves full of books – instead, artfully arrange a few favourite pieces to signal the change between one room and another and leave some of the shelves open to allow light to freely cascade from one zone to another. If you’re just starting your project, consider just knocking down half a wall and leaving the top open, allowing sight-lines through but at the same time giving you more wall space to play with. Wall space also allows the addition of works of art to reflect your personality. While hatches perhaps should remain a distinctly 70s invention although I quite like them, a larger aperture in the wall between a kitchen and sitting room, for example, is a workable and modern substitute. I like how broken plan can mean more light as that is such an asset in a home and makes me feel better instantly,
Although you can use furniture to cordon off various parts of the room, this should be done sparingly and subtly. It can look really clumsy and obvious. Also, consider building in pocket doors that will slide out of sight into the walls when you want to join two rooms but can be closed quickly to create separation when needed. This is preferable to those clunky sliding doors of yesteryear.
As well as this trend, Crittall-style windows have also become a popular interior design trend. Metal framed windows and sometimes doors traditionally used in industrial spaces or as exterior walls onto gardens have celebrity fans such as TV presenter and architect George Clarke, who celebrates their ability to cleverly divide an internal space without shutting off one room totally from another.
Broken-plan spaces can accommodate changing floor and ceiling heights – helping to bring spaces together that usually wouldn’t work as an open plan space. With broken-plan living, the options are unlimited when it comes to your interior design space.
So are you a fan of clearly separated rooms, open-plan or might you give broken-plan a whirl?