Last week I attended a retreat in the Yarra Valley. It was held in a beautiful home nestled in the forest. What I loved about the home is that it embraced a broken living floor plan. Open plan spaces are popular and are here to stay but I don’t like them. There I said it. Sometimes we can ask too much of a space. So is a broken living floor plan better?
At the heart of every interior design project is function. What is the space used for? When I work with clients, I also ask who uses the space? What time of the day and how often?
Understanding how a space is used is vital to a successful interior design project. But confirming function can be difficult in open plan spaces. For example, in an open plan environment we are dealing with multiple yet unrelated functions such watching TV and washing the dishes.
Against – Open Plan Living
We think there is a connection between lounging around and watching telly, and the kitchen. But actually, these functions are different from the each other.
The lighting is different, the activity is different too. In the kitchen there is a lot of noise and people are standing. In the lounge area, we need quiet to hear the TV, or talk to our family and guests and people are sitting.
Another example is the dining table, which is hardly used, because we’re so busy we use the kitchen counter for meals instead. So it becomes the dumping ground for our stuff. Laundry gets folded on our dining tables. Kids do activity and homework on our dining tables. The dining function is compromised.
Imagine an open plan environment where you have mum cooking or washing up in the kitchen. Kids doing their homework on the dining table and dad trying to watch the news on TV. Dad can’t hear the TV because mum’s cooking. Kids can’t concentrate on homework because the TV is on. Nightmare.
For – Open Plan Living
The volume of space is a great asset, especially when entertaining. The natural light is also a benefit. Seamless indoor outdoor entertainment is also a plus for open plan living layouts. But that’s it from my perspective.
The Alternative to Open Plan
The alternative to open plan living is a return to broken living. A space for each function, co-joined and integrated through clever architecture and interior design.
Consider the split level or sunken living room or the dining room adjacent to the kitchen through a pass through window.
Ultimately open plan living is a cost saving measure for builders, developers and architects and during the pandemic I had a lot of feedback from clients, who are now spending a lot more time at home, saying that their open plan area doesn’t work. Especially when everyone is home and needs to use the open plan area for very different reasons at the same time.
Sometimes I think we compromise too much on functionality because of our obsession with large spaces in Australia so for that reason I would love to see the renaissance of broken plan floor plans which deliver better functional outcomes.