Broken plan living room ideas — semi-divided, flexible spaces

From internal glazing to screens, these smart broken plan living room ideas are a masterclass in versatile modern living

An example of broken plan living room ideas showing a blue sofa opposite a cream armchair with bright cushions in front of glass dividing doors
(Image credit: Studio Peake/Alexander James)

Broken plan living room ideas are the new, post-pandemic, practical alternative to open plan spaces. Broken plan layouts allow you to create a wide range of clever and inspiring ways to make your space work for you.

Essentially the midway point between open plan and traditional separate rooms, broken plan is the division of rooms, either partly or temporarily. Think: screens, partitions, and even the intelligent use of furniture.

We've chosen our favorite living room ideas that utilize the broken plan look, and show how this layout plan can be adapted to work in just about any interiors scheme.

Broken plan living room ideas

A broken plan layout can be much more practical than an open plan space, allowing different members of the family to inhabit the same space without distracting or interrupting each other. But it's not just a practical move. Broken plan layouts can create cozy living rooms while still maintaining an open feel.

1. Divide with a glass-walled fireplace

An example of broken plan living room ideas showing a blue corner sofa in front of a partition featuring a glass-walled fireplace and a TV

(Image credit: Onesta/Jack FitzJones)

In order to break up a large room, Onesta designed this partition, featuring an entertainment system and a glass-walled fireplace. 

‘We used heat-resistant porcelain, which also helped to visually break up the spaces,’ says Daniele Brutto, co-founder of Onesta. 

2. Use furniture to zone a broken plan space

Two brown and cream chairs with dark blue cushions on next to a side table with an orange lamp in front of a dining table

(Image credit: Future/James Merrell)

Not all layouts lend themselves to becoming broken plan, but being smart with your furniture can still achieve the look. 

This space by Wendi Wolf Lewitt uses furniture to create zones. High-backed seating is especially useful for this style.

3. Add a screen 

Two brown sofas with blue cushions in front of a dining area and a black and gold screen

(Image credit: Future/Paul Massey)

Ensure you can create a broken-plan look at a moment’s notice with the use of moveable screens. 

By choosing a decorative style, like Paolo Moschino, head of interior design firm Nicholas Haslam has done here, you can also create elegant backdrops – perfect for video calls.

‘We love using screens to divide rooms,’ says Paolo. ‘For me, it’s very important not to disclose everything at once and that is what screens are perfect for; they hide a surprise behind them and, especially for a large room, they confine the space and create cosiness. 

'As a bonus, if you move to a new house you can just fold your screen and take it with you to new adventures.’

4. Transition using flooring

Light wooden chevron flooring and gray and white mosaic tiles laid next to each other in a hallway with green walls

(Image credit: Day True)

‘Created to make impact on entry, this hallway floor helps lead guests through to the living area,’ says Hayley Robson, creative director, Day True

Reflecting this shift in tempo on walls as well reinforces the changing use of space. 

5. Look to glazed partitions

An example of broken plan living room ideas showing a blue sofa opposite a cream armchair with bright cushions in front of glass dividing doors

(Image credit: Studio Peake/Alexander James)

Integrate a glazed partition to separate a large room into two spaces, but take inspiration from this Studio Peake project and leave a gap in the middle. 

The two zones feel separate from each other due to the glazing, but the gap allows unimpeded movement and increases the flexibility of how these spaces can be used. 

Make sure to consider the usage of any room that you wish to include in a broken-plan space. 

The farther space here was fitted out as a cinema room, so a blackout screen was integrated into the design, meaning it can be pulled fully across to plunge the room into darkness, but doesn’t have to remain in sight when the zone isn’t being used as a home cinema.  

6. Sink the floor

A living room space with sofas and a coffee table sunken into the floor next to a contemporary glass and wood staircase

(Image credit: EMR Architecture)

This sunken space incorporates a cinema area without breaking the open-plan feel. 

‘Think about the "view",’ says Emilie Mauran, EMR Architecture’s managing director. ‘If there’s an aspect you want to see, make sure nothing gets in the way.’ 

7. Add an indoor window

An example of broken plan living room ideas showing a grey and orange patterned sofa with black, white and orange cushions in front of a large internal window

(Image credit: Ham Interiors/Alexander James)

In poorly lit spaces, such as small living rooms, indoor windows can ‘borrow’ light from elsewhere.

‘It’s a great option in smaller homes because you get the perceived space of adjoining rooms while still feeling some division,’ says Thomas Cox, co-founder of Ham Interiors

8. Utilize a sliding panel

A minimalist dining area with a white table and orange leather chairs in front of a sliding door leading to a living room with a blue sofa

(Image credit: Retrouvius/Michael Sinclair)

One way to achieve the broken plan look is with doors that can be closed when required, but without impacting on the appearance of the room when opened. 

This London apartment uses floor-to-ceiling sliding panels clad in sections of parquet, which look just as much a part of the space whether pulled across or not. 

‘Using the parquet panels as inserts on the wall allows their geometric effect to be enjoyed at eye level,’ says Maria Speake, founder of Retrouvius. ‘When closed, this sliding wall reveals a recessed pocket used to display some of the clients’ art collection.’ 

9. Create a Crittall corner

An office space with wooden walls and a black bookshelf, table and chair in front of a window with glass sliding doors that meet on a corner

(Image credit: Clements Design/William Abranowicz)

This space from Clements Design adds extra interest by making use of Crittall Windows pocket doors, meeting on a corner. 

The design also allows the walls to disappear completely when the office and living room become one, but can be shut whenever needed for work.

10. Use drapery to create a broken plan space

An example of broken plan living room ideas showing a sofa with cushions in warm tones in front of a large textile drape used to separate two areas

(Image credit: Future / Chris Everard / Alyce Taylor)

In winter, a large home – and particularly old homes – can feel cold; this can be remedied with drapes hung to divide a space. They needn't be pulled right across a room to utterly divide it, but they can create a beautiful pause, adding color and pattern to the space, too, as in the bohemian living room idea above.

What is broken plan?

Broken plan living is a midway point between the open plan layout and the more traditional space comprised of separate rooms.

You can achieve this in a number of ways, shown in the living room pictures above, by utilizing screens, internal glazing or by zoning furniture.

One living room trend that will achieve the broken plan look is by using Crittall. 'The Crittall windows screen is an interesting middle ground that has enabled us to de-mark areas but keep a flow of light between spaces,' notes Bunny Turner, co-founder, Turner Pocock .

‘Substituting a solid plastered wall with a glazing system allows an increased sense of space by visually connecting rooms and offers the opportunity to bring natural light into areas which may not be served by windows,’ says Chris Eaton, associate director at Stiff + Trevillion.

‘Steel-framed glazing offers designers the flexibility to create pane sizes to reflect the proportions and rhythm of the rooms and surrounding architecture it inhabits. It can also neatly incorporate opening sections, either as doorways or casement windows. They can be prone to condensation forming on the steel frames, so avoid using in any areas where there is a temperature difference either side of the screen.’

How can you use a fireplace to create a broken plan layout?

‘Rather than confining a wood-burning stove to the fireplace, think of it as a piece of freestanding furniture,’ says Cedric Wells, creative director at Charnwood. ‘By positioning a stove central to the room, you create a connection between different zones.'

'Be sure to allow enough space around the stove to avoid combusting any material, especially if you are building a stud wall wooden panel divider. Many stoves will incorporate convection panels, which significantly reduce safe distances, but if they don’t it’s worth considering a wall-mounted heat shield to protect the wall.'

How do I divide my room to get the broken plan look?

'Room dividers are a wonderful way to make use of unexploited space and to create a broken-plan layout within the home,’ says Simon Tcherniak, designer at Neville Johnson

‘When considering how to design a living room with a divider that fits around the home’s natural architectural features, consider using extra tall bookcases, perhaps with the addition of a ladder, to make use of the height. You could also opt for open or hidden shelves which allow you to either display your ornaments or hide clutter.’