Open floor plans have been a favorite of architects and home builders in recent years. Room-based layouts were out, walls removed, and one space flowed into another. But fashions change and the question that’s being asked by trendspotters is has the pendulum swung the other way and is open plan going out of style?
That the subject is being raised is a sign that open plan is no longer the interior design trend that dominates. But to find out if it’s truly out of style, we talked to design professionals. And, more importantly, we asked them to weigh up whether what is on trend is separate rooms with four walls, or something else again that marks an evolution in layout preferences and that you might want to try in your own home.
Is open plan still in style?
Open plan represented a change from the closed-off spaces and formality of older homes with functions like cooking or dining strictly separate to a more casual way of living that combined activities in anything from complete open concept layouts to open-plan living room ideas, open-plan kitchen ideas and kitchen-diner ideas. But also important was the fact that advances in construction meant larger rooms could be built and comfortable temperatures maintained within them.
Yet changes in how we like to use our homes mean open plan isn’t as ubiquitous as it was. Here, we look at how floor plans are changing once again.
Open plan is evolving
The verdict? Open plan isn’t going out of style, but it has moved on. ‘Rather than fading, open plan is evolving,’ says interior designer Artem Kropovinsky. ‘It has adapted to the need of having public and private spaces.
‘Homes have transformed and people value both social regions and private corners. Homes should be flexible after the pandemic for leisure, socialization, and office purposes.’
Realtor Erin Hybart also observes that homeowners’ requirements have altered. ‘I have seen an increase in buyers wanting to be able to close off rooms when desired,’ she says. ‘A few builders started installing a large set of French or sliding doors or something similar between the kitchen and living room to offer the best of both worlds.
‘I have seen some renovators decide not to remove entire walls, but instead install a set of doors between two spaces,’ she continues. ‘The key is that the doors you install need to have glass or something similar to let light cross the spaces.’
H&G’s head of interiors, Hebe Hatton, identifies part of the problem with fully open-plan spaces. ‘Accommodating work and leisure activities in one large space can result in an open-plan layout that feels as if one area’s purpose intrudes on another,’ she says. ‘While it’s a very sociable layout and if you have kids it can work really well as you can watch them while you are in a different 'room', but it’s not so wonderful to see a home office area when it’s time to switch off for the day.
‘It’s for that reason that we’ve seen a trend for more flexible layouts: those that can be opened up when required, but within which private spaces can be made.’
Based in New York, Artem Kropovinsky boasts extensive global design experience spanning a decade. With a commitment to sustainability and authenticity, Artem, alongside his dedicated team, undertakes projects both in the US and internationally, earning recognition through prestigious design awards. Artem is the founder of Arsight, an esteemed global design firm known for its expertise in residential and commercial interior design.
Make the open-plan evolution work
Adopting the evolved open-plan layout needs careful thought to make the best of its potential. How to achieve it? One answer is versatile furniture that you can use as room divider ideas. ‘This latest trend involves movable screens and smart furniture that make it easy for reconfiguration of the space,’ says Artem Kropovinsky.
Note, however, his caution. ‘This technique is appropriate for multipurpose use,’ he says. ‘However, noise control and heating issues may arise.’ Screens and furniture can create visual blocks between different areas but they won’t stop the noise from one activity intruding on another. If that’s a problem, the answer will be more permanent partitions, such as walls and doors.
And if you choose to install doors, it can prove a great success, according to Erin Hybart. ‘I have seen it done well, and it seems to appeal to different types of buyers, so in my eyes, it is a win-win.’
However, there are considerations to bear in mind. ‘Besides the cost of the extra doors, there could be some layout considerations depending on the door you want to install,’ she says. ‘You must ensure enough space to open the doors and vice versa. Some homes do not have the space, so I have seen renovators choose a design with a three-door panel design and only the single center opens.’
Focus on the size of openings between spaces in the evolved open-plan layout, suggests Hebe Hatton. ‘An area that’s going to be used as a dining room might have a wide opening between it and the living area,’ she says. ‘But an area that will be used as a den needs a smaller opening to the rest of the floor plan to ensure it feels cozy. For a home office, a separate room can be preferable to aid concentration.’
What are the disadvantages of an open floor plan?
An open floor plan doesn’t suit everybody. Noise can be a problem as can being able to see what’s going on in other areas. Cooking odors can be harder to contain. For a successful open-plan layout, it’s also vital to be able to control clutter in an open plan space as it will be obvious from so many positions. Since walls can be load bearing, removing them or constructing a house with fewer of them needs solutions such as steel beams for support of the structure above. The right heating or cooling level is also harder to achieve than it is in individual rooms. Fewer walls available for decor from wallpaper ideas to artwork is also a potential downside.
There are benefits to the new evolved open plan, but separate rooms and the full open concept layout shouldn’t be discounted. ‘How you like to use your home should determine your floor plan,’ advises H&G’s Hebe Hatton. ‘Layouts have benefits and downsides that make them preferable for different situations and this is an occasion on which how you live is crucial rather than what’s in style.’
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Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor. Previously executive editor of Ideal Home, she’s specialized in interiors, property and gardens for over 20 years, and covers interior design, house design, gardens, and cleaning and organizing a home for H&G. She’s written for websites, including Houzz, Channel 4’s flagship website, 4Homes, and Future’s T3; national newspapers, including The Guardian; and magazines including Future’s Country Homes & Interiors, Homebuilding & Renovating, Period Living, and Style at Home, as well as House Beautiful, Good Homes, Grand Designs, Homes & Antiques, LandLove and The English Home among others. It’s no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house renovator.
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