open plan living

Open Plan Living – Part 1

Part 1 – Is open plan living right for you & your home?

Open plan living sounds so casual – much more suited to modern life than the traditional assortment of rooms with their strictly delineated functions. You may have been to a friend’s home and admired their beautiful open plan space. You may have looked at magazine articles or in estate agents’ windows and dreamed. But is open plan living right for your family and your home? This series of 3 blogs will explore what’s involved and how to choose.

I started writing this blog with the intention of providing a step by step guide to planning an open plan space effectively. To go into enough detail would have called for a very long blog (or e-book!) and actually there are already many worthwhile books available to help with the process. As I started to write, research, and remember the experiences of clients I’ve worked with and houses I’ve seen, I realised that my real purpose in writing was something other than a step by step guide. I wanted to encourage you to carefully consider the options and work out what’s right for your home and family, to take a look at the bigger picture – before you get caught up in the detail.

First let’s take a look at what makes open plan so appealing. The obvious answer is, of course, space. If you’ve ever struggled to fit a large sofa in a smaller living room, or kept bumping into the corners of furniture as you walk through a room, the idea of a large, flowing space is very appealing. Many people want a large ‘family room’. Parents love to keep an eye on the kids while they cook. All-in-one rooms take the formality out of entertaining, and provide extra space for those with hobbies or working at home.

There are lots of reasons that homeowners transform traditional, separate rooms, each with its own purpose, into large multi-purpose spaces.  It sounds like a perfect solution – especially for that formal dining room that only got used twice a year – and it can be. But there are some things you should think about before you book the builder and start tearing down walls.

  • Who lives in your home?
  • What activities do you envisage happening in your open plan space?
  • What do you need the extra space for?
  • Is this the best use for your money?

Let’s start with the final one, as actually if the finances don’t stack up, it may be better to move on to other options.

So what is the cost of the average open plan extension? Well the simple answer is there isn’t an ‘average’, not really. I have spoken to people looking to spend £20,000 and people spending over £200,000. If you do an online search for something like ‘average costs of a home extension UK ‘ (or your location if you live in another country), you should find some useful figures for specific types of extension.

More pertinent questions to ask yourself are:

  1. How much are we willing (and able) to spend?
  2. How much value will we get from what we spend?

The answer to question 2 will depend partly on how long you plan to live in the property. Unless you’re sure you’ve found your ‘forever home’ any alterations or extension plan should take account of how it will affect future sale value. If you’re unsure, ask a couple of local estate agents to do a current valuation and talk to you about how changes may affect that value. This is especially important if one of your reasons for extending is to increase value. No one can guarantee an increase by the time you come to sell, but some changes are more likely to add value than others.

If you have no plans to move, and are not worried about future value, then layout and use is all about your wishes. It is still worth thinking ahead though. Whilst few of us enjoy thinking about getting older, creating a house that can adapt to your needs means you are more likely to be able to stay in it as you age.

Assuming you have, or are willing to borrow, the money, and that there are no major planning permission barriers (such as living in a listed property, or neighbours having been turned down for something similar), it’s time to consider potential disadvantages.

Here are some to think through and it’s worth talking to friends with open-plan spaces to get their views too.

  1. One person’s idea of ‘sociable’ is another’s lack of privacy or peace!  Ensuring there are other spaces available is important for family harmony.
  2. Noise – a multipurpose space could have music / TV, phone conversations, dishwasher / blender and more, all competing with each other.
  3. Smell – if your main living / relaxing space has the kitchen in it you won’t be able to escape the smell of the fish from dinner or other cooking smells.
  4. Cost of furnishing & decorating. In an open plan space large items like flooring, curtains and blinds may need to be purchased (and subsequently replaced) at the same time. With current trends for large windows and big sliding glass doors, one large open plan space can need as much curtaining as 3 or more small individual rooms would have.
  5. Multi-purpose use of the space and tidiness. If the large kitchen table is used for the kids’ homework and crafts, running your small business and doing the household bills, it’s all going to need moving when you have friends round for dinner.

You have plenty to think about, so take your time. And if you need help to work through it all, give me a call on 07866 427557 or email

Remember – Our enjoyment doesn’t come from the size of the space – it comes from what we are able to do in it.

Dolls house

To follow:

Part 2  – Making Open Plan Living Work for You.

Part 3 – Alternatives to Open Plan Living.

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