open-plan done well

Increase your space and flexibility by going open-plan

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Over the last few weeks, I’ve been to see about a dozen different people to help them solve the same kind of problem. All the houses had a series of small-ish rooms that felt dark, disconnected from other parts of the house and have limited access to the garden.

In essence, each homeowner had the issue of either a lack of space or just the wrong sort of space, by which I mean that the house just didn’t work for them and their families. If this sounds like you, I always recommend starting by

  • Assessing the current layout: evaluate the existing internal layout of your house and identify areas that can be optimized for space and flexibility. Then
  • Defining your goals: what are your objectives for the redesigned space? You might be aiming to maximise space, change the layout or increase natural light. Clearly defining your goals will help guide the design process. It also helps the architect should you choose to consult one.

Most of the people I see want a lighter more open-plan living space and there are two ways to achieve this.

1. Remodel the interior

Internal remodel

Removing one or more non-load-bearing walls will open up space and increase flexibility for how the space is used overall. A structural engineer or architect will identify non-structural walls that can be safely removed and advise on any areas that will need strengthening.

2. Consider an extension

If it’s feasible and you can afford it, then increase your overall square footage by adding a small extension or loft conversion. Yes, it will be costly, but it’s often more cost-effective than moving house – and a bonus if you already like your house and its location. Ensure you understand planning and building regulations before starting the project.

Whichever way you decide to go, there are some common approaches for going open plan.

Here’s a list of my 10 design principles and considerations for creating an open-plan space.

  1. Zones: despite the openness, you want to clearly define each area based on the activity in that zone, eg, the kitchen for cooking, the dining area for eating and a living space for relaxing. Then consider how and where you want to locate them – is your aim to chat with the family or to guests while you cook?
  2. Flow: in an open-plan design, you should think about maintaining a natural flow between spaces. This can be achieved by carefully considering the furniture layout and features like kitchen islands, which can help guide movement through the space.
  3. Lighting: natural light plays a vital role in open-plan spaces. Consider where the light enters the room throughout the day and design your space around it. For instance, place the dining area near a window to maximise the morning light.
  4. Storage: adequate storage is essential, especially in the kitchen. Clever storage solutions like built-in cabinets or multifunctional furniture can keep the space tidy and maintain its minimalist, open feel.
  5. Colour scheme: a harmonious colour scheme can help tie the different areas together. Use different shades of the same colour in each area or use a neutral palette with pops of colour to define areas.
  6. Acoustics: open spaces can be noisy, so use materials and soft furnishings to absorb sound, like a rug in the living area, fabric-covered sofas and curtains.
  7. Flexibility: design the space to be easily rearranged for different uses. This might involve choosing lightweight or movable furniture or incorporating versatile elements like sliding internal doors.
  8. Consolidate Services: centralising utilities, such as plumbing and electrics, can minimise wasted space and free up additional room for storage or functional areas.
  9. Connection to outdoors: try incorporating large windows or sliding doors that link the interior space with the garden, making the space feel larger and bringing in natural light and a connection to nature
  10. Hire Professionals: to remove walls or build a house extension, I’d highly recommend hiring an architect – and there’s a good reason for this besides the obvious! An architect will redesign your home to make the most of your space and will often think of ideas you haven’t considered. Plus – along with structural engineers – we know how to ensure the building remains safe and structurally sound.

Despite the common themes, I always remember that every home and family is unique, so when I design their space it’s essential to consider people’s individual needs and preferences. My job is to listen and create a personal design for every client so that you and your family Love Coming Home.

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