Open plan layouts are a popular in newly built housing, and most have a kitchen-diner or open plan living space of some kind. As our lifestyles have changed, so have the ways we use our homes, and many have opted to remodel their Victorian terraces and 1930s semis and go open plan too.
If you are looking to create an open plan layout in a home you are building or renovating, it is sure to enhance the feeling of light and space. However, it pays to think carefully about the design so that you don’t sacrifice the opportunity for privacy and cosiness. Here are 15 homes that show how a successfully executed open plan layout can work.
Low pendant lights over the dining table help break up the floorplan in the ground floor of this home. The empty space between the kitchen-diner and living areas creates flexible room for play and entertainment.
Embracing light and space were key in this three storey home so large areas of glazing, and a triple-height space above the open plan ground floor, were included. The kitchen has a tiled floor, but wood has been used in the living area to inject warmth.
This kitchen-diner extension to a home created from three listed cottages, is accessed via the living room. A vaulted ceiling in the light-filled kitchen and dining areas creates a sense of space, while the living room ceiling is much lower and features exposed beams for a cosier cottage feel.
If your home has more than two storeys (as is common where a loft has been converted), then you need to be sure that your open plan space will meet the Building Regulations with regards to fire and escape. This is usually an issue if the open plan area is your main means of escape. In these cases, you may need fire doors between the kitchen and first floor, as well as a fire protected escape route from the first floor.
If the first floor can be exited without having to go through the kitchen and open plan area, then this should not present a problem. In any case, it is sensible to look into fire suppression systems – such as sprinklers and smoke curtains – to limit the spread of fire and smoke throughout the home.
Read more about sprinklers here
This open plan kitchen is adjoined by a two storey glazed extension at the rear of the property, meaning light comes in both from the back of the home and the bay window at the front. An informal living space features a woodburning stove for a homely feel.
The kitchen is the heart of the home in this urban self build — it even features a swing and leads to a small courtyard garden. A triangular kitchen island makes efficient use of the space, while creating a divide between the areas for cooking and relaxing.
The dining space of this self build is overlooked by a galleried landing. Long pendant lights hung from the double-height ceiling illuminate the dining table in the evening, while large windows at the front and back of the home flood the area with natural light by day.
Some of the best open plan spaces work so well because they have clearly defined zones for various tasks. Ideally, you should divide the room without affecting the flow of light. You may also want some private areas, but if you have young children it is important to think about the sightlines between where you may be working or relaxing, and where they will be playing.
The following are great ways to zone a room:
- Use breakfast bars, islands or low-level furniture (or low stud walls) to section up the floorplan
- Where possible, varying the floor levels is extremely effective, but think carefully about safety and steps in areas used for cooking or playing
- Lighting is an unobtrusive and practical way to zone. Use low pendants over a dining area and spotlights for task lighting
- Use different flooring in different zones of the room. This also means you can use softer flooring in cosy areas and hard-wearing options in the kitchen-diner
What could have been an overwhelmingly large space in this converted chapel, has been cleverly sectioned into cosy and practical spaces for relaxing and eating. A sofa and ornate rug (just in shot) have been positioned to zone the living area.
A horseshoe arrangement of cabinets divides the kitchen from the dining space in this angular eco home. A double-height vaulted ceiling over the dining area helps zone the area further, as does the use of pendant lights inbetween.
The architect owner of this home has utilised several popular zoning techniques to break up their kitchen-diner. The dining table sits in a double-height space with industrial style lighting, while the kitchen is clearly defined by a lower ceiling and structural column. The sink and worktop for food prep have been positioned facing out into the dining area so that the hosts can talk to any dinner guests from the kitchen.
How to Keep Cooking Smells Contained
Open plan spaces present the problem of cooking smells and steam filling the whole area. Therefore a good means of extraction is essential. If possible, place the cooker near a window and as far from the living spaces as possible. An efficient cooker hood is also required, but look for models that are quieter so as not to interrupt people relaxing in the living area.
If you are still concerned about smells and steam (or noise — more on which below), then it might be sensible to install sliding pocket doors between the kitchen and living room.
The kitchen of this New England-style self build includes the distinctive features of American open plan living that we frequently emulate across the pond. A stone-topped island creates a focal point and place to congregate in the centre of the room, and there is also a relaxed dining area and informal seating.
A large extension to the rear of a 1950s bungalow has created a versatile open-plan living space. This is partially open to the hallway, separated by a curved glass wall which allows the flow of light between the front and back of the home. A slate-effect feature wall in the living area helps to create a defined zone for relaxing.
New York loft-style has been mimicked in this open plan kitchen and enhanced with industrial style lighting and exposed brick. The double-height void above the dining area (out of shot) and a third floor habitable room meant that a sprinkler system was required to meet Building Regulations.
Open plan spaces with hard flooring and lots of smooth surfaces are bound to be noisy and prone to echo. To minimise this, use soft flooring or rugs in the living areas and remember that soft furnishings and textiles will absorb noise too.
You should also plan the layout to minimise disruption. If you want an office or homework zone, keep this away from the TV or play areas. It is also a good idea to look for appliances that claim to be quieter, but check out their reviews to see how people find them in practice.
This home features an open plan mezzanine level with spare bedroom, allowing light to flow freely throughout the building. Practical concrete flooring on the ground floor unifies the space, while the wooden structure and panelling bring warmth and colour.
The kitchen-diner with a vaulted ceiling sits in the former vestry, and a mezzanine level has been added above the living area creating a lower ceiling. Wooden flooring has been used in the cosy living room, and stone in the kitchen with its industrial-style fittings. A double-sided woodburning stove can be enjoyed from both sides of the room.
White walls and light wood flooring adds a touch of Scandinavian style to this timber cabin on the Isle of Skye. The area is subtly zoned by the furniture arrangement and a low stud wall defines the space from the adjoining living quarters. Vaulted ceilings and windows on either side enhance the sense of light and space.
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