Open-plan living has been one of the biggest trends in our homes in recent decades. Indeed, knocking down walls can create a sense of space, light, sociability and fluidity that many of us love. But open-plan layouts can reduce privacy and quiet spots, as well as useful walls against which to place furniture. You may also struggle to ignore that pile of dishes you see out of the corner of your eye during TV binges on the sofa (at least with a wall between you and the kitchen, you can pretend it isn’t there). Welcome, then, to a slow, steady move toward a compromise: broken-plan living. But what exactly is it?
Broken-plan means keeping the things you love about open-plan, but also letting your rooms retain an element of privacy and specific use.
By dividing your overall space more subtly — using half walls, smart shelving, split levels, internal windows and other clever tricks — and creating breakout zones for privacy and relaxing, it’s perfectly possible to hold on to an appealing sense of light and space, but also to escape distraction from the loved ones you live with (and the undone cleaning) when the mood takes you.
Preserve the Light
One constant conundrum with non-open-plan living is how to preserve that lovely sense of flowing light. If you’re not careful, once you introduce walls and closed doors, you can be left with a series of dark, too-small rooms.
Broken-plan living offers a compromise. In this space, an open shelving unit allows light to filter through and helps to retain a sense of connectivity and flow between the adjacent rooms. An extra-wide door opening similarly adds to the broken-plan design.
Another way to boost light is to install internal windows. This is especially appropriate for a home office, such as the one in this modern home, since it provides quietness without cutting you off entirely from what’s going on in the rest of the living area.
Go to Another Level
This impressive space makes use of different floor levels and different ceiling heights, which psychologically helps to increase the distance between separate zones designed for different functions.
The chic kitchen is physically kept separate from the cozy TV den thanks to the dividing wall, but both areas naturally flow (but don’t bleed) into the large dining and lounging area. The result is a space where a large family can easily be “alone together.”
A large, all-in-one downstairs room, encompassing cooking, dining and living zones, has become a popular layout in many homes. But while the result can look spacious, it may mean the living spaces never feel truly relaxing, because they’re so connected to the bustle of the kitchen.
However, small tricks, such as having two or three steps between areas, can be all it takes to provide that crucial mental and physical divide. In this open-plan space, retaining a slab of wall on one side of the wide bookcase also subtly helps the living area to feel more self-contained.
If you have the room height, and an architect or a builder to help you plan properly, inserting a loft can be a smart way to fit another living area into what could otherwise be dead space.
In this abode, the lower-level lounging area is elegant and more formal, while the narrow upper-level seating area is reserved for watching TV and storing books and DVDs. The glass balustrade helps to create a flow between the two distinct areas and keeps the upper level as light as possible.
This home study is separated from the main living area by three short steps and a half-height glass wall. These create a clear boundary that stops spillover between one function and another. Having different textures — the exposed brick wall, in this case — and different flooring (wood versus tiles) further adds to the demarcation.
Before planning your broken-plan space, think about what you miss in your current home and what works where; not everyone wants a study downstairs, for example.
Use Partial Walls
Many of us hanker after more space in our homes but, ironically, one problem with larger open-plan living spaces is that they can end up feeling too big — and consequently not always cozy.
Dividing a large room into smaller lounging zones could be an option if this is your issue. Here, a well-placed TV and fireplace wall does the trick.
If you’re lucky enough to have a spacious bedroom, a broken-plan design can help you retain a separate area for lounging, studying or even crafting or doing other hobbies. It’s also a good potential trick for compact studio flats, where the sleeping and living spaces are one.
Here, a storage wall complete with integrated fireplace shields the living area, but the light from the large windows and the lovely view can still be appreciated.
It might seem a bit old-school, but a half wall between a dining area and a kitchen creates a visual block from the chaos of cooking when you’re enjoying a meal with family or guests.
It also means you can keep the conversation going, rather than feeling as if you’re marooned in another room while you cook and they relax (or vice versa).