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Open plan: For and against

Open plan is the term used in architectural and interior design for any floor plan which makes use of large, open spaces and minimizes the use of small, enclosed rooms.

The dictionary definition of an open plan space is ‘having no or few dividing walls between areas.’

In an office this means eliminating private offices and sitting together in one big room while at home this would mean knocking down the walls between the kitchen, dining room and living room and having one big space.

‘Open plan living’ has risen in popularity to such an extent that it is now a key requirement for many when looking for a home or office space.

Speaking to houzz, British architect Andrew Brown said: “Open plan living remains extremely popular in the UK, as it seems to sit comfortably with the way most people (and in particular families) live nowadays. There has been a marked downturn in the popularity of formal dining and this has tied in with the rise of open plan living.”

But, what are your thoughts on the idea of open plan living? Is it a good idea or a very bad one? Here are a few pros and cons to help you decide:

For open plan 

It encourages sociable living: Open plan layouts have an impact on the way homeowners and office workers use their space and interact with each other.  It offers the opportunity to be more communal and therefore connected. At home, while one person cooks in the kitchen they can talk to the others in the living room. Likewise, in the office, junior employees can easily talk to senior management – enhancing teamwork and encouraging an open flow of ideas.   

It promotes indoor / outdoor living: It means spaces feel light, as all areas have equal access to the windows. This is also increases connection with the outdoors – as well as windows, these open plan spaces will often feature a door that opens to the outside.

It’s a good solution for small living spaces: Knocking down walls and opening up a small home will create the feeling of space. Small spaces can feel cramped, dark and stuffy – opening them up might not give you more physical space, but it will make them feel light, airy and spacious.  

Against open plan 

Lowers productivity: Open plan can actually lower productivity, especially in offices, where workers can be interrupted every few minutes by a range of distractions. These distractions, no matter how small, can cause us to lose focus for upwards of 20 minutes. Research suggests we are also 15% less productive and we are twice as likely to get sick in open working spaces. Similarly, at home you may find yourself distracted by loud noises that could otherwise have been shut away.  

Smells can be an issue: This is particularly an issue at home where kitchen smells, which could have been shut away, can spread through the house. Some people may not find this a problem, but many don’t want these smells elsewhere in their home and can struggle to get rid of them.

It can look messy and reduce storage: Removing walls means you are also removing storage – something many of us don’t have enough of anyway. This can cause the space to become messy. Likewise, if you leave the dishes on the kitchen counter to deal with later you will be able to see these from the living room.

There’s no privacy: While it is sociable, this also means there is no privacy. It can start to feel like you are living (or working) on top of each other. You don’t have the option to shut yourself away in another room to find space because there are no doors to close.

How to get around the cons 

There are of course ways to get around the cons. Mr Bowen says when his company designs an open plan space it ‘still ensures this doesn’t necessarily equate to a lack of privacy, and opportunities for individual moments are still provided’. Likewise, there are always ways to find storage for your belongings, even in the smallest of places. This could be using multi-functional furniture in the home and taking advantage of our storage units for those items you don’t use on a day-to-day basis.

So, what do you think - are you for or against an open plan layout? Do you think it is something you could see yourself living or working in, or do you worry about the lack of privacy and losing storage?

As with everything, there are, of course, pros and cons to both and it ultimately comes down to your personal preference.