Is open plan living a good idea?

 

Whether you are considering making changes to your home or want to design your own new-build, open plan living might be in your plans.

If you are planning a self-build house, then it is a fairly straight forward process because you have a blank canvas. But what if opening up your current home is part of your plans?

At Conroy and Son, we have worked on many established houses from various decades across the North East that have been made open plan. So, we have learned a lot in the process! If you are thinking of opening up an older home, here are a few things to consider before making further progress.

 

1. Will open plan work for my home?

Some homes suit open plan more than others. So before you get ideas about knocking down walls and freeing up enclosed spaces, stop and think.

Cosy cottages may feel like the perfect candidates for opening up the interior, but make sure that it doesn’t negatively impact the feel of the house.

Barn or industrial conversions are often more successful for open plan spaces. We are experienced in creating stunning new-build homes and that experience can be used for converting such buildings.

If you live in one of the many Victorian semis or terraces across the North East then opening up their interiors is an option if you keep things simple. You can plan an extension to offer a light-filled kitchen-diner while still retaining grand sitting rooms in a period home.

As we have already mentioned in a blog earlier this year, remember to check to see if you need permissions such as listed building consent. (https://historicengland.org.uk/advice/hpg/consent/lbc/)

Most homes are not listed, but if you fail to check and later learn that your house is listed, you could face penalties. In the worst cases, you may even face prosecution.

 

2. Don’t knock it!

Before you take a hammer to your internal walls, you need to work sensitively with your existing structure. If your wall has a structural function – which means it is effectively supporting parts of the house – you could end up destroying your house in the worst cases!

Don’t make assumptions about your supporting walls; some may not appear to be structural but even lightweight timber partitions maybe providing support for another wall or adding stability.

You can either ask a structural engineer at the planning stage, or we can help give you advice. Even if the wall has a structural function it can still be removed. You just need to make sure you replace it with other options, such as a steel beam. Consider timber supports too. They can be attractive if left exposed and also subtly divide areas.

 

3. What works best?

Spaces that are less reliant on natural light, such as the kitchen, can be placed in the middle of an open plan layout with the living room at the front and dining room to the rear. This is often known as the ‘dumbbell’ plan.

Remember to consider your appliances when creating an open plan layout. Noisy dishwashers and washing machines can ruin the experience of open plan living if you put them in the wrong place. So think about a creating a utility space for such appliances.

 

Don’t forget that if you want an open plan kitchen, consider the plumbing and electrical requirements. A sink or oven as a feature point in the centre of a walk-through kitchen may look amazing, but if you haven’t considered the extra work to move it there it could add to your costs.

4. Get in the zone

If you decide to open up the ground floor of your home you could be creating a huge, featureless space, so remember to think in zones.

It can be fairly simple to do, too. A change in floor level subtly zones spaces and timber beams can acts as an informal divide.

 

Fit doors to close off smaller sections when needed, too. Using sliding doors or pocket doors can section your space without getting in the way and spoiling the overall effect.

 

5. Extend your ideas

In period homes, it may be too much hassle or difficult to move walls. But that doesn’t mean you have to ditch your dream of an open plan living space. Consider a single storey extension if you have an outside space to extend into.

Adding an extension to your current kitchen could create a stunning kitchen-diner that leads onto your rear garden space, which brings the outside in. It’s a fantastic way to entertain. If this appeals to you, then we have already looked at extensions in this blog.

You can contact us to chat about any ideas you have about creating an open plan space in your home. Don’t forget, to talk and check first before making plans that will cost you to amend later.