Born in the 1960s and 70s, open plan living has been the most stylish choice for home interiors over the last four decades. It creates a sense of light, space and fluidity, keenly adopted and adored by architects and homeowners the world over.
Despite the many benefits, there are some disadvantages to completely open plan designs. It’s certainly not for everyone.
So what’s the alternative?
Enter “broken plan living” – a recent seismic shift in home design.
Given the upheavals of the last few years, many people are seeking to compartmentalise their homes. Broken plan provides greater flexibility for work, family life, socialising or finding that quiet, private nook that’s just for you.
Today, we explain the difference between open plan and broken plan living as well as presenting the key pros and cons – so you can decide what’s best for your space.
Open Plan vs Broken Plan: What’s the difference?
Before we get into the advantages and disadvantages of open plan and broken plan living, let’s briefly take a look at exactly what each approach entails.
Open plan refers, perhaps unsurprisingly, to open living spaces. This is achieved by eliminating walls usually separating rooms (for instance between a kitchen and lounge), forming one larger space. This approach could link just two rooms or encompass an entire layout.
Open plan is often synonymous with cutting-edge art galleries and museums, bespoke residential homes and modern design. More often than not (although not always!) it’s paired with a stripped-back, minimal approach to interior design.
In terms of construction, heavy-duty beams often carry the weight of second and third floors, as opposed to traditional walls and pillars.
Broken plan is similar to open plan living in the sense it creates links and connections between previously partitioned rooms.
Broken plan focuses on creating distinct zones however, through the use of split levels, glass, structural elements, semi-permanent partitions such as screens and bookcases, paint and floor finishes.
These subtle divides maintain the open and light feel of open plan living, but also create a firm sense of carefully-defined spaces. This approach often provides options for homeowners to close-off spaces if required too.
Open Plan Living: Advantages and Disadvantages.
Open plan living undoubtedly increases the light and fluidity of a space. There’s a reason why it’s adored the world over!
Despite this, there are disadvantages, particularly for families searching for a bit of peace and quiet. These issues became more apparent when we all shared domestic spaces during lockdown months.
Here are a few pros and cons to consider:
- A large open space, perfect for socialising. Cook in the kitchen whilst chatting to guests in the living room.
- Open floor plans allow you to flood the entire space with natural light. This makes your home feel brighter, cleaner and lighter.
- Depending on the existing layout and structure of your home, it can be a relatively inexpensive design change that makes a big impact.
- Open plan makes the most of small spaces, allowing rooms to flow naturally with the same finishes and materials throughout.
- If your entire ground-floor space is open plan, all the kitchen mess, smells and noise will drift through living spaces.
- It can be difficult for family members (particularly if there are multiple generations living under one roof) to find peace, quiet and privacy.
- Open plan spaces are often more expensive to heat – a key consideration with rising costs of living and fuel bills.
- Storage and furniture placement can be an issue, as there are less walls to place cupboards and shelves against.
Broken Plan Living: Advantages and Disadvantages.
Broken plan living solves some of the potential problems with open plan layouts, offering smaller pockets of privacy and cosiness. Nonetheless, it’s not a “fix all” solution.
Here are some of the main pros and cons:
- Broken plan living creates more cosy, private spaces than entirely open plan layouts.
- More options for interior design. With multiple smaller zones, you can utilise decorative touches and structural features to delineate your space.
- Broken plan living creates spaces to hide dirty dishes, laundry and general mess – as well as more opportunities for general storage.
- Each space has a clearly defined function (whilst maintaining light and flow between rooms), creating architectural interest as well as a functional home.
- Depending on the layout of your existing home, broken plan spaces can be expensive. Installing bespoke partitions, bookshelves or unique furnishings can all be costly.
- Partial divides can make interior design difficult to manage, with the risk of the space feeling either too enclosed and jumbled, or too open.
- Depending on the manner of your broken plan layout, there may still be issues with sounds, smells and a lack of privacy.
- Without firm dividing walls, broken plan layouts can be just as costly to heat as open floor plans.
Which option is best for my home?
It’s evident both open plan and broken plan living come with their unique set of opportunities and constraints. Ultimately, the option you choose will depend on the way you’d like to live and the existing constraints and structural considerations of your home.
Let’s take a look at a few scenarios, to explore whether a broken or open plan approach would be most suitable…
Example 1: A new build couple
A young, professional couple has just purchased a new-build property – it’s a bit on the small side, with a relatively dark kitchen but a beautiful lounge and dining area looking onto the garden.
In this instance, an open plan floor layout is a great idea. It will open up the space, solve the issues with light and make the most of a smaller area. As a younger couple, this will further enable a sociable, fun and bright space.
Example 2: A city-centre family
A family with two small children have recently purchased a city-centre flat. It’s a good size, but feels slightly featureless and unloved.
In this scenario, broken plan would be a fantastic approach – it would allow the homeowners to add character to an otherwise square and bland space. What’s more, younger family members have quiet nooks to retreat to and do schoolwork, without being entirely separated from parents.
Example 3: Quaint country charm
Finally, let’s imagine a retired gentleman who’s bought a quaint country house. It’s well proportioned, but some windows are relatively small. Many of the interior walls are load-bearing.
In this instance, whilst an open plan approach might be tempting (making the most of the juxtaposition between old and new) – supporting walls make this a complex and expensive undertaking. With older properties, planning constraints will also have to be taken into consideration. This likely makes a modified broken plan design the most appropriate solution.
Whether you choose open plan or broken plan living depends on your lifestyle and the constraints of your existing home. Even if building from scratch, structural considerations and costs will have to be taken into account.
How can EV Architects help?
If you’re redesigning your space or thinking of embarking on the new home of your dreams, speak to our expert architectural team today. Our London Architects Team will be glad to discuss your project and help bring your ideas into reality!