Having the living room, kitchen and dining space all in one makes everything home-related so much easier. Make open plan living look good too is also easy, giving us a bigger space to play with and decorate.
In practical terms it means there are fewer doors to open and shut, fewer walls to decorate and easier communications between people doing different things.
But of course it isn’t as simple as that. Even though open plan living is on trend and almost a requirement in new homes, the lifestyle suits some people more than others.
When did Open Plan Living become popular?
Open plan living is a surprisingly modern way of living. It wasn’t until the 1950s the term was used about a new, busier and more interactive lifestyle.
Apart from the middle ages when some families shared one room, our lives were compartmentalised. There was a room for cooking, one for dining, another for watching TV and another for the children. But family life has changed. Parents are more involved in their children’s lives and development. Perhaps that also has influenced the layout of our homes.
Apartment and house hunters in London in the 1980s and well into the 2000s were traipsing from room to room wondering how to knock through walls. They wanted to create as many rooms as possible to boost the property’s value. But then came the need to create an extra bedroom and the kitchen was moved into the double reception rooms.
Open Plan Kitchen – Benefits and Drawbacks
By having the kitchen in the living room – you could chat to family members and guests while you prepared supper or dinner. Later, in the 2000s, entire levels were opened up to create one large room for cooking, eating, playing and relaxing. Where there was an outdoor space, even that was added as an extension of the inside with large sliding doors and floor tiles flowing throughout the space.
Today, it is hard to find a flat or apartment on the market that hasn’t been turned into open plan living – at least with kitchen and sitting room in one.
Small Open Plan Living
Owners of smaller flats have been particularly keen to knock down walls to create a greater sense of space and let in the light. It improves the look of the home hugely, but also its perceived value.
Colours and furniture (see also our blog on see-through acrylic furniture), are important in the open plan space, but absolutely key. Something that needs to be thought through before anything else is the positioning of static elements such as kitchen work top and oven. The basic layout is particularly important in a small open plan living space where every inch counts.
The open plan house is a very Scandi phenomenon – pre-dating the famous 1970s Danish “commune” way of living. Danish architects have experimented with the open plan theme which fits into the minimalist aesthetic in private homes as well as offices.
Bertel Udsen led Scandinavia in the development and promotion of open plan houses in the mid to late 20th Century. He used light and split levels to create different living areas or zones in the same space.
He defined space and flexibility as well as light and a connection to the outdoors.
Create “rooms” within the open plan zone by positioning the furniture and creating invisible boundaries. However, one of the drawbacks of an open plan house is the noise and food smells being difficult to contain. There is an art to living in an open plan house and it is not for the majority.
Open Plan Kitchen Diner – and Open Plan Kitching Living Room
Amongst some uber chic families, friends and couples the open house has been the living arrangement of choice. Here, aesthetics and artful living are more important than practicalities. Or togetherness is key.
The open plan kitchen diner and kitchen living room have become hugely popular, not just in Scandinavia, but also in the rest of Europe and the USA. It’s the simplest form of open plan living, turning the kitchen into the main socialising area.
The kitchen diner can also turn out to be the most expensive part of the house or apartment. If a home owner has to conduct major re-configuration to fit units in the right places it can be a costly refurbishment involving professional builders.
Property developers are specially keen on creating kitchen living rooms – moving the kitchen into the sitting room – to create an extra bedroom and added value. Storage is a challenge in the open plan space, particularly in the kitchen. It’s worth getting a professional’s view on how to create and disguise hiding space. That’s important in the zone where you cook and relax.
Think super creatively. Use space under the staircase, above cupboards, rails for hanging equipment and other decorative disguises which serve as home decor and storage. Shelves rather than cupboards open up the space and give the kitchen area a breezier feel.
Scandinavian Open Plan Living
The Nordic home is virtually defined by open plan. The long, clean lines and the light floating in as well as a sense of space with minimum fuss sum up the Scandi look and vibe. Few walls to block the view and to clutter with ‘stuff’. Uber functional and low maintenance are the key words
Yet, we say low maintenance. With open plan living Scandi style, there is a need to keep the area tidy or the spacious effect we worked so hard and creatively will disappear entirely. The Scandi open plan option really does require some creativity with storage space or the realisation that maybe we don’t really need so much stuff in our homes to have fun.