IS OPEN PLAN LIVING REALLY FAMILY FRIENDLY?
View a selection of new build family homes and you’d be hard pushed to find a design that doesn’t include at least one open planned room, unless you’re looking at really large properties. Walk around some small to medium-sized homes marketed at new or growing families and you’ll likely be presented with one or more open plan living spaces. In fact, you may even find that as many as three rooms have been rolled into one in the name of embracing ‘family friendly’ living space. A recent survey by one homebuilder Countryside claims that open plan living is very much in demand with 65% of buyers looking for an open plan living, kitchen and dining area because they are ‘family friendly’.
Let’s be honest, there’s a fairly obvious reason why developers have embraced open plan living. Missing out a wall here and there allows for a lot better flow of light and air and can make smaller spaces look larger. And of course, you save a few bricks and time on building too. But is it all about creating an illusion of space and saving a few quid or are there real advantages to opening up your home? Let’s look at the pros and the cons to see if open plan living could be a fit for your family…
You won’t miss a thing
An open plan space is perfect for sharing with the whole family and especially good for keeping a close eye on cruising toddlers! Whether they’re reaching for things they shouldn’t or taking a peaceful nap, it’s easier to watch over them to ensure nothing is amiss. Plus, with bigger areas to explore, there’s more room for toys and less likelihood of bumping into things. And, if you have guests over for entertaining, you’ll have a bigger space to dine or party in too.
There’s more space for furniture
When your rooms are on the compact side, squeezing in a sensible furniture layout can become problematic. This means family friendly furniture such as a proper dining table is often sacrificed in order to conserve floor space. With an open plan living-dining room or a kitchen-diner, much smaller homes can accommodate furniture favourites such as table to share family meals around or a larger sofa to snuggle up on to watch movies together.
It’s easier to decorate
If you’re an interiors enthusiast you’ll know the struggle of seamlessly linking your décor as you step from room to room. With open plan living it’s much easier to create a logical flow with colours, prints and textures that work together. There are larger walls and floors that allow you to experiment with different techniques more easily and can make things like wallpapering and laying flooring or carpets easier. Plus, with fewer rooms to decorate, you may even find you save a few pounds on the overall finish.
Noise and smells travel
It’s not just special moments and a larger space you share with open plan living spaces. In fact, depending on the layout on the activities of different individuals, you can end up sharing some pretty annoying things too. The potent smell of the nappy bin might waft through you’re communal chill out area or if you’re ground floor is entirely open plan, the scent of last night’s tea might hang in the air while you’re watching TV. That could be enough to put fish permanently off the menu in some households! Then of course, there’s the noise. If cooking in the kitchen is usually your quiet haven, you can forget having a peaceful five minutes if the kids are playing in the same space. Likewise, if someone’s trying to do some homework in your dining area it will be hard to persuade the rest of the house that the TV should remain switched off for the duration.
Privacy is a precious commodity
As kids get older, open plan living starts to throw up more issues. Along with needing a quiet spot to work in, you or they might want to spend some time alone without heading up to your own bedroom. You might need to factor in younger children playing with toys whilst older children try and chat with friends. It’s also common to could contend with everyone playing on multiple devices like mobiles and tablets all in the same space, which can result in lots of annoying beeping. Having some separate spaces to retreat to can be beneficial for all the family and makes it easier to accommodate each other’s moods, hobbies and interests.
Temperature regulation is tricky
Hands up who turns the radiators off in some rooms but keeps other areas extra cosy because everybody in the family seems to have their own personal temperature preference? Not only do larger areas take more heating but it’s also harder to keep separate warm and cool spaces if you need to with open plan areas. For example, if you’re cooking up a storm in your kitchen diner on a hot day, you might find that the temperature in your dining room becomes too close for comfort. This can be especially the case in well-insulated modern homes.
Can you compromise?
If you’re on board with the benefits of open plan living but less enthused about the drawbacks, there are a few things you can do. Broken plan living – described here by Houzz – is a modern update on open plan living that factors in a family’s need to socialise or spend time separately. Cleverly placed furniture can provide quiet nooks and corners or if you’re planning a move or some renovations, inserting mezzanine floors is one way to instil privacy, though it won’t necessarily help contain unwanted spreading of sounds or containment of heat. An easier (and more cost effective) solution is to consider fitting doors that can be opened and closed as required. These indoor bi-folds by Vufold feature larger floor to ceiling glass panes so that you still have the advantage of free flow of light but can close the door on unwanted interruptions if you’re in need of a bit of peace and quiet.
What do you think of open plan living spaces? Do you find them useful for family life or do they throw up lots of problems with practicalities in your household? Do you have any other hacks to share that allow you the best of both worlds?
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