Eliminating walls and merging small, separate rooms into one large multi-functional living space has dominated home renovations and new builds for decades now. These bright, airy, light-filled spaces are far more sociable, allowing families to cook, eat and relax together.
But months of lockdown – when those spaces also had to function as offices, classrooms, and recreation areas – highlighted some of the shortcomings of open-plan living. As a result, we’ve fallen a little out of love with the open plan concept, and a new interpretation is emerging: broken plan living.
The broken plan concept maintains the advantages of open plan designs – light, spacious, sociable spaces – while defining zones, creating distinct areas for different activities, and returning a degree of privacy.
Open plan designs can be ‘broken’ with structural elements or simply through clever use
of colour, floor treatments and furniture.
STRUCTURAL | GLASS PARTITIONS OR WALLS
Partitioning your open-plan space with large panes of glass – whether internal windows or floor-to-ceiling glass partitions – allows you to keep the same light quality but enclose areas, such as the kitchen, to keep cooking odours and noise from spreading throughout. Crittall-style doors and windows – with a grid of glass panes divided by black metal frames – are particularly popular options for creating walls of glass. Bi-fold or pocket doors, typically used between living spaces and terraces, can also be used internally to open up or close off an area, depending on the situation.
Half walls, or low walls, can cleverly divide living areas from cooking areas without blocking them off completely. It can also provide a solution to the age-old conundrum of where to put the TV or what to push furniture up against. In addition, wood, brick or stone cladding can add extra character and colour.
SPLIT LEVELS OR MEZZANINES
A split-level living space naturally creates zones, typically with the seating placed at the lower level to create a more intimate snug-like space. If you have high ceilings, building in a mezzanine is a great way to gain an extra, semi-separate space to work, read or play.
Something of a compromise between traditional and open plans, creating extra-wide doorways (and doing away with the doors) allows for a visual connection between different spaces without losing the separation.
Painting one zone in a dark colour and the adjoining space in a lighter colour creates a visual divide without making costly structural changes.
Different floor treatments within an open concept space subtly demarcate different zones. For example, tile floors are a practical option in kitchens, while timber can make the seating and dining areas cosy. A large area rug can equally mark the seating area in an open plan living space, with sofas and chairs placed within its borders.
Use open shelving or bookcases to screen one zone from another. These allow the light to filter through and provide a space to display collectables but create a little privacy. Folding room dividers or simple, removable plywood partitions are also easy, cost-effective ways to block off areas and can be easily reversed. Modular furniture also lends itself well to broken plan designs, with the option of rearranging in different configurations, depending on the occasion.
Broken plan designs are about clever use of space and creating defined zones while maintaining the light, flow and flexibility of open concept spaces. Talk to the professionals at Design Studio
, Dreamscape Design and Build
and Label C
to create your own bespoke broken-plan living space.