How to Delegate Zones in Open-Plan Layouts

It’s no secret that in recent years modern house designs have moved towards open-plan layouts. Since 2010 the Google search term for “open-plan living” has more than doubled, and is still, 8 years later, increasing month-on-month.

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Property types that young homeowners are seeking out are studios or the over-romanticised American apartment. It doesn’t help that when you search “increase in open-plan homes” nearly every article pulled explains how to add value to your property (hint, it’s by making it open-plan). But what’s the fascination? Why do we all yearn for a living environment without walls or restriction… or rooms?

What are Open-Plan Layouts?

Just for a little clarification, in case you literally live under a rock and don’t know what open-plan layouts are… well, it is exactly what it says on the tin.

Open-plan layouts are building with an architectural design that limits its use of walls that designate separate or private rooms.  

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Why Do We Love Open-Plan Living Spaces?

Well, firstly, open-plan layouts certainly enhance living spaces thanks to the flow of natural light and sense of an enlarged space.

It’s a much healthier way of building homes; it’s one that doesn’t waste space on walkways, corridors, walls and awkward left-over patches that are created as a result. Nor do open-plan layouts box space in, or limit rooms to just one function. This allows for interior design flexibility, movement and easy redesigns to keep the space feeling new and fresh.

There’s a lot of psychology that goes with open spaces, connected with the flow of light, sound, smell and therefore energy. Alongside the idea of surroundings affecting our mental state, so an open space could encourage an open mind and honesty.

Likewise, open-plan layouts are ideal for socialising, hosts can remain in utilitarian spaces (such as the kitchen) while also conversing with guests located in more relaxed settings nearby.

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What are the Downsides of Living in Open Spaces?

Like all types of architectural design, it’s not for everyone. The way that flats aren’t great for dogs, open-plan designs aren’t the best decision for young families.

The free-flowing nature of this style of design that we hailed earlier does have its drawbacks. Acoustics, for instance, can be an issue – especially for young families. The open design encourages the movement of sound to carry, meaning any parents that don’t like to head to bed at the same time as their little ones may struggle not to wake them up in the evenings.

Another issue is that with the total disintegration of distinct rooms is a lack of purpose and privacy. Having a room or even just a space that is a designated “wind down” area is paramount to rebalance and feel at ease in your home. Feeling comfortable in your own privacy is particularly important for people that work from home, ensuring a distinction between workspace and relax is necessary for efficient working hours and being able to switch off while at home. And when it comes to young families it’s essential that mum and dad have a quiet spot to retreat to. Imagine trying to read and have a little quiet “me” time, with Tots TV carrying across the whole house. Yikes.

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Despite these issues, there are ways to combat this to make an open space work for all family set-ups. In this instance, a semi-open-plan is a good alternative – private areas like bedrooms and bathrooms are sectioned off, whilst communal areas are left open.

How to Delegate Zones in Open-Plan Layouts

Another way of delineating an open space is to delegate zones with furniture and interior design tricks; this allows the same free-flow of light, noise and energy (and generally maintain all the good aspects) while getting some definition back in your home. This is known as “broken-plan” living.

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The idea of “broken-plan” spaces was an emerging design trend for luxury properties last year by residential building and construction firm, Qualitas. The idea of “broken-living” is to move past just having a large, open space and begin to consider how it can be used effectively to offer everything a homeowner wants and needs.

Delegating zones can be done in a multitude of ways, such as colour themes, floor finishes or level changes. A very common method is the strategic placement of semi-permanent partitions like sofas and bookcases.

To ensure your space remains open it’s important to truly consider what partitions you employ to break up space. For instance, you don’t want to overly barricade and end with distinct rooms.


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To create a broken-plan theme you’ll need to include structural elements such as half-walls, dividing shelves, changing levels, walls of glass and even mezzanines to delineate and formalise areas for different uses without completely cutting off spaces.

This emerging trend suggests that open-plan is here to stay, it’s simply being updated and evolving to combat teething problems.