When you are thinking about your dream house, you’re probably imagining a home where you host big boozy Sunday dinners with friends and family, everyone’s laughing and you’re leisurely preparing a casually thrown together feast while the dog sleeps on the sofa and your children are busy creating original artworks in the middle of it all… You’re imagining a house with few walls – only connectedness. Only oneness. That’s the allure of open plan living, right?
The reality is somewhat different: there’s a zillion dirty pots and pans stacked everywhere that accumulated whilst preparing your gourmet roast, your youngest kid has just tipped PVA glue all over the new coffee table whilst making his life-sized paper mache Peppa Pig head and the other one has seized this opportunity to catch up on his piano practice in front of the freshly gathered audience.
Is it possible that there’s a chasm between the way we imagine we want to live and the reality of that? Obviously we think so, and we want to go further and say that open plan living is really not the answer (gasp), and we’ll explain why…
SO. MUCH. NOISE.
No-one ever warns you about that, but having a space with no walls obviously means that piano practice is in the same room as cooking and the home office - not a recipe for family harmony.
WHERE IS ALL THE CLUTTER?
Will your open plan living room / kitchen (dining / playroom / art studio / music room) look like the clean minimal photos you pinned? In normal life (as opposed to Instagram life), people have a lot of stuff. With walls you can build in clever seamless storage solutions that give you somewhere to put stuff as well as walls to hang pictures on, fix shelves to, place furniture against, etc.
LETS BUY FURNITURE
People compensate for the lack of walls and storage by buying lots of furniture and creating the barriers that walls provide. This can work well, but most of us can’t afford an interior designer and so over a few years end up acquiring A LOT of pieces which don’t work particularly well together or provide the correct function. Your interior aesthetic could be termed ‘eclectic’ but it’s not quite what you had in mind.
It’s easy to pick holes in things, so let’s talk for a second about solutions:
The first thing you need to do is analyse how you and your family live in your current home. What activities do you all like to do? Where do you like to spend the evenings? Is there a particular spot where you love to sit in the morning sunshine? You more than anyone else will know what parts of the house work well and what areas are unused. Write it all down and list out what everyone likes to do and where. There will be a wide range of quiet to noisy activities and we advocate zoning as the key to happy communal living.
The layout should work for your family! This sounds like the first point, but it’s more about the characteristics of your family, not the activities. To get straight to the point, if you’re a messy person, you need lots and lots of storage! When planning your new layout, don’t be tempted to think that once you’re in a new space you’ll suddenly behave differently. Build in solutions to work with your personality.
If you want a minimal look to your home, you need to think about soft furnishings to ease the acoustic levels. I’m talking curtains, people! And rugs and cushions. If you have a phobia of soft furnishings I really can relate, but things have changed in that department and you can create minimalistic beauty without having to buy matching cushions. (I’ll talk more about this in the future; I have a lot to say on the matter!)
Think about having separate but connected rooms, creating a flow through the house. Spaces that echo or follow your daily routines within the house work well. Where there isn’t acres of space, double up functions that work well together; the homework room can also be the piano room and the playroom. Solutions like internal bi-folding doors or hidden pocket doors mean you can have the big open space, but you also have the option of closing it off.
Build in flexibility. You want a home where everyone is busy doing their own thing but you feel connected.
So here’s to separate connected spaces that flow – it’s not quite as catchy as open plan living, but far better to actually live in.