Open Plan Living
Creating Flexible Spaces In Your Home
'Space' is a hot topic nowadays, whether it's office, car parking, legroom or most importantly personal space. Despite being surrounded by space - it's never enough - we all want more. The ideal is open plan living where space is flexible. A common and understandable assumption is that the bigger the space, the better. However, a lack of space and a lack of a well-planned space, no matter the size, are very different issues. Both can bring their own set of problems which is why space-planning is so important. Once details such as lifestyle, furniture placement, lighting and floor coverings have been considered, solutions can be sought which will enable you to maximise a space to your own advantage - whatever the size.
Look 'Outside The Box'
Too often we fail to capitalise on the potential that already exists within our home, which is why an independent eye on the current floor plan can provide objectivity and can also identify options to consider - either by simply re-arranging furniture and lighting or the more radical idea of taking walls down to create a new area.
Our home is not only our sanctuary, it is also where we cook, socialise, eat, sleep, work and entertain and all these considerations must be taken into account in order to create open plan living areas that are as flexible and adaptable as possible to the changing lifestyles and needs of a multi-tasking family.
A professional eye early on before final decisions are made will add a new dimension . however, it is important to know hat you wish to achieve. Look at the layout of your home and prioritise - is a large kitchen in which you can socialise more important than smaller separate rooms with dedicated purposes? Do cooking smells put you off an open plan kitchen? Whilst some will want an area providing the chance for concurrent acitivities - reading/watching tv/homework.... others may prefer rooms offering more privacy. Is guest accommodation important, or can a sofa-bed suffice?
If communal living works for you, an open-plan approach is important to create family areas where kitchen/dining/family are the main focus, thus creating an informal, simple and adaptable arrangement. The modern concept of open-plan living creates the illusion of more space, and combined with efficient storage and clean lines, is a practical and often sophisticated solution to family living.
White ceilings, glazing and reflective surfaces in a kitchen will all contribute to the feeling of space and openness. This can be offset by an area of soft furnishings and seating creating a balance between the 'hard' utilitarian requirements and the more comfortable and social area of the same room. Incorporating soft boundaries - such as open plan shelving, low backed sofas and dressers can help to separate the space into zones, but won't compromise the overall open plan feel. The key to flexibility is free-standing furniture which can be moved around accordingly as the family requirements alter, and together with the ability to hide less attractive items e.g televisions, when not in use, one area can encompass a multitude of activities.
Whether open-plan living hits the spot, or smaller, independent rooms suit your lifestyle, lighting plays a huge part in the success of any area.
Natural Light is Key
Clever use of internal lighting can play an important part in zoning areas and creating atmospheres - bright, utilitarian lighting for the kitchen is important, however, offset these by adding softer Led lighting to the underside of the units - both the wall units and the floor units - so that the area can remain lit when not in use. Overhead dimmable ceiling or pendent lighting for the eating area is useful in order to adapt to the task in hand whether it be eating or studying and avoid shadows. Free standing lamps will also serve to create an ambient and warm feel, but cannot be relied upon for utilitarian purposes, thus secondary free-standing lighting will be required for this. Lighting has the ability to change moods, highlight objects and artwork, and bring an area to life, or just as easily kill it, so consideration is a priority to ensure you get it right, especially if you enjoy open plan living.
Create a Home Office
Having maximised the use of the communal living space, perhaps consider utilising other areas of your home for another important requirement - an office. If space is tight, pocket-offices can be incorporated into under-stair cupboards or wardrobes and by using pendent lighting desk space will remain clear and clutter-free. Spare bedrooms also blend well to a home office where the wardrobes can be utilised. Or vica-versa - an office can become a useful spare bedroom by incorporating a sofa-bed or a multi-functional day-bed. In any event, try and keep surfaces and shelving organised - ideally hide files and stationery in a dresser which can also be used for clothing. Likewise, Ottoman's offer great storage for linen and towels, Computer armoire's are handy too and wireless technology further works in our favour. Again, emphasis should be placed on appropriate lighting - dimmables offer the best flexibility, with free-standing to add ambience.
Create a Den
Redundant dining rooms are now being adapted into media-rooms or 'dens'. Whilst communal family spaces encourage a more social lifestyle - the advancement of multi-media applications and computer gaming can often discourage communication. More and more there is a line which is being drawn - a shared and open plan space is welcomed, but computer gaming - often deemed anti-social - requires a separate space. Bean-bags, gaming seats and plenty of storage for the paraphernalia will ensure an adaptable room which can evolve in line with it's occupants and can be returned to a dining room in the future. This is another room where you can be creative with the lighting - lava lamps, ceiling led's, neon lighting........
A Completely Private Space
Possibly the only area in your home that shouldn't offer flexibility is the sanctuary of your bedroom. Leave it as just that - your bedroom.
If you need help with space planning or room design, why not call one of our designers for inspiration?