Interior Design is an incredibly fast-paced industry, with seasons and trends changing throughout the year. Trends don’t necessarily just apply to the surface aesthetic of a room, but also applies to the structure and layout. Here, we take a look at one of the more popular ‘structural’ trends around to understand its application and longevity; open-plan living.
Open-plan living is a phrase we all know and is something many of us strive to achieve. Being able to maximise the floor space in our homes without compromising the practicality, is something that can be achieved in even the smallest of spaces. Whilst there can be a few down sides to open-plan living (such as lack of privacy, a reduction in storage and noisy kitchens disturbing the overall peace) if planned correctly, then open-plan living can be a great way to get the most out of your home.
Open-plan living is not a new phenomenon. Modernist architects such as Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe were implementing open-plan spaces in their buildings (such as Villa Savoye and The Barcelona Pavilion, respectively) as early as 1928. These buildings set the precedent for the style that was to become known as the ‘International Style’ and represented the formative years of Modernist Architecture. Whilst these open-plan spaces were kept to a minimum, we can start to see the emergence of combining specific areas of a plan, to make a more social space.
Villa Savoye, Poissy, France – Le Corbusier, 1928-1931.
Open-plan living saw its greatest development during Mid-Century architecture, with the Case Study House series utilising this approach more widely. Below, we can see open-plan living being incorporated in to Case Study House #8 (Eames House) and Case Study House #22 (Stahl House).
The plan for Case Study House #8 (Eames House) sees the space being split into two distinct areas either side of a central courtyard. Whilst the plan may not take open-plan to the extent of how open-plan living is considered today, we see the removal of walls opening up the space to allow a continual flow throughout.
Top: The ground floor plan of Case Study House #8. Bottom: The living room of Case Study House #8
Case Study House #22 (Stahl House) designed by Pierre Koenig in 1960, is one of the most iconic structures from the Case Study House programme. Set atop the Hollywood Hills overlooking Los Angeles, CSH #22 is formed of an L-shape layout, with the private and public areas of the space sat at opposing ends of the floor plan. The original intention for the house was for it to be used as one large “viewing box” across the LA landscape, this being supported by open-plan layouts.
Left: The floor plan of CSH #22. Right: The living, kitchen and dining area of CSH #22
Open-plan living today
According to many architects and designers, open-plan living has been, and still is, one of the most requested residential styles, in terms of functionality. So what is it that draws us to this style of living? Houzz.co.uk asked architect Richard Brown the very question, to which his response was:
“Open-plan living remains extremely popular in the UK, as it seems to sit comfortably with the way most people (and in particular families) live nowadays. There has been a marked downturn in the popularity of formal dining and this has tied in with the rise of open-plan living. In the UK, where space is often at a premium, architects are frequently called upon to ‘open up’ small Victorian or Georgian homes by knocking down internal walls, joining rooms together and creating light and airy social spaces.” (Houzz, 2016).
NDA tips for an open-plan interior
If you are considering open-plan living in a redesign of your home, there are certain considerations you need to contemplate before going down the open-plan route.
- How is the overall space to be used? – Write a short list of all the functions and activities that you want to take place in the area. Whether this be cooking, socialising, dining, relaxing, working, hobbies etc, it is crucial to have a clear idea of the activities that will take place as this will help you to decide what elements are most important, which will, therefore dictate the amount of space you allocate.
- Is privacy important to you? – One of the downsides of open-plan living is the level of privacy in the space. Particularly if it is a family home, having more secluded or private areas where adults and children alike can get away from each other to carry out their own activities (reading, studying etc) is an important consideration. Privacy in open-plan living can be hard to achieve, so consider the rest of site (where other private areas can be established, if possible) or how partitioned spaces can be included. A new concept called “Broken-plan” is being seen in interiors – a concept which keeps all the good points of open-plan living, but allows some areas of partitioning to create more private areas.
- How much storage do you require? – Again, storage can be an issue in open-plan spaces. The removal of walls takes away the opportunity for ample storage solutions, particularly in areas such as the kitchen. Free-standing appliances in open-plan kitchens almost invalidates the success of open-plan living in this area, as the space soon becomes cluttered.
Need some inspiration?
The images below show some contemporary, open-plan design solutions; can these ideas be incorporated into your next home project?
Open-plan kitchen, diner and living area – Elad Gonen
Open-plan Long Island home interior – Veere Greeney
Open-plan kitchen, diner and living area – Jane Kim Design
Open-plan double-height interior – Valkyrie Studio
As with all trends, we see them come and go, but it appears open-plan living will continue to be one of the most sought-after design styles for some time to come. To get some more open-plan ideas, head over to our Pinterest board.
Design Addicted (2015) Villa Savoye interior. [Online Image] Available from: https://thedesignaddicted.wordpress.com/2015/08/03/villasavoye/ [Accessed: 11.08.16]
Design Insider (2015) Eames House interior. [Online Image] Available from: http://design-insider.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/mujeres-maravillapero-de-verdad.html [Accessed: 11.08.16]
Home Designing (2015) Valkyrie Interior [Online Image] Available from: http://www.home-designing.com/2014/10/26-living-rooms-that-put-a-unique-spin-on-what-modern-means [Accessed: 11.08.16]
Houzz (2015) Open plan interiors of Elad Gonen, Veere Greeney, and Jane Kim Design Available from http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/1174159/list/good-spaces-mastering-the-open-floor-plan [Accessed: 11.08.16]
Flick River (2016) Villa Savoye: Northwest façade. [Online Image] Available from: http://flickriver.com/photos/guen_k/tags/villasavoye/ [Accessed: 11.08.16]
Mid-Century Home (2015) CSH#22 interior. [Online Image] Available from: http://www.midcenturyhome.com/case-study-houses-pierre-koenig-stahl-house/ [Accessed: 11.08.16]
Study Blue (2014) CSH#22 floor plan. [Online Image] Available from: https://www.studyblue.com/notes/note/n/arch-5120test-2/deck/1253584 [Accessed: 11.08.16]
Brown, R. (2016). Is Open-Plan Living Over or is it Here to Stay?. [Online] January 11th 2016. Available from: Houzz.co.uk: