Are you ready for open plan living?

When you think modern living, the first thing that comes to mind is large open spaces. For Americans, open plan is a 'great' room that incorporates living, dining and kitchen all in one large space. An open plan design offers efficient utilization of available space, with different areas blended together as a single space, and is the perfect solution for homes.

The reduced construction cost of an open floor plan brings down the total bill by excluding material and labour cost that would normally be put towards interior walls, doors and hardware, so that savings made can be used to cater for other needs. The downside is that too many windows can mean large spaces can be hard to heat and not economically viable.

While building standards have improved with insulation and double glazing - when planning an open plan living arrangement take extra time to look at the details of your heating and window coverings this can have a great impact on making your house feel like a home.

Evolution of open plan
Since the early 80's home design has evolved from the divided rooms of the 60's, when rooms were walled according to their purpose: entrance hall, morning room, guest parlour, and so on, but in the 80's home design took a shift towards a more open space - with combined dining-kitchen or dining-living areas becoming extremely popular designs. In today's modern home, more emphasis has been placed on family interaction, with previously separated spaces being incorporated into a large open space - or great room.

Divide and conquer
Although open plan has no dividing walls, there are many ways to define specific areas: split levels, partitions or sliding doors to close of a room, different floor treatments or rugs, wall coverings, contrasting paint colours, or wallpaper, can be used to break down or define an area into smaller parts, without loosing the flowing architecture of the space.

Is open plan for you?
Open plan living is not for everyone. For some, noise and visual distractions are a disadvantage, for others, the loss of privacy.  Here are some tips on the pros and cons of open plan. If you enjoy turning up the volume on your home theater or surround sound, living in a open plan home may end up in divorce! Sounds travel in an open space, and with kids playing in the living space, mom whisking up a storm in the kitchen, and dad watching the Saturday rugby - you have a house of mayhem.



Being able to close a door is now removed from the equation and 'your' space is now everyone's space; that cosy, intimate feeling can get lost with the extension of space.

Clutter bug or neat freak
Open plan living is a definite no-no for anyone who loves a cluttered home. An open floor plan offers a visual connection between all the living spaces, but also lays them bare for inspection. If your family isn’t tidy, your entire home will always look this way. Having unexpected guests can easily bring on a panic attack!

All in the family
While a big advantage of open plan living is the ability to be able to keep an eye on your children while they play or study, what happens when you need privacy - do you send them to their bedroom, or outside to play? Lack of privacy is the issue here, thus making open plan more suited for singles, young couples or couples without children.

Entertainer's dream
With the kitchen incorporated into the 'great' room design, the Cordon Bleu chef gets to show off his or her skills when entertaining family and friends - you can entertain and enjoy conversation while you cool. The downside is that smells can not be contained and neither can dirty pots and pans.