Open Plan Living: What to Consider

Open Plan Living: What to consider when planning your next home renovation.

A open plan kitchen, living room and and dining area with open stairway.

Open plan living is a favoured interior trend that shows no sign of abating in its popularity – and why would it? Giving the illusion of brighter rooms, increasing space and providing easier flow through the home, going open plan is a brilliant way to change the whole feeling of your property. However, unless you have a modern home that lends itself to easy conversion, some fairly major renovation work will need to be carried out. 
When planning out your property redesign for open plan living, there’s lots to be considered. This handy list will help you work through everything before you start work – so read on and get outlining your open plan project!
A modern open plan kitchen and living area with LED lighting

Layout Planning

All too often, open plan rooms go unplanned and instead walls are just knocked down; leaving the space created bare and under-utilised. A ‘dumbbell plan’ is the most common option for open plan rooms and ensures that spaces less reliant on natural light are placed in the middle, with those that need to be brighter situated at the ends or in areas with big windows.
A utility space can be created for noisy appliances to avoid disruption to other areas, and other rooms such as pantries that need to remain somewhat sealed off can be planned in. An ante-room to keep muddy pets, dirty laundry and less aesthetically pleasing appliances can be factored in so as not to disrupt the flow of the space.
Kitchens and bathrooms usually require external wall access for waste disposal but the location of other spaces can usually be more flexible.

Structural Implications

On most properties, almost anything can be achieved if you have the budget; but working sensitively within the existing structure of the home does mean that the end result will be more successful. 
It may not always be obvious which walls serve structural functions and which don’t, but building plans reviewed by a structural engineer will be able to fully prove this and to aid planning in what should and what could be removed. To support the new opening created for open plan living, the default option is usually a steel beam but timber beams can also be used to divide.
Pocket or sliding doors don’t inhibit space usage but allow for the option of making smaller areas feel distinct and separate as and when desired.
A large open plan living set up with exposed beams and structural features

Preservation of Original Features

Period homes in particular often have original features that lend character and value to the property, and ideally their removal should be avoided. 
Consider fireplaces, floorboards, plaster mouldings, windows and internal joinery. All may have onward impact to the removal of walls and erection of new divides, so advice may need to be sought. In the case of period or listed buildings, there may be features that have to be left in place so planning will need to cater for this.
Although it can seem limiting, there’s no need to allow the preservation of original building features to hamper your open plan conversion. They can complement other design features and add to the character of the new space.

Extending for Open Plan

If removing and relocating walls is not an option for a property, it may be more practical to install a single storey extension to gain the desired open plan space. 
If you are to build an extension to your home, a linking element can clear visibility of separation but permitted development rights may limit the size. As standard, extensions of up to 6m for attached 8m for detached homes is allowed without specific permission; but considerations differ for listed buildings and those in conservation areas. Local authorities can provide location-specific information on extensions and a specialist builder can be hired to project manage and help plan.

Zoning Internal Areas

Even though open plan living spaces have an intended flow, most interior layouts still have zoned areas; living, dining, entertaining. Doing this subtly without relying on solid walls can involve the placement of large furniture or using dividing screens. When working this out, consider the flow of foot traffic through walkthroughs and doorways, as well as the placement of any structural posts.
Lighting is an often underrated consideration when zoning. Natural illumination and the placement of fittings should be considered and the possible placement of spotlights and wall lights; as their situation may not be as easy as in traditional rooms and are often sporadic and erratic.
Even if the flooring is free-flowing and the same throughout, different areas can be highlighted through the usage of different colour schemes and decorations, as well as inward facing focus points. Consider your views from different seating points, sufficient circulation and noise disturbances. Replicating a series of rooms rather than working on creating one large room is normally the easiest way to design an open plan layout successfully.


Our builders and contractors will ensure that all wiring and structural considerations have been taken care of safely but there may be other health and safety issues to think about.
Fire regulations are specified for some building types and these will need to be adhered to at all times. If there are fire doors installed on a property, the conversion options may be limited – this will need checking ahead of time but can be worked with. In apartment blocks it is fairly standard to have to retain the lobby area to remain compliant with fire safety regulations, so this area may need to be excluded from any renovations.
If the open plan layout includes a kitchen, a heat alarm should be installed and the location of fire alarms throughout the rooms may need to be re-considered. 
Some people reviewing house design plans
Converting a living space to open plan is a big job and there’s lots to be thought of and planned for. Doing so well in advance is the best way to ensure a successful home renovation; and when it’s done properly, it can entirely transform your living space. Our Refresh Renovation process supports bespoke design and build: an open plan living space renovation tailored to your lifestyle requirements and taste. Your local renovation specialist will manage every aspect of the project for you - working to keep everything on track and within your budget.

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