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Improve, Don’t Move: Open-Plan Living

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This article was written by Checkatrade, the most searched-for website for finding tradespeople in the UK

When our world got smaller during the Covid-19 pandemic, so did our homes. Confined to the not-so-great indoors, space became a commodity that wasn’t always easy to share. 

To survive within our limited square footage, we had to get creative. Online searches for smart storage, property makeovers, make-shift offices, gyms and playrooms suddenly exploded online, with people wanting to utilise their resources and enhance their lockdown experience.

If this sounds familiar, you may be asking yourself whether moving while you can is the best option. Perhaps you want an extra room for a home office? Maybe you’re thinking about starting a family? Or maybe you’ve just realised that compact living isn’t for you?

What if we told you there was another way – that you don’t have to move; you just have to improve?

Open plan living is a contemporary, space-saving, and cost-effective solution to improving most house layouts. What’s more, all it takes is a little planning and know-how to help your property reach its expansion potential.

Thankfully, we’ve put together this guide for maximising your layout so you can reap the benefits of open plan living and fall back in love with your home.

Choosing a new house layout – how to get started 

To make the most of every square foot and avoid costly mistakes, you need to plan your space effectively. Before you start removing walls or throwing out furniture, study your floor plan and consider the following.

The functionality of your home

Try to imagine what your daily routine looks like and what will make your life easier to navigate. For example, if you like to go on lots of walks, is a utility cupboard at the far end of your house the best place to put it? Or do you need a side entrance to safely put your muddy boots to avoid trudging them through the house? 

Alternatively, do you really want to place your kitchen behind your lounge area and limit the time you can spend quietly watching TV? 

How much storage do you need?

Cluttered rooms look smaller. So, be sure to make the most of your square footage by planning your storage effectively. Build upwards not outwards to save on space, and write up a list of what items go where in advance before making any changes. We highly recommend measuring your storage and working out its capacity to ensure everything you own has a home.

The size and type of furniture required

Do you really need a three-seater sofa, or will a two and a half seater work just as well? How about a two-seater and storage pouffe instead? Even better, what about a sofa bed or modular sofa with extra storage capacity?

See where we’re going with this? Always think about the functionality of everything you buy, and don’t just buy something because you like it without working out whether it fits first!

How to make the most of your space

Ask yourself how to make the best out of your square footage. What aspects can you enhance? How can you make certain areas more useful? For example, is there a nook or cranny you can turn into a reading bench that doubles up as a storage unit?

What furniture you buy will shape how you use your home, which is why well-fitting or made-to-measure items are a must. However, other considerations such as the sun’s position – whether your windows or north or south facing – all matter. This is because the sun affects what art or plants you can buy, what paint or materials you use, where you can hang mirrors, and what parts of your house will benefit from more light exposure.

Top tip: Don’t plan as you go. This is an error that will cost you in the long run. Plan the home renovation in advance. Make sure there’s a clear and robust plan in place at the very beginning of your improvement project. Your builder or interior designer will be able to advise you on your house layout and what will and won’t work, so don’t hesitate to utilise them as early as possible in the planning stage!

Pros and cons of open plan living 

Multi-functional rooms and furniture grew in popularity as a response to shrinking house layouts and booming house prices. However, what can you expect when opening up your home to more light and floor space?

Pros of open plan living

  • Creates unity in the household by bringing people together
  • Makes entertaining easier due to being able to cook, eat, sit, chat and share a tipple in the same room!
  • Gives the illusion of more space 
  • Floods the house with natural light, which is better for our health and wellbeing
  • Offers a contemporary design that increases the value of your home
  • Great for multi-tasking!

Cons of open plan living

  • Easier to make messy and look cluttered
  • You can’t escape any noise
  • Food from the kitchen permeates the whole house
  • Less privacy compared to more traditional house layouts
  • Higher heating bills 

If the cons seem negligible in comparison to the benefits of open plan living, then don’t forget to check out our open plan living cost guide for more information on how to price up your project. 

How to tackle a Victorian terraced house layout when converting to open plan

If you own a Victorian terrace or ‘townhouse’ as they’re commonly known, then you might be wondering what you can do to open it up.

Of course, your first consideration is whether there are any non-load-bearing walls you can remove without your foundations collapsing. You also want to check where your drainage pipes and chimney support wall are hiding, as repositioning or removing these elements can start to add up price-wise.

Why not hire one of Checkatrade’s trusted professionals to survey your house and advise on the best course of action? 

Remove or open up a dividing wall

Most Victorian terraced houses have at least two ground floor rooms that can be merged to create one large open plan space. Why not turn it into an open plan living and dining area? Alternatively, a bigger living room offers space for a corner desk, a breakout area, a reading nook or an entertainment station. 

Extend your property

A rear extension works perfectly with Victorian terraces. Often added to create a kitchen and dining area at the back of the house, with floor to ceiling glass doors that lead into the garden, they’re a great option for introducing a bright and airy living space. 

Alternatively, loft or basement conversions offer the same extra square footage for properties with less room to extend outwards. Dormer roof conversions are particularly popular, which also invite plenty of light to flood the top of your house, keeping it open plan and spacious.

Top tip: House extension costs vary, but work around your property’s existing structure to keep costs down, and only make necessary changes.

Open plan living inspiration 

Case study one: Open plan kitchen living room dividers 

The problem: Creating a seamless transition from inside to outside home entertainment while offering a distinction between the living and kitchen area.

The solution: Embury Services installed bi-fold doors between the kitchen and garden, creating a bar area in a small landscaped garden. Bi-fold doors also add separation between the lounge and kitchen area during the summer months, allowing these homeowners to enjoy an al fresco dining experience.

Image of open plan kitchen created by Embury Services

Case study two: Open plan living dining

The problem: Creating separation between the kitchen, dining, and living room area without compromising on space or cohesion.

The solution: Breach Renovations decorated this stylish kitchen. This separation uses clever flooring solutions and a strategically placed kitchen island. Bright floor to ceiling sliding doors and a skylight flood light into this open-plan living-dining room, while the carpeted living area adds warmth and cohesion to this contemporary-meets-rustic design. 

Open plan kitchen and living room

Case study three: Open plan living room with stairs

The problem: Installing stairs in an open plan room without cluttering the space or compromising on square footage. 
The solution: AD Construction opted for a modern spiral design with this metal and wood staircase. The floating steps and decorative handrails keep the room feeling stylish, decluttered, and open plan. It also matches the bannisters and other accessories such as the hanging lights, helping to tie in each decorative element for a clean finish.

Advice from a professional

“If you have fallen out of love with your home but don’t want to move, you can transform it with help from professional builders like us. Getting first-hand advice about how best to maximise and adapt your house layout can pay off big time! Often, it would be best if you had insights and ideas from a team that specialises in these transformations, so you get a dream result without stress. Setting a realistic budget with some contingency is essential for a successful project.” – Gavin, Embury Services

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Last Updated: September 24th, 2021