Making An Open Plan Living Space Work In A Period Home
Open plan living has become increasingly more popular over the last ten years, and this is with no exception a part of period homes, although the usual questions are ones of how to create an open plan space that serves a modern family or function yet still retains it’s period charm. Separate dining rooms and kitchens are slowly falling out of trend in favour of big open plan spaces that accompany hectic lifestyles and social events.
Open plan living is appreciated most by families in period properties, which were often built with much smaller rooms and living spaces than required or desired today. Not wishing to trade in character and period details for the nirvana of new-build contemporary or impractical (for families at least) warehouse style living, the ability to create a space in which the family and their friends spend most of their time, together, doing a variety of activities is invaluable.
In this post I want to touch a little on the pros and cons of an open plan living space, and ways of incorporating this modern functionality to a Georgian, Regency or period property.
Great for entertaining
If you are one to enjoy a regular get together or host social events, open plan living is great for allowing people to flow around your home and socialise. As well as being able to host the party easily (no squeezing through doorways full of guests with a tray of champers) it’s great to be able to see everything that’s going on, which leads nicely onto…
Being able to cook dinner whilst watching over your child doing their homework or chat to your partner whilst they lounge in your living space is great. Nothing is out of sight so this works really well if you have young children that need a bit of supervision. The ins and outs of daily life – cooking, eating, and gathering together – become shared experiences.
Cooking and Eating
In the time that our period homes were built, dining was a much more formal affair. In modern times cooking and eating has become more social, with open plan kitchen and eating areas on the rise. It’s great to be able to cook and chat, then serve up for a dinner party without being hidden away in a kitchen on your own!
Period properties often have high ceilings. Combine this with a new open plan layout and you will most likely be enjoying a lot of natural light in your new space – helped even more if the design incorporates roof lights of some sort. Changing closed rooms to open plan can make your home feel a lot larger, so your square footage will go a lot further.
Open plan living is a huge selling point in these modern times. In the current property market, it is worth doing all you can to maximise your property’s value should you consider selling in the future. It can add that ‘wow’ factor to your property that is so important when looking for a new home.
Opening up areas also means that noise will travel further. Make sure you consider that the surround sound from the TV or cooking noise may be heard throughout.
In open plan living, cooking smells will travel around freely. For most people this isn’t a problem (who doesn’t love the smell of fresh cooking?) but again make sure it has been considered. It’s likely in a period property that you will at least have a door between the ground floor and upper floors so smells are likely to be kept away from bedrooms.
Converting your home to an open place can be costly, with 10% of homeowners saying they have spent over £35k doing up their properties, but it may be worth it as it can increase the value, and attractiveness to buyers, of your home. Speak to a local estate agent to find out if it’s made a difference to other selling prices in similar homes in your area.
Nowhere to hide
Open plan living means that there is often nowhere to hide clutter, dirty dishes or mess. Although you are able to do more socialising, it may mean you have to spend an extra 15 minutes tidying! The same is to be said for the somewhat newer concept of open plan bedroom and bathing areas. Although out of sight to guests, you may find you have a lack of privacy.
TIPS FOR CREATING AN OPEN PLAN LIVING AREA IN A PERIOD PROPERTY
I would say it’s about opening up the kitchen and dining room in a way that doesn’t completely eradicate the character of the house. Perhaps, depending on layout, widening the doorway to a double width or adding a screen that you can slide across between the two. You can then have some fun with the design of the screen. Widening a doorway will add that feel of movement and bring more light between the rooms without completely taking out the fact that you can shut the door if you wish. This can help to contain noise and smells from cooking and then open up to become more of an open plan space when it suits.
You can differentiate between the two spaces with the décor so that although they are linked and possibly viewable from one to the other, they still have their own moods. You can use similar colours or a matching wallpaper but to a greater or lesser extent depending on the room. In the dining area you could have a change of floor (maybe floorboards) and more sumptuous furniture and surfaces whereas the kitchen can be more clean lined and contemporary.
So as not to lose all character of your property when diving into a modern solution, make sure you keep a few individual features and decor as a nod to it’s past. Try original floorboards in the dining area, or period kitchen taps reclaimed from salvage. Open plan bedroom and bathrooms can again incorporate salvaged bathroom fittings. Decorative coving, ceiling roses, fireplaces, doors and windows will enhance your room. If they’ve been ripped out then get them replaced exactly as they were. If you can’t get a match then don’t fake it, go modern to match the kitchen instead.
Be imaginative with the light fittings you use. A chandelier is not a common choice in a kitchen but combined with the right task lighting will create a wonderful focal point and add character.
I hope this post has gone a little way in helping understands the benefits of an open plan living space. If you are considering creating a space like this I may be able to help you maximise the benefits and value with my interior design service. Feel free to have a look at my website, Latham Interiors.