The end of open plan design

Open plan is falling out of favour for screens, walls and cosy nooks.

Woman using her laptop, sitting at a dining table in an open plan lounge.

For decades it’s been all about open plan living. Converted barns with wide open spaces. Knocking down walls here and there for added space. But could that all be about to change?

It seems so, according to architects and interior designers around the world. We now want cosy rooms and ‘zones’. So, if you’ve been eyeing up that parting wall, make yourself a cup of tea and read this before you decide to knock it down.

Our love of open plan

The trend for open plan living goes way back to the mid-20th Century, led by designers such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier. The idea was to create a sense of freedom and space in our living environments – to bring the outside, inside. The act of ‘knocking through’ became fashionable with homeowners looking to maximise space.

This trend fed through into our working world. From the 1950s, we started to work in offices more than factories, and open plan was a way of bringing a social atmosphere to the corporate world (and fitting more people into a smaller space).

The demand for privacy

However, all that space meant not much privacy. The boss could always stop by and it was impossible to get away from colleagues to work quietly.

As our lifestyles changed and adapted early in the 21st Century, the decline of open plan began. One notable change has been our relationship with television. What used to be the central focal point of a living space is now available on multiple screens and devices. With families and households watching different things at different times and on different devices, the need for privacy has grown.

In cities, the vogue is for minimalist furniture to maximise on space – and maintain calm and tranquillity in a hectic city life. However, minimalist decor in an open plan space can look a little sparse.

Perhaps what has had the most impact on our change of heart towards open plan spaces is the recent pandemic. We’ve all had to spend more time at home. And open spaces can be tricky to work in when you’ve got kids at home or multiple people taking Zoom calls through the day.

COVID-19 had made us appreciate our need for privacy – and is bringing back those cosy nooks and rooms to call our own.

A room of your own

Pre-2020 you might have considered a home gym or office a luxury. Now they’re becoming a necessity. Looking to the future, many of us now crave rooms in which to cultivate that peace and privacy – whether it’s a spare room, a garden room or a complete home renovation.

It seems that homes with more rooms are now more desirable than those with open plan designs.

How to adapt your home

So, it’s good news for plasterboards firms. But before you start redrafting your stud walls and making permanent changes, there are other ways to create privacy, rooms and ‘zones’ in your home without calling in the builders.

Interior doors can break up rooms. If you have a open space, bi-fold doors give you the options to have it open and spacious or to close a part of the room off. Or you could try screen walls – known as shoji in Japanese interiors. Lightweight wooden lattices are covered with paper, cloth or glass tiles and designed to roll side to side. It’s a space saving, chic way to partition a room. Or you could use a simple room divider or free-standing screen.

Of course, this is just what the designers think. Your home is your sanctuary, and trends come and go.

If you’re looking for ideas on how to add more space to your home, we’ve got some useful tips before you start your home extension and how to go about turning your loft into a useable space.

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