Image credit: Paul Craig Photography
Open plan living has ruled the roost for nearly 50 years. The rise of central heating allowed us to knock out fireplaces and chimneys, the fall in domestic staff brought traditional service areas such as kitchens to the fore, and advances in building technology meant larger spaces could be supported with fewer walls. With space at a premium (particularly in cities), it suited the way we wanted to live.
Spacious sitting rooms allowed us to keep an eye on the children playing while we got on with other things. Large kitchen diners became places where families could congregate at the end of a busy day, or entertain large informal groups of family and friends over Sunday lunch. Indoor spaces flowed into outdoor spaces with large glass doors and seamless flooring.
Image credit: Oliver Grahame Photography
Design trends come and go, but sometimes an event happens that is so momentous, it changes the way we live. It’s not clear whether Covid-19 will have lasting effects on our homes but it is certainly looking that way.
Lockdown marked a dramatic shift in our lives. For months on end we were all expected to live, work, eat and school together under one roof, all of the time. Suddenly that large dining table remained empty as guests stayed away, or became overrun with laptops and schoolbooks.
After years of busy schedules, long working hours and a packed social life, families were suddenly living in each other’s pockets, craving solitude and an undisturbed corner. Violin practice and a zoom conference call don’t necessarily mix that well. Likewise, our bedrooms were once a sanctuary to retreat to, not a place to spend our entire working day.
Who knows how we will feel about our homes in 12 months’ time. The reasons we loved open plan living still remain, but it is possible to have the best of both worlds, and to design space that can be used exactly how you need it.
In September 2020, John Lewis released their Flexible Living Report investigating the changes people had made over the previous 6 months. 28% repurposed an existing room for a home office and 20% created spaces where you or others in your home can be on their own, not to mention home schooling, yoga, hobbies or crafts.
Walls come tumbling down
We are not advocating putting walls back up again, but there are some design ideas that can give you the ability to divide the room when necessary and give you the freedom of open plan.
Pocket doors are a stylish solution, closing off spaces as and when you need them. Panelled folding doors can also be a useful alternative, particularly in period properties.