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Open plan living – making it work for you

Posted on March 8, 2018 in Blog

Open plan living

Open plan living has been growing in popularity over the last couple of decades. Gone are the days when each room had one specific function. Now families want spaces where they can spend time together and feel connected. While open plan living seems like a simple concept, some thought needs to be put into how best to make open plan living work for you, so you get all the pros without the cons.


Although there was some movement towards open plan from the 1880s onwards, up until the 1940s and 1950s many homes were still being built with individual rooms for individual purposes. All these interior walls served another practical function—they held up the weight of the roof.

As family life began to evolve and entertaining became less formal, there was a desire to open up these rooms. Improvements in technology allowed for stronger and more compact beams to support the weight of the roof over larger open spaces. This led to more homes being built with bigger, more open plan spaces. Finally we no longer had to navigate a maze of small rooms to move through the house or feel cut off from each other.

Maximising space

As our population grows, land is becoming more and more valuable. So we need to be smarter with how we use our space. Just because you have a small block, doesn’t mean you can’t have a large house that makes the most of every available square metre.

Open plan areas allow for rooms with multiple purposes. You can cook, eat, study, watch TV and entertain all in the one large space. An open plan central room like this also lets in a lot of light and creates a sense of space within the home, so you never feel cramped or closed in.

These rooms are also very versatile for family living and are great for entertaining. One parent can be cooking, with the kids doing their homework on the dining room table, while the other parent finishes up some work on their laptop, or watches the news. If you’re entertaining, parties can flow through the kitchen, dining room, living room and out into the alfresco area.

Interior design

When it comes to designing and furnishing open plan areas, defining each individual zone is important to ensure the room doesn’t become a cluttered mishmash. A great way of defining spaces is by using large area rugs. This will help break up the dining zone from the living zone while adding in some colour or texture.

You can also use furniture and décor to clearly show what function each zone is for. Dining zones work best when they are positioned next to the kitchen. A kitchen island is a great way to clearly define where the kitchen stops and the dining zone begins. Modular couches work well for defining a living area.

It’s important to leave a gap between each zone, so the room doesn’t become cluttered and to help distinguish the separate areas. Avoid using tall furniture to define spaces as it can break up the flow and obstruct your line of sight through the room.

When selecting furniture for open plan areas, remember that even though there are different zones, it’s still one room. So you need to select furniture and colours that work together. Avoid having a different theme for each zone or using feature walls. Keep styles and colours consistent throughout.

Making it work

There can be some downsides to open plan living, so you will need solutions to work around these. Mess in one zone of an open plan room can make the other zones look messy too, so a great tip is to incorporate plenty of storage in the room. That way you can easily put things away when you’re done with them.

Well used kitchens tend to get messy while prepping a meal and this isn’t ideal when you’re entertaining guests. That’s why sculleries are becoming increasingly popular. They’re like a little backstage area of your kitchen where you can hide away the dirty dishes, food preparation and store kitchen clutter like large appliances.

While families love spending time together, we all need some time to ourselves. So it’s important to have rooms in your home that different members can use without disturbing others, like theatre rooms or activity rooms. That way you can still have privacy and have a place for noisy activities like watching movies, listening to music or hanging out with friends.

At WA Housing, we incorporate open plan living areas into all our homes. If you’d like to discuss how best to make open plan living work for you, talk to one of our team today.