Open Plan Living

A simple idea: living spaces should be more open and connected

Where does our mental image of a home come from? In Britain, the Romans taught us what a house should look like: a kitchen for preparing food, a dining room for eating, bedrooms for sleeping, and so on. Most of our homes still work that way.

But the twentieth century gave us a revolution in architectural thinking. Initially drawing on themes from ancient Japan, geniuses like Frank Lloyd Wright, Gropius, Eames, and Rietveld truly made a break with tradition and explored every possible way to bring integrity, oneness and flow into our homes.

Open plan has evolved. It's no longer an artistic experiment: it's become a functional, and highly desirable way to build a better home.

Three Open Plan Models

Open plan layouts today usually draw on experiments by the great twentieth-century architects: Frank Lloyd Wright, Gropius, Eames, Rietveld and others. Reviving thousand-year-old ideas from feudal Japan and making them their own, fifty years of experimentation led to three basic approaches:


The simplest form of open plan, all-in-one layouts combine several room functions into a single, simple, large room. While the impression can be stunning, make sure your home retains private spaces elsewhere.


Fluid spaces offer communication and flow between partially open areas, Corners, screens and windows strike a balance between connectedness and separateness.


Flexible spaces with movable partitions allow privacy when needed, but retain the option of openness.

Five Reasons to go Open Plan


Open is Beautiful

The market's become better educated on design - everyone’s an architecture pundit. Open plan is beautiful, and more than any previous civilisation, we’ve seen what’s possible in the media, and we want it. Best of all, when it's time to move, buyers will pay for it.


A life rebalanced

Architecture should help you live your best life. Families have changed, couples have changed, and work's changed. In a world of iPads, Netflix, home offices, and high property prices, we risk feeling both cramped and isolated within the walls of our homes. A well-designed open plan home strikes a balance, nurturing the connections between us while giving each of us a little space.


Make more of what you have

With property prices continuing to rise, many of us have to settle for smaller homes. Creating multipurpose rooms can make a small property feel larger - and more expensive.


Can you afford not to?

We can no longer afford not to maximise the value of our homes. With property in popular London boroughs like Hackney now priced above £6000/m2, reclaiming wasted hallway space into living areas can easily add £20 000 or more to the value of a home, but costs much less to achieve.


Even small changes add value, tax-free!

Even if you don’t combine hallways into living spaces, Which? reports that an open-plan kitchen-diner alone adds around 4% to property value, averaging £25 000 in London. The profits from changes like these help owners climb the property ladder, in most cases tax-free.

Broken Plan: Fluid and Flexible layouts for real life

While open plan layouts offer a chance to own a more beautiful space within the constraints of our property, the “all-in-one” format has its limitations. With family entertainment often replaced by watching Netflix on tablets and phones, and working from home becoming commonplace, the ideas of flexible and fluid architectural spaces have returned with a bang, winning multiple architecture awards in 2015 and often carrying a new buzzword, broken plan. This new generation of open plan retains the sense of space, lightness, and togetherness, but gives back some privacy and personal space:

Rooms can be gently divided up by height, with split-level floors or even mezzanines. In this space, colour has also been inverted to enhance the separateness of the raised area.
Sliding and folding doors have been around since at least 12th Century Japan, but are more relevant than ever for creating flexible, useful spaces.
Patterned screens, glass walls and internal windows maintain the connectedness of a space, but allow an area to be set slightly to one side, improving privacy, sound isolation, or both.
Functional features like shelving units or a large chimney breast can separate a kitchen and dining space from a living area.
L- and C-shaped rooms are a simple way to reduce sight lines and reintroduce elements of privacy and separateness, while keeping the integrity of the open area.

Automist Smartscan unlocks open plan, and more...

If you're trying to create open plan arrangements and some of your rooms are above first floor, you'll need a Fire Suppression system like Automist Smartscan to comply with UK regulations. Smartscan solves a couple of other problems too:

  • New or converted four storey houses (for example after a loft conversion) must have two separate escape routes between the upper floors. For example a house with ground, first, second and third floors must have two separate staircases between third and second floors. Fitting Automist Smartscan can do away with the requirement for the extra staircase.
  • Building a new home or an extension more than 45m from the road? If a fire engine can't get to it, part B5 of the building regulations will take issue with your project. Fitting Automist Smartscan may allow greater distances, subject to agreement by Building Control and Fire and Rescue.

Talk to Us

01206 544223

Want advice on whether your open plan layout is approvable, or how your property could be improved with fire suppression? With hundreds of Automist systems installed, there's a good chance that we've seen a situation like yours before and we'd be delighted to discuss your project. Give us a call, or send project details through our contact form.