Open plan living space is becoming popular with many homeowners either extending or knocking down walls to create more space. Stop! You need to think about how this is done as it must be thought through.

Whilst open plan is popular it may not suit all homes especially those older homes that were not built for modern living or those cosy cottages with plenty of character. We are not saying don’t open up the property; we are suggesting that your adapt your property to its character, surroundings and history. Remember once you rip out the these features it will be hard to return the house to its original state.

Saying that, a well thought out, planned, redesigned property can enhance your lifestyle, the property and add value. It is important that you use the correct professionals and crafts people when considering this change.

You also need to take into account what you want from the property i.e., more space, more light, different access or garden views. Using a good architect at an early stage will help you see your vision and ensure your project is cost effective. Be inspired, check out our website – What We Do – Spaces (createspaces.co.uk).

Is open plan going to work?

  • It’s all about the right context and respecting the character of the building.
  • If you have a cottage, cosy spaces are part of the character, so going open plan may impact negatively on the feel of the house.
  • Barns are normally converted and work well for open plan
  • Most Victorian semis or terraces can be opened up if the interior is kept simple
  • Adding an open plan extension for a light-filled kitchen-diner means you can retain cosy cottage snugs, or grand sitting rooms in a period home.

Knocking Down Walls

We don’t recommend just going straight in with a sledge hammer! Speak to a Structural Engineer who can advise early on if you are likely to have any issues. It is not always obvious what structural function a wall has!

New openings are normally supported by steel beams, which is a good choice. Using timber beams will be attractive but you will need more timber for the same span that steel can create, a more costly decision.

What type of Open Plan Layout works best?

When thinking about your layout, consider high traffic areas, noise, natural light etc. Discuss with your architect/designer what you would like to achieve. 3D imagery is also now available so you can see your new home come to life.

You may also want to consider a utility room keeping all those noisy appliances, and everything that goes with it i.e., washing powder tucked away from visitors. This room can also be used to store muddy boats, wet coats etc.

When designing a room don’t forget to allow for movement of draws to open, the way chairs move in an out. Sketch up a rough plan of your layout or have your architect do this for you.

Zoning Areas

You have opened up the house but now decided that you would like to zone a few areas to make them stand out – here is how:

  • A change in floor level can subtly zone spaces.
  • The use of timber beams acts as an informal divide.

You can fit doors to give the flexibility of being able to close off smaller sections where needed. Pocket or sliding doors won’t inhibit the use of the space.

To maintain a sense of flow in the space, you can fit the same flooring throughout, which can also be continued outside, over a level threshold, to link to the garden.

Preserving Original Features

The most important features you should try not to change are fireplaces, plaster mouldings, and windows, all of these add to the character of your home. Therefore you should plan your work around them.

Extending to go Open Plan

Moving walls is not the best option for all period homes, so you may want to consider adding a single storey extension to gain an open plan space. This approach will allow you to enjoy the best of both worlds by keeping intimate rooms full of character in the historic building, while creating light, clean, open spaces in the extension.

Single storey extensions are a good choice if you have a period home. You get the best of both as you keep your period home full of character and history whilst creating a modern open extension.

Of course, Planners will want to check that the extension works with the main house and often recommend a contemporary design to fit with the current build. Great for the modern lifestyle.

Most Planners will also want to see a clear separation with a link from the main house to the new extension, speak to your Architect.

Permitted Development Rights have relaxed to allow extensions of up to 6m if an attached house and 8m if a detached house, although this is less if you live in a Conservation Area.

As mentioned before if your home is listed, you will need to apply for listed building consent before extending or knocking down an internal wall.