• Julie Bliss

Broken Plan Living - how to improve function and harmony in your open plan home

While open plan living has been the big movement over the last decade or so, it’s now broken plan that is becoming the way forward in this new normal. Here's why...


Photo credit: Grand Designs Magazine

The trend for open plan living and an airy, seamless, unbroken living space has suddenly seemed a little flawed of late!

We have all experienced changes in the way we live over the last year and the biggest change to a huge number of families is that we are now all occupying the same space, both for home and work.


Yes, open plan can be lovely in terms of opening up the home, making the most of natural light throughout and giving a much larger sense of space, but it provides little in the way of privacy or quiet spaces, which is not conducive to working from home, particularly during the school holidays!

If you’re renovating or building, consider broken plan over open plan.

Broken Plan has the same basic principles and benefits of open plan, but it’s more about the clever use of a space to provide distinct zones using different floor finishes, split-levels and semi-permanent partitions. If you already have open plan, now’s the time to look at how you can make it more flexible and work better for you and your family’s needs.



Image credit: Dezeen



Here are some ideas:

Divide and conquer

  • You could consider putting in a stud wall if you have a large open plan area that could do with being divided. This is a permanent, but cost effective and non-structural solution.

  • If you want to remain more flexible, use room dividers such as book cases, curtains, even plants (they also clean your air and absorb noise).

  • Barn, sliding doors or internal shutters are great for space saving division ideas between room areas. They can either slide over the floor or use inlaid tracks.

  • Crittall window style internal doors are contemporary and attractive, allowing for light while offering both an activity and sound barrier.

  • Glaze or shutter internal window spaces that may have been left when creating a rear or side extension. This will help to shut out noise while still allowing light through.

  • Use different floor surfaces to make a distinction between areas.



Image credit: budgetbreakaway.co.uk


Take it to another level

  • Mezzanine levels - If you have lovely high ceilings and you have the space, creating a mezzanine level can be a great way to add a quiet work or study space away from the main hustle and bustle. Make sure you ask a structural engineer for advice before putting one in.

  • Loft conversions - Now may be a great time to do that conversion for either a kids room or office. Make sure you think about flooring (as above). Always use sound absorbing floor covering and lots of insulation. Most loft conversions will be under permitted development. However if you’re in a semi or terrace house, check for restrictive covenants in your deeds.



Image credit: Houzz

Address Acoustics & Surface Noise


  • Ceramic tiles, LVT, resin floors and concrete don’t make much noise on the surface, but they can be noisier in terms of echoing and ambient noise - address this with the use of soft furnishings - cushions, curtains, throws and rugs all absorb noise, so add in some soft furnishings where you can. Look at choosing upholstered furniture over plastic or wooden without any padding. Wooden panelling to walls can also help with noise reduction.

  • Engineered wood and laminate can be a bit noisier on the surface, but absorb more ambient noise. If you have hard wood or laminate flooring, think about rugs or other coverings to dampen the clackety clack of your kids and pets!

  • Limit furniture noise and damage to your lovely floors by putting pads or cups on the legs of your tables and chairs. This really helps reduce furniture noise.

  • To limit noise between floors (e.g. if you live in a flat or to limit noise from bedrooms down to living spaces), use carpet, tiles or vinyl (or luxury vinyl tiles), but never engineered wood or laminate. Also make sure you have good quality underlay.

  • NB. Many flats will have restrictions in their deeds that prevents the installation of wooden or laminate flooring, so you should always check your deeds or rental agreement.


Image credit: Real Homes


Use the above advice to give a bit of thought into acoustics and division ideas and make a massive difference to your home. Peace will soon be restored and you and your loved ones can continue living and working in harmony!


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