Open Plan Living

When I was small we had a kitchen table (it was probably Formica) and everything food based and otherwise happened around it  – apart from the Saturday night takeaway which was based on the standard 1970’s teak coffee table in the living room, in front of The Generation Game (Shut that door!). As I became older my parents bought a bigger house and we had a dining room. How posh! In reality, we sat at that table once or maybe twice a year to eat. The rest of the time it was occasionally used as a gift wrapping station or a dumping ground. Eventually the table was pushed to one side, a sofa installed and it became my personal domain. 

When I bought my first little house, it had a dining room too. My grandfather bought me a table and chairs and it was used for dining from time to time but again it was mostly ignored or used for other purposes. 

We now live in a modern house which I bought in my late twenties (more years ago than I wish to disclose). When I purchased, it had the typical 1981 build lounge/diner and a small kitchen configuration. The table moved in with me and I quickly learned something, I hate eating in the living room. I think it was possibly because it was at the front of the property and I was used to a rear, private room. Whatever the reason, things had to change! 

Building work – short term pain for long term gain!

Today, the house is very different. We’ve built walls and knocked down walls and we now have a lovely front sitting room. It’s warm in the winter, cool in the summer and it stays tidy. 

Across the back of the house we have a larger ‘L’ shaped room. In the centre is the kitchen, to the left the kitchen table (The table my Grandfather gave me and I am very attached to it for that very reason) and at the furthest point is a sitting area. We absolutely love it out here, it’s private and quiet. We probably spend 90% of our downtime here. It has five main benefits:

  1. It’s sociable – friends and family always head straight to the kitchen when they visit. There is a solid breakfast bar separating the kitchen (formally a structural wall) and sitting area, there are two high bar stools and friends head for those before they’ve even taken their coats off. They sit down, the kettle goes on and we chat. 
  2. Himself and I spend time together every evening cooking and chatting.  No matter who’s cooking, we are in the same room talking about our day and that can’t be a bad thing
  3. As we watch TV within a few feet of the kettle, no matter who’s turn it is to make the tea, we never miss a second of Line of Duty (other TV dramas are available) 
  4. The PC is permanently stationed on the corner of the breakfast bar so we can work/chat/eat/read/drink tea all in one space
  5. With the open space and the doors out to the garden, it’s absolutely great for a party!

In short, it suits us and if the girls pop in for a gossip or he wants to watch American Gods, there’s a second room to escape. It’s perfect!

The sitting area in our kitchen

If you are pondering a change to more open plan living, here’s a little guide of the different style of home layouts to help you :

  1. Traditional/enclosed spaces. I guess this is where most of us begin! You have a separate kitchen, dining room and living room. Depending on the size/layout this may feel cramped and dark. On the other hand, each room can feel cosy and there are more design options – it leaves you free to create different moods or colour schemes
  2. Open plan – what many aspire to. It’s sociable and flexible and particularly popular with young families. In smaller homes, open plan can seem to maximise space and bring light to otherwise dark areas. If you are considering this option to include the kitchen, you should consider a good extractor fan to reduce cooking smells and steam. Also think about buying good quality appliances – those decibels might disturb other activities in the area such as TV watching!
  3. Broken plan. This is our personal choice and it offers a combination of the other options – a more structured version of open plan with clearly designated zones for different uses such cooking, dining and relaxing. Areas might be separated by half height walls (as is our case with the breakfast bar, which you can just about see in the bottom right of the picture above), temporary room dividers such as bookcases or perhaps a mezzanine floor.  You might say this option offers the best of both worlds (structured and flexible) but of course you should still consider noise and cooking odours.

Some serious points to remember:

  1. Building control may need to be notified if you take down a wall or make structural alterations
  2. If you appoint a builder to do the work always get recommendations from friends and family, ask for a full quote in writing and a copy of his/her up to date indemnity insurance schedule before making any final decisions

Thanks for reading again this week and I hope you enjoyed it. Until next time…. x

PS As I work on this, he’s cooking dinner and handing me mugs of hot tea across the breakfast bar. Perfect!

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