Because planning regulations offer greater freedom with home extensions that go on the back of a property, rather than the front, open-plan living spaces tend to be popular. This is because the addition of large expanses of glazing that look onto your lounge, dining area and kitchen tend to be more private in aspect when they are on the back of your home. Many people choose to simply add an extra downstairs room on the ground floor of their house when they conduct an extension or a home renovation project. However, connecting all of the distinct reception rooms into one big space does offer certain advantages. What are the factors you need to consider when contemplating an open-plan living space for your home?
Open-plan living seems highly desirable to many people. This is not least because of the popularity of open-plan designs in so many lifestyle magazines in Ireland and North America. Open-plan designs look good and often feel good when you are experiencing them. However, there is a practical side to consider, too. Firstly, in an open-plan space, you can see through to every part of the room. For example, you might be settling down to watch a movie or curl up with a book in your lounge area but still be able to see a pile of washing up to be done in your kitchen. It is not the most relaxing thing about open-plan life!
That said, family life can be vastly improved if you are all in the same room – even if you occupy different areas of it. Parents with young kids tend to like being in the kitchen but still be able to keep an eye on their children as they play or eat. It allows you to get on with jobs without the need for intercoms or video monitoring systems. Families can still enjoy a bit of privacy, too. Just because you have an open-plan reception room, it does not mean that you cannot divide off spaces at times to make them cosier. All that is needed is a sliding partition or even a curtain to form a division between zones.
A practical consideration some people fail to take into account when they go for a home extension that will interconnect their living quarters is how the heating will work. Smaller rooms are traditional because they are easier to heat up and, therefore, often more cost-effective. Open-plan spaces may need a super-efficient heating system, such as an underfloor one, in order to keep the larger volume of air they contain at the same temperature throughout.
Knocking down walls may mean that you get more light into your home than you had previously enjoyed. That said, you should also take into account that your extension may mean your windows are pushed further away from some parts of your home. As such, the lighter and airier feel of an open-plan space may mean adding more glazing. You can often do this with skylights in single-storey extensions but a bit more thought may be needed at the design stage to keep the light flow if your extension will also be built upstairs.
Another aesthetic consideration to take into account is how each zone of the open-plan space will connect to one another, visually speaking. Some people like to have the same wall treatment throughout. Others decide that one flooring system is a great way of making the distinct zones come together as a single family space. It is important to avoid clutter in an open-plan space, too. This is especially the case if you have a young family where toys and games are likely to be out a lot. Ensure there is lots of storage provision in your design so that you don't end up continually staring at visual clutter that you cannot shut the door on.
Your lighting design should be carefully worked out, as well. Being able to control the lighting via dimmer switches from several locations in an open-plan space is a big advantage, especially when part of the room is not in use. In some cases, especially in very large rooms, it is best to go for dimmable LED lighting throughout which you can control via a computer and a remote control system.
Any home renovation or house extension project which will alter the character of your residence to give you a new lifestyle will come at a cost. Taking down internal walls, for instance, may require the services of a structural engineer to make sure it is a safe thing to do even before your builders proceed. As mentioned, some open-plan spaces can be more expensive to heat in winter, particularly if you fit a floor-to-ceiling patio or bi-folding glazed door to connect your space to the garden.
Getting the interior design right is just as important as the architectural look of any extension that is going to change your lifestyle. Therefore, professional oversight at the design stage should not be underestimated and these services, of course, come at a cost. That being said, you can opt for a build-it-yourself package from BIY whereby all of the design, engineering and delivery costs of your open-plan living space home extension are included as part of a single package. This frequently offers greater value for money in achieving your lifestyle dreams than procuring such services independently of one another and managing the project yourself. Call BIY to find out more.