Open plan living or zoned living?

Model of house rooms, plans, calculator, reading glasses and pencils.Does Open Plan Living or Zoned Living Home Design Best Suit Your Needs?

When it comes to designing a new home, you'll be asking whether you have a design done for open plan living or zoned living. Traditionally homes were built with lots of separate rooms, all with their own individual purpose. Over the years there has been a big shift to open plan living designs and builds.

Some of the benefits of going with open plan living are more light, a sense of space (larger area) and the ability to interact with other members of the household without needing to go from room to room.

That said there are also some downsides, which should be considered before you commence design work on your new home. Often the downsides may not become evident until the home is lived in and the children begin to grow.

Problems with big open space designs

An open plan home can lack intimacy and coziness when presented as a big open space. Volume home builders take open plan living to the absolute extreme to make their homes look much larger and spacious. When styled with the right furniture they present beautifully. It is not unusual to walk through a display home and see virtually no doors and large openings to all the main rooms.  Although this creates a sense of space, this layout is not at all functional for day to day living.

There is also the issue of tidiness. With open plan living areas it can hard to hide an untidy space, especially when all the occupants of the home are doing their own thing in the one living zone.

Probably the largest downfall of open plan living is noise. Noise transmits easily around an open plan design making   it very difficult for one to watch TV whilst other members of the family are entertaining in the same area. As people socialize and get louder the TV goes up a few notches and the whole zone becomes louder and more chaotic as people compete to hear themselves. This can create stress and not the peaceful household you hope for when arriving home.

The solution for creating a great open plan house design

Happily, all these problems can easily be overcome through clever design, meaning you can have the best of both worlds. For an open plan space to work well, it requires some division, be it visual or physical. The best design will incorporate both open plan and zones living.

This is created with physical zoning such as walls, large doors and interconnected rooms. With doors in particular you can zone off a room for privacy or open it up when required for maximum space. This gives you the best of both worlds. The plan below was designed for one of our clients, it has open plan areas complimented with smaller, more intimate areas which can be opened up or closed off with large doors.

House design plans showing open plan style of living
Living zones house plan

If you do not want to use physical zones such as rooms and walls then a large open area can be zoned with the clever use and placement of furnishings, floor coverings and ceiling bulkheads. These can create intimate areas within a large space.

A good example of this is shown in the picture below, where changes in floor levels and ceiling finishes have created zones within a large open plan area. These have been further enhanced by the placement of furniture, rugs and feature walls.

Modern open plan home with split level, wood panels, plants in middle with sitting, lounge and kitchen.
Example of open plan with zones created with fixtures & fittings

Features of Open Plan Living:

  • Great for compact spaces. By having an open plan living area you create an illusion of space.  Removing internal walls and doors will gain you those extra vital measurements when space is at a premium.
  • Perfect for families with children where work zones and living zones are one. You can interact with the family while in the kitchen preparing dinner. You can keep an eye on younger children, or help older children with their homework.
  • Great for entertaining - Open plan living allows you to always feel part of the gathering, even if you’re doing the washing up while everyone else is watching the television.
  • More natural light and energy efficient – open plan living can take full advantage of the northern orientation. This will allow the winter sun to help keep your home warmer in winter and cooler in summer by using shade devices such as eaves and awnings.  A sun filled home is much more pleasant to be in and will make the space feel airy and much more spacious.
  • If you have views – an open plan living home can bring the outdoors in and allow the views to be enjoyed throughout the living area.

 Features of Zoned Living:

  • Better privacy – zoned living offers more privacy which is great for families with older children
  • Designated work or play spaces. Closed rooms give you the option of a home office to run a business from or other work space that you can shut off from the rest of the house for both privacy and quiet.  For younger families A children’s play room can be closed off at the end of the day, leaving you with a relaxing, clutter free living area. With older children they can have an area away from the family to entertain their friends
  • Easy to keep clean. Rooms can be closed off from each other when not in use so they won’t need cleaning as often.
  • Cooking smells contained—having a closed off kitchen means that cooking smells will not circulate around your property.
  • Quieter—being able to close doors means that you can keep the noise levels down, or turn the television or stereo up in one room without disturbing the rest of the house.
  • Easy to heat/keep cool—you will only need to provide heat or air conditioning for rooms that are in use.
  • You can decorate each individual rooms to make them unique, instead of having the same colour throughout your home.

New Home Plans & Design Tips

Part of our House Plans and Designs series.

This series of articles are designed to help you understand the importance of good plans, make appropriate choices for your new home and give you some tips or ideas for designing your new home. Feel free to call us if you would like some further input.

Renmark Homes – Helping you Design and Build a Home you Love in Melbourne’s North West

If you have any questions about how Renmark Homes can assist you in building your new home, please contact us on 1300 367 245, or visit our contact page for further options.