Open-plan layout - the ideal lifestyle or the potential for a big soulless space?

People are increasingly keen on the lifestyle possibilities offered by open-plan living, but many are frightened by the idea of rattling around in a large characterless space. When thinking through ideas for opening up your interior, look for opportunities to incorporate clever devices that will avoid the empty box feeling to turn it into a flexible and exciting home.

Clever use of light, layout and defining different zones with adjustable separation between areas, like changes in floor level, floor material, islands and screens and furniture groupings etc can all help to change the perception of space, as well as creating a more interesting room to live in.

Interior Design & Interior Architecture

Interior Design & Interior Architecture



People often think that you either have separate rooms or open-plan. The reality is not so black and white, as the relationship between different areas can be manipulated by varying degrees to emphasise their separation or integration. Setting up views with ‘layers’ throughout your home gives an illusion of much greater space and depth than would otherwise be felt.

Daylight can be used to create focal points and magnify an interior space.

When adding to or altering a building, creating a clear visual separation between the new and existing elements of the building can really enhance the sense of extra space. This really creates the sense that you’re passing from one space into another, and not just looking across a single unified cavernous area.


Daylight can be used to create focal points and magnify an interior space. If you can bring more natural light into your home it will have a great effect in maximising the sense of space.
But it does need to be done with full consideration of it’s effect. As too much daylight flooding in - particularly direct sunlight, can be overwhelming as well as bleaching everything out (and reducing the impact of all your carefully created layers).

open planning

Try to use daylight to create highlight points amongst the layers, enhancing the visual separation and creating greater depth. A roof-light, sun-pipe or a cut away in a wall can all allow the sunlight to penetrateinto the space, increasing the overall sense of depth. Daylight from a high angle is generally more intense and will reach further into an interior than from a low angle, so positioning windows and glazed doors as high to the ceiling as you can to maximises the airy feeling. Avoid heavy curtain pelmets above windows as these will block out useful high-angle light.


Kitchen islands are probably the most common device for defining zones within an open-plan space, and this is one of the main reasons they are so popular (although many people do not realise that this is why). By clearly signposting where the different zones within an open-plan space are, you get the benefits of the openness and daylight while retaining a more comfortable domestic scale. Well defined zones are not just functional, they also help people feel more comfortable in a space. In a room with a kitchen island for example, a visitor will subliminally be aware that as long as they stay away from the ‘kitchen side’ of the island, they are not in the way of the cook.

Interior Design

Blurring the boundaries in smaller homes often helps with making the space feel larger. Deliberately overlapping rooms, for example the kitchen being allowed to expand into the neighbouring dining area gives an increased feeling of space and actually makes the room physically bigger.