The family reunion

Open-plan living


M&Y has defined kitchen/breakfast, study and garden zones within this open, light-filled space

M&Y has defined kitchen/breakfast, study and garden zones within this open, light-filled space

Open-plan living has caught the imagination of the British public. But are traditional homes with separate kitchens, dining rooms and living rooms really so bad? Mandy Chody, from M&Y Interiors, a Hertfordshire design consultancy, acknowledges that for some families separate living spaces are a necessity to accommodate their situation, such as a parent working from home.

But for most of Mandy's clients, open-plan living helps families interact, as well as making their home feel airy and bright. For instance, she was recently contacted by a family who felt their house was simply not meeting their needs. Their small kitchen-diner was over-used and felt cramped, whereas the formal lounge, dining room and drab garage conversion stood redundant. A move to open-plan living allowed them to enjoy their whole house again.

The biggest challenge when creating open-plan living areas is to ensure that the home retains character, as well as defined spaces for eating and relaxing.

The rooms need to be practical but at the same time intimate and distinctive.

"Installing coffers, which are dropped ceilings, are a great way of defining spaces," says Nigel Stanley, Mandy's husband and business partner. "We also love contemporary two-way fireplaces, which benefit two spaces in the room and look stunning."

Sometimes a space needs to be made more private, for a study area or to prevent cooking smells from
wafting through the house. In these situations, pocket sliding doors can be built in; allowing flexibility to create both
open and closed spaces.

Skylights are not just a wonderful way of bringing light into a home, but also help to create designated areas within an open-plan design and add more character to a space.

Another key feature of open-plan living rooms could be expansive bi-fold doors, which open on to the garden. Even when shut, these doors let in lots of light as well as providing a good view of the garden.

    Last updated: 10:24am, July 18 2014