Family life – the linchpin of any home. For generations, homes have been designed to fit the requirements of the classic family model, allowing for enough room for them to live a healthy and prosperous lifestyle. This architectural blueprint focused on creating a downstairs environment to suit a suburban family’s needs, with a kitchen, living room and, in some instances, dining room.
But now, we are seeing a desire for a different, more fluid design style – there is a want for open-plan, rather than having a living room exiled from the rest of our home. Is this move away from the traditional living space, that was once the epitome of the suburban dream, due to the wishes and need of modern-day families?
The want for an integrated space where we can enjoy the ‘full’ lifestyle experience – cooking, dining, relaxing and entertaining – has never been greater for the family of today. Through adopting an open-plan design ideology, these dreams can become a reality.
A new social space to promote quality time
Suburban stylings dictated that the living room was the pinnacle of socialising in the home, with the kitchen set aside purely for cooking.
But the open-plan ethos harks back to the time of terrace living, where the kitchen-diner living model was a necessity due to space – it became a social environment, compared to the semi-detached suburban model, where there was a distinct separation. Some wanted that segregation back then, but the families of today want a wider social space to mingle and rendezvous in.
It was acclaimed chef Manu Chandra who was recently quoted as saying “the kitchen has become a social space” – something the new wave of open-plan design completely abides by.
The ideology of family living can massively benefit from a mixed-used space. A recent study revealed that working parents spend less than an hour of quality time with their children on a daily basis, and 43 per cent said they struggled even to sit down as a family once a day.
So, is having everyone in separate rooms during that precious time best family practice? An open-plan space where parents can cook whilst the children complete school tasks or play and everyone can speak with one another allows for the family to spend that little extra time together. It’s about creating a living environment where a family can be social, not be in solitude – something at the heart of open-plan design.
Making more of the natural light
A survey by Origin Global found that 26 per cent of people picked natural light as the ‘must-have’ feature for a family home. Encouraging more daylight into the home has long been on the agenda for homeowners, but attempts to introduce it are often made in vain due to the practicality issues within the ‘stereotypical’ suburban home. Walls and doors act as natural light excluders, confining the light to one specific environment.
In the practice of architecture, daylighting refers to the use of natural light (whether glorious sunshine or from the gloom of an overcast day) entering a home. With an open-plan design, daylighting is more achievable, thanks to features such as larger windows (for example, bi-folding windows or French doors) allowing the light to enter a wider space much more easily. The lack of ‘boundaries’ can create a well-lit area without the need for ‘generated’ lighted, and a space where a family will want to spend time – where would you rather sit, a room with an abundance of bright light or one where you need to have the ‘big’ light on?
But having all this extra light flowing isn’t just for aesthetics – it’s something than helps your family function more efficiently on a daily basis. Research has found that having more natural daylight in a living area can help increase productivity and provide the mental and visual stimulation necessary to regulate human circadian rhythms (i.e. your body clock).
So, whether it’s children becoming more focused when it comes to doing their homework or allowing an adult’s body clock to run smoothly, an open-plan design can have a positive impact through letting natural light flow. It’s this natural light that can help offer your family a better way of living.
A seamless flow between indoors and outside
The idea of ‘bringing the outside in’ may seem clichéd terminology, yet the ideology stands strong in modern-day open-plan design. With a more expansive kitchen/living/dining space, it offers the opportunity for the limits of family living to be increased to incorporate an element of the outdoors through a terrace, deck or patio.
French doors and bi-folding windows allow for open-plan spaces to, well, open up the living area even further. Just think of summertime – having this free-flowing expansive space between the indoors and out for a family to enjoy; it enhances the way of life tenfold.
But this seamless flow can also help encourage children to play within the larger space more, rather than be confined to sitting in front of the TV or staring at a tablet.
A study by Common Sense Media found that younger children are spending on average 48 minutes per day using mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets – a figure which has tripled over the last four years. This stat isn’t something that promotes a healthy family lifestyle, if anything it’s the very antithesis, limiting social interactions in favour of the glow of a screen.
By having an open-plan design and smooth transition between the outdoor terrace space and the internal living environment, it can give a child a much bigger space to play and interact with. This, in return, can help benefit family life – kids being active and engaged with space, rather than being sat glaring into screen.
Open-plan design brings with it the opportunity for families to open up to a new way a living – one that can improve family life.