Broken-plan layouts offer solutions to the problems caused by an open-plan space, and the advantages of broken-plan living are bringing this trend to the mainstream

The open-plan living trend has been a key one over recent years in kitchen design – building an extension to create a large room where a whole household can come together, or knocking down walls to give the illusion of far more space, has been a guaranteed way to add value to a property, and add a central focus to any home.

Broken-plan layouts offer solutions to the problems caused by an open-plan space, and the advantages of broken-plan living are bringing this trend to the mainstream #designtrends #brokenplanliving Click To Tweet

But the open-plan living trend has turned out in practice to have certain limitations, that in themselves have triggered a whole new trend: broken-plan living.

Broken-plan design is still open-plan in essence, but involves the use of a host of different techniques to divide up a space without actually building walls. A new kitchen extension that lets in as much light as possible may sound ideal on paper, but the reality can be cold and cavernous – a problem that the broken-plan trend seeks to address.

An open-plan space is by its very nature multi-functional, but in a broken-plan design the different zones are more defined, even if it’s only by using freestanding furniture, or tiled flooring in the preparation area, wood-effect flooring in the dining space, and adding floor rugs in the living space to add visual difference.

Broken Plan Living,
Image by Helsinghouse

Using screens, low walls or split levels separated by one or two steps are all broken-plan techniques that break up a space and create niches for different functions – relaxing, dining or working – without sectioning the space up into smaller rooms. This adds visual interest, and also enhances the liveable aspect, so a vast room can feel more comfortable and welcoming, with areas also providing seclusion if desired.

In this way a family kitchen becomes far more flexible and suited to contemporary lifestyles, so a household can come together, but be involved in entirely separate activities, from cooking and socialising, through to watching television and doing homework.

The adaptable nature of the space also makes it ideal for multi-generational households, where each individual has their own physical needs that are evolving over time.

The trend for zoned lighting that can be controlled via an app on a smartphone also heightens the multi-functional aspects of the layout and enables it to work harder. Strong task lighting over a kitchen prep zone can be turned up when needed, but then dimmed when the area is no longer in use. Equally, low lighting over a dining table can create an intimate ambience at meal times, but be turned up when the table is being used as a work space.

Zoned lighting by John Cullen lighting
Zoned Lighting by John Cullen Lighting

One of the key problems created by open-plan design that broken-plan solves has been the issue of acoustics. The trend for keeping kitchens minimalist and clutter-free gave rise to unpleasant echoing effects and disturbing sounds travelling between zones.

broken plan living by Cuckoolan
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Image by Cuckooland

Introducing sliding screens, glass partitions, book cases, open shelving and different materials to break up a space has the effect of softening this, and is helped by the increasing number of appliances with impressively low decibel ratings that have arrived on the market.

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