Is open-plan living going out of fashion? These interior experts say yes 

Open-plan fans, look away now

It all started with a report published by a company that makes it its business to know the ins and outs of all things homebuilding and renovation in the UK.  

In its Home Improvement Trends Report 2023, tradesperson search site Rated People makes the bombshell revelation that post pandemic, of the one in three homeowners that will be improving their homes this year, a significant proportion will be looking to throw up internal walls. Or to be more precise, “broken plan has now firmly taken over open plan”. 

Open-plan living roomCredit: Shutterstock / Laci_10
An open-plan living room and kitchen

The possibility that open-plan living is going out of fashion flies in the face of the long-term trend for renovators to take sledgehammers to walls in a bid to give their properties that airy, breezy feel. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine what will become of those beloved home renovation TV programs that rely on the drama of that living room wall coming crashing down. Watching plaster dry for two weeks does not exactly offer the same level of high jinks as bricks and mortar going flying.  


The appeal of the ‘broken plan’

Still, according to the folks at Rated People, the term ‘open plan’ has vanished from their top 20 property updates wish list, with the dubious sounding ‘broken plan’ instead débuting in spot 12.  

While ‘broken plan’ might sound like something that happens when your friend forgets you made arrangements to meet at the pub, according to the report there are two excellent reasons for homeowners to wish for their plans to be broken:  

  1. The cost-of-living crisis means buying a bigger home might be out of reach, so the homeowner’s impulse is to make homes work much harder.
  2. Homeowners just want to have fun! The pandemic forced property owners to put their thinking caps on about how to make their finite space more spacious for work, school and play – but being home wasn’t much fun. Now, instead of sweeping living rooms, no home is complete without a boot room, massage room, sauna, home bar, home bar, walk-in wardrobe or a nice dog shower.
Dog showeringCredit: Shutterstock / Jaromir Chalabala
Is open-plan living going out of fashion? If so, pampered pooches are set to benefit from ‘broken plans’ trend.

So, is this really the end of open-plan living?  

The Exceptional Homes team sought out the insight of Caroline Milns. Caroline is director of Zulufish, a leading interior design and architectural practice based in London. With a constant supply of renovation projects on Zulufish’s books, Milns can offer a trustworthy answer to the question on every renovator’s lips, “Iopenplan living out?”

Milns says that open-plan continues to be very desirable, but now with the option of spaces that can be closed off to allow for greater versatility.  

“This is achieved in a multitude of different ways, such as adding picture windows in place of solid walls to allow a visual connection across a floor, but also create a defined, separate space, or introducing Crittall-style doors and walls in place of traditional wooden doors.   

“By providing clear, designated areas within the home, this allows for the many facets of busy daily life to exist in harmony. It is also not just about creating spaces to work at home. Clients are also keen to introduce bespoke home bars, snugs, media rooms and outdoor entertaining spaces – essentially areas that allow time to switch off and relax with family and friends.”  

Home barCredit: Shutterstock / simona pilolla 2
Cocktail hour at home? According to Rated People, homeowners are dreaming of building home bars.

So, it would seem that the open plan is indeed evolving, rather than fully going away. Which is more than can be said of the impulse to have a home sauna. The Exceptional Homes team very much approves. 

With quite a few years’ renovation experience under my own belt, I agree with Milns’ view that fun spaces, like home bars, will become more popular. And, however you slice it, there will need to be a rise in the number of walls in a property to facilitate this.  

But before picking up the phone or even heading to Rated People to get quotes for plasterers, it’s worth considering the pros and cons of open-plan living before consigning this décor trend to the footnotes of your home history. These include:  

The pros of open-plan living: 

  • Open-plan layouts provide larger spaces for families and friends to spend time together
  • With fewer walls comes fewer barriers to light, open-plan spaces are lighter and brighter 
  • In smaller properties – like one-bedroom flats – an open plan can add value as the space feels by looking more visually appealing
  • If you have young ones in your home, an open plan means less spaces for them to hide and get into mischief 
  • For anyone with accessibility issues, an open-plan layout can offer easier manoeuvrability, particularly for those who use a wheelchair or walking frame

The cons of open-plan living:  

  • Open plans allow noise to travel around a property in a way that a ‘broken plan’ won’t 
  • If you have a property with an open-plan kitchen, there is no way to hide away mess if it builds up
  • Likewise, open-plan kitchens let cooking smells spread across the property – maybe fabulous for whiffs of fresh bread, but less so when fish is on the menu
  • When your room is open you have fewer heating zones and less wall space for radiators, so open-plan properties might be more expensive to heat or harder to keep warm. 

Tempted to try ‘broken-plan living’? Before calling out a tradesperson, or building a wall yourself, try re-positioning your sofa or a sectional bookcase to mimic your new divided layout. You’ll get a sense of how the new room will flow before committing to any structural changes.

Written by Joy Archer she/her