Open-Plan vs Traditional Layouts


Are you considering knocking through the walls of a period property to make open-plan living space? Many of today’s celebrity TV estate agents give us tips on how to ‘open up’ our old houses for modern living or ‘knock through‘ to create open-plan kitchen / diners which are said to add value.

Gain an understanding of why the layout of your home was designed the way it is.

If you are lucky enough to own a period property such as an Edwardian or Victorian terraced house and feel that it would benefit from some ‘Sarah Beeny-style’ opening up, pause for a just moment. Consider living with the existing layout for a while and gain an understanding of why the layout was designed the way it is – try working with the traditional layout before reaching for the sledgehammer.

Sledgehammer demolition works

Why have traditional layouts with individual rooms prevailed for so long in the history of housing?

If you are still not convinced, ask yourself why traditional layouts with individual rooms prevailed for so long in the history of housing. The answer seems to be that they are practical and make sense for families, both from an environmental energy saving point of view, and in terms of providing a rational layout.

They can also play an important role in the overall structural integrity of a building as they provide much needed lateral restraint. Lateral restraint can be extremely important – particularly on end-terrace properties. A common defect where internal walls have been removed on an end-terrace house is bowing of the flank wall. Simply inserting a steel joist above a newly formed opening to support the brickwork above will not be a substitute for the loss of lateral restraint.

An open-plan kitchen, dining and living room area might provide a perfect space for entertaining but ask yourself how many times a year you will be hosting a party for 30 guests.

Individual rooms enable us to isolate certain areas that we wish to heat thereby saving energy.

Large open-plan areas are also more difficult to keep clean – smells and ‘junk room’ mess cannot be isolated. Heating can also be expensive as open-plan areas will lose heat just as soon as an external door is opened. By contrast, having individual rooms in a house enables us to isolate certain areas that we wish to heat and thereby consume much less energy.

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of traditional layouts is the peace and privacy it offers. Attempting to quietly read a book or watch Netflix in an open-plan home while the washing machine, tumble dryer, and boiler are all competing for acoustic superiority would drive me insane. In our house, the separate living room might be small, and the occasional party we host is limited to just a few close friends. However, the sense of comfort, privacy, and refuge is not something I would readily give up – even for Sarah Beeny.

© David Cosby Chartered Surveyors 2020