Is Open-Plan Living a Thing of the Past?

I was thrilled to attend a seminar with the author, TV show host, and professional organizer Peter Walsh. One of the benefits of the pandemic lockdown is that everyone is open to teaching online – even famous people. Peter Walsh is one smart person, that’s for sure. He seems to spend hours thinking about how people live and use their space and how that affects what organizers and designers do with a space. I suspect he could be right about many things he discussed, especially that open-plan living may have seen its day. He cited a recent study that 80% of Canadians working from home would like to continue doing so at least 50% of the time for the foreseeable future, pandemic or no pandemic. It certainly does change the way we organize and design homes from now on.

Rethinking Open-Plan Living

Moving into the future, we must rethink how we use, organize and store our stuff. And we may also have to consider constructing walls to separate large spaces into smaller ones.

In fact, a friend told me her husband works from home four days a week. He prefers (and enjoys) it. He probably falls into the group that wants to continue working from home if possible. But she does not like it so much! He is in their lower-level office/guest bedroom and seems quite happy in his comfortable office chair as he looks out the large windows into the yard. She, however, has been working at the dining room table right next to the kitchen. Naturally, whenever he comes upstairs to get something in the kitchen, she is interrupted, which she is not used to. I can only imagine how many of you are in the same situation.

Now they are considering whether to install doors in the opening of the dining room to give her much-needed privacy. They only have the dining table, chairs, and a small cabinet for their china in the dining room. This means she will have nowhere to store her books and paperwork. And because she loves minimalist design, she doesn’t want to add extra furniture because it will clutter the dining room. It’s a dilemma, indeed!

I have another client whose husband is working in their living room and has been for months. He also seems to be quite fond of working from home. In that situation, she has already decided to install doors in the opening between the living room and front entrance so she can come and go without bothering him, which will also cut down on the noise. Several years ago, I assisted them in renovating their upstairs level. We put a wall in the primary bedroom to create a separate dressing area. She told me how happy she is because now she can go into the bedroom area, shut the doors, and it is absolutely quiet.

An open-plan design of a principal bedroom.
The open-plan design of the principal bedroom.
The principal bedroom with a wall and pocket doors installed to create a separate dressing area.
The principal bedroom with a wall installed to create a separate dressing area.

These two examples have me pondering how we will use our space over the coming years. My new question to clients considering renovating to open their space will now be, “Are you sure about that?” In the past, I would have been all for it. It will be interesting to see what happens to open-plan living over time.

4 thoughts on “Is Open-Plan Living a Thing of the Past?”

  1. Hi Jane I definitely think Peter is right on. So many older homes are completely gutted opened right up. No defined spaces. Not to mention sound bouncing off every where!!! Not to mention new builds. Another pandemic lesson. Cathie

    • Hi Cathie – I think it’s going to be so interesting to see how we reimagine spaces over the coming years. I’m excited!

  2. We have opened up our 1983-built home in several areas since purchasing it in 1988. Kitchen, family room and front entrance have become one open area. (In true rural Maritime style, our front door puts you right in the kitchen where friends like to gather and where the parties always happen.) Removing the separation between the living and the dinning area allowed us to use the now larger room for dinner parties and family gatherings around the expandable oak table. The open spaces work wonderfully for us as our children have now left home. But I could see how noise might be a problem with the current layout and a busy family with kids. Sounds certainly do travel to the 2nd floor easier with less walls as barriers. BUT I would personally never want a home with small closed rooms again and would look to basement spaces should more private areas be necessary.

    • Thanks for your comments Cheryl. Just goes to show that the design and layout of your space really needs to be tailored to how you use your home and who lives there with you. Glad you enjoy your open concept living area.


Leave a comment