Your First Home
16th July 2017
Asked & Answered: Your Questions about Open-plan
Got questions about designing an open-plan kitchen, living and dining room? Here are the answers to all the questions you have but were too afraid to ask.
Are all homes well suited for open-plan design?
While nobody can stop you from turning your house into an open-plan home, some types of houses suit an open-plan design better than others. For example, in small, cottage-style houses, cosy enclosed spaces are part of the house’s personality, so going open plan may make the house feel different – in a bad way. On the other hand, modern builds lend themselves better to open-plan spaces, as many were designed with that intention in mind, while terraced and semi-terraced houses with simple interior design schemes can easily be opened up.
Can all layouts be turned into open-plan spaces?
Not all layouts can be transformed simply by knocking down a wall. A load-bearing wall, for example, supports other elements of the building, such as the roof, floor joists or a wall above, so you can’t simply remove it. To find out which walls you can knock down, seek professional advice from a structural engineer, architect or building surveyor, who will be able to determine if a wall is load-bearing. In that case, they can then design a beam to replace it and bear the loads held up by the original wall.
Do I need planning permission to change the internal layout of rooms in my home?
You need to contact the Planning Authority before starting any work. Planning permission most likely won’t be required for moving internal walls, unless the building is listed. However, you will most likely need approval for any major internal changes to a house – removing or partly removing a load-bearing wall or a beam, for example; or if creating an open-plan layout would affect fire precautions or escape routes. If you go on to sell the house, you’ll need a report that will include a date when any walls were removed, so make sure the paperwork is kept on file.
Will combining my kitchen and dining room add value to my property?
Open-plan homes often feel more spacious and light-filled than those with individual rooms. If done well, knocking down internal walls to create a larger, open-plan living space can make your house look more contemporary and add value to it. However, with an open-plan layout, you’re offering the potential buyer a particular lifestyle, so do be aware that some potential buyers may prefer a more conventional layout. Furthermore, any home improvements must be well thought-out and carefully detailed, and finished to a high standard. While taking down a wall may not be too costly, other expenses related to remodelling the space will soon follow and pile up.
Where do I start with planning my space?
Think carefully about where to position key activity zones such as those for cooking, eating and entertaining. Arrange the layout so you face into the room while you work, so that you can keep talking to family and friends. An island unit is a great way to naturally divide a kitchen from the entertaining or dining area and you can use it for preparation, cooking and storage. The size of dedicated work zones, such as for food preparation or washing-up should be limited - this way, you’ll have plenty of space for key pieces of furniture such as a dresser or sofa.
Ventilation in an open-plan kitchen is vitally important, so choose a powerful (but quiet) extractor fan to stop moisture and cooking smells from lingering around. Position your eating area as close to a natural light source as possible – this makes it a more useable and sociable space, and can also save you electricity bills. Finally, make sure that people sitting round the table will have enough space to comfortably pull out their dining chairs.
I’m re-designing an old house, how can I make sure I respect the original space?
If you’re opening up a house of character, avoid removing or replacing original tiles, plaster mouldings, internal joinery and windows. They give your home its character and add to its value, so plan alterations around them or think of creative ways to reuse them elsewhere in the building.