5 open-plan living tips you need to know

Open-plan living is a perfect compliment to the Australian lifestyle. When done right it can draw us closer together and facilitate a greater connection to the outside world.

Home is a place where you come to slow down. It should offer a respite from the world outside and a place where you are able to come to rest. It is a sanctuary and a safe space that allows you to focus on meaningful connections with the people that are most important in your life. 

Open-plan living can help you achieve this in a home, however there are some things to consider when designing your dream space to unwind after a long day.


5 open-plan living tips you need to know

1. Window placement

It can be tempting to put as many windows as possible into a space, however consider how your windows frame the view outside and foster a connection to the landscape and garden. Think of your window as a picture frame, what part of the view are you most drawn to? What makes you want to linger by the window and stare out of it for hours? 

A perfect example of this framing is one of Homes by Howe’s latest projects in Canberra’s Denman Prospect. Homes by Howe use windows in the open-plan living space to highlight key features of the outlook. In framing the view and calling attention to its key elements, Homes by Howe is able to elevate the experience of it from within the house whilst simultaneously drawing us closer to the outside.

Framing the view at our Denman Prospect new build.

2. Orientation  

When designing an open-plan living space, consideration of the natural environment and orientation of the space is paramount. For instance if your living area is north facing you will get the sun all day, East facing windows will take advantage of the morning light, whilst West facing will bring in the hot afternoon sun.

Orientation of the space is also important when considering heating and airflow, in a large open-plan space; large expanses of windows or high ceilings will make it harder and more expensive to heat if you live in a cold climate. 

Every site has its own particular climate and weather patterns that need to be taken into account. A good builder will help you to plan for these things from the outset.

Alfresco living and dining with expanses of windows from our Griffith project.

3. Acoustics 

Open-plan means no acoustic separation between spaces. Thus when planning a space you will have to take into account how sound travels throughout it.  

Soft furnishings, rugs, books and window dressings can help to soak up noise. Wooden panelling will not only dampen sound but also add an interesting texture and materiality to your living space. You may also need to take it a step further by using in wall insulation, panels or specialist building materials such as Gyprock Soundchek

Soft furnishings, rugs, and books help to soak up noise in our Red Hill knockdown rebuild.

4. Lighting 

Lighting defines a space. How you illuminate your space can impact how you move and exist within it. It is a great way of visually connecting areas, however if not done properly it can make open-plan spaces feel unsettling and cavernous. 

For instance, down lighting is often harsh and sterile if not done sympathetically, whereas a table lamp at eye level can make a space feel more intimate and welcoming. A dramatic pendant, like the ones by Annette Blair Glass at Homes by Howe’s new display home in Chapman, is a great focal point whilst also softening light and diffusing the light beautifully throughout the space.  

5. Delineation of Spaces 

It is imperative in an open-plan design to carve out areas in which we can feel enclosed and protected. Materials can be used to define zones whilst giving different areas distinct moods. Soft furnishings and well-placed lighting can add warmth and texture into the home creating a cosy atmosphere, whilst small groupings of furniture can be used to create spaces of reprieve. 

Think about the voids and gaps within a space as much as what you put in it. The spaces in-between allow for the movement and flow of people and help to define the use of each space, wether that be relaxing, dining or socialising. Open-plan living areas that lack flow will result in congestion in one area and a lack of use of others.

The space between the kitchen and dining, allows for the movement in our Watson knockdown rebuild.

Planning your dream open-plan living space by yourself can be a headache. A design consultation package with Homes by Howe can help you to clarify your ideas whilst utilising the expert advice of the best builder in Canberra, making your dream space into a reality.