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Open plan living

The expansive, open plan kitchen conversion has become the 'must have' accessory for many of the people I meet in the Cardiff area. It's something I did in my own home around seven years ago. The general aim is to add space and a social element that enhances home living. An open plan kitchen allows cooks to create a culinary masterpiece without feeling locked away behind closed doors. Whilst other people in the house can feel a part of this priceless family time. Socialising and entertaining are so much easier with an open plan kitchen. There's also the added bonus that, when done properly, an open plan kitchen adds considerable value to your home. There are very few downsides to this kind of home improvement. If I was pressed to come up with a couple of negatives I would say that not everyone wants the smell of cooking to drift through the house and the noise from extractor fans and dishwashers can be obtrusive. For me, these aren't an issue and I certainly have no regrets since I created my open plan kitchen. It's worth remembering that, what ever you do, it's going to take time and cost a considerable amount of money.

Your Open Plan Options

In order to create the open plan space, you have several options. One of the most cost effective things you can do is remove an internal wall. This is what I did in my own property. We found that our dining room wasn't being used and our kitchen was cramped. For us, removing the adjoining wall was a no brainer. The great thing was that our dining room wall wasn't load bearing and the building required zero structural measures after its removal. This won't be the case for everyone and this is where things start getting expensive. The chances are that you'll require additional expertise. When it comes to making changes with structural implications, there are several things you need to consider. Structural changes may or may not require planning permission and you will almost certainly need a building regulations representative to oversee your plans and any work carried out. You aren't obliged to use the building regulations officer provided by the local authority. You are legally entitled to commission an independent contractor. However, it's probably best to contact your local council's building regulations department first and see what level of service they are willing to offer. The removal of a structural wall will require the installation of a steel beam to support the floors above. This could be concealed within the ceiling cavity in order to create a seamless look or below the ceiling joists and covered with flame retardant plaster board for a more cost effective solution. Depending on your specific requirements, the steel beam may require vertical supports at specific points along its length. Recent changes to planning regulations have made this a far more disruptive proposition. The specifications for the footings have been beefed up and you'll find that vertical supports are far more expensive that they used to be. You also need to consider how a vertical support beam might affect the layout of the room. I recently installed a kitchen in a rear facing extension. I was brought into the project after the construction work had started. By the time I was involved, the vertical support beam was installed 'slap bang' in the middle of the proposed kitchen worktop. I managed to find an acceptable solution but I can't help wondering what would have happened if I had been involved earlier. With this kind of work, you really should take advice from an expert. I always bring in a structural engineer who calculates the support loads and advises on the most effective solution.

creating an open plan living area in my home

Here’s my own open plan living option mid way through the project. We removed the walls between the kitchen and the utility room, as well as the non structural dining room wall. It’s made a significant improvement to our home and the way we live.

The Single Story Extension

When the removal of an internal wall just isn't enough, the next option is a single story extension. The options here are almost limitless but the common solution I'm seeing more and more is the rear facing kitchen diner with a wall of retractable glass doors leading out onto the garden patio. This type of extension makes for a wonderful home improvement. If I did have one complaint, it would be that some of these extensions lack imagination in their design but I'll hold that thought for a later post. The great thing about a single story rear extension is they are usually passed by the local planning authority without issue and the space they create is wonderful. You’ll need to watch out for the loss of garden space and think carefully about how far out you can go.

Another option is a simple side extension. They can widen a narrow kitchen without sacrificing outside space and are often a common choice for semi detached terraced properties. I usually see a small side extension combined with an internal wall removal. The side extensions often benefit with some kind of ceiling light.

All extensions involve significant upheaval and you'll have builders in and around your property for a minimum of six to eight weeks. It's likely that your financial estimates will change once you get started, so you'll need to have contingency funds in place. Common unseen issues include boiler upgrades to cope with the increased space, drainage relocation and rubble removal.

Ultimately, a rear or side extension will make a huge difference. I've fitted kitchens in some wonderful spaces and the families have been delighted with the results. Don't forget, it's not just the floor space you gain, you also have an opportunity to add ceiling options that will flood the room with light. I've worked on extensions that featured exposed beams, vaulted ceilings, roof lights and structural glass. They all looked amazing by the time they were finished. There's no doubt the open plan living space transformed the lives of each family and added considerable value to the houses they adorned.

The Conservatory Option

The good old conservatory is another great way to get that feeling of open plan living. As long as you stick to the planning stipulations, you won’t require any planning permission. This can be the best option for an ‘extension’ on a budget. One thing you’ll need to bear in mind is that conservatories can be very cold in the winter and hot in the summer. If you close your conservatory off behind a set of patio doors you won’t notice the heat issues. Unfortunately, you will loose the open plan effect you were looking for.

The Choice is Yours

So what's right for you? That's impossible for me to say without looking at your home and talking to you. I would advise you to look at your budget first and work out if you are in a realistic position to take on this type of home improvement. With the finances taken into consideration, it's a case of looking at the way you live and what you want from your home. If removing an internal wall is the most appropriate option, offering the least disruption, then I would choose that option every time. Although, you should make every effort to create a genuine open space out of the two rooms. I have seen opportunities that have been missed through poor planing and bad kitchen design. For example, I've seen several examples where the kitchen units are so dominant and located in such a way that the space still feels like two rooms despite the removal of the wall. Please don't make that mistake. It’s worth exploring alternative solutions. If your kitchen base units are located on the wall you are looking to remove, don't simply replace them after the wall is removed. If you do, you'll soon be wondering why you bothered. Speak to a kitchen designer first, look at a variety of ideas and make an informed decision.

If you think a side extension will be your best solution, remember to consider your plumbing issues. The chances are that your sink will move into the new space and moving a sink is always more complicated than you first imagine. It’s worth looking at the roof plans for a side extension. If there's an opportunity to add skylights or glass ceilings, you should consider it.

If you're going all in on a rear extension, think carefully before you start. Select a creative architect who's going to do more than slap a square box on the back of your house. Think about how it will look from the outside as well as the inside. The extension should complement the house. It needs to blend in, look fantastic, offer functionality and ultimately add value to the home you love.

If you would like to discuss your new open plan kitchen with someone who has experience and great ideas, contact me today. I can't wait to help you get started.

Here are a few examples of the open plan living spaces by Your Space Living. Feel free to browse for more in our portfolio.

open plan living example

open plan living inspiration

open plan living in Cardiff

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Jo Buckerfield is one of the most sought after kitchen designers working in South Wales today. If you need help with your project, simply click the link below. Let's start the conversation…

kitchen designer Jo Buckerfield

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