The decline of the conventional floorplan and room names

Jason Orme, property expert for The Homebuilding & Renovating Show (28-31 March 2019), says:

“Our homes and the way we use them reflect the way society is changing. If we look at the history of the homes since mediaeval times, there’s a definite evolution in how we interact with our houses. There is a natural progression which took us from communal dwellings back in ancient times to properties which have become much more family centric. With this transition have come more changes. More recently, we have noticed that the conventions of how we use rooms is beginning to feel a little outdated. Demarcated rooms are becoming less relevant and a more flexible approach to the way in which we use the house is becoming much more important. What we’re asking of our houses is becoming more complex as well.

People aren’t moving as much as they did in the past so they need to change their properties more often to adapt them to their lifestyle. Because of this, they want to take more control over their living space. Homebuilding & Renovating speaks to people who want their homes to be a reflection of where they’re at as a family and where they’re at in terms of their lives.

This process started 15-20 years ago, with the evolution of kitchens as the main driver. Cooking has become more of a social affair and it has made the kitchen the central hub of the house. Currently, we want to have what I call ‘big magazine style spaces’ – the type of spaces we see all over homes magazines such as ours –  open plan living kitchens where the living, cooking and eating can all take place together. In addition, new areas emerge such as sculleries or hidden second kitchens for those who want to prepare a lot of the cooking beforehand, while the kitchen section becomes much more of a show area. In many ways, it’s almost like revisiting some of the old uses a house tended to have. A great example is the pantry, which was popular a couple of centuries ago. Because our kitchens are turning into living spaces, we don’t want to have many wall units on display so we have art, light or plenty of windows on the walls instead. For outsourcing some of the functions of the kitchen such as cooking or food storage, one can rely on a pantry as a support system. This trend is one that’s cemented itself into the home for most people but it’s happening in other areas of the house as well.

Whereas previously we would have used bedrooms purely to sleep in, now we’ve developed a living need for this space. After staying in comfortable hotels and seeing that the bedroom comes with a desk, a TV, an informal living space and an en-suite, we want to recreate this at home as well. Families with many children might need to create a sanctuary that truly belongs only to the adults while the rest of the house is very social.

Home offices
Although there is an increase in people having the flexibility of working from home, you might realise that most people may not use it as often as it was intended. I, for example, find myself sometimes working from the kitchen table because I want to be around my family, I can see what’s going on in the house and I can prepare a cup of tea with ease whenever I need one. Over the years, I think we’ll see a real decline in the more formalised areas such as the home office. This sounds almost counter intuitive, but if you’re working at 7.30pm at night you wouldn’t want to be stuck in a secluded space; you’ll want to be part of a social area where the whole family is. Being able to have the flexibility of improvising a home office desk is very important.

Living rooms
The traditional demarcation of drawing rooms and formal reception rooms is becoming much more stretched. On Saturday evening the family could gather around to watch a popular TV show, while in the afternoon the room may have been used for the kids’ playing time. During the holidays, the living room becomes a more formal entertaining space, ready to receive guests and be filled to full capacity. Because of this, living rooms need to be suitable for relaxing. The practical way to achieve a serene space is through adding in clever storage spaces. The big TV in your living room could be tucked away in a built-in cabinet or a sliding panel which conceals a whole wall. This allows you to have a tidier house for when friends are over and you want to be more laid back.

From a room usage perspective, we might see less people opting to have an open plan layout with sliding or bi-fold doors overlooking the patio. There’s increasingly a realisation that this might not be as feasible and practical in the middle of a very wet December day. In this instance, Brits might prefer having a cosy, small, enclosed, snug space or better yet, facilitate both for the situation in which it’s snowy and cold for four months and boiling hot for another four. Nobody wants to sit in a nice dark, cosy space when it’s lovely and light out; you want to be open and interacting with the outside. Equally when it’s freezing and raining you want to be snug and warm, so the room needs to reflect both situations.

The bathroom area is another space which tends to be created into a personal sanctuary. The ‘at-home spa’ feel is usually achieved through clever decoration tricks like changing the shower head, installing waterproof speakers, placing side-table stools near bathtubs, adding extra shelves or exotic houseplants. After their busy routines, people want to engage in pampering rituals and prefer to do this in the comfort of their own home.

New spaces
The biggest complaint families have is that kids from the age of 10 probably feel a bit distant from their parents as they’re in their bedrooms playing video games or browsing the internet. Adults want to have more control over their children’s leisure activities and make them more socially part of the family unit again. This will probably lead to the emergence of all kinds of playrooms that become almost like secondary living rooms where kids can enjoy themselves in their spare time. On the other hand, kids might need to start studying in their bedrooms as they’re more quiet and private areas so these might need to be turned into studies.

When people are laying out their house from scratch or when they’re planning out extension or renovation projects, it’s important to decide the space’s layout by its day and night functionality or the private and social use, not by the rooms’ names, which are fast becoming outdated.”