Broken Plan Living – is it the new open plan living?


Broken plan living is a transitional movement between the modern open plan layout and traditional separated home layouts. It keeps all the functioning items we love about open plan living, but defines separate living spaces, giving an element of privacy and defining each zone as a separate function. The level of broken plan can be as open or separated as you like depending on your exact living needs.

The benefit of broken plan is that we can still utilise all the aspects that we not only love, but work so well in an open plan layout. These aspects include the vast amount of light able to enter deep into the home, the ability for air to move freely through the open spaces of the home and the moderate air temperature throughout all living zones. The ability to still be connected to the heart of the home through having all living areas connected is another huge positive of open plan living that can be replicated in a broken plan layout.

On top of having a functioning purpose, the use of broken plan can create exciting zones, providing more dynamic, interesting spaces with multiple layers within your home. Sometimes with open plan layouts, especially in larger homes, a very vast, empty, dull space can be created if not furnished and fit out correctly.

Balgowlah Heights House by Watershed Design & Fox Johnston
Product: Austral Masonry GB Veneer Honed in Nickel // Photography: Alexander Mayes


A broken plan layout can be easily created through the use of different design elements- layering and combining these elements to varying degrees to create as much or as little separation as desired. Using varying textures, steps, different sized spaces, different ceiling heights, different design elements and even different wall, floor and ceiling finishes can help in distinguishing separate living zones.

Creating an identifiable living area can be as simple as stepping a floor level up or down to give a sense of separate rooms or functions. Combining stepped floor levels with stepped ceiling levels can greatly increase this separation. With this design element, you can still have a completely open plan layout, with all the benefits of an open plan home, but the rooms themselves function in a broken plan way, with the clear definition of zones. This can be further layered with the introduction of varying materials across the different levels, such as a change of floor or ceiling material, giving the final fine turning to a multi layered zone.

Whilst a step up in floor levels still creates a very open feeling home, creating a broken plan layout with a greater sense of separation between zones and increased privacy can also be achieved. Care must be taken not to include too many solid walls and doors which eliminate the benefits of open plan such as light and ventilation. A great way to include more separation, but still allow light, ventilation and even human connection to pass through these rooms is through division walls.

Leederville House by Klopper & Davis ArchitectsProduct: Bowral Bricks 50mm Gertrudis Brown // Photography: Dion Robeson

One trend currently strong in the design industry is brickwork and a sub trend of this is hit and miss brick walls. This is essentially where either random or patterned bricks are missing from the wall allowing a certain amount of light, ventilation and even visual views to pass through the wall. The benefit of hit and miss brick walls is that you can still have natural light and breezes passing through, whilst creating an eye catching design element that also opens up more furnishing options, creating a partition wall to abut furnishings against.

Breeze blocks, as the name suggests, work in a similar way, only with larger open spaces in the blocks allowing more light and ventilation to pass through the wall. Breeze blocks also allow for a more visual connection between spaces with the larger breeze block holes. Again, these blocks can be used in an aesthetic way, creating an eye catching design element whilst also being used to abut furnishing against.

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