03. Think Open Plan

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For most people, the size of a home is mostly just a reflection of the size of the wallet. We’re forced into smaller homes, because it’s what the budget permits. Smaller spaces don’t necessarily have to be tighter though.

What can be done with the limited space is a choice.  Do you imagine this limited sized residence as simply a scaled down version of the multi-roomed mansion of your dreams? Or do you try instead to see this space for what it is and the potential it might have?  

An open plan basically puts together several rooms into one space, removing the doors and walls that would otherwise separate them from one another.  Easy examples are a kitchen blends seamlessly into a dining area into a living room, or a master bedroom in the same space as its lavatory, and toilet and tub.

There’s criticism on issues of privacy, or noise, or smells. But in general, these can be mitigated and addressed. In general though, the openness provides more advantages than just having multiple functions in a single space.

Easy Benefits

In a passive design sense, (which means to say taking advantage of the natural environment instead of forcing electricity too cool and light our homes,)  an open plan allows for better cross ventilation, and natural lighting.  

The breeze enters through a window, goes through the room and out another window on the opposite wall.  It’s not trapped by walls, avoiding stale inner spaces.  

Daylight, both direct and reflected, carries through the space and across functions. Instead of having to rely on electricity to illuminate inner closed-in rooms, a single larger window is often enough for all but the most task lit uses. From that same window, the continuity of space also links all the entire interior to the outside, avoiding anything walled-in and claustrophobic.

The larger volume of the combined spaces produces something all-together airier, naturally lit, toward that intagingle Filipino ideal – maaliwalas.

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Soft Gains

Perhaps more important than the physical benefits, an open layout provides for a central family core.  The space becomes more flexible, multifunctional, and, most importantly, shared. It  fosters intimacy through proximity and interaction; something palatial houses with their immense bedroom suites, isolated dens, dining, living, and media rooms with three separate lanais are not be able to offer.  

The most down to earth example of this is when a parent is able to cook in the kitchen while guiding an older child through his math homework on the table, while at the same time being able to watch the toddler play in the living room.  It’s perfect for starter homes – instilling in your children a sense of family, togetherness, sharing and respect through such an intimate space.

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Sometimes having a small house or apartment isn’t a choice.  Allowing it to bring the outside in, creating the illusion of space and maaliwalas feeling by sharing the volume, and allowing it to foster intimacy and togetherness through an open shared space – is.  It’s not the rooms that make the home; it’s how we use it in community.

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