The modern architecture movement saw a rejection of the compartmentalised house, removing physical divisions and separation of daily activities. But as we moved to embrace the open plan layout, many also began to crave respite in seclusion, retreat, and boundaries. Connections between the private and social spaces and activities of the home create a sense of harmony; whilst providing the means to separate them allows the residents to adapt their space according to changing situations and needs. Division and connection enter into a fluid interplay.
There are various ways to achieve division, connection, and a hybrid of the two. Through the use of movable partitions, changing levels, and a variety of materials, we can create gradients of openness and closure. The home of today is no longer a static space. It instead should adapt to the many demands and opportunity’s of the changing world we live in.
Movable partitions and full-height sliding doors create a seamless and open interior, connecting the various spaces of the home. By opening up these spaces we can allow natural light to penetrate further into these otherwise closed spaces. Here, the bathroom can borrow space and light from the neighboring bedroom, appearing larger and brighter than if shut behind a door. However, the very same space can be completely shut off from the rest of the house when these partitions or doors are pulled closed. This enables a visual and sound barrier to be introduced when the residents desire peace and quiet or privacy. Sliding partitions could be used to connect or divide any number of spaces within the home; bedrooms, bathrooms, living spaces, kitchens or offices.
Here is another example of sliding doors being used to adapt the bedroom space. Attached to a track at the top, the doors can slide across either way. A frosted glass panel accompanies two white sliding panels.These various materials used for the sliding doors alter the atmosphere and light conditions of the space, creating an obscured visual link that affords a degree of privacy while keeping the bedroom connected to the room beyond.
The stair is one of those architectural tools that are both divisive and connective at the same time. A change in level, which the stair mediates, instantly creates separation. But when a stairway is employed as an open and transparent passage, as it is here, it creates connection between these otherwise separate levels. Even the simplest change in level, in the form of a raised platform or single step can identify a space as separate. Floating steps or the absence of a traditional balustrade can encourage a sense of openness between the levels, allowing light to filter through the upper level to the one below. For more on all things stairs, take a look at: Choosing your staircase design.
Transparent or translucent materials can create physical or sound divisions, whilst providing visual connection and allowing light to permeate. These translucent tiles bounding the kitchen are a more literal transparency than that created with visual links between changing levels or spatial arrangements, but effective nonetheless. The choice of materials can create a continuum of effects, acting to both divide and connect. Translucent materials, like that used here, obscure visual links. Mesh screens or other perforated surfaces can have a similar effect.
Beyond connection and division within the home, the enclosure itself acts to separate the private space of dwelling from the public space outside, sheltering it from natural elements. The use of large sliding, bi-fold or stacking doors, allows this interior space to be completely opened up to the outdoors. This creates a seamless transition between inside and out. When we are ready to retreat back into the warm, cosy, and safe confines of our home these can be pulled closed to once again divide our inside world from the outside world. Our homes become adaptable to the changing time, seasons and weather.
In this house, designed by Hyla Architects, the transition between outside and in is thickened; an interstitial space that feels neither entirely inside nor entirely outside is formed. It creates an opportunity to experience these two conditions of outside and inside simultaneously. The relationship between division and connection, outside and inside uses a variety of materials to create a continuum of effects. The inner boundary is mediated with large glass sliders, while the outer boundary is established with a geometric screen inspired by nature that obscures light and views, creating a stronger sense of privacy between the inner world or the home and the outside world.
The bathroom of this house by Hyla Architects, cantilevers dramatically into the outdoor space. The sunken bath and shower are afforded privacy through a layering of battened walls. The battened walls also act to connect this space of renewal to the outdoors, softly filtering natural light in and creating a calming ambiance. This balance between privacy and connection is particularly hard to achieve in bathrooms; the space in our homes where we desire the most privacy. Yet, the architects have successfully realised this balance in a manner that is both artful and effective.
Hopefully this has inspired some ideas around creating an open, yet flexible home. Once you have settled on the big design moves, you may be interested in some ideas for the smaller details; take a look at Novel designer furniture for your home.