The open floor plan — championed by early modernists Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius, among others — is as relevant today in home design as it was in the early 20th century. But modern life still requires, at varying times, functional, aesthetic, visual and auditory isolation. The following examples explore the intersection of openness and isolation, showing how we can provide separation without losing the openness we crave.
Room within a room. The designer of this loft in Minneapolis skillfully addressed the idea of connected separation. Two freestanding leaf-shaped curved partitions conceal an office space in the larger room. The workspace is anchored in the thicker, heavier mass (on the right), while the floating screen wall conceals a collection of books. The freestanding object in space is sculptural and made lighter by the canvas-like floating screen.
The design reinforces the physical separation with different materials used on the inside of the workspace too. Here the warm backdrop of the wood tones picks up on the floor and creates a more intimately scaled space.
The room-within-the-room concept works well when the bounding walls of the space appear to float, as they do here. This allows the larger space a presence on the inside of the smaller space and a sense of the smaller interior space when viewed from the larger room.
Thick wall. A freestanding partition can act as a container supporting the function of spaces. This integrated, thick wall can both conserve the open-plan layout and provide separation when needed. It works well in this kind of configuration, flanked by pocket doors. While the entire space isn’t open to the adjacent areas, it offers a sense of both openness and enclosure. The pocket doors make this marriage possible by lending the ability to completely close off the bedroom.
Design Workshop: How to Separate Space in an Open Floor Plan