Trend: Broken Concept Opens Rooms While Retaining Separation of Space

Share News:

Broken 7 SM
Replacing solid walls with glass separates while unifying

There’s a new design term percolating over from Europe called “broken concept.”  I think of it as open concept 2.0.

If the point of open concept is to remove all dividing walls to combine multiple rooms, Broken Concept is about achieving openness while retaining some separation. Think of it as a halfway point between individual rooms and complete open concept.

Some homeowners are realizing that open concept is OK when there are few people in a home but the more residents added, the more privacy decreases as intrusion increases.  There is a reason we all don’t live in wall-less communal studio spaces.  Maybe you’ve just had a spat and you need some physical separation to cool off. Or the more typical reader facing off against the sports fan.

But as we know, open concept does some things really well.  It’s great for entertaining groups.  It’s great for connecting the kitchen to the rest of the house.  It’s great for increasing light transmission.  It’s great for improving sight lines.  It’s great for making several poky rooms feel much larger and grander.

Azure home that transforms from open to closed kitchen/dining depending on the need
Azure home that transforms from open to closed kitchen/dining depending on the need

Removing the fixed borders between rooms (walls) allows room functions, and their previously fixed boundaries, to be blurred. For example, when a wall separating a dining and living area is removed, the space between dining chair and sofa becomes blurred.  Depending on what’s going on, adjoining spaces can temporarily borrow from others – sliding back a dining chair into “living” space.  Above we see unit 2803 at the Azure listed with Allie Beth’s Juli Harrison.  It’s installed a recessed wall of frosted glass that can be open or closed depending on need.  These design ideas enable traffic to more freely circulate through a room.

Office/study separated from living area while retaining light
Office/study separated from living area while retaining light

Light transmission is something that can be handled by using glass partitions where a solid wall may have been before.  One of the dramatic architectural features employed today is the ability to see straight through a home’s living areas.  A glass partition wall surrounding an office or closing off a dining area still allows light to pass but retains privacy.  For traditional unseen privacy, curtains can be used to completely close off a space.

Opening a wall to the ceiling connects spaces like flooring
Opening a wall to the ceiling connects spaces like flooring

Open concept would completely connect two spaces.  Broken concept steps back from that absolute to simply remove archways and extend room connection points to the ceiling.  Sure openings can be made wider, but in making them seamless across the ceiling gives the illusion of a single space in the same way unified flooring does.

Cabinetry floating on legs appears to increase floor space
Cabinetry floating on legs appears to increase floor space

Even little visual tricks can reward.  In kitchens, another way to visually connect is to put cabinets on legs so the eye extends under the cabinet, making the room feel larger, and through seamless flooring, connected. It also delineates the kitchen without plonking down a monolithic island.

In the end, broken concept offers many of the design pluses of open concept while retaining individual, task-based spaces for privacy and separation.  And let’s not forget, we need some walls.  Without well-placed walls, kitchens lack upper cabinet real estate, living rooms lose anchor points for entertainment needs and bathrooms offer up eye-burning visuals of your partner’s morning rituals.

Remember:  Do you have an HOA story to tell?  A little high-rise history? Realtors, want to feature a listing in need of renovation or one that’s complete with flying colors?  How about hosting a Candy’s Dirt Staff Meeting?  Shoot Jon an email.  Marriage proposals accepted (they’re legal)!

Posted in

Jon Anderson

Jon Anderson is's condo/HOA and developer columnist, but also covers second home trends on An award-winning columnist, Jon has earned silver and bronze awards for his columns from the National Association of Real Estate Editors in both 2016, 2017 and 2018. When he isn't in Hawaii, Jon enjoys life in the sky in Dallas.

Reader Interactions


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *