Open plan and the introvert

Open plan and the introvert


I’ve just finished reading the book “Quiet” by Susan Cain. It is a wide-ranging exploration of the difficulties (and hidden advantages) of being an introvert in a society (the USA) that seems only to value more extroverted personality traits. Being somewhat of an introvert myself, a lot of the book struck a chord with me. One of the interesting bits (for me anyway) was about the kinds of spaces that introverts gravitate towards in order to recharge their batteries – small, enclosed, private, quiet…


A lot of the time, when I am out looking at making changes to the layout of a house for someone, the starting point is the desire to get a larger, more social space to form the hub of the home – somewhere where the family (and occasional visitors) can be in the same room together. Usually this is a kitchen / dining space, or else a kitchen / dining / living space. There are of course very good reasons for doing this, and most of the houses I see do need changes made in order to get a space that fits this function, whether that involves extending or opening up rooms into each other.


But… I have also noticed an undercurrent of unease with the idea of living with such open spaces. There are a lot of people (introverts maybe?) who seem uncomfortable with open plan living but who almost feel that they shouldn’t say anything – as if to do so would show them up in some way. It’s funny how this parallels the descriptions in Susan Cain’s book of introverts coping with / conforming to extroverted expectations, in work, in social settings, in school etc. – as if there is something wrong with wanting (needing!) to be on your own with a book, and if you feel that way you should keep quiet about it.


I don’t think it is the case that my more introverted clients don’t also want a social space, but I often find myself having discussions about how to hive off a smaller area for more quiet activities, a kind of antidote to the big open area – even in quite small houses where opening the whole lot up might be the more obvious solution. It can help sometimes that the need to leave supporting walls in place often means such nooks and small rooms are a practical way to use available space when making changes to a house. And it helps that that these “leftover” spaces can be quite small as there is usually another, larger space that covers the more social activities that happen in a house – even the house of one or more introverts.

Please add a comment

Posted by James on
Interesting article. Being quite introverted I am certainly drawn towards smaller, fuctional, and well insulated spaces. The whole tiny house movement that is taking off is something that interests me a lot. I often wonder where the person lies on the introvert/extrovert scale when looking at container homes and the like. There is definitely some correlation I think
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small spaces is a one-man architectural practice dedicated to helping people find the best way to add space to their home, or to make the most of what they’ve got. You can find out more here.