Open Concept: Why Fewer Walls Mean Lower Costs

Ryan Ong



Singaporean homes are small enough without walls. Give another century, and we’ll be genetically closer to hermit crabs than primates. So it’s not surprising that more locals opt for open concept homes these days. But the reason goes beyond style; as it turns out, fewer walls might also mean lower costs. In this article, we look at how open concepts mean cheaper (but still stylish) renovations:


What’s The Whole Open Concept Thing?

Open concepts are related to (but do not define) Modernist movements in architecture. The idea is to blend artificial and natural light, and remove the sense of barriers.

As an example, you could divide the space between rooms by changing elevation (e.g. the dining room is higher off the ground than the living room) instead of a wall. Or you can use glass panels to divide a kitchen from a dining hall.

Aesthetics aside, open concepts are trending because:

  • They lower the cost of stylings
  • They require fewer light fixtures
  • They are low maintenance
  • Their layout is free to change


Open concept apartment
This is why Interior Designers make the worst Counterstrike maps.


1. They Lower the Cost of Stylings

According to Interior Design student Terence Bachar, open concepts allow for an affordable Modern look. He says that:

Modernist and Minimalist styles prize open spaces. So if you don’t want walls and partitions, that’s probably the look you you want to achieve“.

But how does that make things cheaper?

If you really want to be on a budget, Modern is the way to go. You can have expensive Modern styles of course, but of all the styles, Modern has the best potential to be cheap.

Because if you use a Chinese design, for example, you need Chinese furniture and maybe calligraphy or paintings. If you use country house, you need false stone and ceiling beams or whatever. But if you have a Modern look, you can just buy everything from IKEA and it will still look upmarket.”

Terence claims custom furniture and stylings raise renovation costs by “about 30%”.


They made the legs from the thigh-bones of previous customers who couldn’t pay. Sign you up for both?


2. They Require Fewer Light Fixtures

When you combine open spaces and white walls, you get a lot of ambient light. Because Modern styles also implement reflective surfaces, like chrome and mirrors, a single light source gets bounced all over the room.

Terence says:

The fewer separate rooms you have, the more you will save on light fixtures. If you divide your house into kitchen, dining, study, living room and bedroom, then that’s five different rooms that need their own fixtures.

If you merge the kitchen, dining, and living room, you don’t need so much wiring or separate lamps. And of course during the day, it will be brighter because there are fewer barriers.”


Light fixture
Or you can just stick bulbs to the ends of a Kull the Conqueror prop.


But how much will we save on those fixtures?

It depends on the cost of the fixtures. But let’s say you use simple lamps for ambient lighting, which are cheaper. If you merge three rooms, just three lamps might be enough. That’s about $240. 

You want to light five separate rooms…that’s seven lamps, more for the bigger rooms. That’s about $560. If you use down lights from the ceiling, the cost can be even higher.”

But there are exceptions:

It also depends on how much accent lighting you need. If you want to hang paintings for example, then you will need track lighting. That will negate the cost savings. Probably you should use a mirror with some surface designs instead.


3. They Are Low Maintenance


I take out any more walls, you’ll be needing PARK maintenance.


Terence feels that Modern styles, which “prize functionality“, are by definition low maintenance:

You may not have to repaint or re-plaster as often. Because Singapore is hot and humid, sometimes partitions and paint develop hairline cracks. If you use wallpaper, it’s even worse; wallpaper is always very expensive. Over time it will discolour or curl. So since it’s so troublesome to upkeep your walls in this climate, it’s cheaper just to leave things open.

And what about during the initial renovation?

It’s easier and faster to do the electrical wiring because there’s less drilling. It doesn’t give you a discount, but you will find the sooner the contractor leaves the less you pay.

Open concepts use a uniform colour scheme. Maybe white and black, in even balance, or more white if you want it brighter. This is very cheap to paint, instead of having one room yellow, one room green, one room blue, and so on. And of course, false walls and partitions cost money. So the fewer the better.”

Oh, it also helps with house-keeping. Fewer walls mean fewer corners. If you have a pet, especially, that means it’s easier to mop and vacuum.


4. Layout is Easier to Change


Floor plan of a house
In Singapore, the only floor plans with this many rooms come from Cluedo sets.


Terence suggests a good way to keep things fresh is to re-arrange the interior. If you have something old school and sophisticated, like Rococo or French Country House, this costs money:

If you have a lot of accents and feature walls, later it’s very hard to change your interior. So if you get tired of it, either it will be awkward to reposition things, or you got to pay to take down partitions, drill holes, and so on.

If you just leave the space open, you can so-called ‘redecorate’ for free. Everything is free and open. You want to experiment, you can shift the carpet, the sofa…the TV maybe not, if it’s mounted on the wall. But other than that you have the option to change the layout however you want. It won’t cost anything.

It’s cheaper to change from an open style to a more detailed one, rather than the other way around.

So if you’re looking for an affordable, stylish interior, consider an open concept plan. You can see some local examples here. Also check for the cheapest renovation loans (go to MoneySmart or something) before buying.

Image Credits:
Jeremy Levine Design, rogue-designs,, Eamon, USACEpublicaffairs, army.arch

What do you think of open concept homes? Comment and let us know!

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Ryan Ong

I was a freelance writer for over a decade, and covered topics from music to super-contagious foot diseases. I took this job because I believe financial news should be accessible and fun to read. Also, because the assignments don't involve shouting teenagers and debilitating plagues.