Open floor plans are all the rage in new homes. Truth be told, it’s one home design trend that’s been raging for well over a hundred years. Frank Lloyd Wright has been designing open floor plans for homes since the early 20th century. In fact, one of Wright’s open plan sketches made it to a 1901 issue of Ladies Home Journal. Whatever implication this may have to the liberation of women (bringing the kitchen into the common area as opposed to shutting it and her away behind a wall) there is an unmistakable allure to the open floor plan. Whether you’re building up or tearing down some walls in your home, the open floor plan has its ups and downs and everything in between.
Perhaps the biggest draw to an open floor plan is that there’s no separation of the activity. Think about when you have friends over for holiday parties or social events, like the Super Bowl or The Oscars. Somehow, the hostess always ends up in the kitchen putting the finishing touches on dinner, or cleaning up the aftermath. And all their friends travel with them. Your party usually winds up being split into groups. To be completely conventional, women in the kitchen and men in front of the tv. Boooooooo! One, those days are as archaic as their assigned gender roles. Two, where’s the fun in that? The point of having a group over is to have group involvement.
This is what an open floor plan does best. It opens the space and makes one cohesive room floating from tv, to dining, to kitchen without ever losing anyone in a conversation. It facilitates larger parties as well as there are barely any walls to be pressed up against or entrances to block. The overall flow is easier and freed up by less wall. Sure, there will be a support beam here and there, but they aren’t nearly as cumbersome.
Pitfalls? What? There are no pitfalls to open floor plans. You might think that. But that’s the way the cookie crumbles. There are positives and negatives to every situation. Open floor plans are no exception. Putting it bluntly, there’s no solitude or escaping in an open floor plan. Like George W. Bush said, the thing about the Oval Office is there’re no corners where you can hide. The same is figuratively true of the open floor plan. In some of Frank Lloyd Wright’s houses, he really goes for it and the houses are just one long hallway. Imagine trying to find solace in that space with a child or two? For the bachelorette, maybe. It’s open and welcoming to guests, yet all her own at the end of the day. But even for a married couple, sometimes it’s just nice having a little sanctuary to flee to when you need a little personal time and space. On the other hand, if you are living single in a giant stretch of open home space, the loneliness can feel overwhelming. So much space for one person.
Aside from the mental drawback of an open floor plan, they tend to be more expensive to build, heat and cool, and they require more work to keep looking tidy. With an open kitchen, especially, having dirty dishes and food messes for all to see just mucks up the entire room. It’s not like you can just shove those dirty dishes in the closet or under a bed. Because there are no walls, HVAC can’t set up any heating/cooling zones that contain the heat and air to a smaller space. Instead you have a large space that takes longer to reach its desired temperature, and more energy to maintain that temperature. You can work around this by adding heated floors to your home, but again, that’s an additional cost to the homeowner.
There’s also less room for storage space and artwork. Minimalism might be your thing and power to you. There’s always room for a gorgeous green Money Tree or fern somewhere. And you could work around the storage space by adding bench seating around the perimeter of the room and hollowing those benches out for hidden storage space under the hinged seats. But again, one more element to be custom built.
And unfortunately for already built structures, it may not even be structurally possible for the conversion. You might be able to get away with a half wall or larger support pillars, but if your home can’t sustain the open floor plan as it’s built then that’s just the way it is.
Don’t Be Discouraged!
None of this is meant to sway you one way or the other. Ultimately, if you love to entertain and crave a more modern, minimalist lifestyle – and you’re totally on top of keeping dishes and food messes neutralized at all times – then have at the open floor plan! If you truly do cherish being able to close a door on a room or noise, maybe compromise with an open living, dining, and kitchen area and keep your bedrooms cloistered like the intimate sanctuary they’re meant to be. There is no limit to your imagination and with the right contractor to take you where you want to go, you can have your dream house as open or closed as you desire. Just be sure to seriously consider the cost and effect of such a dramatic choice.