Open floor plans are commonplace in new homes today, but is it just their popularity carrying them, or are there more benefits to the collaborative and communicative spaces dominating home construction? Let’s dive a little deeper into the open concept plan and figure out what, exactly, makes it so beloved.
What does Open Floor Mean?
First, let’s get some definitions out of the way. An open floor plan, also called open concept, is any floor plan combining two or more rooms that are traditionally divided with a floor-to-ceiling wall and, possibly, a door.
Half walls separating the kitchen and living room? Still open concept. Screen divider sectioning off the game room? Because it’s movable, still an open floor plan. As long as you can engage with people in multiple rooms without a permanent wall between you, it qualifies.
Is Open Concept a Fad?
Nowadays, yes, but the trend has very pragmatic roots. Having multiple rooms in a home has long been a sign of wealth, and, historically, large homes also had a staff who maintained the home; servants required private, hidden quarters in which to work, eat, and sleep. Thus, complex homes with multiple, closed-off rooms became the norm.
As families modernized, however, it became the norm for family members to take on household chores and everyday tasks. Homes no longer required quite so many closed-off rooms; in fact, it was more helpful to have a space where older members of the family could both complete household tasks and keep an eye on children. Add this to home innovations (central heating did away with a fireplace in every room), new construction practices (removing the need for so many load-bearing walls), shrinking housing lots (great houses becoming a privilege for the excessively rich), and the relaxed lifestyle (less Victorian mannerism, more modern lounging with popcorn and wine) and eventually, you reach the modern open floor plan.
What are the Benefits of an Open Floor Plan?
The most often-cited benefit of open concept is the ease it brings to social situations. Dining together has become a common ways to share quality time with others, and a floor plan merging the kitchen and living space allows whoever is prepping food to engage in conversation.
The expanded space also means it’s easy to bring in additional seating for guests, while still leaving plenty of space to maneuver around one another without feeling crowded or imposing on the host’s prep space.
Access to Natural Lighting
Another argument in favor of open floor plans is they allow natural light to reach more spaces. The afternoon sun that warms your favorite reading spot can also create a scenic background in the dining room, or light the kitchen without having to turn on fluorescents.
A lot of this has to do with the orientation of your home, so be sure to plan which direction your home will face accordingly. Think about which views you want to take in, as well as which rooms would benefit from being warmed by the morning or afternoon sun; for lovers of natural light, open floor plans are a huge game changer.
Whether you’ve got little ones running around, furry friends that like to get into trouble, or have just watched too much true crime, open concept designs allow you to assess a certain space with just a quick glance. This can be perfect for the child or pup parent who needs to be in one space, but wants to keep an ear and eye open to shenanigans occurring in the room over.
Plus, the natural light bonus mentioned above? The expanded windows also mean you’ll see outside just as easily, so if little ones are in the backyard you’re able to keep an eye on them while still enjoying the air conditioning.
Expands a Small Space
If the massive home of your dreams doesn’t line up with your significantly less massive budget, consider the open floor plan as a way to make your home larger than life. Instead of making an average sized living room feel even smaller with looming walls, open it up to the kitchen or dining space. This will also give you more flexibility with arranging furniture: If you’re truly in need of more space in your living room, shift furniture so it crosses over into what would traditionally just be dining space.
Eliminates Wasted Space
Efficiency dominates our lives in a lot of ways, and that extends into the home. Want to get the most use out of your floor space? Fewer walls means more square footage for your electronics, collections, seating arrangements, and anything else you might need.
How Do I Define Space in an Open Floor Plan?
This is a bit tricky, because while plenty of homeowners love open concept spaces, they also still enjoy order and structure within the home. This means finding the balance between a space where energy, light, and communication flow easily without having your sofa in the kitchen or the guest bed next to the dining table.
An often-utilized resource is furniture; a well-placed bookshelf or a table angled just so can do wonders to help the brain create imaginary parameters. Think about how conversations will be flowing: Do you want those in the living room to focus conversation around the coffee table? Ensure your seating faces each other to create a sort of enclosed space. Alternatively, if you’re having plenty of people over and want conversation to flow equally throughout the floor, try moving your couch to one side of the living room so it doesn’t act as a barrier to the rest of the space.
For more permanent definitions, give some thought to wall décor and overall design. Subtle changes in color schemes and patterns as you move into each new “room” in the open area will help separate the spaces, similar to how you would design a multipurpose bonus room. You don’t need to go quite as drastic as green walls to pink carpet to a yellow ceiling, but instead think about using varying hues of the same color.
Are Open Concept Homes Here to Stay?
More than likely. The versatility of the open floor plan embodies what a lot of first-time homeowners are looking for: An emphasis on social interaction, increased connection with the natural world, and an efficient use of space. What’s not to love?
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