Open Floor Plans -- Pros and Cons

I got to thinking recently about how open floor plans are currently so popular and wondered how people felt about the idea that have lived in open-plan homes, or think they might want to.  My first thought at the time was “Aw, man, I’ll need to keep the kitchen clean!  No more piles in the kitchen sink!”

The mindset used to be that the more rooms a house had, the more attractive, compartmentalized, and functional it was. But designers and homeowners alike started realizing that homes with open floor plan designs could fit more usable living space into the same amount of square footage. 

Fast forward maybe 20 years, and spacious homes with fewer walls are more popular than ever.  Just for starters, I’m sure you’ll find that people agree that living rooms tend to be underused, and creating a “great room” by combining the kitchen and living or family room (or both) can help the living room get more use and the kitchen gain some much-needed extra space.   Beyond that basic concept, you can take a variety of combinations of spaces and functions and make a single space that includes multiple uses within a single living space.  Turn on a home renovation show, and you're likely to see wild-eyed homeowners with sledgehammers knocking down walls to open the kitchen to the family room. Walls have become the enemy it seems like.

These floor plans usually work extremely well in homes with less square footage – sometimes out of necessity – while larger homes have more leeway to work with when integrating great rooms into a floor plan. Efficiency apartments and urban lofts may have led the charge towards open plans when designers put their thinking caps on to get the most out of less in high-dollar locations.  Here’s a good example of going further with the concept than you might dare to do:

Dang, not only do I have to wash the dishes, but I need to make the bed!

Advantages of Open Floor Plans
·        More social time. The person cooking or cleaning in the kitchen can converse with people in other rooms. 
·        Keep an eye on the kids. Great rooms allow parents to cook and do other household duties while their kids play in the same room.  That is a definite safety feature.
·        Increase views and natural light. The removal of interior walls allows sunlight from windows in the exterior walls to permeate throughout the house.  More natural light means less need to use electricity.
·         Better for entertaining. When guests are over you can be part of the group while you cook and serve food at the same time. 
·         Because so many spaces now flow together, wall and furnishing colors can be kept the same, or nearly so, simplifying choices.

Disadvantages of Open Floor Plans
·        The person cooking or cleaning in the kitchen can converse with people in other rooms, so there’s no need to ever LEAVE the kitchen.
·         What DOES leave the kitchen is the smell of whatever you’re cooking.  The whole house is the kitchen.
·        You may need to work harder to clean/contain messes. You may prefer an enclosed playroom for kids or rooms with doors that can keep messes out of the main rooms, making you look and feel like a better housekeeper.  Think about the “kiddie litter” if you have young children.  Ever have unexpected guests drop in?
·        Yes, you can see your toddlers, but your toddlers can see you, too.  I heard one couple who used to go into the laundry room to shove a snack into their faces so that the babies wouldn’t see and start wailing for some.  Some folks drop down behind the kitchen island like they’d heard “incoming” in order to have a cookie.
·         Lack of privacy may be a problem. Many households have people contending with different ages having different activities and schedules, from babies to teenagers and grandparents or nannies that all live in the same home.  Enclosed spaces may work better in a house where everyone needs their space.
·         For the same reason you may need Sound Control. Enclosed spaces may work better in a house where there are differing needs for quiet.
·         Because so many spaces now flow together, wall and furnishing colors tend to be kept the same, which can be boring.

Anyone with thoughts or comments on this topic? 

By the way, in case you are inspired by the above to make plans to move into an open plan house or OUT of an open plan house, you know I would be glad to help you buy or sell!  

Jim Pedicord RE MAX  Top Realty

281-610-7847 Cell
713-558-2537 Direct
713-773-3700 x 2537 Office  
713-773-3311 Fax
2911 S. Sam Houston Pkwy. E.   Houston, TX 77047


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