If you lived in an open concept space while quarantining with your family over the past couple of years, this might have been something you screamed at least once.
Maybe even once a day.
Parents found themselves working from the kitchen table, kids had to find a spot for remote learning, and pets that once had the house to themselves during the day, were now happy to have the extra company. A little too happy in some cases, as unwanted Zoom appearances by cats or background noise from barking dogs became the norm.
March of 2020. None of us have forgotten what this very weekend-- two years ago-- was like when a global pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization.
All of the activity our homes now had to support was compounded for those living, working, learning, and cooking in one big open space during quarantine and lock downs.
But who could have seen that coming when the coveted open concept floor plan, which appeared mid-century, started gaining popularity in the 70's?
By 1990, builders were largely creating houses centered around an oversized single space-- usually a kitchen/great room combo. Interior designers have done their part to help this along by taking down prewar walls (as long as they weren't load bearing) to allow light, air, and the homes occupants to travel easily throughout.
SPACES SEEM BIGGER-- even a small house looks and feels much larger with an open concept floor plan, without adding any square footage. Older homes tend to be filled with nooks and crannies and lots of little separate private spaces which can make a house feel chopped up. Taking those walls down changes sight lines, and gives the illusion of more space.
LOTS OF LIGHT-- without walls blocking sun streaming in from windows in other rooms, it can now bathe a much bigger space. Open concept allows the light to come in and homes instantly feel airy and brighter.
FAMILY TOGETHERNESS-- there is nowhere to hide once rooms are united, so family time is much easier to have when everyone is in the same space. Being able to watch little kids easily is a plus, and so is forcing the bigger ones to spend time with us without them realizing it.
ENTERTAINING EASE-- having lots of people together for celebrations or special occasions is easy breezy. No one feels cramped or disconnected from what's going on and you can have one big festive feel without much effort.
But open concept isn't all sunny days, movie nights, and big family feasts. All that closeness can create conflict of its own, as we learned these last past couple of pandemic years.
NOISE-- you hear everything, everywhere, all the time. Without walls to absorb the sound, the barking dog, fighting kids, and blaring TV combine to make a problematic potpourri of audible chaos.
SMELLS CARRY-- Ew, I know, but think about it. Inevitably, someone's strong morning cologne, last night's lingering fish dinner, or the scent wafting from the cat's (ahem) contribution to the new rug, is going to intermingle aromatically in a single open space. Your upholstery will also absorb whatever is lingering in the air.
Ok I'm actually grossing myself out writing this. You get the gist, I'm moving on...
CLUTTER IS KING-- the mess in the kitchen shows in the great room, the mess in the great room shows in the entryway, whatever is awry in one space is awry in another because everything is wide open all the time. If you don't have a threshold for clutter, or you don't have time to constantly clean, this floor plan might be a challenge for you-- and your sanity.
DESIGN DILEMMAS-- decorating a room is one thing, but decorating an enormous space that needs to do profoundly different things within the same sightline can be tricky. The kitchen design needs to correspond with the family room, eating area and whatever else you can see in the same space. Getting it all to function while still looking and feeling finished and tied together is a whole "thing." So careful consideration must be taken to get it right.
Personally-- I live in an open concept space and I mostly love it, but I do experience some of the downsides we just discussed, so it's not a complete love affair for me.
As I write this I can hear my daughter making a TikTok with a friend, my son teasing her as he walks past, my husband doing the dishes (I know, so lucky) and our Yorkie barking at all of the above. Once my husband starts heating something up in the kitchen I'll know what he's making before I even look up to see what it is because I'll smell it. Not a horrible thing.
Good ol' open concept!
And by the way, I have helped create my fair share of it. I have torn down walls for clients but I've also been asked to build them, especially since COVID. So really what it gets down to is making sure your floor plan works for you, no matter what it is.
Where do you lean? Do you LOVE IT or would you LEAVE IT?
Let's meet in the comments below... ;)