One of the longest-standing trends in home design is open floor plans, where rooms aren’t separated by walls but rather unified into one large space. It’s one of the most popular requests among homebuyers. ”Occasionally we get a client who wants to compartmentalize rooms, but it’s usually to hide the kitchen,” says architect Christopher L. Pattey of the Becker Morgan Group in Dover, Del.
Part of the appeal of open floor plans is that it prompts togetherness and signals a more modern, less traditional lifestyle. “Family members want to share experiences and open floor plans allow people to perform different tasks while they share the same space,” Pattey adds.
Most open floor plan designs combine the kitchen, dining and living space into what’s often called a great room, which means one person can be at the kitchen island with an iPad, another watching TV, someone cooking and another doing homework — all within eyesight of each other.
If you have limited space, an open floor is a perfect solution. Walls, hallways and doorways can rob you of valuable space. “When you take them out, it makes more use of the footprint,” says Pattey.
For those who like to entertain, open floor plans are also a great way to maintain intimacy while still allowing guests room to roam. After all, the kitchen is not only the hub of a family, but of a good party, too.
One of the benefits of established trends like open floor plans is that as much as they’ve evolved over time, they’ve also improved. This means an experienced builder or designer easily can help you avoid common pitfalls while reaping the benefits of an open floor plan:
Let’s Start With the Noise Factor
When rooms with multiple functions spill into each other, the sound can be deafening, especially if kitchen appliances and TVs are on at the same time that people are talking or playing with gadgets, for example.
Try incorporating sliding pocket doors to split off a noisy play room or to let someone have privacy to do homework or take a phone call. This will give your open floor plan flexibility.
“I call it designing convertible spaces,” Pattey says. “There may be times when you are having a big party and you want to slide those doors back into the wall to enlarge the space.”
This idea is ideal for doors and windows that open to the outdoors. There are times during the year when you may feel a dramatic difference in the size and feel of your home.
To maintain character, Pattey often gives ceilings different treatments, incorporates columns or changes the flooring to delineate a space. This allows a room to flow and function easily while also providing intimacy and charm, so it doesn’t feel like a giant ballroom. “There are no hard and fast rules regarding when to do these delineations and when not; you just want it to feel right,” says Pattey. “Some houses are big just for the sake of being big. These changes can add warmth and keep it from feeling so voluminous.”
Another Issue is Clutter
Lots of people doing lots of different things in one area equals a whole lot of stuff. Hence why most open floor plans provide plenty of built-in storage, often the kind that blends in with the architecture.
One quick trick is to have a butler’s pantry right off the kitchen, so you can hide pantry goods and bulky appliances you don’t use every day. “A lot of people refer to it as an anti-space between a kitchen and dining room, but it doesn’t have to be,” says Pattey. “We design spaces that combine cabinetry, shelving and maybe a cleanup area, so the open kitchen can look cleaner and less cluttered.” You can hide everything and stay together without the eyesore, especially if you’re entertaining.
Another benefit of the built-in storage common in open floor plans is that it provides a place to store all the power cords and chargers required to keep tech gadgets functioning properly.
Whatever your home’s layout is, there are usually ways to make better use of space and open floor plans are one easy and family-friendly way to achieve that.
Ana Connery is former content director of Parenting, Babytalk, Pregnancy Planner and Conceive magazines as well as parenting.com.
While editor in chief of Florida Travel & Life magazine from 2006-2009, she covered the state’s real estate and home design market as well as travel destinations.
She’s held senior editorial positions at some of the country’s most celebrated magazines, including Latina, Fitness and Cooking Light, where she oversaw the brand’s “FitHouse” show home.
Ana’s expertise is frequently sought after for appearances on “The Today Show,” “Good Morning America” and CNN. She has interviewed the country’s top experts in a variety of fields, including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and First Lady Michelle Obama.