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Pros and Cons of an Open Floor Plan

Pros and Cons of an Open Floor Plan

Open floor plans have become incredibly sought after in recent years. Especially with the rise in popularity of home improvement and remodeling TV shows that demonstrate what a change they can make in a home, open floor plans are a common request from homeowners. Before moving forward with implementing an open floor plan in your own home, here are the pros and cons that you should consider.

What is an Open Floor Plan?

Before discussing advantages or disadvantages, it’s helpful to have an understanding of what exactly an open floor plan is.

An open concept floor plan in a home is generally defined as the elimination of barriers such as walls and doors that traditionally separated distinct functional areas, such as kitchen, living room, and dining room. A house with an open floor plan will not have any walls or partial walls in the common spaces; rather heavy-duty beams carrying the weight.

Open floor plans are visually and aesthetically more “open, ” and often promote a seamless flow of common areas, with multiple rooms being combined into a single living space. These floor plans work extremely well in homes with less square footage.

History of Open Floor Plans

The open floor plan is a relatively new concept in residential home design.

Homes up until the 1940s and 1950s employed designs where a room had its own unique function: the kitchen would be a separate room, the dining room would be a separate room, and so on. Even if the divisions between rooms were only partial ( three-quarters of a wall), this was common practice. The mindset was that “the more rooms a house had, the more attractive, compartmentalized, and functional it was”.

But, after World War II, it became possible for ordinary homeowners to have houses with open floor plans, due to social and technological advances.  Open floor plans became seen as a more convenient, social option. This is also because cooking had evolved to become a social function: Mom was no longer the one always preparing the meals, and the open floor plan facilitated social interaction amongst families.

In addition, improvements in structural materials made open floor plans easier to create. “Stronger and more compact structural beams, such as the micro-laminated beam, made it easier to create open floor plans”.

Over time, designers and homeowners alike began to realize that homes with open floor plan designs could fit more
usable living space into the same amount of square footage. Today, open floor plans are more common than ever. “Cellularized,” separated rooms are seen as more “retro” and are making a design resurgence for that reason, even though they were once considered the norm!

Common Uses of Open Floor Plans

The most common use of the open floor plan is the “great room,” which combines the kitchen, dining room, and living room in one shared space. This arrangement is particularly popular because it helps the living room get more use and the kitchen gain some much-needed extra space – two of the rooms where families naturally spend more time anyways.

According to The Spruce, here are three other typical open floor plan uses:

  • Kitchen/Dining Room: Opening up a kitchen to a dining room. Often a kitchen and dining area share one common space, with a kitchen island design or peninsula serving as a visual dividing line between the two spaces.
  • Dining Room/Living Room: A dining area and living room share a common space, with unique touches like stairs, two different paint colors, or a handrail serving as a visual dividing line.
  • Kitchen/Dining/Living Rooms: All three areas may be connected.

Advantages of an Open Floor Plan Kitchen

Here are some of the top advantages of installing an open concept kitchen in your home.

Easier Traffic Flow

One of the biggest advantages and effects of installing an open floor plan is a much easier traffic flow between rooms. There’s more space to navigate, no tight corners to avoid, few doorways and doors to open and close… It’s an altogether more seamless, natural experience. Especially if you have a large family or are used to having lots of bodies in your home, and open floor plan will help create a less hectic environment for everyone.

Make Spaces Appear Larger

Open floor plans also offer the significant benefit of making spaces of any size appear larger. This is why open plans are especially good for smaller homes and can make small areas feel much larger than they actually are. If you have a home with lower square footage, an open floor plan in the common areas may be just what you need to open up the space.

Shared Light

Another benefit of opening up your common areas with an open concept floor plan is the influx of light, specifically natural light that you can create in your home. The removal of interior walls allows sunlight from windows in the exterior walls to permeate throughout the home and helps allow more natural light to reach areas of your house that would normally be blocked by walls. Fewer walls means more light.

This also means that by installing an open floor plan with lots of natural light, you can save money on buying lamps and lighting fixtures, and may even be able to decrease electricity used in your home.

Room for Lots of Furniture

If you have a knack for interior design and decoration and enjoy having lots of furniture in your home, an open floor plan may be a great choice for you. With minimal walls, there is plenty of space for additional seating, tables and accents pieces, and few limits on how you can arrange them.

Resale Value

As mentioned earlier, open floor plans are incredibly desirable in today’s housing market. By implementing an open concept in your home, you will inherently increase your home’s resale value. Open floor plans are a trend that is here to stay!

Promotes Social Interaction

The openness that accompanies this floor plan option lends itself extremely well to social interaction and is ideal for a homeowner who likes to host frequent social gatherings. In a house with an open floor plan, you can easily host a large number of guests who can socialize without splitting up into different rooms.

Furthermore, the person cooking or cleaning in the kitchen can converse with people in other rooms very easily.

Family Friendly

In that same vein, open floor plans also are a great choice for families. Great rooms allow parents to cook and do other household duties while their kids play in the same room. That way, kids are never too far out sight, and can easily be kept an eye on from most vantage points in the common areas. For families with young children, this is an especially nice benefit.

Disadvantages of an Open Floor Plan Kitchen

Here are some of the “cons” of open floor plan kitchens that you should consider before moving forward with one in your own home.

More Expensive Climate Control

With a classic, or closed-space floor plan, it is possible to heat some rooms, while leaving others unheated. But with an open floor plan, all rooms share the same heating or cooling system. Since the space is larger and more open, you have more of it to heat or cool, which could lead to higher energy bills.

Expensive to Build

As with any home or kitchen remodel, installing an open floor plan has significant costs. A lot of the costs of an open floor plan remodel have to do with the fact that it is more expensive to purchase and install microlam beams than to install conventional load-bearing walls.

For more information on what exactly you can expect before, during and after an open floor plan remodel, check out our article, What to Expect During an Open Floor Plan Kitchen Remodel.

Lack of Privacy

While open floor plans are great for families since parents can easily keep an eye on kids, this “benefit” alludes to a potential drawback of open floor plans: lack of privacy. Many households “have people contending with different ages and schedules, from babies to teenagers and grandparents or nannies that all live in the same home”. For this reason, closed floor plan homes with separate rooms may work better for families that need more privacy.

Less Sound Control

With fewer walls to block or absorb sound from room to room, open floor plans certainly offer less sound control in common areas. This means that you can expect more noise in common areas if you opt for an open floor plan.

Less Wall Space for Art Work

If you are an art enthusiast and need ample space to display your favorite works you will need wall space, which you will not find as much of in an open floor plan. In addition, depending upon the delicacy or type of art, direct sunlight may damage it. So an open floor plan, which facilitates more natural light, may not be a good choice for you.

More Upkeep Needed

Open floor plans create more openness in homes, but this also means that all common areas of your home are out in the open almost all the time. With an open floor plan, more upkeep (tidying, sweeping, vacuuming, dusting and more) may be necessary, and at a more frequent rate. It’s more difficult to “hide” messes in an adjacent room since there are fewer rooms to go around.

How to Decide if an Open Floor Plan is Right For You

Here are a few key questions that will help you determine if an open floor plan may be a good fit for your family and needs:

  • Do you enjoy entertaining or hosting large groups of people?
  • Do you enjoy cooking, baking, or spend a lot of time in the kitchen?
  • Do you prefer more modern decor?
  • Do you have the budget necessary for a home open floor plan renovation?

If the answer to any or all of those questions is “yes,” then an open floor plan may be just what you’re looking for. Conversely, if your answer to any of these questions is yes:

  • Do you prefer cozy spaces?
  • Is your home life pretty noisy?
  • Do you like to hang a lot of art on your walls?

Then you may want to think twice before moving forward with an open floor plan.

But if you do elect to move forward with an open floor plan, you can expect a host of design questions and challenges. We created this in-depth guide to Open Concept Kitchen Design Ideas to help you design the kitchen of your dreams. In it, you can find design inspiration to fit the exact form, functionality and aesthetic you’re looking to create.

Now that you know the pros and cons of open floor plan options, hopefully you will be able to make a more informed decision on whether or not this design trend is right for you.

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