It sounds so great, doesn’t it? An “open floor plan?” One envisions soaring, light-filled spaces; coordinated furniture; plenty of room for family and friends to relax…
I hate to break it to you, Gentle Readers, but open floor plans present some challenges. Before you buy an open-plan home or renovate to create one, here are some things to consider.
- Open floor plans can be loud. With limited privacy. Because everyone is within earshot of one another.
Picture your house during the winter holidays. Not the fantastic, Martha-Stewart-approved holiday MEAL that we plan all year for, but the less glamorous part of family holidays. The day AFTER the meal. When your spouse, children, parents, a sibling, the sibling’s children, and a stray friend are all hanging out in the same space, because it’s sleeting and no one can rally for a trip to the Smithsonian.
The loudest activity — whether it’s the TV, the board game, the polite disagreement about how to store leftovers — will dominate the entire space.
- Open floor plans can be tough for parties. When you walk into a house with an open floor plan, don’t you think, “Wow! This would be GREAT for parties!” Well, it can be, inasmuch as your guests can see with one sweeping glance who else is in attendance.
But from a practical standpoint, parties benefit from closed-off kitchens. If there’s no delineation between behind-the-scenes and the-scenes-themselves, the guests feel they’re in the way, and the helpers feel it would be rude to claim the space they need to stage and serve. Plus the party debris is right there in the open: dirty dishes, corks, food wrappers…which leads me to the next point.
- Open floor plans require tidiness. I used to think I was tidy. Before I met my husband, that is. Before I had children. When I was single, my countertops were relatively clear, laundry generally was in or near the laundry basket, and bills usually were in some semblance of a stack.
But now? Forget it. I’m so grateful for the vertical lifestyle townhouses beget. I can clean up one floor, and if I stay there, I can trick myself into thinking that the rest of the house looks tidy, too.
With an open floor plan, your life, the mess…it’s all horizontal, spread out in front of you. One untidy area, and that’s the first place your eye goes.
Look. There are many, many pros to open floor plans. That’s why everyone loves them. There are few things more elegant than a pristine, wide-open home with spare, carefully chosen furniture and all signs of life tucked neatly away.
I’m merely suggesting that if you’re considering open-plan living, take a moment to compare the beautiful ideal I’ve just described with the way you actually live.
I just want you to know what you’re getting into.
Quoted in publications from The New York Times to The Washington Post to Real Simple magazine, Annie Elliott is an expert in color, residential space planning, and telling people what to do in the nicest way possible. Her interior design firm, bossy color, is based in Washington, D.C. If a picture above has no link or attribution, it’s because I found it on Pinterest and couldn’t get to the source. If you have information about those pictures, please let me know!