Tune into any home-design reality TV show and you’ll no doubt hear the term “open concept.” Removing walls to create open layout for the dining, living and kitchen area is what open-concept design is about. For some, separate rooms still hold their charm. Many homeowners today are taking a sledgehammer to their traditional floor plans so they can enjoy cooking, eating and movie watching all in one space.

What Started This Trend

Originally, closed layouts seemed fairly logical: You cook in a kitchen, so it was a separate room– often with a door. Living rooms were for entertaining or relaxing, and were set apart from the kitchen. However throughout the 1950s and ’60s, home builders saw the open living plan as a way to efficiently design a home using less square footage. Ranch and split-level homes became incredibly popular.

Today, architecture and decor still take their cues from economic considerations, but they also are influenced by cultural norms and a desire for convenience (multitasking, anyone?). For example, nowadays we have blurred gender roles; both parents simultaneously share cooking and child-care responsibilities. And we inhabit a tech- and media-driven world where reflecting on the day’s news during dinner is not only acceptable, but expected.

Benefits of Open Floor Plans

Open-concept living is a favorite for many reasons. It can make even the smallest space feel bigger and brighter. A studio apartment with a tiny, windowless kitchen off the living-room could be transformed into a light-filled space by replacing the wall with an island or table.

Entertaining is a breeze with an open-flow kitchen and living area. You can converse with your guests while you cook. Kitchen islands or tables that are typically used as room enclosures become a centerpiece for food and drinks.

A large “great room” is great for focusing your attention on your youngsters, too. You can efficiently cook dinner or accomplish other household tasks while interacting with your kids. Placing a desk and computer against a wall or the behind the sofa makes the room all the more multi-functional.

Challenges of Open Floor Plans

Although we rave about the space, light and flow that a large, open room gives us, there are certainly some challenges. Obviously, some privacy is lost when you eliminate walls and bring everything together. Talking on the phone in the kitchen while your kids are watching TV can be difficult. Losing wall space for your photos and artwork is another good argument to keep a wall intact. Fewer walls also means fewer wall sockets; concealing wires in a large, open area is tricky.

If you hate seeing a mess, open-concept living might not be for you, unless you live alone or have roommates who are also neat freaks. Toy chaos or messy kitchens are easily seen in open layout. Staying tidy, or at the very least having proper storage, is key for open-concept living.

Use Furnishings and Lighting to Define Areas

Take another look at separate functional spaces using furniture. Try placing a sofa backed with a console table outside the kitchen to delineate the start of the living room. Further define the living-room by placing a rug in the center of that space. Lighting also helps to define different components of a room. Anchor a table with a chandelier, or place a large ceiling fan in the center of the home.

Maintain Design Continuity

It may sound obvious, but maintaining an aesthetic flow throughout an open-concept floor plan is paramount. Fundamental design features like flooring and recessed lighting should look and feel integrated. Color palettes in different spaces should complement each other. Add layers of texture and different hues for accents and highlights.

Create a Feature in Each Area

Creating a standout design feature in each area will not only help to define each space but also make your room shine. You might try a gallery wall in the dining room. Hang an oversized chandelier in the living area, or use zebra wood for the base of your white kitchen island. Enjoy yourself and give each functional space a complementary personality.

Keep the Space Open

Allowing open views from one area to the next is essential for open layouts. Be strategic but stylish with placement; don’t clutter the sight lines with tall bookcases or inappropriately large furniture or accessories. An arch lamp over the sofa that restricts the view of the kitchen wouldn’t allow for a free flow of conversation. Be sure to keep windows and natural light unobstructed.

Open layouts certainly have their drawbacks, but the efficient utilization of space, multi-functional elements and brighter living areas make them a popular choice for today’s homeowners. What’s your preference? Do you think a great room is a great way to go, or do you like your walls and privacy? The decision is yours. Let DMJ Restorations assist your in the design build process. Contact us today for your free consultation.