Interior design trends come and go. For a while, everyone wanted a clean, neutral color palette with earthy tones and soft, golden details. Suddenly, things shifted to bold, dark colors that gave an element of drama to every room. Industrial design was it for a time, but now everyone wants a more modern, sleek look.
However, a trend that shows no signs of fading away any time soon is open concept living.
Open floor plans can make even the tiniest of homes feel spacious and elegant. They allow for plenty of natural light to hit every corner of the room and create a warm, welcoming environment. Still, they do have some downfalls.
Learn what open concept floor plans are all about and familiarize yourself with some of its greatest benefits and downfalls.
Let’s start with the basics – what is the open floor plan? In a nutshell, it’s a floor plan that combines two or more rooms into a single space.
Areas like kitchens and living rooms that would traditionally be separated by floor-to-ceiling walls become a unified room under the open-plan concept.
Of course, you could still have some dividers between the spaces in open floor plans. You can use half-walls, mobile screen dividers, divider curtains, and even glass partitions in open-concept floor plans to visually separate the areas while still giving a spacious feeling.
Since many of the floor-to-ceiling walls in this architectural style are removed, you’ll commonly find at least a few heavy-duty load-bearing beams for support. Depending on how you style them, they can serve as excellent decor that creates different zones in an otherwise unified space.
It goes without saying that an open concept floor plan doesn’t mean that every single interior wall is removed. After all, regardless of how much you love open spaces, everyone still needs some privacy in their homes. Therefore, much of the open floor plan actually has plenty of closed-plan space.
Bathrooms, bedrooms, closets, and offices will still be physically divided into separate spaces – unless we’re talking about small studio apartments. Only the “communal” areas will be combined under the open floor plan, including kitchens, dining rooms, and living rooms under different configurations.
Most commonly, open concept homes will combine the kitchen and the dining room since it’s the most practical option. You’ll frequently find visual room dividers such as kitchen islands that break the space apart into two separate zones. Another way to make these areas seem a bit more separate is by using different flooring – hardwood floors in the dining room and tiles in the kitchen, for instance.
Of course, you can also combine the dining area and the living room. A great way to visually separate these zones is by using short stairs or painting the “rooms” in different colors.
The least frequent configuration is combining the living room and the kitchen into a single space while keeping the dining room separated. It’s not very practical and makes the space feel like it’s missing something.
Finally, the true pinnacle of the open-concept interior is combining the big three – kitchen, dining area, and living room – into a single space. It creates an excellent flow and allows you to truly maximize the use of the space you have available.
Open-concept floor plans are a relatively new trend in interior design, setting their roots after WW2 and becoming the dominant element in architecture only around the 1990s.
Before WW2, much of European (and subsequently western) architecture was rather basic, at least regarding the floor plans. While many homes were spacious, each room with a specific function was separated from the others, connected only by central hallways. Kitchens, especially, were placed at the very back of the house, as they were considered a service rather than entertainment areas.
After the war, culture and architecture changed. Families were growing, houses started becoming smaller, and there was a need for more practical home environments where parents could keep an eye on their children while doing chores. Kitchens became the central social areas, and sprawling open spaces became exceptionally modern. Hence the birth of the open floor plans.
Today, open concept plans are the norm, and you’ll rarely see a modern building design that doesn’t combine at least two of the three most common communal areas into one.
Open floor plans offer significant advantages, helping you turn any old house into a home. Some of its significant benefits include:
With no barriers that could separate you from your household members and guests while you’re cooking dinner, doing the dishes, or setting the table, you’ll find it easier to keep the conversation going and keep yourself and your guests entertained.
Open floor plans create a seamless transition from one room to another, allowing for a better traffic flow and a more unified space.
Open floor plans are in high demand, meaning homebuyers are willing to spend more money on a home that combines communal areas into a single space.
Without walls that separate the rooms, your house will have much more natural light coming in freely through all the windows. If you want to visually separate the different zones in your open floor plan, it’s best to use glass partitions as they’ll let in more light.
You can easily play around with different furniture and decor configurations anytime you like and create room layouts however you see fit. Not to mention that you can create multifunctional spaces, combining your office, entertainment area, playroom, family room, and more into a single area.
Regardless of how appealing it is, the open floor plan has some drawbacks:
Regulating the temperature can become costly when you have an open concept home since it’s much more difficult to heat or cool a larger area. Make sure that you invest in proper insulation if you want to keep your utilities down.
A little bit of clutter quickly becomes an eyesore in open concept homes. It’s more challenging to conceal any mess you or your kids make, so you’ll need to work harder to keep the place looking nice and tidy.
If you have a large family or frequent visitors, it can be a challenge to get any privacy unless you confine yourself to your bedroom.
It’s much more difficult to decorate an open concept area. There’s not enough room for wall art and decor, and making the space feel warm and cozy is challenging. Unless you know exactly what you’re doing, you can make your communal areas feel plain and empty.
While the open floor plan can be difficult to master, it has too many benefits to ignore. It’s the pinnacle of modern design, allowing you to play around with different configurations that suit your lifestyle.