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Design

Are We Done With Open Concept Layouts? Is Privacy Now The Top Priority??

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Well, it’s been 105 days (yes, I took the time and counted) since the start of EHD no longer working in a office together as a team. As many of you saw in yesterday’s post, Emily made the announcement about the official closing of our LA office doors. That’s right our temporary WFH set ups that we showed you back in March have now become permanent for the foreseeable future. (I miss you all!)

But we are not alone, many small businesses and some larger companies are reducing their office size or letting employees who can, work remotely. Which brought up the question in our weekly ‘EHD Happy Hour Zoom Meeting’ with so many of us now home throughout the work week, for who knows how long, will this shift our living needs and make some permanent changes to how we will design a home’s functionality for the future?

While helping to design the Mountain House last year we decided that the loft would be the perfect space to set up Emily’s office (we were so cute and innocent back then). And while it looked great in photos she quickly found out that functionally, with two kids and without a door to shut closed, little to no work could get done during the day. Soon after Emily moved her office into the downstairs guest room which is conveniently closer to the WiFi router and most importantly has a door. Doesn’t ‘Instagram Emily’ look so productive writing in her peaceful mountain retreat office? Meanwhile, ‘Reality Emily’ is laughing out loud at that photo while Birdie and Charlie make a mom sandwich. Side Note: It is pretty cute, on our end at least, to watch them sneak into the guest room during a team Zoom call to surprise her.

We know that Emily isn’t the only parent or person craving a little privacy during the day. Over the past few months, I’ve lived in four different places with 2-5 roommates at a time and upwards of 7 animals at once. It can get noisy, smelly and for a more introverted than not person, very overwhelming most days. The only time I didn’t dream of living in a home where every room was separated and could be closed off by a door was at Emily’s LA house, granted it was just myself and my boyfriend so there was enough space to pretend that the other person didn’t exist for a couple of hours during the day. (thank you, thank you, thank you again to Emily & Brian. We appreciated our time there more than words can say.)

So, does this mean we are finally ready to say goodbye to the open concept floor plan trend and trade it in for a more traditional layout?

photo by sara ligorria-tramp for ehd | from: the reveal of the mountain house kitchen

An open concept home has been popular for the past 30 something years and for a good reason. It’s a layout made for entertaining, if your home is on the smaller side it opens up the space making your rooms feel brighter, and for growing families it helps with multi-tasking like cooking dinner and keeping an eye on your children. But then again it means that everything is open and what if you have a Zoom call and your partner ‘absolutely needs to get in their work out’ while the kids are in a virtual classroom. Then, what?

photo by tessa neustadt | from: want an extra room? consider transforming your garage

One option if you like your open concept would be to transform your garage into a more useable space which Jess showed us some very pretty examples of the other day including the one above. Unfortunately, we know that this is more of a weather permitting option but it got me thinking about the idea of a flex room that would meet all of your functional needs. Now that both of my roommates and myself are working from home I find myself spending 90% of my time in my room. Sleeping, working, eating, exercising all in my 10’x12′ bedroom and am highly considering a Murphy bed to open up some space while still holding onto some sweet, sweet privacy.

Now those two ideas are smaller privacy solutions but let’s again talk about the potential extinction of the open concept home. Are you/we craving permanent privacy that bad? Jess brought up an interesting idea. Would closing off open-plan layouts potentially lead to spending less time together as a family when things gradually go back to normal? Or will we cherish the time spent together and be more in the moment?

I am very curious as to what your take on this is and if you are actually reconsidering your open floor plan for your current or future home? One thing I think we will see a rise in is the return of the front porch cause I literally saw someone sitting on a beach chair in the small patch of grass outside their apartment on my walk the other day. Anybody else wanting to add-on a porch or just that guy? 

Let’s talk about it below, see you there. 🙂

Opening Photo Credits: Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: The Portland Dining Room Reveal + How to Create A Room That Is Interesting Yet Sophisticated

Fin Mark

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Alix

We (my husband and I) are currently remodeling our house and have had this discussion many many many times during the design phase. My husband wants everything to be open while I want certain areas, like the kitchen, a little closed off from the living room. We have settled on a “wood slat screen wall” between the kitchen and dining/living area. It gives me enough privacy in the kitchen without it being a fully opaque wall. We have also replicated the slats in other areas of the house so it doesn’t look too out of place. Hoping it will be the best of both worlds but it might turn out to be the worst of both worlds 🙂

Emily R

That sounds like a good compromise! I also don’t want to sit down to a nice dinner and have to stare at the sink full of dirty dishes.

Emily R

Please say it’s over. I’m looking (only inline at the moment) for a vacation house, and half the time I picture where walls would go back up more than not!

V. Lencinas

We need more flexibility. The question imho is not open or closed but, how can we transform open spaces in more private spaces. In my house (big odd shaped entry-living-hallway, semi-closed kitchen) I’m thinking about transparent sliding doors to turn the big room in two smaller but more manageable spaces.

Miriam

So in favor of walls (and doors!). We live in a 1930s row house that hasn’t been updated. During the pandemic, there are lots of nooks and crannies to get away from everyone. You know that dream in apartment living, when you open a door, and magically find a whole new wing? We made it happen, twice. We’ve been SO GRATEFUL during the work from home to kick a kid out of a tiny bedroom to bunk w/ big sis and make it an office, throw more junk into the unconverted garage to have room to play in the sunroom, and close off the kitchen when my partner’s experiments get a little smelly. Not to mention, WWIII can be happening outside a closed solid-core door + plaster walls, and my zoom call can’t hear a thing. We had 7 people in a 1300 sq foot house yesterday, and it felt fine. When the flippers come through our neighborhood the first thing they do is rip out all the plaster, take out all the walls downstairs and convert that tiny bedroom into a master bath. If we ever buy I house, I emphatically don’t want an open concept one.

Jessica Bolton

Miriam, are you in Philly? This sounds so familiar! <3

AMc

Couldn’t agree more! We’ve lived in a 1920 craftsman for the past five years. Even though the public spaces are semi-open, you can’t hear a thing when you turn the corner bc of the original plaster walls. Open plan/new construction is so LOUD and echo-y inside.

Also, can confirm porch life is a great life. When the weather was nice and we were deep into quarantine, I spent all day errday working from my front porch. In a vintage recliner. Waving at neighbors and passers by. Stealing naps when I could 😌 As an introvert, it was a nice way to people while keeping a distance and not get over-peopled.

When we have a ton of folks over, it doesn’t feel crowded bc of all the different zones people collect in. Diff folks have diff interests and tend to collect in those spaces. Our friends who like to cook hang in the kitchen; others will play board games at the dining table; sports fans hang out in the living room around the tv.

I definitely won’t be living in any other type of home ever again, especially not an open plan flip with original walls/doors/etc tossed out.

MJ

I’m very anti-open floor plan! I think it’s a bit architecturally lazy and makes homes feel smaller. My mom’s house is 1400 square feet and essentially one giant room with 3 bedroom doors. Noise transmits more easily from the main area to bedrooms whereas in my little old 940 square foot house, I can have a loud gathering without waking the baby 🙂

A

I agree. I like the American look of the wider opening with no doors that is common in open floor plans but living in Europe it is common for even open plan rooms to have a door you can close. Sound travels and I like to be able to hear my television at night without waking my kids. I’m looking at taking down a wall at the moment, mainly to gain more light in my kitchen but as that room is quite open plan already I’m thinking of putting in glass pocket doors. Then I can have the light but still choose to close the doors for privacy.

Lori

Agreed. My house is 1280 sq feet and there’s nowhere to get away from each other that isn’t the office or master bedroom, so closing off the kitchen from the living room so we can both do our thing is key to not driving each other nuts!

Angelika

Being from Europe, where space is limited and dedicated, closed- off rooms are still common, I can see the pros of both layout options. I love the space and airy feeling of American-style open floor plans, but cherish the privacy of the traditional European concept. I don’t think that one spends less time together in a more traditional layout – as long as there’s one room big enough for everyone to comfortably gather there everything’s fine. The family WILL flock together and play, chat, do chores together. But there’s a second option one doesn’t have so easily in an open plan – withdrawing. Personally, I need time and a beautiful space to recharge my batteries or do my work without interruption, and the more I get that the more I enjoy the family chaos and interaction in our big living room. In Europe it’s absolutely common for children to play in their rooms, because they are not mainly viewed as bedroom, but as *their* room, their domain. That’s where they play with their legos and building blocks, read, play with friends. Typically, children’s rooms are bigger than the parents’ bedroom to accomodate for a variety of activities. The living room… Read more »

Lane

I agree, as I grew up in Europe. However, my perspective on some of these things is different based on the age of children, and whether or not you live in a one or two story home. Some things are easier done in a one story unit or home. A parent shouldn’t leave ther 1-, 2-, 3-, even a 5-year old on a separate floor by themselves for too long. My family takes a Montessori approach to learning, and I will not place scissors, glue, water, paint, breads and other tiny items in a 2-year olds room. Those things must stay in a common space, where I can supervise at least in some capacity. I also believe that this isn’t just my home. There are small people living in it, and they deserve to have a home that serves them too. It’s easier when kids play in their rooms when they are older, and when these rooms are on the same floor. It’s just easier to connect with other family members and for parents be there for safety reasons when living happens on the same floor. Emily’s solution, having a playroom on the main floor does just that. And it’s… Read more »

Megan

This is such a hot topic and and it will be super interesting to see if design trends change due to COVID-19. I live in a 1800sq foot home and we opened up the first floor and EVERYTHING happens in the kitchen/living/family/dining space. Open concept has positive & negatives during normal times and I’ve 100% craved more privacy in recent months. If I were to renovate my house again I think I would end-up somewhere in the middle. I’d like a little more separation between the kitchen and family/TV room so those two areas aren’t constantly competing (i.e., 5yo steadily raising the TV volume and suddenly you’re screaming over the Paw Patrol intro song…) Oh and team front porch! We finally installed a front porch swing and its the.best.

Megan

I failed to mention your very own Velinda is currently e-designing my open concept living room to make it work better, thanks EHD and VHD!!

AMAZING!!!

LJ

We moved into a smaller home, which I love, but with an open concept kitchen-dining-living room. After being here a year, I now know I don’t love it. I want the kitchen to be separate, or semi-separate.
Can you do a series on ideas to make that happen?
: )

Angelika

In Paris, I saw the most fabulous compromise between closed-off and open kitchen!
Very often the kitchen is separated from the living area by a wooden framework with glass inserts. The wooden panels are typically painted white or in a soft grey or green.
Love it! It opens the kitchen to the living room and adds space, but the noise and smell stays inside. Also, for some reason you don’t really notice the dirty dishes in the sink through the glass wall, although it’s of course see-through.
I am planning this for my kitchen reno.

LJ

I would love to see a photo of that!!! It sounds like the perfect compromise.

Angelika

Here you can see Morgane Sezalory’s kitchen:
https://www.cotemaison.fr/chaine-d/deco-design/ou-vit-morgane-sezalory-la-creatrice-de-sezane_28545.html

Here’s a similar solution, an eat-in kitchen, separated from the living room by a metal framework with glass inlays.
https://www.thesocialitefamily.com/en/familles/paris-en/georg-hallensleben-and-anne-gutman-salome-colombine-robinson/

I hope this gives you an idea; it’s not quite what I was thinking of, but all I could find for now.

LJ

Thank you so much. This is quite helpful!

Susan

Beautiful homes. Thank you for sharing. I think the super high ceilings and generous amount of space makes these spaces work. I’m not sure the internal windows would work as well in small homes with 8′ ceilings. But I would love to be wrong about that.

Emma

A few examples here: https://www.viacapitalevendu.com/blogue/newsroom/5-bonnes-raisons-dinstaller-une-verriere-dans-la-cuisine/
These are very trendy in France, where people still favor closed kitchens (it’s considered bad taste for guests to see dirty dishes etc) but obviously want that feeling of openness and light flowing. I really like them and wish this was more of a thing in the US 🙂

LJ

Great link for inspiration! Thank you.

Alison

Yes! I’m an American but I live in Greece and it is very common for the main living spaces to be able to be closed with double sliding pocket doors, often with frosted glass panels. It increases the functionality of these rooms to be able to be used as guest rooms, offices, dining rooms, etc. Without central AC/heat, it also allows the temperature to be controlled better in each of those rooms with individual units. Definitely something to consider that gives the best of both worlds (thanks Hannah Montana…)

Suzanne

In my 100 year old neighborhood in California, I’ve been in many homes that have the double pocket doors to close off spaces, usually the dining room, I think. But people will come it and take them out to open it up. I love them, but my house never had them. They seem so functional!

Emily

Team walls all the way! We’ve got an older house (built in 1918) and thankfully none of the previous renovations knocked down walls to go open-concept. I like having separate spaces. Dining is adjacent to, but separate from, my kitchen and dirty dishes, bedrooms are on a separate floor, so we can watch TV or have friends over in the evening without waking our kids. Also important; my husband is currently sick with COVID-like symptoms (waiting on test results 🤞) and it is soooo nice to be able to be able to cordon him off with minimal impact to the rest of the house.

Kim B

I hope your husband will be fine with mild symptoms and that none of the rest of you will catch it.

(My husband and I both had it and we are fine. The vast majority of cases are mild, but it can get scary! I hope it does not for you.)

Donna

Hmmm……We live in a 1950’s bi-level (4 way split). Although it is probably considered one of, if not the least desirable architectural style of house, I have learned to love it over the years as the best of many worlds. From the garage level, you enter through a mudroom/laundry room with a walk-in pantry, to a family room with powder room, all with natural light. Go up a half-flight of stairs to the kitchen, dining room, living room. The kitchen is open to the dining, but separated from the living room by a wall. This is the main entrance to the house. Go down a half flight of stairs to a finished bonus room, and basement with another outside entrance. From the main level, go up a half-flight to 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, and a small bonus room ( closed in porch) off the master. Plenty of space to be alone, but if you’re on the main level, and family members are in the family room or bedrooms, you are within hearing reach. After kids go to bed, adults can retire to the family room, which is two flights down – enough distance so that noise won’t disturb dreams. Then,… Read more »

Evelin

coming from Europe, Germany, I am always wondering what is the difference between a living room and a family room. Naiv, but isn´t living = family life?
the classice living room is used for all household members to relax and interacting, playing area with/for smaller kids, plus for guest when entertaining, in case th etable is set up there. But again, European homes are much smaller. I would say anything above 160 sqm/1600 sft ist considered big for a family of 4-5.

Johanna

I was also wondering this (being from Germany) but I figured out, the living room must be something more formal for guests like “die gute Stube” used to be. And the family room seems to be the place where people watch tv with their families and hang out.

Paula

Yeah, you got it!

Sarah

My home is a very similar layout. I personally really like it even though most people in my area don’t like the split style and prefer all one level or a traditional two story. To me, it still feels pretty open concept, which I personally like.
We spend most of our time on the main level that has the kitchen and dining and then a wall separating the living room. When we want privacy one of us can go down to the den on the lower level. We have not finished our basement but that is always an option too. It is just me and my partner and no kids, so an open concept layout is nice for us. It’s a better flow for the house and I don’t feel closed off when I’m cooking in the kitchen.
I have lived in more closed room layouts and it felt very disjointed.
I agree with you Donna, a mix of both is definitely nice.

Kari

I am so over open concept… Our current condo is open concept and while my extroverted husband loves to have friends over, watch movies, or play videogames with friends online… I am introverted and struggle to find a quiet space for myself! I want to be able to make dinner without being so close to whatever is going on in the living room, or vice versa. We’re casually looking to move to a house and having trouble finding something that is a not open concept, but also not totally closed off and dark feeling.

Vee

When my husband and I looked at houses two years ago, we originally thought we wanted open layout. But the more we toured houses, the more I felt the open layout made the house feel like a large apartment. I am happy we chose a house with a kitchen that can be closed off. The separated rooms also mean you can give each room more of its own personality!

Shilpi

I love rooms and hope that rooms are back. We have a kitchen/dining that is separate from the living room and I LOVE it. The living room always feels fresh and cozy, no relationship with food. And it’s awesome to have multiple places to hang out.

We also just finished a big renovation and learned that it is MUCH cheaper for developers to do an open floor plan (and not have to frame out walls, do electrical wiring in them, make the walls, paint them.) So now, honestly, it seems like it is partially a cynical and greedy move by developers that was then picked up by others.

Angelika

Yes! I like that I can design and decorate each room separately and independently from the others. No need for an overall colour concept.
My library is dark green and moody, the living room cream and red, the dining room rich blue and sand and the kitchen cream and turquoise. Every room has a different feel.
I also prefer choosing floors according to room function, with less regard to flow.

Margaret

I’m open-plan all the way–my house is 720 sq. ft. shotgun bungalow, and originally would have had a tiny living room, archway to dining room, and closed-off kitchen in the left 2/3s, with bedroom, bathroom, and another bedroom lining up on the right.
The right side is the same, but the left is open, with just a peninsula counter to define the kitchen. I love it.
But–huge caveat–there are no other humans in residence. I live with two dogs and a cat.
In the future I can easily see families with kids wanting a more closed-off layout, especially for noise control. That guru of building small, Sarah Susanka, advocates for an “away room” in her small house designs. At the same time, I think singles, and maybe couples, will continue to want open plan, especially in small spaces. It provides more usable space, better light, and room enough for visitors. The only downside if you live alone is that you do have to be tidy. It doesn’t take much clutter before it starts to look like a landfill.

Kim B.

I love Sarah Susanka!

Eden Weber

Growing up in a mid-century modern open home made me appreciate a more traditional floor plan. My first house was a 1920s Craftsman where I fell in love with rooms. Rooms . . . sigh and swoon. Open plan living is not for me and I’ll never willingly live in that type of house again.

Rusty

I’m in an Aussie Craftsman right now!!! Ours are double brick so walls tend to be left alone anyway.

Madeline

We are building a house and have designed what we like to think of as a hybrid of open-concept and traditional. Our kitchen and living room are pretty open to each other. However, we have a traditional dining room with a pocket door to the kitchen but an open door to the hallway and a traditional front room (with doors for music lessons). Pretty excited to be able to entertain but also tuck away! We are currently in a completely open-concept home (combined living/dining/kitchen with partial walls and open doorways) and I can’t get privacy for a call without locking myself in a bedroom. Pretty tricky with two littles.

KK

Our house is a 1960s split-level two story ranch and it sounds a lot like the house you’re building and we love it! It has an eat in kitchen that is open to the (sunken) living room. The kitchen has a pocket door to the dining room and we have a big front room with a little library. It’s been so functional during quarantine and I’m grateful for the division of space, but that I can see my son playing in the living room while I make dinner. Best of luck with your new home!

Ginger

Yes to more privacy! We built an open floor plan house when my kids were younger and now that my boys are getting to the teen stage and have all their friends over and becoming louder, I dream of hallways and closed off spaces. I’m thinking of partitioning off part of my kitchen from the family room with steel frames and glass. Not sure what that look is called but would love a post on half partition walls and how to make them still look good!

Paula

Pony walls?

Kim B

I think she means the kind of thing that is shown in the responses about a trend in French kitchens higher up in the comments. Several links there.

Elaine

Crittall screens/ glass walls

Karen

I think it’s about how your open concept functions. We remodeled in 2017, and combined three common rooms (kitchen, dining, and sunken family room) into one open-concept space – it is fabulous. I get to see the crown of the space – my marble island – from many areas, and the kitchen is integrated into the “living space”. And I am always in the kitchen – cooking, baking, tinkering around, and I love that I can see my kids watch TV or they can join me as they eat waffles on a Saturday. We still have a separated formal living room (and a mancave – thank heavens for the mancave as when my husband says “let’s paint the ceiling black”, I can say yes, because it’s in the mancave!), and I can imagine as the girls get older it will be nice to have some privacy. It also helps to have an extra bedroom, and being in San Diego, outdoor space functions as another room too.

I love having kitchen and family room open to each other, for sure. its made parenting small kids SO much easier. But I also like the idea of a den, or a separate living room…. I suppose something in the middle would work the best for us. xx

Nicole

I need all the tips on the ideal layout for people with small kids that also like to entertain (in theory?). Currently our 2nd floor is our whole living space: Kitchen with peninsula, counter top that goes into the dining, no wall between that and living room. It’s a bit TOO open (my goodness it’s loud when we do have people over), and because it’s long and narrow doesn’t even work that great for entertaining because people just clump on one side of the peninsula anyway.

I imagine we will end up halfway in our next house: kitchen with a cutout that lets me supervise kiddos in the living room, a totally separate formal dining room, and open to the breakfast area (which we all know is really the daily dinner and homework area). Many of these also have a bar height counter above the sink so you can chat the adults while you cook.

KK

I replied above but we have something more in the middle and we love it – it’s 1960s split-level two story ranch and the eat in kitchen is open to the play room / living room, there’s a pocket door from the kitchen to the dining room, and the dining room opens up to the large front / family room. I’m not sure if that makes sense but it works for us!

Olivia M

It doesn’t have to be open vs. closed spaces. I love the layout of our house because I feel like it’s the best of both worlds. The living spaces are on the first floor and connected by a series of arches and the office is on the second floor. Because of how the rooms connect, the kitchen is right next to the dining room, but you don’t see the kitchen mess through the small arch, and the large arch between the ‘formal’ living room to the dining table makes it easy to flow back and forth when company is over. Our kitchen and TV room are in one open space, so we get the benefit of open plan for everyday living too.

Paula

I’ve never been a fan of what is called open concept. ESPECIALLY in smaller spaces. It can seem like you’re in a converted garage space. I also don’t like the noise and smells that have no way to be contained. I don’t want my kitchen sitting in my living room like some many people with open concept do. I also am not a big fan of BRIGHT and WHITE. I live in L.A., and I crave a little bit of sanctuary when I come in from the BRIGHT outdoors. I also like to be able to shut doors on some spaces.

MollyS

I admit that last year I smiled at “Instagram Emily’s” loft office space. Too open! I have been WFH for years and appreciate the necessity of a closed door space … especially with the kids around more than ever! My husband is now permanenty WFH and with three teens/tweens, we are considering moving homes. The xbox/Switch gamers ‘need’ a closed off space … Love having all of their friends over, but we’d like to give them a bit of separateness as they yell through the console. The Portland house basement was DREAMY.

Caitlin

I love our open concept split level home. I know split levels aren’t popular nowadays but if feels so functional having the main living area/kitchen/dining upstairs and then we have a hangout/tv area downstairs. We also have a separate office and a workout room. The open concept living area has vaulted ceilings and feels so bright and open. So I guess I am team open concept but with the caveat that you still have a couple other spaces in the home to get away.

Susan G

I LOVE my split level! Our layout seems similar to yours except for the vaulted ceiling (jealous!).

I’m team “open concept”. We remodeled our then 1700 no 2000sq ft 1960’s ranch home last year and opened the living room/kitchen/dining room by removing 3 walls and I LOVE it. I live in my home with only my husband and we are on 10 acres, so I might feel differently if I lived in town or had human offspring, but for us this is ideal. Our living space is so much brighter and easier to clean. I think it’s important to be true to the architecture of the home. Like we had a 1450sq ft 1920’s craftsman home previously and I would NEVER have taken walls out of it, but it seemed right with this ranch home. My parents home in Montana where I grew up had a nice compromise of open vs separate rooms by having the kitchen be it’s own space off of the dining room and you could look into the living room over the bar. It had like 20′ vaulted ceilings in the living/dining/kitchen/entry and was a much larger home (4800 sq ft if you include the basement which was finished and had 2 of the 5 bedrooms). That house was built in 1980 and… Read more »

Deepa

I guess things will be trending away from open layouts soon based on everyone’s comments here, but I am still very much enjoying our open concept space on the main floor of our house. The main floor of our house is one, big living / dining / kitchen space, and we have a basement playroom downstairs, and bedrooms upstairs. My kids are still small, so I like being able to have eyes on them at all times, and I really do enjoy all the togetherness. And honestly, when I come home from work and have 30 minutes to prep and cook dinner, while I’m helping one child with homework and supervising another’s play or screen time all at the same time, our open layout has become essential to the way our family functions. I wouldn’t be able to do it all simultaneously otherwise. And we have plenty of bedrooms and office space upstairs to retreat into privacy if needed. (Which I’m guessing will happen more often as my children get older). I guess we’re lucky to have enough space to have the best of both worlds. As for the problem of having to stare at the kitchen mess from the… Read more »

Ellen Switzer

i HATE open concept. I grew up in fresh new builds in San Diego and the sound and echos from kitchen to tv room to dining room is just sooooooo loud and annoying. I love my midcentury that I live in now where every room is defined and sound is not traveling thru an entire floor of a house.

booo to “trendy” Interior designers and architects that knock down every wall. If I wasnt selling my house now, I would convert the kitchen wall to a MCM breezeway block wall to let light go thru the house, but still create separation with something that absorbs the sound. I do NOT want to open my front door and first thing i see is the kitchen, the dirtiest room in the house.

Dena

I’ve never liked open concept. I get so irritated when I look at houses for sale and they’ve opened it up into one big square, with the kitchen shoved in one corner. I think there are good compromises where there is some division. Layout is everything!!

Teel

I still love an open concept for living/dining/kitchen, for the reasons you mentioned – a small space feels much bigger, better socializing and eyes on little ones. I think homes will trend towards carving out new study/work-focused rooms with doors that close. Not a bedroom, not a living room, but office/homework spots that are small and efficient private spaces.
Where there is space available, the best solution is a shed-sized office. We coincidentally converted our storage shed into an office in the fall (insulation/drywall/a big window and sliding door, laminate flooring) and it’s been amazing during quarantine with the kiddos not in school. A place to go, outside of the house, where you are completely removed from what’s going on inside. You feel like you’re “going to” work, but with a very short commute. A child can join a parent in there too, and everyone understands it’s a focused/working space.

Lane

That’s how I feel too. The right balance and flow is necessary to ensure a house functions as it should

Mandy

I’ve never understood the appeal of open floor plans. Lazy architecture, difficult to design around, SO LOUD, and you can clearly see where you’re lacking in your chores. Not to mention, most people then end up painting all the walls white and I’m left feeling like I’m walking through a museum rather than someone’s home. They just feel cold, impersonal, and not at all relaxing, in my humble opinion. Of course, I also suffer from agoraphobia (fear of open spaces), so I’ll readily admit that I may be biased. And I’ve always been perplexed by the “but we want that close family together time!” argument. Huh? You can create that atmosphere even moreso with intimate rooms. For example, in our house, we have the den/library off of our kitchen with our piano and record player with our vinyl collection, our designated dining room that we eat meals in every day and do family arts and crafts projects, and a spare guest room that serves as our TV/board game area. I can’t imagine the mess/eye twitching that would result if one giant space had to fulfill all of those needs! I don’t know…when I think of home, I think of a… Read more »

Lane

How big is your home? It maybe more difficult to accomplish in a smaller home without opening up some walls.

Amy

We live in a small craftsman built in the 20s, and I think it’s nearly perfect. The living room is very open to the dining room, bedrooms are fairly spread out (main+bath upstairs, 2 kid rooms on the ground floor, one downstairs that we added, along with a rec room) The office space is a nook off of the main bedroom, and while there are no doors there’s also nothing kid/guest related up there, so the upstairs stays private and fairly quiet. PLUS, two porches AND a screened in sleeping porch. I wouldn’t mind the kitchen being bigger, but I like that there’s a swinging door – I’m one of those people who wants to hide the mess, sometimes!

Love this conversation. We are in the process of selling our small townhouse that we converted to an open floor plan. In my mind, we’ll have more privacy in our new place. It is bigger and the kitchen isn’t open to the whole house. I look forward to the mess in the kitchen not ruining the whole aesthetic. Dirty kitchen will no longer mean dirty house. We have two young children and I also have all the dreams of the kids living me alone at times. Do I think this will actually happen? Probably not. We shall see! But I agree, open floor plan is dying off.

I will say, the open floor plan has been GREAT for our little 1,140 sq foot place. We can host WAY more people than we would have expected.

Shannon

Doesn’t it all depend on who lives in the space? I just live with my husband, and we have an open concept first floor with master off the living room. Upstairs there are 2 bedrooms, and off the dining area of the first floor, there is a small study that is closed off by glass French doors. I love the open concept, because neither of us are super loud and disruptive to the other. Seems like it’s a bigger issue with children around, which not all of us have.

Julia

We just built a home. The kitchen/great room are open and dining room is visually separate but with no door. I love the openness (we are two parents and 3 grade school age kids). What makes it work is we have 4 good size bedrooms so people can have their privacy when they need it. Also, we built a front porch and use it all the time. In fact, I am sitting on the porch now. Our home is only 2650 sq ft but it has enough space for our family of 5. I would not want to give up the open floor plan because I like to be connected to other people when I cook.

Shannon

I grew up in a Northern/Cape Cod- style house and then moved to Florida where EVERYTHING is open concept. I crave walls and hooks and crannies! Plus I think it’s coZy to have smaller rooms where you can snuggle instead of a few people watching the tv from the dining room table, a few on the sofa, and one in the kitchen…

Alisha

We built a pretty big, new house three years ago and settled on an open-concept main floor, but put up a lot of walls in our basement. We live in MN, so being mostly indoors for a few months out of the year is our norm. So far, this has been a great compromise: still allows the open entertaining we love (and god-willing will do again), but the basement maintains the coziness of a smaller, more private home (we love a dark basement). With that said, we intentionally left extra space in our main level living area so we could easily put a wall btwn the kitchen/dining and living room if our preferences change.

Jamie

My current house is less than 1000 sqft. It’s open concept and that works for the house, making it feel more open. I was already out of space, but now that I’m working from home permanently, I’m prepping my house to list. While I would buy another home with an open concept, I’d prefer more separation as I’m messy and I’d like to have people stop by on an impromptu basis without them being able to see my entire house. When it comes to my next house, space, storage, and indoor laundry will take precedence.

Kym

I love old houses, so I’ve always been a fan of the more traditional/separate room layout. We have lots of newer. open concept homes in our area that have two living areas adjoining each other, and it seems like such a waste of space!

If I ever get to build my dream house, I’ll use a traditional layout with wider casings and pocket doors everywhere I can put them!

Christian

Hey there! I love this discussion, and I’m so glad you shared the mic with Shavonda today. In fact, the first person I heard be an active voice against the open concept trend was Shavonda herself! She is a big believer in highly functional, beautiful spaces – as well as a kitchen that is not open and visible to the rest of the house. I would have loved to have seen even a little 1-2 sentence blurb from her on this post! Xo

Bleubook

Open concept is beautiful in pictures. But in real life, I feel like it can be a difficult set up. Everyone I know with an open concept home carves our a “man cave” or something for an escape…
I love my victorian house with a real foyer, living room, dining room and kitchen. There is great flow with wide doorways but the spaces are defined and separate.

I wholeheartedly agree about the front porch. It has been our salvation during quarantine. We have enjoyed chatting with the neighbors as they take their evening walks. It kills me the number of enclosed front porches I see on rehabbed Victorians. I understand a sunroom, or a screened-in porch (some are done beautifully) but fully enclosing a front porch is just the worst of both worlds.

Close it up! I lived in open concept and felt it so draining of my energy because you are constantly floating your gaze into the other room. My kitchen is also almost always messy and that bothers me (not enough to clean it haha!) so I need a wall to hide the mess while I’m playing with my son.

Annie

I’ve lived in many different kinds of homes over the years. And…I think there is no perfect solution. For a few years in my 20s, I lived in one apartment with a roommate in Germany where our only common space was the kitchen. If we wanted to socialize with each other or with friends, we had to do it in our bedrooms or in our tiny kitchen. I would have not wanted a fully open loft but, like, a shared living room would have been nice. A few years later, I lived with my then-boyfriend in a Victorian in the Midwest with lots of separate rooms and we really enjoyed being able to give each room its own purpose. It really made the house more relaxing to have separate spaces designated for working, entertaining and sleeping. Today I live with my husband and 2 kids in a reasonably spacious new build in the suburbs of an American city. Our downstairs is largely open, with the exception of a study with a glass door that we share (although if need be one of us can work in the bedroom). And then the kids have their own rooms upstairs. But to be… Read more »

Kelly

Also team walls! Remodeling a 1920 house where the dining/living flows together but the kitchen was tucked away. We are opening the kitchen to the sunroom but keeping the wall up between the dining room. I like being able to contain the clutter and stay true to the original house. And I have a toddler and newborn to keep an eye on.

Lydia

I think there is a middle ground where rooms are separated either by wide openings or change in direction or a change in ceiling height. I think people – whether they’re conscious or not – desire the feeling of different spaces.

That feeling of turning a corner and seeing something new. Walking under a pergola tunnel that leads to an open space. Looking through a window but not seeing the whole world!

I definitely don’t want every room to be boxed in but the living/dining/kitchen plunked together in a giant room doesn’t feel like a home with SOUL to me.

Kate

I think it’s not really about boxing in the living/dining areas, I can’t see that happening. But definitely 2020 has been the year of “work from home” and I think that is definitely something that future interior design will consider. Having to balancing two parents and two children, all trying to take video calls in a two bedroom apartment has been “interesting”. At one point I worked in the bathroom as it was literally the only quiet/private space 😳. Our lease will finish soon and our future home will definitely be chosen to be more easily adapted to remote work/school situations. Even without a global pandemic, flexible working situations have been evolving for a while, Covid-19 has just given that a hurry up. Home workout areas may also start to trend.

Kim B

We live in not-tiny but not-huge Parisian apartment, but our kitchen is a long (not that long) skinny galley that is completely separate from our living room/dining room (the wall in between the two contains the chimney breast). My husband is the cook when he’s here and it just kind of sucks. If we have friends over, one can go and stand with him in the kitchen while he cooks, while I entertain the others separately on my own (And they are inevitably his friends because I won’t invite any of my friends over because our house is a mess). Also when it is just he and I, for example towards the end of the lockdown here when I was going into work, it also sucked because I would be too tired to stand there with him watching him cook, so I would lay down on the sofa and scroll my iPad. So he was alone in the kitchen and I was alone in the living room. I wish we had had more open space and a counter with a stool where I could have sat and talked to him while he worked. Now he’s gone back to the other… Read more »

Kate

Our house was built in 1914, so it’s not open concept… and I love it. It’s kind of small but the rooms have very high ceilings and big windows, so we also get great light. We lived in a more open concept apartment and it taught us that we both felt like we lived in one room. And that just isn’t for us.

maria

wow i have found my people! open floor plans don’t appeal to me at all, and i have been assuming the trend would go back the other way at some point. i just didn’t realize it would take a pandemic to do it.. 🙂

Leslie

We built our home five years ago around the idea of coming together and connecting after being at work and schools all day. We also wanted an open space for entertaining (remember that?!) We also had a surprise kid in there and have a teenager sharing a bedroom with a toddler. My husband is a builder and we’ve looked at attic space or changing a big closet to a bedroom and any options we might have. I’m going to be homeschooling our toddler/working from home. And our big kids will be doing virtual school at home next year so we’re trying to have little spaces as options. I was a teacher and flexible seating is a big thing in education right now so offering a few different places (the porch, poolside, cozy corner, etc) I’m hoping will give options. Till then, we pray for patience at breakfast/lunch/and dinner.

Terry

We’ve recently been house hunting and have seen many older closed concept homes. They just felt so cramped and chopped up. I’m still a fan of open spaces and easy access. However, one major requirement was an isolated master suite and some type of bonus room where kids can hang out.

liz

No, as an architect, I don’t think the open floor plan will ever truly go away. I agree separation of some spaces is essential but the kitchen open to the living room/ dining room just makes sense. I entertain and cook a lot (pre pandemic) and being able to socialize while I cook is essential otherwise I would feel like I was completely isolated form the party. Not fun. But I also work from home and having an enclosed office is essential. I also have a playroom for the kids that has a door on it ( essential as well) and the bedrooms are separated from all of this by a hallway with a door, so the kids can go to bed and the party can keep going and we wont wake them up. Its a mixture. But I never thought bedrooms/office should just open up to the living room that’s just bad design. The rooms that need quiet should be separated from the more public louder rooms. Open floor plan can mean a lot of things to different people. When some people think of it they think no privacy but it doesn’t have to mean that.

KJ

My husband and I have both worked from home for the last 4 years, with two small children, and don’t have a designated office, so this conversation is top of mind for us as we consider all of the possible spaces in our home to work. We recently found this amazing desk setup to give us some additional options in our open-floorplan home for the sit/stand desk and it checks all the boxes – ergonomically correct, pretty to look at, easy to store and move! Thought I’d share in case there are others in an open floor plan who want a creative solution: https://www.etsy.com/listing/232996762/standing-desk-jumbo-deskstand-handmade?ref=yr_purchases

Cindy

Glass French doors to the family room saved us. When someone is watching TV there, the other one can be in the kitchen and living room and have quiet or listen to their own favorite music. I would go crazy with a totally open concept if it meant that when the TV is on in the living room, there is no place besides a bedroom to get away from it.

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