Home Guru

The Advantages and Disadvantages of an Open Floor Plan

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By Bill Primavera

When I was a younger homeowner, I was probably an old-fashioned kind of guy when it came to my preferences for a home floor plan. In the first home I remember as a child, the kitchen was shut off completely from the dining room and living room. In those days, there was no way a homemaker wanted guests, or even family, to see into her/his kitchen. (Note that I added a masculine possessive pronoun, which I probably never would have done in our early caveman age).

Today, sitting in my home office and looking out, I see directly into my living room and diagonally into my dining room and kitchen. And, I like it that way.

For many years, I lived in an 18th Century historic house where every room was shut off from the other.  It was a matter of practically, especially in winter where only certain rooms would be warmed with a fireplace. And, particularly in the south, the kitchen was most likely separated from the rest of the house, even in a separate building, to deal with the heat of the fireplace used for cooking.

An open floor plan is the architectural design of a living space with fewer separations between major rooms. A standard open floor plan design includes enclosed private spaces like bedrooms and bathrooms and one great room that combines the roles of traditional common areas like the kitchen, living room, and dining room. This floor plan design merges common rooms into one open space to promote better communication, ease of movement, and increased lighting from outside while maximizing square footage.

The advantages of an open plan are:

  1. Improved traffic flow. With few doors or dividers, an open concept floor plan means that occupants and guests can easily move around a great room. Open concepts are especially valuable for larger households where there’s enough room for everyone to move around more freely.
  2. Increased light. Without partitions or walls between the kitchen, living, and dining space, natural light can easily flow throughout the living space. In an open concept home or working area, more light can also help make the room feel bigger
  3. Better for communication. Whether talking to your family, entertaining guests, or keeping an eye on children or pets, an open layout makes it easier for sound to travel, provides greater visibility, and increases a sense of togetherness.
  4. Makes entertaining easier. Open floor plans are better for socializing because there is ample room for guests to mill around. Without the barriers of kitchen doors, conversation is facilitated among host and guests.

What are the disadvantages of an open plan?

  1. Expensive. The energy costs of heating or cooling an open space can be high, specifically larger spaces with high or vaulted ceilings. When rooms are separated, like traditional house plans, each room can have its own temperature control. However, with a larger space, it takes more energy to provide and maintain heat or air conditioning, leading to higher utility costs.
  2. Noisy. While being able to hear, see, and smell everything can be beneficial in some circumstances, a lack of interior walls means the sound will travel among rooms all the time, which results in fewer areas of quiet and privacy.
  3. Smells travel. An open floor plan usually means the kitchen is part of the great room. If you have a smaller interior space, an open kitchen means food smells can travel to the adjacent open rooms.
  4. Requires upkeep. Open floor plans require constant upkeep to keep the space in good order. Dishes in the sink or toys on the floor are easily visible from the other rooms.
  5. Design choices are amplified. In an open-style kitchen, appliances, cabinetry, light fixtures, and paint colors are visible from other parts of the house. Before embarking on an open kitchen makeover, the homeowner may want to enlist the help of an interior designer to make sure kitchen ideas mesh with the rest of the house.

Obviously there are pros and cons to an open plan; it’s just a matter of going with the options that best fit into the owner’s lifestyle and preferences.

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and a journalist who writes about and promotes real estate. To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call him directly at (914) 522-2076.

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