Whether looking for a new home or revamping a current residence, home owners continue to be drawn to the feelings of spaciousness, easy flow and welcoming togetherness evoked by an open floor plan. This is a trend that began in the early 20th century and has continued to make appearances in home design today.
According to a recent survey from the National Association of Home Builders, 70 percent of buyers want a kitchen-family room area that is either completely or partially open, with 32 percent wanting it completely open. Owners of existing homes are choosing to open things up, too. Remodelers reported that 40 percent of their projects involve opening existing homes’ main floors by removing interior walls entirely or by using countertops, cut-throughs or archways, rather than full walls, to define separate areas in a more open way.
With so many people being drawn to this trend, options for the design continue to expand. Open concepts don’t have to stop at the main floor, for example. Karin Kay of Sable Homes explains that open floor plans can exist in other areas of the home, “People host guests frequently; maybe that is around the kitchen and living area but it could also apply to a basement. There can be a flow from the rec area, to the wet bar, to a sitting area.”
Remodelers have also become more creative with their projects to create the feel of more space. Bruce Heys of Bruce Heys Builders, Inc. comments, “so much can be done to make the home feel more spacious. A few of the creative changes we make are, altering the ceiling heights, installing clear story windows, and fashioning bulkheads.”
There are the obvious benefits of easier hosting and entertaining on weekends and holidays. “Homeowners like to entertain,” says Kay. “Having an easy flow between the kitchen and living area lets guests join the conversation, whether they are the ones cooking or having a drink in the other room.” A lot of families like to have the flexibility to enjoy themselves while keeping an eye on children or pets.
Open floor plans not only maximize space and flow, they optimize natural light. Windows serve more than their immediate area, illuminating the entire space. The clear story windows achieve this goal as well as glass sliders to a walk-out basement.
With the increasing focus on accessible design, open floor plans meet another of today’s needs— with fewer doorways, they are easier to navigate in a wheelchair or with a stroller. Heys says that it’s important for homeowners to consider what their needs will look like five years in the future, “some people are going to become empty-nesters and may need to downsize. The open floor plan allows a home with smaller square footage to feel like a larger home they may be used to.” Allowing families to get more use out of the space they have, can increase the comfort and pride homeowners have in their home as well as the utility.
While there are many benefits to the flowing floor plan, there can be drawbacks. “Some of the homes that feature this layout can have a little bit of an echo with all the open space,” says Kay. “This effect can be negated with the right placement of furniture and the design of the area.” There is also an issue of temperature regulation for different people in the home. While you may be warm in the kitchen during the holidays, grandma may be chilly in the great room without the closed-in walls to keep heat in.
Heys struggled to come up with drawbacks for this type of layout. He says most importantly, homeowners must weigh the benefits against the costs. “Clients have to decide if the investment of remodeling is worth the financial burden that often comes with a complete remodel.” Overall, he stressed that the increase in efficacy adds an element to the layout of the home that can’t be achieved with other design changes.
Choosing the best layout
When deciding if the open floor plan is the right choice for your home, consider all the factors that play a role in the feel of your home. “Consumers should make sure that’s what they want for their lifestyle,” concludes Kay. “The trend continues to point toward open homes. People want extra space and I don’t see home design going back to the closed off feel it once was.”