The Open Concept, or How Not to Miss Your Walls

“I would love an open concept floorplan!”

If you are an avid watcher of House Hunters or virtually ANY television remodeling show, you know that this is a very common request from those looking to buy a home, rent an apartment, or remodel their existing space. But what does “open concept” really mean? What are the benefits and, more importantly, what are the potential drawbacks? I would like to lead you through the pros and cons so you can decide is open concept is really best for you, your family, and your home.

Let’s start with defining what open concept is, and what it is not.

Essentially, when one creates an open concept floorplan it means that two or more traditional “stand apart” rooms are joined into one larger living space. The birth of the open floor plan may have been initiated by architects like Frank Lloyd Wright, who began to design homes with a large open living space. This style of interior construction really began to take hold in the early 1990’s and due in no small part to all those home repair television shows, it has remained fairly popular in new construction and in remodeling ever since. For many homes, open concept includes combining the kitchen, dining, and living room or den area into one large cohesive space. It may also include an office space, or even a recreational space or game area.

What is the point of combining all these spaces into one, and what are the advantages?

Primarily, having an open concept design gives the feeling of spaciousness and usually lets far more light into the living spaces. This can help with reducing utility bills as a result of maximizing all that natural light. Often, open concept designs incorporate vaulted ceilings to further increase the expansive feeling. Families with young children often enjoy this type of design because it allows adults to keep an eye on little ones playing in the living room while parents are cooking in the kitchen. For those parents, having an open concept is considered a prime “peace of mind” design.

Folks that like to entertain or those who host large family holiday meals enjoy the open concept because it means that the hosts are not cut off from guests, behind kitchen walls prepping food and drinks. Many open concept floorplan designs incorporate a large island or peninsula specifically designed so friends and guests can literally hang out with hosts. Open concept may also allow for spaces to be more multi-function: go ahead and put all the leaves into your dining table to seat 20 people for Thanksgiving! You may have the space, thanks to the open floorplan.

Traffic flow can be improved, allowing more people into the same basic footprint without a feeling of being crowded. Guests can mix and mingle without having to go from room to room, music can be played in one space and heard throughout the home, and drinks and food can be served in one central location. These advantages can obviously increase the happiness factor in any get together!

This all seems like great news, and for many people it is. Why wouldn’t everyone want an open floorplan?

The reality is that there are also downsides to having open concept design and the corresponding lack of walls. Some of the disadvantages include:

  • Higher noise levels and sound that travels further, often exaggerated by vaulted ceilings and hard flooring choices; even the smallest gathering can produce a huge amount of noise.
  • Fewer places to display artwork or photos; where will you hang the family pictures?
  • Limited design options for furniture placement and rearranging; when you only have one wall where you can place that large sofa, it can cramp your decorating inspiration!
  • Lack of privacy, such as when the kids are blasting cartoons in the living area and you want to listen to music while cooking in the kitchen area; see “noise travels” above.
  • Smell travels: interesting kitchen aromas will waft through the entire home, which may or may not be a good thing depending on what’s cooking: fried fish, anyone?
  • Clutter is visible; you can’t just “close the door” on the mess in the family room, or the dirty dishes in the kitchen sink.
  • Heating and cooling costs may be higher; what you save in lighting that space may be spent on cooling it, as there are no walls to allow specific temperature control zones in dedicated areas; this will be exaggerated by vaulted ceilings.

Open concept designs often have higher construction costs involved, including additional engineering and design expenses. When removing or moving walls in existing homes, additional support beams may need to be installed and the costs can add up fast. Knowing your costs up front is critical to being able to achieve the home that you want. Working with an experienced and reputable team that supports you from concept to completion will be one of the most important decisions you will make on your construction journey. At Seelos Design & Construction, we make certain to clearly communicate with our clients to minimize surprises and maximize enjoyment of the end result.

Building or remodeling a home can be one of the most significant investments you will make in your life.

It can also be one of the most stressful experiences. How do you know if the open concept is right for you? First and foremost, have some frank discussions with your architect and designer to determine your living style. Then make sure that you understand the pros and cons and how having an open concept floorplan may or may not affect your enjoyment of the space. We want you to work with you to create a functional, livable, and beautiful home that you will happily enjoy for many years to come.

Working with Seelos Design & Construction ensures that you get the personalized attention to design that you need to make this important decision. Please contact us to schedule your consultation, and let’s see how we can help you get the home of your dreams.