Open Concept Design – A Little History
From the turn of the century until the 1940's homes were compartmentalized. They were built with the understanding that each room had a purpose. Victorian homes had a formal parlor for entertaining guests. The kitchen was often separated from the “living area” of the house, usually with a door. Dining rooms were vast and formal, and the living room was where the men retired for cocktails and cigars after dinner.
In the 1950's and 60's that changed as home builders saw the open living plan as “modern” and a way to efficiently design a home using less square footage. The most popular homes during that time were Ranch style and split level. Today, designers have embraced open concept living, partially for economic considerations (less square footage means lower building costs) but they are also influenced by trends and a desire for convenience. Homeowners love the openness and flow of open living, hence why loft style condominiums in urban areas are so popular.
The Pros of Open Concept Homes
Open concept living offers homeowners many advantages and benefits. First, it can make any space feel larger and brighter. No walls mean you can benefit from natural light. Some homeowners even go so far as to add a wall of windows or a passage way, like French doors leading to the backyard.
By removing walls, even a small apartment with a tiny, windowless kitchen can be transformed into an airy, light filled space, by replacing the wall with an island or table. Entertaining becomes easier and more enjoyable with an open flow kitchen/living area. You can chat with your guests while you cook. Kitchen islands usually are a way to divide space in an open concept, but when you're entertaining, they become a focal point for food and drink.
A large open space is also ideal for keeping an eye on the kids. You can comfortably cook dinner, or take care of other household tasks while still interacting with your children.
A Few Challenges
As great as having a large open space is, there are a few drawbacks and difficulties. Some privacy is lost when you take down walls and join multiple spaces. For example, communicating on the phone while the kids are watching TV can be difficult. Fewer walls mean less space for hanging your treasured artwork and family photographs. It also means fewer electrical outlets as well. Concealing wires in an open space can be a challenge.
Finally, if you can't deal with seeing a mess, open concept living may not be for you. Toy chaos and messes area a daily battle with kids, and these can be difficult to conceal in an open concept design. Making sure you have proper storage and organization is a must if you want to minimize the clutter.