Open Floor Plans: Pros of Cons and Tips for Decorating

Before we jump in to talking about the pros and cons of open floor plans, it might be a good idea to talk about what this means, or in other words to define open. Open, in this instance, describes the layout of a larger space that functions as multiple rooms or functionalities within that single (larger) living space. The most common form of open floor plan in today’s homes includes a combination of kitchen, dining room, and living room all open to each other within a single “great room”.

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PROS OF OPEN FLOOR PLANS

Open floor plans generally work best in “homes with less square footage – sometimes out of necessity – while larger homes have more leeway to work with when integrating great rooms into a floor plan”. Spacious homes that have fewer walls are the layout du jour; let’s consider their benefits.

Improved social interaction.

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Open layouts in a home increase the opportunity for social interaction, just by nature of their being wall-free. When the barriers between people are physically removed, it’s much easier, more convenient, and more common for interactions to increase. Facilitate this opportunity by providing comfortable, unique, and/or interesting seating arrangements or furniture items…such as a hanging swing-chair.

More natural light.

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Without a bunch of interior walls blocking the natural light from the windows, the natural light in an open floor plan’s great room far exceeds that of a closed floor plan. Not only the light, but the views through the windows themselves are increased and enhanced. This permeation of light plays an important role in maintaining a spacious, airy feel, regardless of the actual size of the open floor layout.

More opportunities for entertaining.

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When guests are at your home, it’s much more pleasant to be with them and be involved in the conversation than it is to be shut away in a tiny steamy kitchen by yourself. The open floor plan excels in providing prime entertaining capacity – you can accomplish everything you need to, with regard to the food and preparations and serving, while still being part of the group (which may or may not be lounging on the nearby sofa while you slave away).

Improved visibility for childcare.

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While this benefit doesn’t apply to every household, it is an important one for those homes with children. A parent who can get their own things accomplished (e.g., making dinner, cleaning, working, etc.) while still keeping an eye on their children is in a better situation, safety- and peace of mind-wise.

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CONS OF OPEN FLOOR PLANS

With all that they have going for them, it might be hard to understand what, exactly, could be a disadvantage of having an open floor plan and opting for a closed floor plan instead. Well, there are a few cons to the open floor plan, depending on your point of view.

Fewer rooms.

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Of course, the open floor plan doesn’t get its popularity due to the number of rooms but rather the way that those spaces function within the larger whole. If you’re one to prefer privacy and, perhaps, greater organization (e.g., more built-ins and storage), having fewer rooms with which to work could put your space at a disadvantage.

Less wall space for artwork.

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While open floor layouts offer a variety of benefits, one drawback to this method of floor plan is the lack of wall space for artwork and other displays. (Although, if you find decorating walls troublesome, you might find this to be an advantage.)

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For those of us who love a good piece of wall art, the limited wall space is a decided disadvantage. Like this oversized woven “portrait” made out of recycled materials. Amazing.

Limited privacy.

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Within the family-centered household, a variety of ages and subsequent activities, interests, and schedules will arise. The open floor plan tends to put everyone into the same mixing pot, as it were, and leaves them to fend for their private arrangements in a more public setting. “Enclosed spaces may work better in a house where everyone needs their space”.

Harder to maintain order & cleanliness.

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An enclosed kitchen is easier to keep clean than an open floor plan kitchen, for example, because items are contained within the physical limitations of the space. Or, at the very least, the closed kitchen can be exited with a door shut behind, limiting the mess’ effect on the rest of the household and space, particularly the main, high-traffic rooms.

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OPEN FLOOR PLAN DECORATING TIPS

The following are a few techniques and strategies for decorating an open floor plan optimally. Enjoy!

Change up the legs.

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Open space, to feel like truly open space, needs to have plenty of “white space” and free-flowing airspace. One way to achieve an opened up look in any room in the house (even the kitchen!) is to make larger pieces of furniture or even the architecture itself incorporate legginess. This allows our eyes to travel above, around, and under even the largest of elements, thus maximizing the sense of openness.

Allow horizontal surfaces to speak for themselves.

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Due to their, well, openness, open spaces thrive with the potential for horizontal surfaces. Work these horizontal planes (e.g., shelves) in wherever it makes sense and is useful. For example, the large “shelf” near the floor under this kitchen island work station is floating, which maintains an open feeling, but it also provides storage and decorative function within the space.

Let your “walls” resemble Swiss cheese.

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For those instances where a widely open floor plan just doesn’t make sense or look well, it’s certainly not a bad idea to incorporate some sort of design elements that will resemble walls for you. Just be sure that they lean more toward Swiss cheese (plenty of visual “holes” and gaps) than toward a thick slice of cheddar. Leaving the top third of the vertical plane empty also helps to maintain a feeling of openness while still defining the smaller spaces.

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This is another example of an open-aired “wall” – a geometric hex shape that provides subtle, if not outright, privacy to the bedroom that abuts the common living area. Notice the effectiveness of the trailing plant in providing definition amidst openness as well.

Think vertically rather than opaquely.

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Keep in mind that design elements with distinct verticality – whether or not they’re all that tall in reality – do a great deal to define the space surrounding them. These colorful, stackable drawers provide verticality and the subsequent definition of space but, because of their cut-out design, they maintain a sense of openness.

Raise the height of standard items for more privacy.

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An alternative to trying to omit substantial visual barriers is to turn this around and use those barriers to your advantage. For the bed that happens to be part of the open floor plan, for example, a raised headboard provides an immediate sense of privacy…even if that privacy isn’t exactly reality.