Wednesday, October 16, 2013

31 Days: The Pros and Cons of the Open Concept Floor Plan

If you spend any time watching shows like House Hunters or Property Brothers on television, you will often hear from couples who are looking for an open concept floor plan. They want a house with rooms that flow into each other, with wide open spaces for entertaining.

To this I have to say: Be careful what you wish for!

There are definite pros and cons to the open concept floor plan. I know, because I lived with this floor plan in my last house for five years.

Let's start with the pros:

*Wide open spaces for entertaining large groups of people.

*You can cook dinner in the kitchen and watch the television in the family the same time!

*Busy Moms with young children can keep an eye on them while they play in the family room, while still being able to cook in the kitchen or throw a load in the washing machine.

*Sight lines are wide open, which often means plenty of natural light.

*Open floor plans tend to have vaulted ceilings in the design, which gives the illusion of space.

Here is a photo of the foyer at my last house. This was taken from the vantage point of the front office, where you could see the foyer, the family room, and the dining room quite easily.

Here are a few of the cons we experienced while living in this house.

*Do you see the staircase, with the open hallway upstairs? Well, our master bedroom was situated at the top of that staircase. Consequently, every sound traveled right up that staircase and right into our bedroom.

The biggest con of open concept floor plans...the noise travels everywhere!

*Lack of walls means lack of sound barrier.

*Not only does sound travel, but every kitchen smell travels right up the stairs as well.

*Lack of walls means lack of wall space for hanging artwork or positioning furniture.

*Didn't get to the breakfast dishes? A messy kitchen will make your whole house look messy because you can see the fully loaded sink and cluttered counter tops from all vantage points.

*Open sight lines means that each room on the main floor has to coordinate with the rooms surrounding it. In our case, it took me all five years to finally come up with a color scheme that worked in the kitchen, family room, dining room, office, and foyer.

 This garden tub in the master bathroom rarely got used for its intended purpose. What I did use it for was to sit on the hard edge, with the door closed, and talk on the telephone so that I could escape from the noise of the television or the kids playing on the main floor. It was ridiculous, really, how many times I had to hide in this bathroom to carry on a quiet phone conversation.

Here is my disclaimer: Did we have a cheaply constructed house? Probably. Would the sound be better in a custom built home? Probably.  I can tell you that our master bedroom resided two floors above the end of the basement where the movie viewing took place, and you could hear every line of movie dialogue from two floors below.

I think that open concept houses may work well for certain people in the following instances:

*Singles or empty nesters

* People who host the big holiday parties where 50 plus people are in attendance.

*Moms and Dads who need to multitask while watching little ones.

Tell you like open concept floors plans? Yes or no?

Tomorrow, I will talk about the pros and cons of the traditional floor plan.


  1. Thanks for presenting both sides of this issue. I have actually been thinking about this for several weeks now. Some of the cons I was wondering about, so you have reinforced those, and ditto for some of the positives. Can't wait to read your follow up on traditional plans. Thanks & God Bless!

  2. I have a VERY open floor plan too and the sound quality is horrible. I never noticed it until the kids (five) came home for the holidays and then I could hear everything. BUT I love EVERYTHING else about it. I rarely if ever have the dirty dish problem and the house has a zillion windows and so hanging pictures has been limited BUT I would rather look outside anyway. I have had both kinds of homes and I like the open floor plan best. I don't know about your home BUT mine also didn't come with narrow hallways... I love that too. Great Blog :)