Perhaps more predictable than the cotton branches, word signs and shiplap that pop up in a “Fixer Upper” makeover is the open floor plan. It’s the first thing that’s usually addressed in a renovation, because it’s a (relatively) easy way to completely change the look of a home. Sure, the benefits are obvious and immediate: Natural light and a feeling of spaciousness. It’s a wonderful effect … until you start putting furniture in the room and the space never feels quite home-y. Or when you can hear the echoing sounds of a World War II documentary from clear across the home.
Welcome to reality.
For decades, the open floor plan has been an accepted feature of a “modern” (not as in style, just in time period) home. For many of us, it’s hard to remember a time when it wasn’t popular. But just because it’s popular, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a good feature. In fact, an open floor plan just might be the most overrated feature in new construction and renovated homes. Here are just a few reasons why:
1. EVERYTHING is a focal point.
It’s great for that stunning painting or your Christmas tree, but bad for any sort of clutter. The type of disorganization that doesn’t register in a smaller room draws the eye in a large, open space.
2. Painting is a pain.
Without the clear boundaries of walls, it’s hard to paint a space. You can’t just paint your kitchen a different color than the living room when it’s all in one area. Instead, you need to pick a color that’ll work for your entire space. This means the job takes more thought, more time, and generally more money (you need more paint, after all).
3. It’s so inefficient.
Not just from a “wasted space” perspective, but more from an energy perspective. It’s just harder to keep a large space warm or cool.
4. A surprising lack of flexibility.
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You’ll often discover that the only place you can put your sofa is smack in the middle of the room, and the TV can only be placed in the one short space of wall between windows. In bigger spaces, you might say you’ll move around the furniture … but you probably won’t.
5. Art issues.
The big walls that result from the open floor plan tend to make a normal-sized portrait, photo, or painting look diminutive.
6. Lack of privacy.
Sometimes, you just want to flop on the sofa with a book and not be bothered. Or, you want to cook in your kitchen without people congregating, or stopping by to take a sample of whatever you’re making as they drift to and from the living area.
7. The smell issue.
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Scent carries far in an open space, which is only acceptable when you’re baking cookies. That freshly-made salmon will linger on in aroma form for ages, in every area of your living area.
8. The noise issue.
Big, cavernous spaces can echo, especially when paired with the other “House Hunters” standard: hardwood floors. Sure, you can add a few rugs, but it’s a bit like putting a dishcloth over a trumpet — an ineffective means to control inevitable noise.
Overall, I’m hoping that the tiny home trend inspires a renaissance of smaller spaces, but also a reconsideration of how we use the space we live in. It’s one thing to want to a room to fit a few functions, it’s another when you’re arbitrarily knocking down walls because it’s trendy. Because once you go open floor plan? It’s very difficult to go back.