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Pros & Cons of Open Concept Living

Open concept floor plans continued to be a huge trend in 2014. Whether a house, a condo or a loft, many clients pursued this look by demoing walls and opening up their homes.

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Despite their many benefits, open concepts do create certain challenges from both a design and practicality perspective. It is therefore important to discuss how clients intend to use their homes before embarking on this relatively inconvenient and expensive process.

Here are a few pros and cons to consider when deciding whether an open concept floor plan is right for you in 2015:

PRO – Larger Kitchen: We spend so much time in our multifunction kitchens its no wonder space is at a premium. Islands are a wonderful addition for more counter space. They’re also a natural divider between food prep and lounging or dinning areas. Many clients have gone so far as forgoing a traditional dinning table in lieu of a larger island with counter seating to achieve a more open feel.

PRO – Social Interaction: Being connected is much easier in an open floor plan. This aspect is especially appealing for couples and families that love spending time together. Parents with younger children tend to appreciate this most since it allows them to go about their daily routines while keeping an eye on things from multiple vantage points.

PRO – Traffic Flow: A well-planned open concept space allows us to move more freely from one “room” to the next. This is appealing to people living in smaller homes or condos and especially anyone who loves to entertain. Guests don’t feel cooped up in a tiny living room and hosts can easily interact while multitasking in the kitchen.

PRO – Natural Light: Given the long narrow floor plan of most homes and condos downtown, an open concept floor plan allows more natural light to flow throughout your space. This is especially nice if you live in a semidetached home where natural light is at a premium.

CON – Limited Privacy: If you value your privacy I recommend you reconsider tearing down walls. As nice as it is to interact with family members day-to-day or guests while entertaining, there is very little relief from said interactions in an open concept home. Mess containment and ease of clean up are other sacrifices to consider with open concept living.

CON – Minimal Wall Space: If you’re an art or family photography lover removing walls allows fewer opportunities to display your works of art. This lack of wall space may also mean fewer upper cabinets or storage in the kitchen. A large island certainly helps minimize the effects but many homeowners often sacrifice much larger pantries. If planning to hang a large TV from the wall, one must also consider where it will go and how it’s location impacts your overall layout.

CON – Flooring Selection: Flooring is a much more complicated decision in an open concept home. Continuous flooring brings a sense of unity and spaciousness into the overall design. Whether you prefer wood, tile, stone or linoleum you ideally want to use one material, which may not be as practical. If you absolutely must use different materials try and match the colour as closely as possible for a more cohesive look.

CON – Other Design Challenges: Successful open concept designs tend to feel airy and spacious due to unobstructed views and stylistic coherence. Open concept living therefore requires more expertise when space planning, choosing a versatile paint colour or colour scheme and also sourcing furniture of an appropriate height, scale and design given longer sightlines. To promote unity and flow, add textures and colors that visually link areas together. If you have a color on the wall in the living room, try to reflect that color in the kitchen for balance.

CON – Sensory Overload: Our senses are often challenged in an open concept home. Fewer walls mean fewer sound barriers while an open concept kitchen allows kitchen odors to permeate the rest of your home. Reading quietly while someone cooks or watches a movie in the same room may or may not always be practical, especially as children grow and become more independent. Use area rugs and other textiles throughout to help absorb sound.

Although beautifully open from a design perspective, functionality and practicality are most important in an open concept home. Be sure to consider how you live in your space today and how you’ll use it in the future before wielding that sledgehammer.

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