For the last thirty years, residential architecture has been dominated by open floor plan concepts. The trendy design is accepted due to its ability to join rooms and create more of a social experience within the home.
Open floor plans are a relatively new concept in residential home design. Pre-World War II homes were constructed in a basic, one-dimensional layout, often connecting enclosed rooms with a long hallway, positioning the kitchen at the back of the house to be used for service. These configurations were not meant to accommodate modern gatherings. Throughout the 1950s, gatherings were still formal, which means the kitchen was off-limits to guests.
It wasn’t until the post-war years that American families began to change their ways and reform to a more casual form of living. This slowly sculpted the open floor plan in modern construction, allowing families to grow in a spacious environment. By the 1990s, open floor plans became almost the norm for new construction, especially in suburban settings, and that trend holds true today.
Innovation In Construction
An open floor plan in residential architecture refers to a dwelling in which two or more common spaces have been joined to form a larger space by eliminating partition walls. Instead of interior load-bearing walls, heavy-duty beams carry the weight to create a spacious and sound living area.
Simultaneous to American residential reform was the innovation of residential construction. Stronger materials and modern methods allowed open floor plans to be more practical and easier to build. Steel structural beams, central heating systems, drywall, and cinder-block construction made it easier to build larger rooms efficiently.
Floor Plan Configurations
- Kitchen and dining room: Often, a kitchen and dining area share one common space. Sometimes a kitchen island or peninsula acts as a visual dividing line between the two areas.
- Dining room and living room: A dining area and living room occupy one shared area. A visual dividing line may be in the form of thoughtfully placed furniture, two different paint colors, stairs leading to a sunken area, or a handrail.
- Kitchen, dining, and living room: All three areas may be open in a large great room, often with a vaulted ceiling.
Advantages of Open Floor Plans
- Better traffic flow. Without doors to open and close and no walls to hinder traffic, people can move through space unhindered.
- Improved sociability and communication. Without walls, it’s possible to talk to one another across rooms.
- Shared light. Interior spaces that were once without windows now get natural light from windows in exterior walls.
- Improved real estate value. In almost every instance, an open floor plan is highly desirable and increases your home’s value to prospective buyers.
- Easier to watch kids. Parents cooking in the kitchen or setting the dining room table can easily supervise children in the living room.
Disadvantages of Open Floor Plans
- Costly to heat and cool. Great rooms with high ceilings are often energy drains, especially when the outer walls are equipped with large windows, as they often are. While traditional floor plans allow you to heat or cool only certain rooms, the entire space must be heated or cooled with an open floor plan.
- Higher construction cost. Without partition walls, open concepts depend on steel or laminated beams for support. These are costly to install.
- Poor sound control. Without partition walls to block noise, open concept homes can be very noisy.
- Lack of privacy. Open floor plans are great for social activity, but they make it hard to find quiet spaces for private reading or study.