Like anything in life, when something gets hot, everyone jumps on board. All across the internet, when you search for house plans you are going to see the words, “open floor plan.”
What I wanted to do was cover first, what makes a floor plan truly open. Then I’ll toss out a couple of reasons why the open floor plan is all the rave in the industry.
So, what makes a plan open?
Most designers would say there are at least these three factors:
- Room Integration
- Maximum Use of Livable Space
- Viewpoints to Main Living Areas
Here is a plan that was found through a search on Google for “Open Floor Plan.” It is literally the image of a plan that is used as an example of an open house plan. Hmmmm… somebody is fibbing and taking advantage of the buzzword. I’ll show you why this is not an open plan. (I’ll leave out why its a flat out horrible plan for another blog)
No Room Integration: You have three main dwelling areas in this house (leaving out bedrooms). The kitchen, living room and dining room. While all of the rooms are close, they are divided by walls. The red triangle symbolizes the connection of the three dwelling areas and the green line symbolizes the walls. This means that the house will only feel as big as the room you are in. None of the three dwelling areas are even remotely open to each other.
Each one is segmented by walls and even more amazingly, doors!
NO Maximum Use of Livable Space: In the next image, look at the green lines. That is hallway space and tons of it. There was no thought put into the design of the floor plan. With that much room there should be some kind of formal entry or foyer (see “A” & “B”) or skating rink. That space could have created larger bathrooms, bedrooms or living areas. That is thousands of dollars in wasted space. Thousands!
NO Viewpoints to Main Living Areas: Finally, in the last image, I am going to cover something that is a bit less easy to “see.” This is the idea of viewpoints and how our peripheral vision plays a role. Imagine standing in a corner, facing the wall. The room would feel pretty small, right. Well, if you are in a 12 x 14 room, that is how big the house will feel. Especially with eight foot ceilings and limited windows. This is what is on the menu here in our “open floor plan.”
What I did is put a O in each of the rooms that is a dwelling area. I included one in the pseudo foyer because this is your visitors first impression of the home and is very important.
The – – – – – – – to symbolize a line of sight. An open floor plan should allow you to look into a main dwelling area from another. Not every room has to be open completely, but the majority should. Often times the dining room may be towards the front of the home, making it unable to be directly in the mix. In fact, if it wasn’t such a resale taboo, many would eliminate the formal dining room altogether. Keep in mind, there should also be a natural flow of traffic, but lets stick to the lines of site for this example.
This home is laid out much like a apartment would be, opening straight into the living room and with four walls defining each space.
The only room that can be easily seen from the entrance is the living room. All other rooms are void of that all important line of site, making each room not just closed, but void of interaction. I hear everyday how much the person cooking wants to interact with what’s happening in the living areas.
Finally, since I have shown you what is wrong with the so called open floor plan above, let me show you, without going into a ton of detail, what an open floor plan really lives like.
The lines of site are plentiful. The hallway used in this plan has a specific purpose and that is for the WOW factor upon entrance. They even added a barrel vault for the effect of grandeur. You can see all the way through the house from the entrance and from the breakfast area, kitchen, foyer and living room.
When it comes down to our greatest investments, good enough doesn’t cut it. We expect our house to be a reliable shelter, but it should also be a functional part of our lives that is a place of ease and rest.