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Trend Alert: Is it the End of the Open Concept Living Space,Yay or Nay?

By 02/07/2018March 29th, 201878 Comments

House Beautiful

Last November when I picked up the December/January issue of House Beautiful magazine, I was intrigued to read Eddie Ross’ article on Edgewood Hall, the house he’s renovating with his partner Jaithan. This is what he said:

Jaithan and I peered through a dimly lit corridor towards the kitchen. A tangle of small rooms shrouded the front of the house, while the combined kitchen-family room from an earlier renovation was open and bright.

Every single friend and design pro we invited for a hard hat tour said the same thing, “You’re going to open this all up, right?”

Call me traditional, but no! I’ll take rooms that unfold throughout a house–albeit imperfectly–over an open concept floor plan any day.

It’s often difficult to make an open plan work.  How do you know when to stop one paint colour and start another? Can you do stripes in the kitchen and a floral in the living area?

Ask any decorator–it’s hard for us too!

For me, rooms just work. I like a distinct foyer that sets the tone for a house.  Closing off the dining room–and the dirty dishes–to join my guests in the living room for dessert.

I like a garden room packed with plants, a year-round oasis. Imagine cramming all that into a single open area! Now I have all sorts of little spaces to express my big love for style.

Why settle for a great room when you can have great rooms instead? Eddie Ross on Instagram.

There’s an article about this very conversation we send to everyone who registers into one of my Specify Colour with Confidence workshops. It also mentions scale and the upstairs balcony and double story height great rooms and how they are in fact NOT ‘human scale’.

Trend Alert: Is it the End of the Open Concept Living Space,Yay or Nay?

One participant was in the middle of a new build when she registered for the workshop. When my email arrived, she had just told her architect that she wanted to be able to install a 10 ft Christmas tree in her great room.

After she read the article she called him back and said “Stop, stop, time out, time out”.

When we renovated our house six years ago, the contractor immediately suggested we open up the space from the kitchen to the dining room, which adjoins our living room. “Why would I want to do that”, I said? “It gives me less wall space for cabinetry in the kitchen and I’m already opening up the doorway between the kitchen/family room.”

The big trend now in painted interiors is choosing a white greige for the main living areas and then colour for actual rooms, like bedrooms, bathrooms and maybe the dining room if it’s not open too. The primary reason why this is happening is because open concept homes are extremely popular!

And this house with this doozie of a kitchen one of my eDesign clients recently inherited validates what we’re talking about here, check it out:


The other trend that was big in the 90s was ROUNDED CORNERS. Very bad for transitioning paint colour. My advice to you if you MUST switch from one colour to another is draw a line in the middle of the corner. It’s really the only thing you can do if you can’t get someone in to fix them.

source (love the clean, classic and timeless fireplace)

The Bottom Line

So here’s the bottom line. There’s nothing wrong with your open concept floor plan (if you have one), there are pros and cons to both, however I think perhaps a combination could also be fabulous. it’s something to consider if you are planning a new build!

Over to you my lovelies, what do you think? Yay or Nay to open concept design?

This week I was fortunate to be featured in USA Today in an article about kitchens written by Cindy Bailen, read it here. 

PS. The early bird rate for my Spring Specify Colour with Confidence workshops ends next Tuesday, February 13, 2017. Register here now to attend the best colour training in the world. The price will be going  up this Fall.

Related posts:

The 4 Best Whites for Your Open Plan House

Should Your Great Room Fireplace Relate to the Kitchen

10 Steps for Planning Your New Build

18 pins


  • Jennifer says:

    I love a mixed floor plan. Our kitchen is open to the family room, which is not huge, but that’s where the family gathers. The living room and living room are a separate distinct L, and don’t get as much use. However, I remember reading an article regarding open floor plans and teenagers, talking about how having separate “public” spaces in the home is helpful for when teens need a little space, without being hidden in their bedrooms

  • Laurel Bern says:

    There’s open and then there’s OPEN! But when the entrance, living room, dining room, kitchen and family room are all ONE room, I feel that it’s too much. The white room shown is gorgeous! Over the years, we’ve actually added small walls, columns, etc. to create a separation while still leaving an open an airy feel. When we’re done, it always looks like it was done that way originally. I love that. xo ~ Laurel

    • Lynn says:

      I totally agree, there is open and there’s OPEN. AND allow me to add there is closed off and there’s choppy. I like a little from column A and B.
      Rounded corners when painted by a professional are a non-issue.
      Faux painting should be banned. ( However, I do understand what the author was trying to convey). I am not a huge fan of every room having it’s own theme/identity. I have been in homes where I stand in the hall and look into 4 different rooms and each looks like 4 different HGTV design on a dime ideas. Ugh! I like continuity and flow. Not every room has to match or be the same color but it should be connected like a chapters is a novel.

  • E rodriguez says:

    I agree completely. I have open concept have no quiet space unless I go to the bedroom. We are shopping for a new home now and I want separate living dining kitchen etc.

  • Shannon says:

    A friend and I were taking about this during the Super Bowl ?. I cited the same article by him. She had just sold her 1940s home and was wondering if open concept was going out. My house is pretty open for its age, there’s a front half of the house that’s a big room and ten the kitchen/dining/living great room on the back. During parties the kids play in the front room, the adults in the back.

  • Kerry says:

    I am passionate about this topic–having grown up in an historic house. It makes me cringe every time I see walls ripped out to create an open space. That said, when I lived in a 90s starter house with small square footage, it allowed us to maximize the small space we had and I liked how social it was. Now I live in an historic house again (4 blocks from the one I grew up in). This current house offers us a challenge. The natural flow between the living room and dining room is great. The kitchen was renovated (oh the tuscan browns…oh the granite) with an addition and is now huge and open to the dining room. We’ve enjoyed using the space for entertaining, but still lust after the ability to close off the kitchen dishes and have a nice meal. We’re renovating the kitchen to look more like a 40s kitchen again, so soon we’ll have sheets of butcher paper up to help us make the decision of how far to close down the opening. Fortunately for us, there’s plenty of space for guests to gather in the kitchen (which they’ll do regardless of space) so the cook won’t be isolated. Ultimately, I think a kitchen with some gathering space outside the work area, or a kitchen attached to a family area is the ideal compromise.

  • Linda Bennett says:

    I painted my sister’s hallways that banked the living and kitchen rooms both with rounded corners. She made up her mind how far around those corners she wanted to take the hall colour. Got my level out, made some pencil guides then used that beautiful frog paint tape. It turned out beautiful and no bleeding of paint.

  • Ashley says:

    I always thought I wanted an open concept home until I experienced what it was like. During a new build, my mom requested to remove just about every wall from the main floor that wasn’t structural. While it did create amazing gathering spaces for larger crowds, I noticed it was almost impossible to have a “quiet moment” anywhere on the main level, especially with the hardwood flooring. I didn’t realize how much that bothered me! Last year, I ended up buying an older traditional colonial. And though my kitchen and family room are open to each other, I absolutely love having a separate dining room, which we use daily as our main eating area, and a separate “living room” (aka office). Different strokes for different folks!

  • Michele says:

    Thanks for posting this! I am so over open space! Maybe my age, but I long for the cozy rooms I grew up in. I have so little space to hang my artwork. Every area, kitchen, dining and living, feels like it is all the same to me. Not enough interest for my taste. I just put my house on the market, and hope to purchase a more traditional home that we love, but here in the GTA, Greater Toronto Area, things are moving slowly. For the past week I have been buried in paint colours… reading my two favs, you and Ms Bern! I am barely coming up for air, but loving every minute!

  • deto says:

    I have never liked the truly open concept. With four kids I am desperate to keep my messes hidden. And with a husband who loves to cook and uses every dish in the kitchen when creating amazing cuisine, out kitchen looks like a bomb went off. Why would I want an open view of that to my living area? What goes on in the kitchen would be so loud nobody in the living space could have a conversation. I like to keep my chaos separate, and I like some individuality to rooms when it comes to color. Saw a house design TV show where the participant removed what I thought was a nice and well-placed big floating fireplace separating the living and kitchen areas, and it cost a fortune to do so. All I could think was, “Nooooooooo!” To each their own, and that way everybody is happy in their own house!

  • Nancy says:

    Pretty great room !
    I love a open concept.
    Love the flow .
    Doesn’t feel so chopped up to me .
    I also like continuity in spaces so the openness works for me on many levels .
    Thank you

  • Lydia says:

    For me personally: nay! In our home we have a breakfast nook, kitchen, dining room, and living room that are all connected but separate spaces. I like that we can give our guests different rooms to go into and not make everyone talk over each other in the same huge space. It also just makes a home feel so much more cozy and homey.

  • Kay says:

    I didn’t mind the open concept until my step father was diagnosed with dementia. They have an open concept plan and it has become difficult for my mother to have a private conversation. She has even been caught trying to talk on the phone in a closet! Their situation opened my eyes.

  • Alex says:

    It all depends on what you mean by “open”. I saw a house with a huge double-story living room with a balcony above it right off the foyer, and I didn’t like it at all. The sound from the living room carried throughout the 1st and 2nd floor.

    But generally, I’m in favor of open floor plans. My house has a kitchen with a half-wall separating it from the living room, and I love it. It means that when I’m in the kitchen getting a meal ready, I can see the kids in the living room and keep an eye on them, and I don’t feel cut off from the rest of the house.

    Our kitchen designer also recommended that we open the wall between the kitchen and dining room, and even though we lost some cabinetry space, it was a great idea. Our dining room was previously only accessible from the foyer, which necessitated leaving the kitchen and walking down a hallway to the foyer. If we left it as is, we wouldn’t ever set foot in the dining room outside of when we needed to for parties involving guests, and moving dishes / food / etc between the kitchen and the dining room would have been a pain.

  • Katy says:

    I’m not a fan of extreme open concept; been there and done that. However I don’t want a feeling of being totally closed in. I suppose I am a fan of the “public”rooms, flowing into one another with larger entrances and enough color coordination to make it “feel” open…yet separate. With that said, I have NEVER liked my kitchen to be a part of that public area. Right now, my kitchen has three entrances but no actual doors. Being in the middle, It opens into dining room on one side, family room on another, and sun porch/breakfast room on another. It is also painted in the same greige color as the rest but a deeper shade. I can easily hide messy dishes from view if necessary. I like the fact that it does not become a hangout for guests. When we have guests over, I find that they spread out into all these rooms instead of congregating in one. It’s hard to explain but everyone seems to like the flow.

  • Gilda says:

    I emphatically told my architect that I didn’t want ‘open’ concept AT ALL…too trendy and I dont’ want people bothering me when I am cooking..I have to focus!!!!

    • J says:

      I have never been a fan of open concept. If I were a single lady living in a loft downtown, maybe. But every reno show I watch, 99% of them tear down all the interior walls and have designated ‘spaces’. We were in a house that was like this and I hated it, I was physically uncomfortable in the house. Our house isn’t big (approx 2k sq ft), and it’s perfect. We choose this model because the kitchen and breakfast room are separate from the family room. I don’t want to be banging around in the kitchen while someone is trying to watch tv or read and have it all be in the same space. I also prefer a smaller house to a larger one. Our house is cozy, I’d never tear down any walls to “open it up”. Ew.

    • Cynthia says:

      So agree!! I need to bet the recipe right LOL

  • jill says:

    Open concept, maybe, but not too open concept . . . especially the kitchen. My opjections to open concept have more to do with the practicalities of living than when picking colors, although I think the color issue is a real concern.

    It’s sort of a cliché that “Everyone Always Ends Up In The Kitchen At A Party”, but with some truth to it. It seems like the open concept concept is a way of leaning into that tendency of guests congrating in the kitchen. But actually I don’t want my kitchen front and center when I entertain or at any other time. To me, the kitchen like the bowels of ship, it’s where work happens, not the part of the house that most I want to show off. There is a tendency for dirty dishes to accumulate in the sink, especially, when i’ve just prepared a meal for guests. And there are noises and smells that come from the kitchen that I would like to keep somewhat contained, more of a concern just for everyday living that for entertaining purposes. Another reason that I would like the kitchen somewhat removed from the other living areas is because I’m always on a diet and I would prefer just to not to be reminded of food/cooking/eating when I’m in the other living areas of my house.

    I think open concept is a nice way to make a house seem more spacious and it is modern or at least popular right now, perhaps good for resale value. I think it probably make more sense for families with young children, where “site lines” are important. And It is nice for the person who is giving a party to actually be part of the party, instead of being completely walled off in the kitchen. Kitchens tend to be where a good portion of the budget is spent and so are good “showing off”. And I suppose some kitchens are legitimately lovely and worthy of being shown off a little but I’d still rather mine be a bit seperated from the rest of the house.

    It also seems to me that for optimal beauty of the living room or perhaps even the dining room, it would be preferable not to have a view of the kitchen (and not just for reasons related to color). I appreciate open concept when it is really well done but I think there is a lot of open concept that is not especially well done. I would not mind it if the open concept trend became less prevalent or our idea about what should and should not be open were to shift.

  • What a great article! I believe that there should be a balance between a totally open concept space and many small rooms, but everyone should have what works best for them.

    I love a 9 or 10 ft ceiling, but any higher than that can become too cold. My house has an L-shaped great room shape, with a half wall between the dining room and living room. When the house was new, I also filled in the wall between the dining room and entry way. Best thing ever to give a person a breath before they walk into the house. The other family with my twin house removed the half wall, and has regretted it ever since.

    Again, thank you for your wonderful article!

  • Korina Trew says:

    I am not a fan of “great rooms”. I like rooms, the space feels more cozy to me. However, I do think having a room that has a lot of windows and feels spacious, whether its a kitchen or living room, is great. Also, I think trying to decorate in a great room/open concept is tricky because everything is off scale, you almost have to be a minimalist to pull it off well. And I am so NOT one of those. I like setting up little still life paintings in my house, and that just looks weird in an open concept home.

  • Katy says:

    YES!!!! I’ve been saying this for years! I’m renovating another house and it’s a massive open concept with ghastly echoing— the noise! We’re in the process of building in all the missing walls and making it more classic with beautiful doors between rooms. I can’t wait. I’m so sick of open concept but it’s everywhere because the subdivision builders are doing it in every house they throw up around here now. You know how builders are always behind the trends… sigh.

  • Grammiepam says:

    I agree with the two designers. Who wants to see the pots and pans used for supper. I always added an attractive pass-through from my kitchen to the TV area so I could enjoy the family but no dirty dishes were visible.
    Also I prefer a “water closet” in my bathroom. I’d even give up some closet space for the privacy. Open space in bathrooms needs to be well thought out. And ask a woman but not most men, when designing bathrooms or kitchens.

  • BG Mitchell says:

    Nay! Nay! Nay! Open concept basically brings your dish rag, cooking smells, and dirty pots and pans into your living room. Who wants their curtains, sofas, and rugs to smell like a diner? Plus, people need privacy. Want to know why everyone is suddenly spending a fortune turning their bathrooms into fancy spa “retreats”? Because in an open concept house the bathroom is the only place you can go to get some privacy. It’s insanity.

  • Fra Na says:

    We lived in a 1920’s Colonial for over 30 years and I loved the individual spaces, especially the kitchen which I could close off the mess at parties. One of my favorite things about the old house was the beautiful millwork. Three years ago we built our retirement home in a beautiful community with limited floor plan options. So we now have the living room, dining room, and kitchen all in one. I poured over every post Maria has written and White is Complicated. Then proceeded to pick my own finishes. Maria I could never have done it without you.

    In order to make the kitchen work in open plan we ran the wood floors throughout, closed up above the cabinets and put crown moulding throughout the whole room (the cabinets and all millwork are the same white). We put in a large deep sink to hide dirty dishes after dinner party so you can’t see them from the living room and I can wash up after guests leave. Under counter microwave drawer so you can’t see it from the living/dining areas, trimmed out the exhaust fan and put in an integrated refrigerator that looks just like cabinetry. The perimeter counter is honed black granite as is the surround on the fireplace. We also took the upper cabinet nearest the dining area and replaced the doors and shelves with glass and put in lighting to display my collection of colored glass vases.

    We have made it work and I love our home but I hope individual spaces are making a comeback.

  • Cathy says:

    We downsized a year ago and I refused to even look at any houses where the kitchen was visible from the front door. That was a deal breaker for me. It was hard to find one because there were too many houses that had been remodeled into open concept – with a too visible kitchen.

  • Lynn says:

    Not a fan of the open floor plan…I’ve had both. The open FP was good for about a minute when my kids were very small. When they are newborns we tend to think it’s so important to see their every move while we are cooking etc. That phase doesn’t last long at all. Order take out and keep your separate spaces!

  • Anne says:

    We built our home in 2001 and it was way too open. Six years later we renovated by adding walls with large cased openings between rooms. It now has a great flow with defined spaces that are still flexible and open but not cavernous. Now we are on our second renovation but only changing paint colors…and your color selections for us are perfect! Thanks!

  • JoyceBinAtlanta says:

    I hate open floor plans! There, I said it! In our last truly open floor plan house, I felt each time I opened the front door, dust bunnies could travel unimpeded all the way to the back door. It was a huge house, but we felt uncomfortable using it, unless we had 30 or so people over. We ended up creating a small sitting room in our bedroom, and each of our sons had a bedroom upstairs and their own private playroom. It was a show house, but we are a family who don’t entertain non-stop. The maintenance of the house made me feel we lived isolated from each other. To keep the house pretty, we retreated to our human scale spaces after dinner each night. The house we then moved to has a real kitchen area separate from the more public spaces. When we redid our kitchen, the prevailing wisdom was to blow the walls out. Instead, we closed one of the 2 openings into the family room. When dinner is done, I like to turn my back on the kitchen and leave to relax, read, or watch TV. I like the dishwasher noise and the hum of the fridge to stay behind. I dislike guests congregating in my kitchen, so I had my husband put dimmers on every variety of light we have in the kitchen. When people try to join me, I just keep dimming!!

  • Jill McDougall says:

    We built our open concept house in 2013, and there are pros and cons. Pros: We have a view out the front, and I love being able to see it from all of the main rooms. I also love how spacious, light, and open it feels, especially here in the Pacific Northwest where it’s dark and cloudy for so much of the year. The cons: With the hardwood floors, it’s really noisy. If the tv is on or someone is doing dishes in the kitchen, everything just echoes. Also- I can’t hide any clutter! If had it to do over again, I’d probably keep most of the design open concept, but would make sure add a nice room to the main floor to act as a cozy den for my introverted self. 🙂

  • I love grand, perfectly proportioned, spacious rooms. I have an aversion to full-on open concept homes, unless they are cabins or tiny and charming. On the other hand, a choppy, boxy home is not a draw either. A home should offer a little mystery and intrigue, along with good flow! A kitchen with a widened doorway to the dining room or open to a family room is wonderful, but it can be so boring to see everything at once. xox

  • Diane says:

    Great article Maria. I certainly enjoyed reading it.

  • Cindi says:

    i think in general people are less formal and want the entertainment areas to be open (kitchen/dining/living room.) i certainly do. Some designs take it overboard and have both an open living and family room. That makes me crazy because there is no sound separation between those two rooms. If there is a separate family room or den, it should be closed. But I wish more architects would design homes that are flexible, with walls that can easily be opened and closed by various homeowners as they wish.

    • Jill says:

      I agree! I don’t see the point of having two living rooms, if you can see from one to another. If you were going to have two living rooms I think one would be for company and front and center and the other would be just for family to do their living and perhaps making the occasional little mess and would be tucked away.

      Re: rounded corners for the 90’s — this kept me up last night. If the two colors were not to far away from each other on the color wheel, would it be possible to make a graceful transition between the two colors by gradually blend the colors into each other across the width of a rounded corner?

  • Squeak says:

    I much prefer individual rooms, albeit ones with beautiful doorways/openings between them, like the best New York apartments.

  • Emilie says:

    We moved to our miniature house because it’s directly on the ocean. Our view and lifestyle fills us with so much happiness. But our open concept has been driving me bonkers. Being a new mom, I haven’t been able to keep a clean kitchen all of the time, although I’m getting into a flow now after 2 years. The entry is directly into the kitchen, which is brutal and embarrassing when neighbours show up unannounced. Then there is the dining room and living room, also right there because it’s a very small space. Thankfully, the rest of the house is functional. A bedroom wing, a guest suite with ocean views, and a separate tv room downstairs which keeps the tv away from everything, that’s a bonus. But I am already dreaming of our next house. Traditional, beautiful millwork, and separate rooms everywhere (including an actual entrance!)

  • Cynthia says:

    Very interesting and timely post. My best friend, of 45 years, and I often discuss this. The ability to have a separate dining /living room that a door can close and you no longer see dishes, kitchen stuff etc, in our opinion is wonderful! We thought we were just old school, maybe we are ahead of the curve LOL

  • Jackie says:

    I have a question that may be a bit off topic, but it seems the drivers for the open floor plan are often for site lines for parents with children, and then the issue of people congregating in the kitchen. So why exactly do you think people congregate in the kitchen? Even when it may be the tiniest of spaces, with plenty of space elsewhere… if you put drinks & appetizers in another room, will that help? Or do they go to the kitchen because the hostess is in there? Or because it is a cozy room full of good smells for what is to come? Or what is it?? If you don’t want an open concept home, how do you encourage people to congregate elsewhere?

    • Molly says:

      Jackie, great conversation questions! We currently have 2 houses living between 2 cities temporarily. One house is newer with the open plan and our house of 18 years is a traditional older home with lovely separate rooms. It’s interesting your point about the site line monitoring of kids. Kids today can’t get into mischief as easily as we did! I am really thinking about your questions as I ponder which house style I want next for probably my last house. Good questions!

    • Vanessa says:

      In reply to Jackie – yes, it’s because the hostess is there, and also because you can spill your drink (accidentally) and it can be wiped up. People will sit outside pretty comfortably too. For me, the thought of sitting on a beautiful couch with food and drink is only ok at my house.

    • mrsben says:

      @Jackie: At one time I did a lot of entertaining and never had a problem of people (namely adults) congregating in the Living Room and adjacent Dining Room whereas the children always gravitated towards the Family Room where the entertainment was. That said; the layout of my home accommodates a flow with the kitchen work and casual eating space between both of them. The DRm is closed off with a pocket door, the kitchen has a backyard view with plenty of windows and is open to the Family Room with the use of a five foot wide staircase with a second staircase the same width beside it, leading up to a large landing on the second floor creating an open visual concept illusion of ten feet or so. Difficult to describe in words, but IMHO basically the best of two worlds as so many people comment how spacious and open the home is, even though it has separate rooms. To conclude; to answer your question ‘why people may congregate in the kitchen’; from experience it is because the hostess is there reason why when having cocktail, dinner parties etc. my rule was to have everything prepared in advance so I could join and mingle with my guests and might only request helping hands when it came to serving it …. ☺.

    • Kathi Steele says:

      Jackie, I have an open concept kitchen, eating area, family room and a separate library and a living room open to the dining room. People would congregate in the kitchen area until I started putting food in the dining room. Then they started using the whole downstairs! I too would have the food ready prior to guests arrival. But, I think a lot of it is because my living room and dining room are formal and people are afraid to eat food and drink because they might spill. I feel this is a hazard of entertaining and if I am unwilling to have spills, I should not have guests. As the hostess, I find if I am not in the kitchen area people will mingle thru out the whole of the downstairs.

  • Fran W. says:

    Loved the article by Ms. Bailen. Great information, as usual!

  • Jill says:

    I have an open plan and I don’t like it. I worry about cooking smells impregnating my sofa, a husband that stands in the way in the kitchen area because he can eat lunch and watch TV at the same time. Not to mention the Rugby games, Motor racing etc on the TV while I do my kitchen duties. I long for the solitude of a separate kitchen. One that is a real kitchen for cooking and making a mess without the worry of it not looking esthetically part of the living room! boy that felt good to admit that after secretly thinking it for years.

    • Gery S. says:

      My heart goes out Jill. Panicked at the thought of my husband’s need for daytime TV news, etc., I am secretly planning a redo of his study before for his retirement in two years. God forbid a TV view, or noise obstruction in our open plan.

  • Karen says:

    I vote for a more traditional home of rooms but would consider a few open spaces. Yep, I am sitting on that fence rail and it isn’t comfortable! Our kitchen and breakfast/TV area is more of an open concept while the rest of the house is more separated. I too like a distinct entry hall which sets the tone of the house. The window treatment there tells you that you’re in for a house full of color and that happy people live there.

    The living room has pale butter walls and a few floral pieces and some solid/stripe ones that relate to the blue & red damask in the hall. The dining room has floral wallpaper which relates to both and no, it didn’t all come out of the same wallpaper book! I’ve spent years creating this beautiful hodgepodge! I am not a fan of neutrals and never wear any clothing in the brown/beige family; I knew I had found Mr Right when he told me his favorite suit colorway was navy pinstripe if he couldn’t wear his tuxedo!

    I think the one thing about open concept houses which annoys me the most is losing a formal dining room. Sometimes you’re in a hurry and want to catch a bite at the breakfast bar or table and that’s OK; but I would miss my dining room so much. And I would miss all my pretty “formal” china and crystal because if you don’t have that beautiful and special space what are you going to do with your china and crystal??!!!

    Oh well; call me an old fogey fuddy-duddy, I’m keeping my house full of small pokey tooms!

    Karen in Cincinnati

  • Fran Schultz says:

    I’ve had two new homes and a vacation condo that utilized open concept. There are a lot of benefits and I think it’s here to stay because people live more casually now and with increased urbanization and a aging population we are moving to smaller square footage homes. The key is balance and the ability to define spaces. I’ve seen better examples in new builds and a lot of bad ones in renovations. I just saw a lottery home on the morning news with two story vaults and although it was very impressive, it’s not my idea of a personal space and I think it’s more trendy.

  • Rocky Kirkeby says:

    I just lived through this very issue! My husband and I tried and failed for two years to build a house! That sounds crazy but with each open floor plan design, there were two of them, the costs farrrrrr exceeded our budget. I was left crying! We decided we couldn’t afford to build. Thankfully we ran across a house for sale in a wonderful neighborhood and bought it. It’s a bit of an open concept and a bit traditional! I love it. There is still the big great room and dining area, but the kitchen is a separate room with its own breakfast nook and fireplace. I love being able to walk out of the kitchen while entertaining and join everyone in the great room without thinking about the mess! We found out that we “live” mostly in the kitchen area….the heart of th home. It’s cozy and bright and this morning very warm next to the fireplace in a pair of beautiful chairs I chose for this room! We are so glad we didn’t build an entirely open concept house.

  • Catherine says:

    I built an open concept house in 2014 and yes, pros and cons. I absolutely love the cross breeze and light when all the windows are open. It feels like more of a porch than a house! But when you have three kids and a puppy, there is no where to hide. We are lucky to have a second floor game room where we send the kids when things get to crazy or I would have sold my house already. My house also almost always looks messy! A few things around the kitchen and the whole space is a wreck. But I’ll take my open home vs an 80s home. I think the homes of the 20s and 30s had it right. Center hall colonials for the win!

  • Geo55 says:

    Nay I say! I like a kitchen /family room open to each other but that’s it. I prefer to have separate rooms for so many reasons: color variations, creating different atmospheres and moods. I prefer cozy, human scale spaces to overly large wide open ones..also much prefer classic architectural proportions.

  • michelle says:

    I am not an open concept fan. I like rooms, lots of them. More decorating
    opportunities. I like sun rooms and plant rooms and music rooms etc.. The only time I like the aesthetic of open concept is in a very very modern house, one with large amounts of glass and concrete. But I would NOT want to actually live in one- too cold.

  • Mary says:

    I was talked into taking out my peninsula and over hang cabinet that divided our den and kitchen. Miss it everyday. The two rooms just always look messy.

  • I agree with the combination or rooms and/or room with large openings to rooms – especially with kitchen and family room. The house must flow but having wall space is a big deal these days.

  • Chere says:

    I like semi open floor plan . I don’t like seeing (my) messy kitchen or my stove from living room . I like dining rooms with bookshelves … etc . I still like hallways etc .
    Sometimes you HAVE to make things work as they are … Lucky you if you don’t . I still like indivuated spaces .

  • mrsben says:

    IF square footage is not a problem then I agree with Eddie and Laurel Bern (above) since I prefer separate rooms myself thus would have to say ‘nay’ to an open concept design. That said; to each their own though. -Brenda-

  • Nicola says:

    So fascinating and polarising too! I think that the context makes a big difference – relaxed beach house with awesome view and lots of glass…open plan is going to work better than it might somewhere else. Having said that, I like human scale spaces with flow and places to escape to. So I guess that’s in the middle of two extremes….semi-open plan please!

  • Libby says:

    This is SO interesting! The open concept has been THE go-to way to design for so long now…and I have never liked it. Having had a very traditional, 1923 house for twenty-five years (reminiscent of Eddie’s Edgewood Hall..) we were very very hesitant when moving south to a more planned community. We looked at open space houses and right away discarded each and every one. Our house now has, once again, real rooms! The kitchen is lovely and bright and big, but it’s the kitchen! And the living room is just that. And the front hallway serves a real purpose. I am so glad others see the value in the more traditional layout!!!

  • Gery S. says:

    Talk about open concept, what about the “tiny house!” There is an extreme which illustrates togetherness to the point of madness, when occupied by a family, or even a couple. Early man lived in caves that were open, but I’ll bet even they were happy to find a cave with a few private dens. Thank you for the post.

  • Mid America Mom says:

    You have to really figure out who YOU are and what environment you want to create. Just moved into 6th home that we own and had temporary living and rental apartments too. Normally there are 5-6 people living in our space along with 2 cats. We are more quiet people so do not entertain often. We rarely have the TV on during the day (we did not own one for 7 years) and the kids are media restricted so not much of that noise. We like a cozy feeling and communal type living. All we need is a home with just one living and eating area hopefully combined and an office area away from the common area for the adults. The kids had toys in bedroom and living/dining area and practice their instruments in our common area or bedroom (whichever they prefer). I like being able to connect with people while cooking (we eat dinner out maybe 2 times a month). We will soon reno this kitchen but walls and doorways stay put – I can see into the living or dining area if I try and that works. Our last two homes were from the 1920’s and they had the living and eating areas open next to each other or in the same room. The kitchens were somewhat closed and I wished they were open more. My kitchens almost always have different paint and we transition at the end of the cabinets/appliances if open concept. FYI Rounded corners. In victorian homes you find it as well (and oval / circle rooms too). *Nice article Maria!*

    • Mid America Mom says:

      OH- forgot to say I like a well defined entryway with good sight lines to other inviting areas of the home. Flooring different, pretty mirror and entry table, nice lighting, good closet.

  • patti says:

    Reading this article makes me happy because I feel the same about having separate rooms vs one big open living space. I have a living room adjoining a dining room but a wall between the kitchen, dining room and living room. My kitchen already adjoins the open family room. ( I am a living room gal, not a TV room gal BTW). My husband and all friends ask, are you going to remove that wall when you remodel your kitchen? I hesitate to say yes because my living room is my sanctuary. It is the “pretty room” where I sit and relax and look out the window. It’s quiet. I read in there, sip wine in there, spend Christmas day in there. If I open it all up, the kitchen becomes joined to the living room, dirty dishes and et al and it no longer is a sanctuary and special. And, decorating options change with it. I vote for keeping the living room separate.

  • JeanM says:

    Nice, thought provoking article. I don’t know if open concept is in or going out, but I have it and I love it! Don’t get me wrong. I love old houses. Lived in a house built in 1924, 1927, and before that an older Victorian. However, after living in them for over 30 years, my husband wanted a newer house. His favorite quote regarding old houses is, “The only thing that works in an old house is the owner.” So, here I am with an open concept house. My kitchen isn’t the first thing you see from the front door, so that’s good. My dining room is slightly off to the side, so not completely open. But I love that when I am in the kitchen, (which is where I am a lot, even though I would rather be anywhere else), I get to be in the middle of things. When I am in the kitchen, my husband’s office is nearby, the living room is right there, and the four-season room is a few steps away. I love the big, two story windows in the open concept–my favorite thing. At first it was the only thing I liked, since I truly am an old-house person. But open concept has really worn on me. After 30 years of my family being in all the other rooms, I finally get to be where they are.

  • vicki says:

    Open space home vs separate rooms seems to be a matter of the heart like so many other design options. I see the open plan as evolutionary as in, once gone there we can’t go back to the separate closed off rooms. But after reading this article it is evident that this designer loves his separate rooms and what it means to him for his decorating style. I have always loved 3 things in design: Open spaces, Lots of light, and a clean minimalist look. To achieve this I chose the open plan and even planned it so that I can see into my 2 bedrooms and all the way to the back and sides of the house from my open space. That is just how much I don’t like closed off rooms. By being able to see far and wide in my home I can enjoy the different light as it moves across the day. I am sure this concept isn’t for everyone. Just wanted to share my ideas on this.

  • One of my favorite books from design school is called, “A Pattern Language,” (several co-authors) and it breaks down the design of any space from the macro to the micro… from the city to the sitting room! It connects a space to the human that occupies it. While it can come across as pretty analytical, I think the principals it communicates are universal… spaces deserve definition and purpose. We control design elements to create feeling (ie. lines for formality vs. informality; heights for intimacy vs. openness, etc.). Open spaces appeal to our evolving insta-visual lifestyles, but I’m not sure they really fulfill our human needs for connection, contemplation or the many other tasks and occupations that happen in the home. With all that said, I think today’s home deserves both because we need both. We need privacy, we need publicity… we need group hugs and one-on-one friends in conversation to lean on. Each deserves a unique space.

  • I love having rooms we can close off. Our home has a few open concept rooms.. We have a kitchen /playroom combo ,with doors to close them off from the rest of the house. And our living room is open to our upstairs loft. With kids in the house or even when entertaining it’s so nice to be able to cut down on the noise levels from room to room.

  • Leli says:

    I continually have this discussion in my head! Separate rooms lend themselves to beautiful decorating opportunities for those with the desire to use them. Open concept lends itself well to the less formal lifestyle many of us enjoy.
    We recently bought and gut renovated a home built in 1880. It had lovely, human-scale proportions and large, very differentiated rooms. We came to a good compromise for us, which was to leave some rooms completely seperate (den, office, entryway) and to semi-open up several rooms to each other (kitchen, dining, living) by removing doors and adding cased openings. It was fun to go a little bolder with the decor of the “closed’ rooms. It’s also sometimes nice to shut a door on the TV noise. In the more open rooms, the cased openings define the different areas yet allow me to chat with my young kids while they are doing homework at the table or playing in the living room while I cook (I am in the kitchen A LOT). Obviously there are pros and cons to each style, so it really just depends on one’s priorities.

  • Keti Abazi says:

    I loved reading this article.
    I do a lot of renovations and remodeling working with investors and not once have I recommended a full blown out open concept plan on homes built in the 50’s and all the way to the 80’s we have been working on.
    Open concept works well on certain homes and it’s a disaster on others.
    So when redoing older homes we have opted for a combination of both. And that has worked really well for my clients. Those types of homes have sold in stellar time, at over asking and the feedback we have gotten has been amazing.

  • What to do, what to do? says:

    We built an open floor plan ranch 2 years ago & my answer would be a resounding nay! Two years & the interior is still not painted because my husband & I can’t agree on the way to paint it. I say paint the living room, dining room, kitchen & hallways all the same color & use different colors to decorate each room. Bringing the colors from the other rooms into each room. He thinks each room should be a different color & it’s OK to just a draw a line to break up the rooms. I can’t tell you how much I hate the thought of 2 colors in the middle of a room butting up against each other. There’s not even a break to separate the kitchen from the dining room & foyer! And, as you said, with an open floor plan you typically don’t have as much room in the kitchen for cabinets. I would have loved to do some upper shelves in my kitchen, but wouldn’t have had enough cabinets. I’ve actually thought about selling it & starting over. We won’t because I’m not going to let a house defeat me & I’d probably be divorced for even suggesting it, but I’ve definitely thought about it. 🙂 One other reason I’m against open floor plans is when hosting a dinner, the kitchen tends to get messy. With an open floor plan you can’t hide it. Your guests see it the minute they walk in the door. Ugh! Meh, maybe the next one.

  • Jen says:

    Open concept came into my life very early in the trend. ‘Y family room and kitchen were one big room and that was 20 years ago. I almost lost my mind with the lack of peace I now had when cooking. With the tv in the same room as me and my food prep (and honking long winters) my brain went on overdrive. I ended up retreating into a world of earphones, earbuds and finally a Bluetooth device while I cook. My next house needs walls. I think the human brain and soul needs boundaries and walls accomplish that in a vital and satisfying way.

  • Elliott says:

    What I think is so interesting is the similarity between “open concept” homes and primitive dwellings in which the kitchen, living, and dining rooms were all in one space, with sleeping quarters tucked away upstairs. You see this home style for instance with the early American settlers. Isn’t it funny that we’ve sort of come full-circle? And what are the societal and lifestyle reasons behind separating rooms based on function- which must have been a natural evolution. My personal preference is for a less-open floorpan, and rooms with distinct functions, for all the reasons already discussed in the comments here.

  • Donna says:

    Never been a fan of open concept houses.. especially the kitchen. Cooking baking canning freezing dehydrating not to mention prep and transport or the forgotten concept of hygienic practice with foods. I do not want my guests or most family members having ability to touch everything in kitchen. And electronics do not mix with process’s of CLEAN foods. Open cocept kitchen along with an island concept allows ‘unclean’ practices to flourish; not to mention the byproducts to spread throughout home. ie steam, oils, smells. If one doesn’ t COOK much or eats in front of TV or Monitor I guess the “pretty” open kitchen is lovely. Also the children’s homework is a source of cross contamination at it’s finest if is on same surface as foods. Not to ignore the mess from cooking is never a good view for eating or entertaining. So I hope open concept will become a member of the Smithsonian very soon. At least close your kitchen!

  • Marilyn says:

    I hate open concept. My kitchen opens to my dining room which flows into the living room. However I can see the TV from my kitchen. When I cook I just go back and forth between the living and the kitchen. If my guests want to they can come set at my breakfast bar. It has been working fine for almost 20 years.

  • Susan Telfer says:

    Our house is more open that it was designed to be, as the builder left out a wall that would have made it into two big spaces (before we bought it.) Now is it pretty much one space, especially when you are coming down the stairs and can see almost every main ‘room.’ Differing ceiling heights help delineate different spaces in our house, and the T.V. is in the farthest “room” from the kitchen, but you do have to go to a bedroom for real quiet with others in the house.
    Also, I have tried to paint the space as though it is two, in two main colours, but am having trouble figuring out where one should start and another should end and what is the balance between the two. I think I am going to go with one neutral everywhere, as we open-concept habitants are advised to do. Also, it needs to be a neutral with enough presence to hold everything together. In my old house, Ivory White could do it, but I don’t think it is strong enough in this big space. Doing yoga on the floor and seeing the walls/ceilings upside down makes this clear.
    However, I do like it, especially the high ceilings, because it is less than 2000 square feet but feels much bigger.

  • Sue says:

    There are two trends that really really need to die. (1) Open concept and (2) enormous kitchens with teeny tiny living areas. I don’t mind open concept in homes that either were designed to have an open concept or in homes where the only way to get comfortable furniture arrangement is to open a wall such as is the case with a traditional rowhouse or shotgun house. But HGTV is FULL of shows where the designers walk into EVERY house & automatically just start ripping out walls. Even historic homes – which KILLS me because those homes have the most remarkable woodwork & built-ins that are stripped away. I also hate it when they expand the kitchen to the point that you have three quarters (or more) of the downstairs all kitchen. Unless you run a restaurant out of your home, you don’t need that much kitchen. Then the camera pans & you see a living area that is crammed to fit a sofa & a chair. Now I love a big kitchen as much as the next gal, but do I need a 30-foot island? I “visit” my kitchen 3 or 4 times a day but I actually live in my living room. Why buy a house full of character if you’re just going to strip it all away? I foresee people spending a lot of cash in the future putting walls back in their houses & getting rid of that 30ft. island.

  • Cindi says:

    Shocking to see how here many don’t like the open floor plan. But maybe it makes sense with your design style and thus who reads your blog. On Houzz the comments are much more biased toward open. Of course I agree that opening both the family AND the living room to the same space are dumb. I actually prefer not having both LR and FR, but if you do then they shouldn’t both be open. I have accepted a lot of sub-optimal floor plans in my day, for one reason or another. But I would never live somewhere with a closed kitchen. To each his own.

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