Pros and Cons of Open-Concept Floor Plans

Anyone who's watched an episode of Fixer Upper, Property Brothers or House Hunters knows that the current trend among homebuyers is open-concept floor plans. While this way of living has its major upsides, you may want to consider whether it's truly the right concept for you. Take a look at these pros and cons and see if an open floor plan is a contender for your home.

By: Lili Zarghami
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Pro: Making a Small Space Feel Larger

This is probably the biggest challenge that open-concept living solves. Small spaces can feel so much smaller when they're cut up by walls that delineate one living space from another. Adding more square footage comes at a cost and isn't always an option. Whether you're in an apartment that can't be expanded or adding on a room is cost-prohibitive, open-concept can be a perfect solution. A not-so-tricky way to trick the eye into thinking that you've got more square footage than you really do is by tearing down walls and opening up your rooms to each other.

Con: A Large Space May Feel Too Big

On the flip side, if you've got square footage to spare, having an open-concept layout can make an already big space feel far too big. A warm, cozy home can be hard to achieve when there are no walls. The feeling of an echoey, warehouse-like living space is even more amplified if you've got high ceilings. And let's not forget that heating or cooling a huge space can be costly depending on the climate of your hometown.

Pro: Being a Part of the Family

If you're in charge of family mealtime, you may be quite familiar with the feeling of isolation that comes with that culinary responsibility. While the rest of your household is watching a show, or playing in the living room, or doing homework at the dining room table, you're toiling away in kitchen. You miss out on conversation and togetherness simply because living spaces are cut off from each other. An open concept is a very neat fix for that problem.

Con: A Messy Kitchen Is Always on Display

Real talk: kitchens can be the messiest part of your home. The work of making a meal is inherently chaotic: bowls cover the countertops; pots and pans in various states of use are out and about; veggies and meats need prepping. Unless you're a master of clean-as-you-go there invariably will be visual clutter in your kitchen at some point. You can't hide from a messy kitchen for a few glorious minutes or hours with an open-concept layout.

Pro: Entertaining Is More Social + Convenient

No matter how well planned-out a party is, a host knows that everyone always ends up in the kitchen. It makes sense! Your guests want to visit with you while they're in your home. An open layout makes this so much more sensible for hosts and guests alike. While you're setting up your crudites and concocting your signature drink, your guests can be at your buffet or on your couch and still take part in conversation with you. And you can maintain a feeling of togetherness without an army underfoot in your kitchen.

Con: No Perfect Way to Contain the Mess

Sometimes you want to hide away in the kitchen for a minute to catch your breath from that party that's got you working your tail off. Other times, your kids' toys have made their way to the living room; laptops are out, mail and papers from your "home office" pile up. It happens. With an open floor plan, there isn't a really good way to hide away or contain the mess. Good storage and a diligent mess-manager (whoever that may be in your home) help, but aren't always perfect. Clutter collections will out themselves if your home is wide open.

Pro: Gorgeous Open Sight Lines

With no walls to block your view, the beauty of your whole home is on full display. Frank Lloyd Wright originally began changing the way our homes were designed to highlight each space and to encourage indoor-outdoor living. His thoughtful plans allowed a continuity of design and flow from space to space to be the highlight of a home. Today's open floor plans are the beneficiaries of this change in concept and can be stunning visually.

Con: Load-Bearing Walls

When you look at a compartmentalized house and imagine an open flow from space to space, your first thought should be: is that a load-bearing wall? Knocking down one of these key walls can come at a huge cost and requires a professional. In many cases, those load-bearing walls can be replaced with beams that displace the weight of your home, but they're not cheap. The cost can easily run into the thousands and thousands of dollars.

Pro: Eliminating Underused Spaces

Maybe your grandmother had a room that the kids weren't allowed in. In fact, you may not have ever seen anyone in the perfectly kempt formal living room. Maybe in your house, the formal dining room only gets some love on major holidays. If a large percentage of your house is taken up by rooms like this that are underused and you're craving more usuable space, then open-concept living could be the answer.

Con: Lack of Privacy

If your kids are noisy when they're playing (congrats if yours aren't!); if you need some solitude to get work done; if your partner is bingeing a tv show that you haven't caught up on — too bad. Open-concept homes don't provide the privacy that is needed to accomodate any of those situations. Being together all the time means being together ALL the time. It's a big factor you need to consider.

Think About What's Right for You

Truly consider why you want an open-concept home beyond the current movement toward this style. If you really are "entertainers" and not just holiday-only hosts, it could be for you. If your family craves togetherness now and as it grows at the expense of privacy, maybe you want open concept. If you love indoor-outdoor living and want to enhance that, this may be the way to go. If your open kitchen shelving is full of perfectly coordinated plates and glasses and you think you can extend that to the rest of your home, this could be the best bet. Either way, take all these factors into consideration and choose a home layout that's the best fit for your family.

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