Houses used to be constructed with a main hallway leading to separate rooms with specific functions, but open floor plans began to grow in popularity after World War II and became the norm in the 1990s. An open floor plan combines two or more common rooms, such as the kitchen, dining room and living room, into one large space.
In a house with an open floor plan, the walls that would typically divide rooms are eliminated. Instead, heavy-duty beams support the weight of the ceiling and upper floor. In many cases, two areas are visually divided by a kitchen island, a fireplace, a staircase or different paint colors.
Advantages of an Open Floor Plan
In a house designed with an open floor plan, people can see a large area and move freely throughout the house. Guests at a party can mingle easily, and parents and caregivers can keep an eye on young children who are playing while the adults handle other tasks.
An open floor plan provides decorating flexibility. Without the limitations created by walls, residents have many options in terms of how to arrange furniture. The layout can be changed for special occasions. For example, an area can be used as a family room on a regular basis, but furniture can be moved to host a dinner party for a group of guests.
The lack of dividing walls makes it easier to allow natural light into the house. A large space can receive sunlight from windows in other parts of the house that would otherwise be blocked by walls.
Downsides of an Open Floor Plan
In a house with walls separating the common areas, the temperature in each room can be controlled. Rooms that are used less can be heated or cooled less. With an open floor plan, the entire space needs to be heated or cooled. Utility bills are often higher in homes with open floor plans, especially if they have large windows.
An open floor plan can make it hard to control noise. If one family member is watching TV or listening to music in the living room area, others will hear it in the kitchen. That could be distracting and irritating to some people.
A house with an open floor plan can easily become cluttered. Without walls to keep belongings confined to their own spaces, items can become strewn around the house. Organization is key for a family living in a home with large, open spaces.
Is an Open Floor Plan Right for Your Family?
As you search for your next home, you will likely come across many houses with open floor plans. If you enjoy entertaining or need to keep a close eye on your kids, that could be ideal, but you should consider the potential for high utility bills, noise and clutter to decide if a particular house is right for you.