Say goodbye to formal living and dining rooms. Welcome to the open floor plan - one great, free-flowing space without walls and boundaries.
A design that took flight in the late 1980s, the open floor plan continues to be a fashionable and charming home style for most Americans. Today’s families crave an unobstructed space where they can gather together and interact with each other and their friends freely and casually. They are looking to break down walls and barriers to create a center of activity. So, gone are old-fashioned layouts with narrow passageways, small rooms, and underused areas like formal sitting rooms and enclosed formal dining rooms.
Taking a page from apartment layouts – with their open, undivided spaces – the modern home with an open floor plan typically combines the kitchen, living room, and dining room into one large room that becomes its new “heart” and focus.
Monica and Rachel’s home in the TV series Friends illustrates the open floor layout, which is typical of apartment units. This is an actual floor plan of an apartment in New York City’s West Village.
Why choose open floor plans?
No matter what size or style the home is, the open layout is appealing for many reasons.
1.Improved family dynamics – in an open multi-function room, the family can be together to eat, cook, share stories and experiences, and perform a variety of tasks together or separately.
Imagine gathering in this lovely space –on a kitchen stool, at the breakfast nook, in the living room, or on the screened porch. (Home Plan 161-1030)
2. A sense of spaciousness even in smaller homes – with no walls and boundaries in the home, open floor plans give the home a “larger” feel.
The interior of Plan #168-1088 (floor plan shown above in “What to Look for in a Well Designed, Open Floor Plan”). Left: The living area is open to the kitchen on the right as well as to the second floor, creating an inviting and gracious space. Right: The luxurious kitchen incorporates an eating area along kitchen island.
3.Light, breezy, and airy – large windows and moderately high ceilings allow natural light to filter into the home and brighten the open space.
This one-story modern home with 1,439 square feet of space looks larger because of its open floor layout – enhanced by tall windows and high ceilings. (A detailed floor plan is shown below - Plan 149-1837.)
This 1,439-square-foot home makes the most of its living space with an open floor plan. As a result, space is not wasted on walls, doorways, and hallways. In addition, the open layout creates a sense that the home is much larger than it actually is. (Plan 149-1837)
4. Clean lines and clear views that connect to the outdoors – most of today’s modern homes are designed with open floor plans that provide clear looks at outdoor living spaces - patios, outdoor kitchens, rear courtyards, swimming pools.
From the inside looking out: a modern home with large glass windows (left) allows views of the outdoor landscape (Plan 149-1837). Lounge around in the family area of this Texas-style ranch (right) or the breakfast nook, and enjoy a view of the well-lit outdoor swimming pool (Plan 117-1092)
5. Intimate, accessible, and free-flowing – an open floor plan allows family and friends to move around easily from one space of the home to another.
6. Versatile use of space – while the kitchen remains the hub of activities, homes with open floor plans have the flexibility of moving or extending the “party” to adjacent areas like the Great Room (below) and still maintain that connection with everyone.
In this example, a stunning contemporary mountain home features a very spacious modern kitchen where families and friends can all congregate (Plan # 161-1000 above and below).
There’s also a Great Room where one can extend festivities and enjoy wonderful views.
A home can still be traditional and have an open floor plan for today’s modern family: this striking one-story, five-bedroom country home features an open floor plan that is ideal for gatherings. The spacious modern kitchen – with kitchen island and breakfast nook – provides convenient access to living areas, covered and open decks, and patio (photo below). (Plan 161-1042).
With no walls between the social spaces, there is free-flowing access throughout the kitchen, family room, and deck. A main-level floor plan shows the home’s layout. (Plan 161-1042)
What happens when “togetherness” gets too much?
If you love open floor plans but worry about the noise and chaos of everyone together in one space, there are creative and colorful ways of getting around that. Think screens, sliding walls/half walls, open shelves/bookcases, and glass partitions, all of which may even enhance the ambiance of your open floor layout.
Decorative (and removable) glass dividers separate areas without losing the feel and atmosphere of open floors.
Using shelving units is another smart and attractive way of delineating space.
Open floor plans are here to stay! Let your imagination go wild – and think of all the possibilities waiting for you!
Footnote: Source for lead image in this article is House Plan # 168-1011. To view this open floor plan home, click here.