The open floor plan has become extremely popular, but don’t underestimate the advantages to distinct rooms, with real walls.
My husband and I just purchased a home, which we’re now remodeling. We took down a wall, and the living room transformed from a claustrophobic hole to a magical space flooded with light. Sometimes less is more—and this can definitely be true when it comes to design.
An open floor plan makes a home feel larger and brighter. It’s a fantastic option for effectively using limited space. But you also lose privacy and the convenience of being able to hide your clutter behind a closed door.
Design is about balance. Functional homes need open spaces, as well as nooks and crannies. The key is in figuring out the right mix for your family.
The Case For An Open Floor Plan
1. You get more livable square footage.
South Bay cities have specific zoning regulations that limit square footage. Because we work primarily in this area, the White Sands team knows all the loopholes and tricks to make the most of the square footage you’re allowed.
An open floor plan creates an illusion of space, because there’s nothing breaking up your line of sight. But it also provides more actual living space, because you’re sacrificing less square footage to walls and hallways.
2. You have a brighter, airier home.
Less walls mean light from windows and skylights fill a space, because nothing is blocking or redirecting it. This results in brighter living spaces and—added bonus—more beach views.
3. It’s easier to stay connected.
My family enjoys our open floor plan, because it lets us do different things in the same space. The kids may be playing in the living room, but I can keep an eye on them while I make dinner in the kitchen.
From an entertaining standpoint, an open floor plan keep the host engaged in the party. When the living space becomes part of the food prep area, you don’t feel like you’re missing out on socializing.
What You Compromise With An Open Floor Plan
The people mix—and so do the sounds and smells. If you need silence to work and someone is listening to music or watching TV, things can get frustrating. Great rooms where the cooking, living, and dining spaces flow also allow the free-flow of kitchen aromas (ahem, garlic and curry-lovers!).
We can address sounds with rugs and furniture placement and the smells with fans and ventilation, but these things will never be as effective as having walls and doors that shut.
An open floor plan also presents some design challenges. You may crave a bold accent wall or whimsical wallpaper, but you don’t want an entire floor of metallic paint or tropical blooms. Open spaces have no “natural” place to end a wall-covering or trim, so sometimes you have to choose between finishing the entire space or skipping a finish altogether.
Tackling The Challenges Of An Open Floor Plan
Your home has different spaces to serve different needs. Each of these areas should have its own identity and boundaries. How do you create these boundaries without walls?
Floating furniture (furniture that’s not flush against a wall) can create a room within a room. A couch facing a few chairs, with end tables and lamps, can frame a living space within a great room. A chandelier over a table can denote a dining space.
All rooms need focal points. Area rugs, furniture, light fixtures, art, molding and trim can serve as these points, and anchor and define spaces. Focal points need to be planned out from the beginning, before construction begins. This is why it’s so important to work with a designer, who can visualize furniture and dimension from a flat plan.
Preserving Spaciousness and Boundaries
Cased openings, glass walls, French doors, and interior windows preserve openness and light, while providing boundaries and wall space for furniture or art.
Floor-to-ceiling glass doors integrate your indoor and outdoor spaces, which lets your home be open and airy some of the time and more intimate at other times. The addition of drapes can instantly add an interior focus, an air of coziness and privacy.
Pass-through windows are a great way to open up your space only when it’s convenient. Right now, we are building a home with a pass-through window that bifurcates a dining space.
The original design called for a window in the kitchen, overlooking the deck and ocean. We decided to make it a pass-through window, with an eating counter on both the interior and exterior sides. When the window is closed, there’s a cheery, well-lit dining nook. When the window is open, there’s a larger table where some diners can sit indoors and others outdoors, with both sides facing each other.
The Architectural Benefits Of Traditional Floor Plans
Walls are architecturally convenient. They provide a place to hang art and mount a TV. They provide a foundation for built-in storage, such as shelves and cabinetry. Walls and hallways create opportunities from dramatic architectural elements, such as transoms or interior windows, placed in a way that allows light but preserves privacy.
The Perfect Beach House Requires Balance
An artful designer is able to create an effective space that preserves both spaciousness and privacy and feels stylistically cohesive. Often it’s about using an open plan in part of the home and a closed floor plan in another, in order to maximize entertainment space, capitalize on views, and simplify day-to-day living.
Ready to remodel or custom-build, but not sure what kind of floor plan best suits your lifestyle? Let me help you find your family’s balance.
Thanks for reading,
Hawlie Ohe heads White Sands Interiors, and she and her husband are raising two boys along the South Bay coast. Hawlie brings the curiosity that fueled her first career, as a journalist, to her interior design approach: Who are you, who do want to be, and how can this space get you there? Great design makes you feel present and engaged, and Hawlie is here for it. Because she wants to help you be “here” (in this space, in this moment), too.