These days, it seems like everyone’s talking about “open concept” and “open floor plans.” It doesn’t matter which home improvement show you flip to, they’re always knocking out walls and working towards “visual continuity.” So what exactly is the deal with open floor plans?

Sometimes it seems like it’s a trend that popped up out of nowhere, but clearly, it’s here to stay. So here’s a rundown on everything you need to know about open floor plans, from when they started, to their pros and cons:

What’s an open floor plan?

An open floor plan typically refers to the main floor that has been opened up to combine the living room, dining room, and kitchen in one large space. These spaces are then decorated to visually separate them in some way by placing islands and tables as visual markers of where one space ends and one flows into the next. This type of floor plan is especially effective for smaller homes as it opens up cramped spaces and makes a modest main floor look spacious.

In most cases, open floor plans are made possible by heavy duty beams that carry the weight of the floors above, though half-walls and interior pillars are also common design choices that function to ensure the structural integrity of the home while maintaining a bit of separation between rooms.

Where did the trend start?

Historically, open floor plans are a very new design concept. Up until the mid-1900s, it was the norm to section off each room based on function. The kitchen would often be separated by a wall and a door to contain the cooking. The dining room was a formal space, and as such received its own walls and door. The living room was a place to entertain, chat with family, and relax, so it received its own designated space as well.

In the 60s, homebuilding technology improved and homebuilders began to see the open floor living plan as an economical way to make the most out of the square footage of smaller homes. Support and structural beams were becoming stronger and more compact, giving builders and designers more options to open up space. Builders were able to create open floor plans because they could now build homes that were structurally sound without all of the walls they needed before.

Today, many people are opting for open floor plans because it offers the opportunity to remain connected with the rest of the family as they multitask. Parents can watch their kids in the living room while they’re preparing dinner, and kids can talk to their parents at the dining room table while they finish their homework. Open floor plans are a bit more suited to the lifestyle of the modern family: they allow residents to continue doing what they’re doing without missing out on the conversation.

What are the benefits of an open floor plan?

Spaces seem bigger

When your main floor isn’t sectioned off, you actually have quite a bit of space to work with. There’s nothing visually cutting the room in half or obstructing your view, so your space seems much larger.

More natural light

Open floor plans allow for the sharing of natural light throughout the entire space. It’s common for closed floor plans to be a bit darker and require more indoor lighting, simply because walls block sunlight. When you have an open floor plan, sunlight can fill up every inch of your home, leaving you with a bright and airy space to call home.

Better communication

You don’t have to walk through a bunch of rooms or play Marco Polo to find the kids and ask them what they want for dinner. With an open floor plan, you can easily talk to someone in the other room without leaving the task at hand. With today’s busy lifestyle, this means you get the most family time possible from an open floor plan.

Easy to watch the little ones

If you have younger children, an open floor plan makes it easier to check in on them. You’ll be able to watch them from just about anywhere on the main level, which means you can get things done while they play. It’s easy to slide a desk against the wall in one of the corners of your large living space too, so you can work and keep an eye on them at the same time.

Perfect for entertaining

Another major benefit of an open floor plan is its convenience for entertaining. Guests aren’t confined to one small space in the living room, and conversation can easily flow between rooms. When you have an open floor plan, you immediately have more seating options, and entertaining is much simpler, as you can chat with your guests from just about any point on the main floor.

What are the drawbacks of an open floor plan?

Lack of Privacy

While there’s a lot to be said for copious amounts of natural light and the chance to chat with your family, we all need time to ourselves once in awhile, and that can be a bit more difficult with an open floor plan.

Messes aren’t contained

If you have kids, you know that if you put them in one room, it’s easier to contain the mess. They’re less likely to spread toys and games across the house if they have a dedicated playroom, which an open floor plan doesn’t always allow for.

No doors to close

Obviously, an open floor plan takes away the need for most of the doors between rooms. While this is awesome for traffic flow, it does put a bit more pressure on you to keep the place tidy. When you have an open floor plan, you can’t just shut the door on a messy kitchen or untidy playroom – it’s open to the rest of the living space.

Creative rooms

Closed floor plans offer the opportunity for you to get creative with your extra rooms. You can create an extra guest room or set up a game room with some of those sectioned off spaces in a closed floor plan. Open floor plans do confine you to a standard kitchen, dining room, and living room setup.

So how do you decide if an open floor plan is right for your custom home?

In the end, it comes down to lifestyle and personal preference. If you’re a very private person, then an open floor plan might not be the right design choice for your new home. On the other hand, if you love entertaining, have kids, or are just looking for a bright, airy space to live, then an open floor plan is probably the perfect design option for you. It’s a very popular trend that’s likely to stick around for some time, and while it’s not perfect for everyone, an open floor plan can make the most out of your living space.

When you build a custom home, it’s up to you to choose what floor plan best fits your lifestyle, but you don’t have to do it alone! If you have questions about different types of floor plans, or if you’re having trouble deciding if an open floor plan is the right option for your family, be sure to get in touch with the experts at Whitmore Homes. We’re a premier custom home builder in West Michigan and we’d be happy to help design the custom home that’s perfect for you. Get in touch with our office at 616-446-3482, or contact us online today!