An Argument Against the Open Floor Plan

Taking down the wall . . .

On every home makeover show, every real estate show, they talk about how everyone loves the open floor plan.  It’s the new black.   Homeowners are forever busting through walls to open the kitchen to the family room and eliminating the dining room altogether.

There are two main reasons why the open floor plan is so so popular:

1.    It is great for entertaining.   People always end up in the kitchen anyway, right?    This allows the cook to be in the kitchen puttering around and interact with guests.

2.   It is great for parents of young children.   It allows the parent to be in the kitchen and still keep an eye on the little ones in the family room.   No more  baby in a playpen or high chair in the kitchen while you make dinner.

Do you see the theme?

STAY IN THE KITCHEN!

The open floor plan negates any reason to actually leave the kitchen.

But there is a third reason:  knocking out walls creates space, or at least an illusion of space within the same square footage.

When you think about it, the open  floor plan has been common in apartments for years. Walk into an apartment and you can see everything except  the bedroom.     It was supposed to be a move up  for an apartment dweller to buy a house and actually have separate rooms.     This new open floor plan  trend has essentially turned high-end palace homes into nothing but super-sized apartments, with a second floor.

Monica and Rachel’s Apartment in Friends

For those of you who don’t have the open floor plan,  before you take out all the walls in your house, and before you feel badly because you have a wall that you can’t take down, consider this:

1.  Your children won’t be toddlers forever.

Children tend to grow.  And there will come a time where you don’t want to and don’t have to watch every move they make.

2.  Yes, you can see your toddlers, but your toddlers can see you, too.

My husband and I used to go into the laundry room to shove a snack into our faces so that the babies wouldn’t see and start wailing for some.  Sometimes, I’d drop down behind the island like I’d heard sudden gunfire in order to have a cookie.

3.  You can see your school-age, tween and teen kids, but they can see you, too.

With an open floor plan, you can  forget coming down to sneak a snack over the counter in your jammies late at night, or reading the paper at the kitchen counter/table in the morning before your shower.   There’s nothing like hearing,   “Hi. Mrs.  Peterson!”   when you’re bra-less in a  vintage tee and boxers drinking coffee in your kitchen.   And if you dare talk on the phone while cooking or cleaning, you will be shushed by someone — or perhaps worse, a child  will be listening in on every word.    And it is a truism, a simple fact of life, that as kids grow, parents spend a fair amount of time hiding from them.    The open floor plan is antithetical to the natural course of child-rearing in this respect.

4.  Your kitchen must always be spotless . . .

There’s no door to close.  When unexpected guests pop in — yours or your children’s — and you haven’t unloaded and reloaded your dishwasher — everyone can see it.  Suddenly you’re a slob.  The rest of your house could be spotless, but under these floor plans, no one ever sees the rest of your house.

5.   Your family (TV)  room includes a kitchen– a  noisy, smelly kitchen.

Imagine sitting down in a darkened room, ready to watch a great emotional or talky movie and — oh hello, there’s your kid or spouse or whatever, in the kitchen, talking on the phone, repeatedly opening the fridge, making bacon, arguing with someone.   Go ahead and click pause, because you can’t hear whatever George Clooney is saying, not that you need to . . . . but I  digress.   Your quiet moment has been ruined.

6. Children’s Programming/Teen programming/Sports/News — Anything you don’t want to watch at any given time.

Your little kid is watching Dora.  Again, and again, and again.   You can’t get away from it.  iCarly I get it, but I’ve had enough.  People are enjoying the big game, snacking, yelling at the screen, having a good old time.  You are wiping the counter after having loaded the dishwasher and setting out food for them.  Worse, you can’t even mutter to yourself or roll your eyes at the unfairness of it all, because you are on display.

Essentially, the open floor plan allows you to be in the kitchen and watch – other people watch TV.   Humph.

7.  “Oh my gosh I dropped the chicken!”

In a perfect world, no one would know.  Open floor plan?  Well, it’ll be tweeted in minutes.

8.  When entertaining, sometimes you need a minute.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show: Guests in the next room are expecting dinner; Mary and Rhoda panic in the kitchen because they have no food.

Your mother-in-law is driving you crazy, your boss is bored, your husband/wife is saying something he/she shouldn’t, you need yet another drink, you just said something really, really stupid.  With an open floor plan, THERE’S NO PLACE TO GO!!!    I love all the classic  TV shows where people could say, “Can I see you in the kitchen”  or “I’m going to check on the food,”  followed quickly by, “I’ll help you.”    (This is all code for “We need to talk.” )  With an open floor plan I guess you have to hide in the bathroom, and that’s just plain icky.

How many times did characters in Frasier run off to the kitchen to plot against some misunderstanding happening in the living room?

One big room is fine, it can even be intimate when you are alone or coupled up.  But once there are people of different ages,  interests and responsibilities, well let’s just say that all this open living can be  downright oppressive.

I speak from experience.

I knocked out a kitchen wall in my  old house and built a family room addition. Instead of looking out  my  kitchen window and seeing  trees, I created a view of  my family room.    I had young children at the time.  I fell for the “I can be in the kitchen and see the kids”   trap.  Well, the children grew, the husband left, and I  downsized  to a much smaller  fixer-upper  home.

When it was time to do the kitchen, the contractor asked,

“You gonna knock out this wall?”

I said, “No.  I want my wall.   I need my wall.”

Truth is, I need some division in my life.

Sometimes I  watch a little TV  or listen to music while cleaning or cooking.  Sometimes I sit at the kitchen table on my laptop or  the phone while my kids are in the family room watching something that literally makes me ill.  I’ve even been known to channel my inner Beyoncé and dance to my heart’s content in my kitchen.   With my wall intact, I can be unseen but close by, and still opt in or out of  the children’s  entertainment at will.

It’s the little things . . .  Sometimes a wall  is a good little thing.

Just Me With . . . a divided floor plan and a bit of,  well  — if not sanity —  at least a bit of privacy.

See also:   Double Sinks in The Master Bath — Must We Have Them?  Really? 

My Panty Drawer, Your Panty Drawer — My Adventures in Home Staging and Carpet Installation

How to Get Rid of That Hoarder’s Smell

160 responses

  1. I have my kitchen wall, and still have this problem due to the “archway” aka oversized doorway I have no chance of putting a door on…
    absolutely hate hearing/smelling the kitchen charades when the husband’s buddies are over.

    1. I think an important problem with the open kitchen plan is that in a small (read non-mansion-sized place) it usually means the kitchen is in your face from the front door–and people with food addiction problems head right for it. Like teenagers, but in this case adults with weight- or compulsive eating- problems, these folks head for the first thing they see when they get in the door–the food.

    2. I had this problem as well. My husband and I decided to have some plasterers come in and extend the wall on either side of the doorway. It solved the problem of having to look at the wastepaper basket while on the loveseat. It is still larger than the average doorway, but it closes the opening enough to give the living room more intimacy and the kitchen/dining room more definition.

  2. Keeping the kitchen clean all the time is a difficult thing to achieve. That is one point not to have an open floor plan. But you have to admit that the spacious feeling given by the open floor plan is a perk.

    1. I live in a house that is 125 years old. Every room has walls and doors and I love it. It means that family members can truly get away from each other by closing a door and being in their own space. My living room is somewhat formal, with a grand piano, and good art. There is no way I want to sit in that ambiance looking at my dishwasher and stove. Kitchens, if you are a real cook, get messy. If I am entertaining I like to keep the kitchen mess in that room, so that guests are not sitting at a nicely set table, with crystal and silver, looking at piles of pots and pan that I have cooked with, but haven’t yet cleaned and put away. I think people in open concept homes will live to regret what they have done. Just as I don’t want my bathroom to be part of my living/entertaining space, I surely don’t want my kitchen to be on display.

      1. Thanks for the comment. I regretted removing the wall in my old house. Knowing what I do now about child rearing, entertaining, cooking, etc., I would have remodeled and enlarged the kitchen and made it an eat-in kitchen, but kept it separate from the family room. I would have connected it to a deck or patio for outdoor entertaining and barbecuing. Now I’m in in a much smaller house. I wish I had bigger family and living rooms for entertaining — seating, etc. and I wish I had dedicated office space, but the kitchen is just fine.

      2. Right on, Bonnie! (Although I can think of a home where you looked straight down the hall from the front door, and saw the toilet – not the bathroom, the potty!)

    2. I agree, an open floor plan creates a great feeling of space…when the place is empty and immaculate. I think a big reason for this trend is how great it looks when you are showing the house. An open floorplan is kind of like the high fashion clothes you see supermodels wear…they don’t look as good with you in them.

      1. Good point. I agree. The open floor plans show very, very, well. It’s a grand space that in old times would have been reserved for the wealthy. And without walls, the open floor plans seem to get great light. They are wonderful for beach houses where you want your ocean view from every room. In regular houses, the size of the room makes people imagine having a party with 50 plus guests right in their home. It all seems so possible with an open floor plan. And, often, it is. But how a house “shows” is different from what it’s like to live in it. I love your high fashion analogy. Not only does high fashion not look so good on regular people, but it might not feel so good when you have to wear it for more than the three minutes on the runway. Thanks for the comment.

  3. I have lived in both open and not so open. I’m loving the not so open, but I do have one set of rooms I’d like to combine, but neither of them is a kitchen!!! I like being able to shut the door and not hear the football game or video game!

  4. in a colonial. . . you can have a fix of the two. I have office space and dining room seperate, but the kitchen and family room is open.

    1. Yes. The perfect style (Colonial) and the perfect layout (open-concept kitchen). I’m building my house like this.

      1. I also meant to add that while the kitchen opens up to the family room, I still want a separate dining room and living room with the foyer in the middle. It’s a mix of traditional and modern.

      2. Yes, my friend has a house like that. Best of all worlds. Granted, it’s a huge house and she doesn’t have kids. She has a living room where her piano is. She has a formal dining room so she can eat or entertain without the kitchen being in sight. But the kitchen opens to the eat in area and family room, all at the back of the house. So she has formal and informal areas. Also she has a finished basement with a pool table and huge TV so that’s the place for parties and rock & roll and movie viewing. There’s also a bar down there. But again this is a huge house. Sounds like your new house will be very nice. Thanks for stopping by.

      3. Similar to ours…across the back of the house is the kitchen with an open family room. The family room used to have a TV and toys for…keeping an eye on the kids while making dinner. Separate, rarely-used dining room (big kitchen island with stools) and another room with french doors. Now the family room is TV and toy free, just lots of seating, bookshelves, and stereo. TV’s in the room with french doors, dining room is used slightly more often, and kids are older so fewer toys in a partially finished attic.

        Open concept still, but not all activities are in the kitchen. The kids do eventually go elsewhere… :D

  5. […] Image Source   It may have been a TV show set, however, as you can see this city apartment had some great […]

  6. Heehee, you have just made me laugh out loud (annoying everyone in our open plan space, I’m sure). In the UK we have 3 separate rooms downstairs – kitchen, dining room and lounge. I used to spend an inordinate amount of time ‘suggesting’ (i.e. whining about) open-plan living to my husband – I had great plans to knock down multiple walls and create a massive big room downstairs where we could all work, play and eat in hippy happy harmony. Yeah right. Our new house in France is totally open plan downstairs, and it’s driving me mad! I now spend an inordinate amount of time ‘suggesting’ (ie whining about) putting up curtains and screens everywhere….

    1. Ha! So you know just what I’m talking about! I’m not saying it wouldn’t be nice to have a big room for parties and such, but for everyday living I don’t want to be in the room with everybody else. Things are much more “harmonious” with a little separation. (I actually mean that literally as well — we have a piano, it cannot be in the same room as the TV and the kitchen, it would have to compete with the TV all the time!!!) I like having rooms for different functions and purposes — one being to get away from everybody else!! Thanks so much for the comment. Loved it!

      1. Wow! You sure seem to have issues with wanting to sneak snacks, and
        constantly wanting to get away from everyone. The purpose for moving most of the world to an open kitchen, was because the family and guests were Always invading the cook’s space. By opening up the kitchen to at least one room, it gave the cook some room to maneuver, and also gave him or her the right to socialize with family, instead of being left to do all the kitchen work while everyone else was having a good time. You know there will come a time when the children will go away, and it would be nice to look back and enjoy the memories of spending time together in the kitchen. If you want to just have quiet and get away what’s wrong with your bedroom?

      2. I spend time with my children in the kitchen (we have a kitchen table that seats all of us) and in the family room, and my daughters especially like to hang in my bedroom. Our family time involves more sitting down together than watching my kids from the kitchen, is all. So yeah, spending the time together in the kitchen is so important, it’s what I remember from my childhood (in a closed kitchen) and what my kids will likely remember from their childhood in our new smaller house. When I converted to an open plan I found that I disliked standing in the kitchen by myself all of the time. When I moved and got a new kitchen I asked for a kitchen table rather than an island so that we could all comfortably sit around it and the kids could do homework there. But it’s all in how you live. You don’t need an open kitchen to have family time or a good party. I was just sharing my experiences, which are not always in accord with the trends.

      3. My last house had a kitchen that was open to the family room and when I cooked or did dishes I found myself being resentful of my husband or kids who were watching TV while I was working. My current house is an old ranch style broken into rooms and I haven’t had this problem at all. Not only do I not resent my time (alone) in the kitchen, I very much enjoy it! :)

      4. Yes, the resentfulness thing was what I felt, especially when they turn up the TV to drown out the sound of the clinking dishes. Ugh. Usually, the people in the attached area are not interacting with whoever is in the kitchen. Normally, they are watching TV or sleeping or reading/homework, if it’s not a party. I’m glad to hear you have similar sentiments. I enjoy my alone time in the kitchen more than I did when it was open. Plus, I enjoy my family with me in there rather than watching them from another room. We are also a music loving family. It’s nice to be able to listen to music in an adjacent room. When I was in an open kitchen I always had to turn off my music when someone was watching something.

      5. My sister lived in an old house with walls and doors everywhere and I envied that house. We’d have family parties there and sometimes sitting around the dinning room table, my extended family would need to discuss something that we didn’t want the kids to hear or that we didn’t want interrupted. We’d send the kids into the living room, close the doors and talk in peace. I live in a somewhat open plan and I’m thinking of putting up some walls. We cook and bake a lot around here and the kitchen is only completely clean late in the evening. And I often have to shoo everyone from the kitchen because they are in MY WAY! When I’m planning a big meal, I get tired of bumping into people between the frig and stove or not having a clean space to work because there are coloring books and legos everywhere. Lastly, My husband and I have to duck into the laundry room to neck (no quick pecks, please) before he leaves for work to keep the teenagers from being grossed out by their romantic, middle-aged parents.

      6. Aw, I love that you are romantic, middle-aged parents! I’ve gotten some unfortunate comments accusing me of bad parenting for wanting some separation from my kids at times. Sometimes there is grown folk conversation (or necking in your case). Sometimes the kids do homework at the kitchen table while others are watching TV in the family room and another is playing the piano in the living room. When the meal has been prepared, we all sit down together as often as we can. That’s important to me (though depending on the teens’ moods it is not always pleasant — haha!)

        I grew up in a small house, we spent a lot of time around the kitchen table. I liked that. Now I do it with my kids. People are missing out on that these days. Thanks for commenting.

  7. So so so true. I am tired of kitchens/living room openness. If the rooms have to be smaller, so be it, leave the walls alone.

    1. Yes, leave the walls, having separate rooms is good. I once looked at a house where the owners removed the bathroom walls in the master bedroom. Huh?

  8. I thought I was the only mother who hid to eat cookies….no matter how big the children were. I would hate, hate, hate, and open plan. Every last room in my house has doors. The room in which I am sitting has 5. In 1902, they valued doors to close. When this was remodeled in the 1950s, they added a few more reasons to have more doors.

    1. In the old days people valued having rooms for certain uses — a sitting room, a music room, kitchen to prepare food, a dining room to eat food. They acknowledged that there has to be some division in order to do different things. I think now, more than ever, there needs to be some division. There has to be somewhere to go to get away from the TV – to read a book, play an instrument, listen to music, have a conversation. I predict that there will be a change in this open floor plan trend in the future, but not in the near future.

  9. Thanks for taking some time to publish “An Argument Against the
    Open Floor Plan Just Me With . . .”. Thank you yet again ,Tyler

  10. I’m in the leave the walls alone column. My husband is hard of hearing and can’t follow conversation in large open rooms. Am not the best cook/cleaner so like to hide the mess. Our separate dining room means that after a big Thanksgiving meal, all can adjourn to the family room or living room (yes, we have both!) to visit or watch football. I’ll keep our center hall design colonial just as it is!

    1. Two great examples — the audio issue and the public mess. I grew up in a small bungalow type house with no dining room at all. It had an eat in kitchen which was fine for everyday dining. My mother always longed for a separate room to serve people in though, so they didn’t have to look at her kitchen sink and counters while eating — especially at Thanksgiving.

      I don’t really like to cook in front of people either. I would think that some of the best cooks would like to be left alone to create a feast and then present it with fanfare. One of the things I’ve found weird when people talk about how the open plan is great for entertaining is when they say their guests can jump in and help while the food is being prepared. Do guests really want that? Plus I thought the well planned meal has many of the foods prepped and ready to go when the guests arrive. Did you ever go to a barbeque and arrive and the fire isn’t even lit? Ugh. I digress . . .

      I big room is great for entertaining (I do miss having a big room), but it doesn’t necessarily mean the kitchen has to be part of it. Thanks for the comment.

  11. […] cons of open floor plan […]

  12. I am not a fan of the open concept either. I want a wall to not only close for the kitchen but to hang pictures on and to have a private conversation. Also one day we will be old and need things to aid us in walking the open plan is not designed for rails.

    1. You raise a good point. I hadn’t thought about rails. The lack of space for artwork is a concern also. I’m realizing how important it is to have something pleasurable or thought provoking to look at. Having views only of a TV on one side and cabinetry and appliances on the other is not good. Designers should create plans that allow for art work, even for those who desire the open floor plan. It’s not enough to remove a wall, the remaining walls and interior soffits can be fashioned to allow art work because it’s an important part of life. And, though many people use e-readers, there are some books that people still like to display, along with photos. An open floor plan (one that just removes the wall and does nothing else) doesn’t allow for much shelving. Same with areas for private conversations — even with an open floor plan — perhaps an alcove could be incorporated so that there is some place on the first floor where people can talk — maybe a small sitting room or area off the kitchen. It just occurred to me — How do you bring out a surprise birthday cake when it’s an open floor plan? Sometimes it seems that the designs simply remove a wall but don’t make up for the loss of wall space.

      Sometimes I wonder whether the answer is to move a wall rather than eliminate one. People seem to want a big kitchen. Big enough to hang out in and eat in and have your children in. I don’t think that necessarily means that people don’t also enjoy a separate room for movie viewing, music, reading, talking, etc. and yes, entertaining — sitting with drinks having conversation does not require a view of a dishwasher and it does not require the host/hostess to be in the kitchen.

      1. Have your children in?? Now thats what I call a home-birth!

  13. My husband and I are in the middle of a massive (i.e. complete gut) kitchen renovation. I really liked the idea of visually opening up the space, but knew I could never keep the whole place clean and didn’t want all the oils/smells getting on my lovely upholstered furniture, so I didn’t know what to do. When we found out the same wall was load-bearing, the cost of opening up the doorway became prohibitive. I’ve been wringing my hands ever since, wondering if we were making a huge design blunder by not opening up the sight-lines. But now having read your commentary, I am so glad we didn’t! You bring up so many excellent points and it makes me feel so much better about keeping the wall after all. Thank you for this post! :)

    1. Oh thank you for letting me know! It truly means so much! I’m glad you don’t feel badly because you can’t remove the wall. Not everybody can, and when they do, though it looks great, sometimes it can be hard to live with. Judging from some of the searches that lead to this post it appears like some people are questioning the open floor plan or at least considering the pros and cons. It also seems that some people are finding them harder to live with than they thought. As I said, they are great for some singles, couples or families, but they aren’t for everyone, despite what HGTV and realtors tell you. Thanks again.

  14. Sarah Clemment | Reply

    I just closed the archway between formal dining/living room. Turning formal dining to bedroom. Best decision ever. Now we can’t see/hear kitchen *great if alot of cussing goes on there. Furniture alot easier to arrange without that open floor plan. Now I don’t need a second dining table. My kids no longer have to share a bedroom. LR feels cozier and more private. Worked for me, FYI, my kitchen is huge with eat-in area big enough for dining room table plus extension.

    1. That sounds great. I think that what people actually want is what you have, a kitchen big enough to sit down and eat in, not a family room that includes a kitchen. It’s nice to have some privacy and a barrier from the talk, TV. In my current house I put a door in the pass through between the living room and family room. So now someone can be in the living room and play the piano or do something else while others are watching TV. I like it.

  15. You are much more professional and more objective than I would be. I grew up with many doors and rooms. My mother smoked when I was growing up and my dad didn’t – she’d sit in the kitchen with the door closed and the window open and it wouldn’t bother anyone (too much – none of the kids turned into smokers). Also, it was important to my mom that the kids, even in the adolescent-i-hate-everyone stage have a public place to emerge to, without being stuck in their rooms, without having to sit with someone else in their family. So we had a kids’ den and a family room – of course, you could go to either, but if Dad’s watching a game in the family room, then the kid could watch Nickelodeon or whatever in the kids’ den. That way no one was holed up in their room watching TV in private, with no supervision or an adult couldn’t respectfully peek in a check on them.

    Now I have an open-concept main level, but we do have a basement. So there is actually no TV on the kitchen level, but there is in the basement (kids/family) and in our master bedroom upstairs. If there was a TV on the main level – it would totally dominate.

    1. I grew up in a small cape, built in the 50s. We had an eat-in kitchen, no dining room and a living room. My mother had always wanted a formal dining room — someplace where guests could eat but not have to look at her dishes or watch her cook or clean, it made her nervous. I guess some of that rubbed off on me. We didn’t have TVs in our bedrooms. As I recall, we spent a lot of time sitting around the kitchen table, which was nice. I think that some of the open concept plans miss that in the design. It’s almost a throw back to the 50s or before when the cook (usually the woman) never sat down. The large islands are more like bars that make it easy for people to sit and be served and less likely that people will sit around the table, equally, and chat. My oldest has a TV that is not hooked up to cable that he uses mostly for gaming and movies, not round the clock TV. That worked fine until he started using the computer to find things to watch. I’ve had to put some limits on the computer but he uses it for homework . . . so . . . oh technology, sometimes it makes things hard.

      My current home is small. When I was in the big house I removed the TV from the main level for a long time, then got it back but without Cable. That was good, refreshing, until the kids started obsessing over TV and wanting to spend time anywhere but home in order to get a glimpse.

      TV has a way of dominating. But now with no open plan the kids have to come to the kitchen to eat and prepare food. The piano is in a separate room so people can still play even if someone is watching TV — that is very important to me. I wish I had a finished basement for kids stuff or informal entertaining but I’m glad that I don’t feel like we’re in the kitchen all the time. And I’m happy to escape to the kitchen when my kids are doing the teen thing.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  16. As a life long dieter, I realize that if I’m in the kitchen, I’m eating or thinking about making something to eat. It’s nice to have places to work, watch tv, entertain, etc that aren’t centered on food. I wonder how much of America’s obesity problem is caused by living in the food prep room.

    1. You know, that’s an excellent point. If you live in the food prep room the kitchen is never “closed.” If one person eats then the smells with make another hungry. If there is food visible or odors left over it’ll make you hungry. The kitchen needs to be closed at some point and allow people to do other things. One of my other pet peeves with this is that it does make for bad entertaining. When serving dinner to guests as much of the food as possible should already be prepped before the guests walk in the door. This is so that the host/hostess can talk, face to face. Also, the guests don’t have to wait for the food to be prepared or be guilted into helping. I know some people like to do that, but they shouldn’t be forced to or feel badly while watching the cook work.

      Have you ever gone to a barbecue and when you arrive the grill isn’t even set up yet?

      And in larger or more formal gatherings when there might be a caterer, the guests have to watch the caterers work as well.

      Living in the food prep room — it does make food and TV the center of everything, which is definitely not good for the diet.

  17. The thing I’ve never understood about the fixation on OFPs… especially by parents of toddlers… how on earth do you baby gate the kitchen? I tried that open nonsense with my first two kids. When we had number three i insisted we moved to a home where I could gate the kitchen off solidly (I did not want an open plan and then to string hundreds of dollars of free standing gates around it destroying the freaking purpose of an OFP!). Yuck. I enjoy socializing in my kitchen and having a large kitchen. I do not enjoy having no way to seal it off from toddlers dogs and prying eyes!

    1. Oh my goodness! I was just thinking of that point today! When I was in my old house with the open floor plan it was so freaking hard with toddlers! And dangerous! The kitchen is not safe for little ones and there was no way to keep them out. I had to remove my oven knobs (the safety knobs didn’t fit), I had a gate that didn’t open freely because I didn’t want to drill into the cabinets (and couldn’t drill there anyway because the dishwasher was there). So we had to step over the gate — not safe for my mom (grandma) and it wasn’t safe to do that with a baby in my arms. And if I just needed to grab something from the kitchen the kids would follow me. I ended up spending less time in there because it was gated off — yet I could always see the mess, as could anyone who dropped by! I ended up putting latches on the doors throughout the rest of the house while I had so many little ones, but I was stuck with that kitchen. I didn’t get a dog until later, but there was no way to keep the dog out without constantly yelling. People don’t realize that having toddlers in the kitchen is not so good. When the babies napped in the family room I also couldn’t do dishes or clean because they’d wake up. So I’d sit there, looking at my kitchen mess. All the HGTV shows talk about being able to be in the kitchen and see the children playing. It was my experience that the children wanted to be with me and if I went in the kitchen, they followed. If I wasn’t in the kitchen, they would sometimes try to sneak in there. Do you know how hard it was to sit in nurse twins while trying to keep toddlers out of the kitchen that had no door!

      I’m sorry, you brought up memories of some hard times. I remember I almost considered buying a big curtain just so that the kids couldn’t see the kitchen (or me either). When I wanted to sit and read with the babies seeing the kitchen was not relaxing for any of us. They would think they were hungry and I would see the mess.

      Oh and the other thing I remember now that whenever someone came over they wiped my counters for me. I hated that.

      Your other point is great, as well, I think most people enjoy a large kitchen. That’s really what people want. They want enough room to cook — plenty of counter space. And I think they also want a place that’s comfortable to hang out, which for me means a big table or island where people can sit on all sides (not just face the oven or TV). I love sitting around the kitchen table. But making the kitchen part of the family room is quite different. Even at parties when people end up in the kitchen, it’s usually only the good friends that end up in there or the friends that want to be able to talk separate from spouses, etc. and that’s okay. Not wanting an open floor plan doesn’t mean you either don’t go in the kitchen or that you are always in the kitchen alone. The kitchen can be very cozy and welcoming. It can also be a mess and dangerous for babies.

      Thanks for your comment. You really brought up some memories for me.

      And one more thing, the whole entertaining thing? My friend’s husband wanted to give her a surprise party at my house (when I was in the big open floor plan house). He said he’d provide the catered food, etc. And it was fine — except that we all had to see the caterers work and clean and we could see them watching us (the guests).

      The good thing is — and this is where the money shot is — the house looked huge. Lots of windows and few walls (in that part of the house) — no place to hang pictures but it looked impressive. I think that’s the main draw. People would walk in and say “whoa.” But living with it, with kids, was hard for me.

    2. I lived in a house that had an open plan den/kitchen w/ room for a table, and formal living and dining rooms. It was fun when entertaining that folks hung out at the kitchen table, but we moved to the dining room to eat. I hated having the kitchen (clean or not) hanging over my shoulder as I watched TV! Never thought about the toddler issue; when mine was small, she was either hanging on to my leg as I cooked, or watching TV in the separate living room.

  18. Many good points here. I’m in my mid 40s and I grew up with the understanding that the kitchen wasn’t “public” entertaining space that a guest could just waltz into. Basically it was fair game to relatives, close friends, and neighbors who were in and out of each other’s houses, especially neighborhood kids.

    I am a once-a-week cleaning frenzy person, so I wouldn’t like the expectation that the kitchen be added to the portions of the house you have to keep guest-ready.

    But you guys have introduced great points, like the piano. My husband is a piano teacher. He doesn’t teach at home, but he still would dislike having to defer to the TV when he feels like playing.

    We have a Chicago bungalow with a central little hallway on the main floor. Living room (piano room, guest sitting room) and dining room in front. Bedrooms to the side. Great room (main TV/Stereo) in the basement. Kitchen with small breakfast nook in the back, facing southeast. It’s pretty good sized and very sunny, so hardly confining, but not entertaining space. What we do that may be unusual is the dining room is the hangout, similar to the table or island in an open floor plan. On one of the sideboards there is a “kitchen TV” but the piano over in the living room always has precedence. Of course, the main TV is nowhere near there but in the basement so everybody’s happy.

    1. The piano issue is very important to me. People need a room where they can play instruments or read without having to fight the TV watchers. Open floor plans can be fine as long as people can still play music. I worry that there are no places in new homes for music or talking or sitting. Right now my living room (piano room) is too small. I wish it was bigger. If it was, it would be a nice entertaining place. But if I took out the wall to the family room to make it bigger, I’d lose a piano room, I’d lose having a room where the TV was not the prominent feature and no one could play the piano when the TV is on (and vice-versa). I’d end up with a bigger family (TV) room with a piano in it. Wouldn’t work. It would make my house look bigger when people walked in, though. That’s the appeal of the open floor plan.

      When I was at the old (bigger) house I had a formal dining room. We used to eat in there fairly often, with the kids. We called it fancy dinner night and pretended to speak in an English accent sometimes. I thought it was good to teach the kids how to sit at a table and talk. I miss that. Also I would bring the food out (not always fancy food) and put it on the table and sit with the kids. That was nice. When the kids ate at the counter or at the informal area I rarely sat with them, I usually served and cleaned, served and cleaned.

  19. I’m sorry to sound judgmental, but I don’t understand all these trashy couch potatoes who keep their televisions on constantly. We don’t *have* TV (yes, we own a nice flat screen television on which we watch the occasional movie, but we do not subscribe to cable service or receive any television broadcasts) and in fact among younger people, cable TV subscriptions are declining.

    Especially when you do have children, why would you provide such a mind-numbing time-waster in your home? Don’t kids look at enough screens between their cell phones (if they’re old enough to have one) and computer use? Since the television seems to be peoples’ biggest annoyance here, instead of arguing for structural changes in your home, get rid of the damn television and the primary problem will be gone. Plus your life will be better in other ways.

    1. I’ve done the no TV thing, and I’ve done the no cable thing. And let me tell you, in our world it was considered an alternative lifestyle. It did make my life better, but then it became too difficult because we didn’t live a separate life from our neighbors, peers, the kids’ school or friends — i.e. for religious or educational reasons. (I had neighbors where the kids were home schooled and because of their religious practices they lived what some would consider an true alternative lifestyle, but they did not have to interact with as many people as we did so it was completely different.) I’ve also known academics who refuse to have TVs but that usually changes when they have kids or it stays the same but the kids have every personal electronic device known to man. Beyond the scope of this response, but I found that with no TV as my children got older they didn’t want to be home, didn’t want friends over. It was difficult for babysitters, etc. and relatives to help out if they could not be in a public room and watch TV while the kids slept. As a parenting thing, simply because kids have access to phones and games and computers having a central TV is important because it allows me to monitor what they see and it makes them watch TV together and spend time together. If you are a totally anti-TV person that probably sounds lame, but for me it it helpful to have the kids together and have some input and interaction. They don’t have TVs or computers in their rooms, they don’t have smart phones and they don’t have Kindles with Internet. But, they have stupid iPods touches (the ones with Internet) — which I did not buy for them. I’d much prefer that they join the family rather than watch who knows what on those little screens. I’m not a total anti-TV person, but I can’t stand sitting and watching TV all the time or watching people sitting and watching TV all the time either. It’s a constant battle and pet peeve of mine more so than lots of other families.

      Not having a TV in an Open Floor Plan doesn’t solves the kitchen issues or the mess, sounds and lack of privacy, child proofing issues or just having a room that is separate. As to the TV in the popular Open Floor Plan designs, the kitchen faces the family room and the family room furniture faces the TV and/or fireplace. Everyone in the area has to be involved in the same activity and I agree with you that if the TV is always on it dominates and does waste time. That’s one of the things I don’t like about the designs. Also, when on HGTV the parents say that it’s great because it allows them to be preparing food in the kitchen and still keep an eye on the kids, I can’t see how that would work unless the kids are propped in front of the TV. Otherwise the kids move around. I wasn’t one to prop a little kid in front of the TV and they were always underfoot. The TV propping while the parent can look on in an Open Floor Plan doesn’t foster interaction. It does allow the parent to see the kid, though. But meh — wasn’t my style. Before my floor plan opened up I would sit my kid in a high chair or playpen and talk to him while I cooked or cleaned. It was nice, we interacted. I did the same after the floor plan opened (and didn’t turn on the TV) but they were physically farther away, it wasn’t as cozy. The designs don’t allow for or encourage other activities — or silence (from the TV or the kitchen noise) and the hub of the house becomes the TV room. It’s nice to have a room where people can watch a TV show or movie together or play a game or talk, especially with older kids when you definitely don’t want them upstairs in a bedroom. Keeping other rooms for other activities and some privacy is a good thing.

      I can only speak from my experience, but I think that when companies started putting the Internet on phones and Kindles and other gaming devices, it created more of a time suck and parenting issue than anything else. Now many kids don’t listen to music on iPods, or play games on gaming consoles or read on Kindles, they watch things on the Internet — which is why they don’t care as much about Cable TV. I wish they’d never put Internet access on those devices. But that’s a whole different issue.

      As to structural changes, the way any building is laid out reflects what goes on inside. I think that it is nice to have the option to close off the kitchen and or the TV, and I definitely think that houses need rooms for music. Everybody (well, especially Americans) like big rooms, but it’s nice to have actual rooms for different activities.

      I understand your anti-TV stance and I understand some of the reasons, and actually agree to a certain extent and have my own frustrations with technology and entertainment. I stop short of calling people trashy, though.

      1. Trashy couch potatoes? I don’t watch alot of tv, but I do like having the option. Which brings me to my own beef with OFL, not everyone can afford a big house with several separate rooms for different activities. In a small open concept home the tv is going to be right there. Anyone in the kitchen or dining area is forced to watch/listen to whatever program the tv watcher has on. And the tv watcher sometimes TURNS UP THE VOLUME because of clatter going on in the kitchen. Like to read? Then you’ll be spending hours in your bedroom because that’s the only room you won’t hear the tv.

        I was happy to see this blog and all the comments about the cons of OFL. HGTV (and designers) have been promoting this for years now – I’ve felt we are all being force fed this concept. Why no alternatives?

        I am currently living in a small OFL home and experiencing all the drawbacks listed in the blog post and in the comments. I think what bugs me the most is that the kitchen is ALWAYS THERE no matter what else I’m doing in the ‘great’ room. The only advantage I see is that without walls there is illusion that the space is bigger than it actually is.

        It’s a trade off, but I think in my next place I’d rather have smaller separated rooms than just one room.

      2. The sound issue is one that I think the contractors and designers overlook in the Open Floor Plan. There is an illusion of space, which is a huge selling point, but the noise fills that same space. And yes, the TV gets turned up because of kitchen noise. And yes, if you don’t have another space, you end up in a bedroom (removed farther from family) if you want to read or talk on the phone simply because of the noise. As a music lover, I also bemoan the fact that with an open floor plan, you can’t listen to music in the kitchen if someone is watching TV. And unless the house if large enough to have another room, there is no place to play instruments without having to negotiate with the TV viewer. The force feeding that we get is troublesome. There should be alternatives but none of the shows I’ve seen feature them, and make it appear like not having an open floor plan is a concession that’s along the same lines of living on a highway or next to a prison. It also makes me very concerned that the value of homes without open floor plans will not undeservedly decreased. If realtors, contractors, and TV shows cannot fathom anyone living without an open floor plan, then new home buyers will be discouraged from buying one. It is particularly disturbing when the shows tell sellers that to get their home ready for sale they should remove walls. And for buyers? Will buyers be able to find a separate kitchen in newer construction? The illusion of great space is a selling point, for some, but not all. And also there should be some consideration for the region/location of the homes. Beach houses are great for open floor plans, because of the views. But houses in very cold climates need to heat rooms and to heat a huge TV/Family room because someone is making eggs makes no sense. And sometimes the views aren’t so good — I might rather look out a window than into a family room. And I might want the ability to open a window in the kitchen. I think that the designers/architects/contractors should do more with the designs other than take out a wall or fail to put one in. The designs have to take into account sound, air quality, heating, smells, maintenance, etc. along with where to put the artwork or family calendar or pictures. The main thing I miss about my old Open Floor Plan house is the fact that the family room was large but that has nothing to do with the kitchen. I regret the design I choose with that house. In my new old (smaller) house I like my kitchen but with my family room was larger. That would not be accomplished by removing the wall to my kitchen. I know that now. That would cause me to lose a room. I admit it would make the house look bigger though.

  20. A similar observation about ‘new’ tendencies in decoration could start a very interesting debate with these two items: A) the bathroom with TWO sinks (you can see this trend even in the most expensive homes –an atrocious idea– to me it’s the same as having two toilets next to each other and B) Master bedrooms with the bathroom right there (in both cases consider the noises, smells, etc.).

    1. I have always thought two sink entirely unnecessary. Who is cleaning those two sinks? Guess they have maid service. And I have to laugh when on HGTV the woman looks at the kitchen and says “This granite will HAVE to GO!” I’ve watched really nice kitchens torn up and some hideous colors of granite put in. Oh, and open concept master bedroom and bath. ICK!

      1. As you know, life goes on in cycles and there is nothing new under the sun so, maybe after so many years with open floor plans we see the pros and cons of it and start remembering with nostalgia the use of doors…

      2. From the searches that lead to my post it seems that people are actually considering whether the open floor plan would work for them. That was my point in my original post. People should think about how they live now and might live in five years before taking the drastic step of removing a wall or limiting their house search to open concept homes. For some, it works great. It’s just so hard to know how it is with children because no one really knows what that’s like until you do it. The HGTV shows and parenting magazines and experts teach that once you have children you “need” certain spaces but experience sometimes teaches otherwise. I’m not having any more babies, but I did, I’d want a kitchen big enough to put high chairs and play pens in so that I could be a few steps from the baby when it was with me and allow that face-to-face interaction and keep them away from the TV. I would also like a door so that, for safety reasons, I could keep them out of the kitchen when I wasn’t in there. There are things – gadgets mostly, and plumbing – that people have now that weren’t around in Victorian times so designs do have to change to accommodate them. Still, there are activities that still (and should) persist — like reading and playing instruments and conversation around a table — that the designs have to accommodate as well.

      3. This is a comment on your second email about open floor plans:
        After leaving the USA for Europe I got there just in time to put my knowledge to good use and thanks to the (then) Real State incipient bubble I started buying apartments in bad conditions to beautifully refurbish them.

        Because of my personal experience I can vouch for the open space apartments, in the sense that practically every client that came over to look at those apartments felt in love with the open spaces.
        Later on, living there they could have found the handicaps we were talking about.

        But if you want to make easy money you have to follow the latest trends. It’s sad, but that’s what people want.
        Eventually I came back to my country and in Buenos Aires, doing the same thing, I found exactly the same responses, so, what do you do?
        You pull down as many walls as possible before collapsing the building.
        Something like selling used cars no?
        Saludos!
        David Traversa

    2. Yes, good points. I can’t speak to either one of those issues from experience because I’ve never had either two sinks or a master bath. When I was in the big house it was also an old house so it didn’t have those amenities. We thought about down the road how we could reconfigure to get a master bath but it wasn’t a priority when we had no children or when children were very young. What people don’t realize it that, except for bathing, babies don’t really use the bathroom. But here are my thoughts:

      1. Two Sinks: Now standard in new construction for Master Baths. From what I’ve read, understand, this is so that couples each have their own sink. For those who share a bath and get ready in the morning at the same time, they can both be brushing their teeth or whatever at the same time. The other reason for this is that I’ve heard, especially women, say that they want their own place for their “products” and that they don’t want to use a sink with stubble from shaving in and around it and are tired of cleaning it. All good reasons. But the other side of it is, first, not all adults are coupled up. I remember a scene from “It’s Complicated” where the main character, a divorced woman, was redoing her bathroom and wanted to get rid of the second sink. It was just a reminder that she had no partner, which she was okay with, but the sinks were not. My single sister has a bathroom like this. The two sinks are kind of stupid for single people. Next is the point you raised – not everyone wants to share their bathroom activities. It’s funny in these huge houses with every amenity the master bath design assumes two people will use the bathroom together. His and her baths (like you see in old mansions) would be the way to fix this, and you wouldn’t necessarily need that much more room, depending on the design. I think that some women spend a lot of time on make-up and hair in the bathroom in front of the sink and two sinks allow her partner to still come in and shave and brush his teeth without asking her to move. Again, not everybody wants this or would use this. I’m not particularly high maintenance but when I am primping or applying make up I tend to do it in my bedroom. The “man’s mess” argument is something I don’t really get. So, if the argument is that the man is a slob, does having two sinks make it better? Will the woman just use her sink and leave the guy’s stubble to cake up on the sink next to hers? I would think that either way both sinks needs to be cleaned, regularly. I really think that what some people really want is their own bathroom.

      The smells, noises thing. Yes, no one really talks about that. When I was trying to figure out how to put a master bath in my old house, I worried that though I could get rid of an seldom used porch off the bedroom to make room for it, it might seem like the bathroom was actually “in” the bedroom and that’s not sexy. It would be great to have a master bath for some of the same reasons why I like walls in my kitchen — especially as the kids grow. It would be nice to go to the bathroom without having to be fully clothed because the kids have friends over, etc. I guess for couples it is nice to have a bathroom nearby for before, during or after, couples activities that would negate the reason to walk down the hall (particularly embarrassing when older kids are around), and it is a perk for the “masters” of the house –the grown-ups who are paying the mortgage– to have their own bathrooms. So I totally get that. But I’ll say this. My friend who has a huge house, doesn’t have children, and who has a quite large master bath plus two and a half other baths, sends her husband to the rec room basement when he’s getting down to the serious bathroom work. She says, “Let him take his time, have his privacy, and stink up that room. He’s not allowed to do it up there.” If you’re thinking, “poor guy” — he actually prefers it. He can adjourn to the “reading room” without having to deal with his wife and she doesn’t bother him down there. Ha! You also see a lot of those HGTV couples where the woman says the closet will be hers and the bathroom will be hers and the husband can use the hallway one, and the guys don’t complain. (Some of these people are so obnoxious.) That whole attitude suggests that people really don’t want to use the bathroom at the same time as their mate. It would be nice to have a bathroom close, I mean no one likes to have to walk a long way in the middle of the night, but too close can be too close. It’s all in the design and people really have to think about how they live or want to live as opposed to the whole “wow” factor. Because, really, in a house with a downstairs powder room for guests and a hallway bath for children or overnight guests, who really sees the master bath?

      It’s like those huge soaking tubs that were popular in the ’80s that few really used and now on HGTV everybody yanks them out now. It’s all fashion.

      Thanks for your comment! Great points.

      1. Hi Just Me!
        Great letter and comments! thank you very much for all those splendid ideas! I’d like to write as much as you (and as well) but since my English is barely basic I feel very limited with my comments.

        Reading your lines I can add: You’ll be surprise to know that landlords hate to rent to single women (specially when there are several of them as room-mates) because they are the filthiest among renters (gay men are the cleanest ones and they always decorate the place) and the most raucous (frequent and noisy fights among themselves and they clog the drains with long hairs and other items).

        “Nobody speaks about noises and smells”… they don’t because they are hypocrites.
        That should be as natural as talking about the weather, and more important!!
        It’s just unthinkable to see a bathroom within a bedroom and not think about those issues!!
        And I’m talking about everyday living, now imagine if one or the other suffers from diarrhoea!! I sooner die.

        His and hers bathrooms is just grand. As it is his and hers bedrooms. There is nothing like privacy and a good book in bed.

        Another issue you could tackle: Bidets.
        I mentioned that issue in an American article and ruffled some feathers, because during all the time I lived in the USA, I never understood why they never adopted bidets there (save very rich people with an European-culture background).

        Thank you again for such fun reading!!
        David Traversa

      2. Thank you! I’m not at all surprised about the landlords’ preferences you referenced. I didn’t mean to suggest that I bought into the whole “messy men” stereotype, I was referencing the straight couples they tend to highlight on HGTV to bolster the argument that the two sink master bath is a “must-have.” The women they show often reportedly use a plethora of products and need their own sink because of it. Seems like with all those products the mess would be on the woman’s side, but no one says that. I would think that a woman with a lot of products (and hair) would want her own sink and a large counter — preferably in her own bathroom. That would be grand.

      3. Hi Just Me!
        You know? for many years I thought Coco Chanel was a bit… peculiar?
        Well, she had a magnificent petit hotel in the center of Paris, but every night
        retired to the Ritz hotel, across the street, because “sleeping at home is unsanitary”.
        Well… after reading all these comments about “home living” I think I’m starting to understand Coco’s point of view.
        I wouldn’t mind to do the same, and be pampered at the Ritz with all the appurtenances a place like that can offer to its clientèle (when money is no
        object).
        Another comment she made and this one is a bit difficult for ANYONE to grasp is the following: “Any woman that looks at herself in a mirror after 18 is completely mad”.
        What do you thing about that? excellent for a new blog, isn’t it?!

      4. I did not know about Coco Chanel peculiarities. Sleeping at home is unsanitary, huh? Who knew. And the quote about looking in the mirror? That one strikes me as sad. She had another quote that I was thinking of writing about — “Dress shabbily and they’ll notice the clothes, dress impeccably and they’ll notice the woman.” I heard it in that old movie with Harrison Ford, Sigourney Weaver and Melanie Griffith. Can’t think of the name.

      5. Hi Just Me!!
        “Working Girl” is the name you don’t remember (1988) but the quote you do remember is… terrific!! very clever and intelligent, it seems to have been taken directly from one of my favorite authors, Nancy Mitford (English writer, incredibly witty).
        The problem with that quote nowadays is that we lost the feeling and the idea of elegance that used to be the rule at Coco Chanel’s time. When you take a cold look at the way we dress nowadays… it really is disheartening… not to mention HAIR!!
        I remember as a child and young man in Buenos Aires, walking on Santa Fe Avenue, top upper class at the time (NOT NOW!!) it was a constant fashion show with exquisitely dressed women going around shopping or to Tea at scrumptious confiterías — it was THE place for sophisticated boutiques (NOT NOW!!)– and men used to dress accordingly, but all that is Gone With the Wind… now that period seems a dream to me.
        Probably is better today, when customs are so relaxed and we go around as if we were in the back-room in slippers… and everybody is tattooed from head to toes (David Beckham) but to tell you the truth… I miss terribly that kind of Elegance!! (and
        Nancy Mitford wit…).

      6. Ah yes, Working Girl! The point was well taken in that movie. I agree about how elegance is a rare treat. I think now that women’s accessories overpower the woman, especially some shoes. I tend to think accessories should enhance the whole look, not call too much attention to one purchase. It would be like complimenting a pianist and saying — your scales were really good — which would be a compliment, but really, the musician has succeeded if someone said, “That was beautiful. I almost cried.” Yes, of course the clean scales were part of it, but they mean nothing without the whole package. Oh and I turned our discussion about the two sinks in the Master Bath into a post. Thanks for the inspiration!

      7. Hi Just Me!
        Sorry to keep you away from the “bathroom with two sinks” discussion, but it’s your own fault. You just made an observation about “showy shoes” too delicious to ignore, that brought to my mind an observation by Edith Head, the film wardrobe designer during Hollywood glorious days: “Why those showy shoes? Who wants to have people looking at your feet??”
        I assume she said that to Carmen Miranda…

      8. Ha! And you have probably inspired another post down the line. I have never understood why women want people to look down at their feet, first. Our brains, our eyes, our mouths are up north. You don’t rule the room with your feet — it’s the package, including what you’ve got to say. And if after you’ve left the room all people can remember is your shoes? Then something has gone terribly wrong.

        Don’t get me started on the “shoe cams” they use at award and talk shows. Here’s some beautiful actress who is dressed in couture — professionally styled, either accepting an award for her work, or marketing a project she believes in, and the first thing the host says is, “Let me see your shoes” and the camera pans away from her face and goes to her feet. Seriously? They don’t do that with Brad Pitt or George Clooney.

      9. Why comments on women shoes? for the same reason that an Italian journalist, Costanza Miriano, just published a book that caused an uproar (instant Best Seller list!!).

        The Italian title of the book: “Sposati e sii sottomessa” (“Get Married and be Yielding”) –sorry, my own translation…– book that right now is the cause of endless TV debates pros and cons in Europe (I can’t believe it! she preaches to women as any rabid Muslim would do it!!! with this kind of friends, who needs enemies??).

        But there you have the answer to the –not enviable– unmovable doll like position of women in society (ultra high heels, ultra long hair, full make up jobs, silicone implants, clinging dresses, colaless (Argentinian designation for string bikinis) hunger diets… and Slow Death after THIRTY.
        No wonder they are asked apropos the only thing they can talk about!! (Not all women of course!).

    3. I loved having a master bath with 2 sinks! It gained me time with my fiance in the morning. The conversation may not be earth-shattering, but it’s hard to carry on when the other person’s in another room!

      1. I’ll have to take your word on that one. I’ve never had a master bath with two sinks or even a master bath.

  21. […] wall and put in one of those bar stool counter thingies. Before they do that they may want to read these arguments against the open floor plan from a mom’s perspective. Summary: sometimes what goes on in the kitchen should stay in the […]

  22. Just Me- I agree with everything you are saying. Great article and comments. I used to have two sinks in the bathroom and guess what? One of them never got used. It was filled with clutter instead. I don’t know why, but it was the farthest from the door and things just got tossed into it. It just became a catch-all. Possibly there wasn’t enough storage space elsewhere and it kept junk off the counter. Said house also had a kitchen that you could see into as soon as you came in the front door, which I detested. The only thing dividing the kitchen from the living room was a large counter top/bar area. The bar seating side was NEVER used. The only perk to the arrangement was all of the extra counter space and being able to see my daughter play and yes, God forbid- watch TV. That part was nice, but lots of counter space tends to collect lots of clutter. Especially when it is right at the front door. I would much prefer a kitchen at the back of the house with a large area for people to sit. I just don’t want it seen by any person that comes to the front door. Every time I watch HGTV and see these people who say that only one sink in the master bath is a deal breaker, I think “How dumb.” Same goes for stainless steel appliances and open floor plans.
    Years later we bought and remodeled an older home (circa 1904). The small kitchen was in the back. In the bathroom we put a large pedestal sink and to solve any storage problems I designed a counter around the sink that was open in the front and had drawers down both sides beneath the counter top. Since most pedestal sinks are too low for me we also raised it by having drawers underneath the pedestal part. It was really great and lovely to look at.
    Also I really like the thought of his and her bathrooms! My husband has said that if we ever move he wants his own bathroom. Far away from everyone else. Ha ha. I would happily give it to him.

    1. So the second sink wasn’t used, huh? I bet that happens a lot. And I bet that whether it’s the man or woman who is messy, having two sinks doesn’t solve that problem. His and Hers baths would probably be the true dream.

      I had the same problem with the extra counter space when I had the open floor plan. The kitchen was near the back/side door and everyone came in and dumped their stuff on the counter. I rarely used it for food prep because I’d have to relocate everybody’s crap first. Come to think of it, people didn’t sit at the counter much either. If they did, they’d face the kitchen. The TV and the pretty yard were in the other direction. My kitchen design didn’t have that little wall on the counter so people sitting at the counter would be looking directly at my sink. I highly recommend having one of those little 6 inch walls on the counter in an open floor plan so that the sink isn’t right there and spills won’t travel to the seating area. Or having counters at different levels would help with this.

      I found that as soon as someone came over I went to the kitchen and started to clean — even if it was already clean.

      Sounds like what you did with your bathroom is lovely.

      When I had my current kitchen done I requested a table rather than an island. I could always use more counter space so an island and a table would be nice, but since space didn’t permit that I went with a large table. I have a large family and I wanted room where six could sit comfortably — around a table. Good for conversation. I really think people want big kitchens which is not the same as having the kitchen include other rooms. A big kitchen in the back is nice. I like people to come to my kitchen, but I just don’t want them to have to come to my kitchen.

  23. Yep, a big kitchen is not the same as a kitchen open to everything. Even a small crowded kitchen can be open to feel larger. But then you still have to keep it super clean for company. I agree also about the raised counter for a sitting/bar area. At least that helps block some of the view of the clutter on the other side. Unless someone is sitting there looking over and down at it… And yes, when there is a table or counter near a door that’s where junk gets plopped :)

    1. In small quarters where there is a little, cramped, tiny kitchen and there is no way to expand I can see why opening it up would make it feel bigger and more inviting. But because of it always being exposed maybe designers should consider some way to temporarily close it off. I’m thinking of old TV shows I guess from the 60s, 70s where the kitchens had partitions that could be pulled down or closed. So you could have that open feel but when the food has been served, you can literally “close” the kitchen.

  24. My husband and I built what’s called in the Caribbean, a plantation-style house. It has the open plan which is just how we wanted it. We didn’t do it for “entertaining” – we have two huge galleries for that – or to keep an eye on the children. but who needs a formal dining room? We have a dining table in the open area and we hardly ever eat there. Outside dining anyone?
    Yes it’s a pain to have to keep the kitchen looking fairly presentable, but I can’t have everything. The kids have a small room to watch their own shows, and aside from me having to tell my husband to turn down the volume on the TV (it’s not as loud when you’re in front of it, something about the acoustics), it’s a decision we’re still happy with.

    1. Hya21,
      I envy your location!!
      I’ve been to Puerto Rico and loved it intensely, I assume your place in the Caribbean must be similar to La isla right?
      I remember standing under gigantic ferns in the mountains –center of the island– because all of a sudden heavy rain started (two minutes and suddenly it stopped!!) and couldn’t believe the size of those ferns!! I felt like an ant under a regular fern…

      1. Hi David,

        Although La Isla is in Central America and I’m in Antigua which is way over on the eastern side of the Caribbean, the climate is relatively similar. When you were in Puerto Rico, you’d actually have been closer to where I am since it’s only a 45 minute flight from here.
        Puerto Rico also has more diverse flora and fauna than Antigua does and we’re way smaller. Anyway, I love it here – it’s almost perfect, and it’ s home.
        Nice talking to you.

      2. I gotta say, I’m a little jealous of your location also. I bet it’s beautiful.

    2. It is really a matter of personal choice, how you live, who you live with, and where you live. I think that HGTV makes assumptions and encourages people to make decisions that they might not be comfortable with down the line, just to get the wow factor. (Like with stainless steel appliances, granite counter tops and double sinks — all great features, but for some families money might be better spent other amenities or other rooms.) It sounds like you have a great set up. I have neither an open floor plan nor a formal dining room. In the old house I had both. I do miss the dining room, though. It was good for us to have a place to have “fancy dinners” — where the food wasn’t fancy, but we pretended it was and I used it to practice table manners. Also, I was more likely to sit for a meal when we had the dining room. Now we have an eat-in kitchen which I like because we can sit around the table. What we don’t have is a big room or entertaining, but like you said, I can’t have everything. From the beach houses I’ve seen, the open plan serves well to take advantage of the views and more outdoor living.

    3. Hi Hya21!!
      Thank you for your charming answer!
      I must say I got a jolt of memory when you mentioned Antigua, since that reminded me immediately of a film that I loved so much when I saw it: “Antigua vida mia” (2001), an Argentinian film by Héctor Olivera, with marvellous Ana Belén and Cecilia Roth as the central characters.
      I hope you can see it because the location is Antigua!! (and besides it’s a gorgeous film).
      I was disoriented when you mentioned “my location”… I’m living now in Argentina, in the hills of Córdoba (a province in the center of this country, and yes, it is lovely, I’m in a very small town –now with summer starting– where the whole town and the sierras around became green in just a few days!!
      I think we live dreaming with other people’s locations all the time, don’t you?
      It’s the human condition.
      Now I’d love to be in Dubai!!
      Saludos!
      David Traversa

  25. We’ve mostly owned newer houses so we have had no choice. Before that I lived in older apartments in New England. Now that I think about it, its nice to have a defined kitchen that is decorated as such and the clutter is separate, etc. But here’s the biggie for me that I bemoan and it has NOTHING to do with eating or entertaining or TV habits or hiding from the kids. Although now that I think about it, my husband would want to maim our thirteen year old son a little less if he didn’t have cartoon network blaring at him while he’s trying to get his grad school work done at the kitchen table. I grew up in the sixties and we had a house with a large defined kitchen and breakfast area with two gatable doorways (one into the rarely used dining room. One into the family room) and a linoleum (no trendy hardwood here!!!) floor. A perfect puppy room. Alas, in my current open plan house, when I grow weary of watching my four month old labrador’s every move and snatching the shoes from his mouth, etc etc, he has to go into his crate because we have no dog safe area to contain him in. I’d gladly exchange the visuals for a more dog friendly house!!! My hubby doesn’t like the maintainance issues that come with older homes which is why we have always bought newer ones, in case you are wondering.

    1. Thanks for your comment. I wish that more newer homes offered more options — like maybe a bigger kitchen, one that can accommodate a table, or an kitchen that has an opening that can be closed when necessary. My original post didn’t even address your very pertinent issue of the pet situation. Sometimes a pet needs to be kept out of the kitchen, with a completely open plan the only option is to put the pet outside/upstairs/crate. And there’s the opposite when you might like to keep the pet in the kitchen and away from the dining room, seating areas so guests can sit without a dog sniffing them or jumping on their lap. But again, with a completely open plan the pet gets banished completely. When entertaining this my be necessary anyway, but letting the dog be with family but not around food would be a good thing. Thanks for commenting.

  26. Hi! Love your post! Saw it referred to in one of the “soft news” pieces that pass for “news” these days. ;) I had to come read it for myself. I had a hard time believing anyone else felt the same way about the open kitchen plan. I have ALWAYS hated it! I grew up in a large Craftsman bungalow built in 1926. We had a large, country kitchen but for entertaining, (which we did a lot of) we also had a separate, formal dining room. I have never wanted to entertain in my kitchen. Ergo, I have never wanted an “open” kitchen.

    Now I am at the other end of the spectrum. I am in an old hacienda in South America where all the rooms, including the kitchen and the dining room, open onto an interior courtyard. That was a bit separate even for me, so I had my workers brick up the kitchen doorway and cut a small arch between my kitchen and dining room. LOL It’s not so big that everything in the kitchen can be seen by those in the dining room, but large enough to comfortably carry a tray through.

    Your blog looks interesting. Now I’m going to go see what else you’ve written . . . . ;)

    1. Thank you. Openings and open kitchens are good for serving food. The entertaining part I just don’t buy into completely. I think most of the food should be prepared before guests arrive and that the hosts should spend time with their guests and actually leave the kitchen. Ever been to a party where when you get there there is no food ready? Andy you’re kind of awkward offering to help while watching someone work in the kitchen (while your stomach is growling)? I think that having an open kitchen shouldn’t really change how people entertain. We should still strive for having drinks/food ready, still want to engage out guests and make them feel comfortable and that they don’t have to lift a finger. The old “everybody ends up in the kitchen” argument ignores why that happens. I’ve been to plenty of parties when I’ve ended up in the kitchen because I was either completely bored or pissed off at the people in the other room. The more interesting people were in the kitchen and it was a separate place to talk. It wasn’t because of the stainless steel appliances or the granite counter tops. It’s nice to have someplace else to go. I’ve also been to parties where everybody ended up in the dining room because that’s where the food was laid out. I think people should think about how they live daily and how they’d like to entertain before buying into the hype. Sure, I’d like to have more space now (I downsized big time) and I wish I had a larger room for entertaining, but I wish my other rooms were bigger without losing actual rooms.

  27. Open concept kitchens:
    1.) smell up the rest of your house
    2.) distract people in the next room with irritating kitchen noises
    3.) subject whoever is in the kitchen to whatever is going on in the next room
    4.) cause both parties to talk at a louder volume
    5.) can be hell for a self conscience cook

  28. For me, a closed kitchen works well. During the recent holidays we had eight straight days of cooking for company, family and friends. It was great! My husband cooks and I do the clean up. Being a people loving introvert, I looked forward to my time alone in the kitchen for clean up. Yes, people offered to help, but I needed alone time to re-energize. I loved them all, it’s just how I am. Also, I can wait a long time after the meal to clean up, the dishes are soaking in the deep sink, the perishables are stowed away. The table is clear. It works very well for me.

    1. I’m glad it works for you. Cleaning up the kitchen can be thankless chore, but it can also be relaxing — when not on display doing it, or when not viewing the people who are doing absolutely nothing. And when the kitchen is not in full view it does allow you to sit down for a bit before tackling the final clean up. Cook, eat, clear, rest or mingle, then do final clean up.

  29. hi all
    for my mom kitchen like life area, sure biger than normal + TV and also a big size
    seat, she stay in the kitchen during all day.

    1. When I had an open floor plan, I was in the kitchen, but I could never sit down, and no one was in there with me. But I wasn’t alone, either.

  30. Your argument is flawed for one reason – you presume that everyone wants or will want the privacy or segregation. Yeah, sometimes we make mistakes regarding a remodel that are costly to change, so pointing out the fact that kids will grow and the need to view them will go away in a couple years is informative of you.

    The point of remodeling and rearranging floor space is to have a different lay-out; a result that will dramatically change the plan and versatility of the home.

    This “rant” falls on deaf ears to those who do not care so much about appearing perfectly clean while entertaining or who feel a need to have secretive conversations (is it too much to suggest that those dialogues should occur outside the party setting, maybe go outside or to a different room). Mentioning the bathroom as the escape location only make the argument seem more manufactured, or stretching for some sort of validity to your point.

    I think the open kitchen floor plan can work very well for entertaining and can be bad if some privacy is ever wanted, but it is all developed based on the original lay-out of the home.

    1. True, some people may never want privacy or segregation. And sometimes it’s hard to tell how things will work out. My main concern is how many of the real estate shows and contractors are pushing certain amenities with justifications that might not ring true when put into practice. I think by and large, the best reason for an open floor plan is the appearance of space. Your house seems bigger, and depending on it’s location and window placement you’re likely to get better light. If you are in the kitchen you don’t have to miss out on what is happening in the other room or you don’t have to feel isolated. And, if the kitchen itself is beautiful, you can show that off. Also, it’s easy to serve food. And probably the biggest reason of them all to go for an open floor plan is resale value. If the trend continues, and people believe they must have an open floor plan, not having one can affect the value of your home. I hope that designers will provide options.

  31. I have owned/built nine homes over the years starting with separate-room kitchens and evolving to open concept. I believe the open concept strongly contributes to most families’ precious/limited together time.

    Over many millennia housing consisted of one room and perhaps a loft, if you were fortunate. Later house/apartment owners wanted to emulate the world’s great manor houses, forgetting that these enormous homes employed many near invisible servants so the owners could (theoretically) be together in splendid closed-door dining rooms and parlors.

    Now our world is quite different. Only a minuscule percentage of the population can afford to hire full time staff. Why should contemporary cooks be cooped up and removed from from conversation and fun? Why should the cook(s) be isolated scullery maids?

    1. No, I was not suggesting that kitchens and home layouts should mirror the time when everyone had (or were) servants. Larger homes 100 years ago were based on that model. The servants’ or working-class people’s homes were not, but still had separate kitchens (I live in one now). Risk of fire and trying to contain the damage from fire was a huge concern 100 years ago, which is another reason why kitchens were in the back of the home. But no, I’m not suggesting the servant kind of isolation. In fact, I’m arguing against that. In the HGTV shows they often have a homeowner, usually the woman, saying that she doesn’t want to be stuck in the kitchen away from her family. This makes me wonder, when not cooking, is she always going to be in the kitchen anyway? And, can’t the family come into the kitchen with her? My parents’ house was built in the 50s. Modest. No place for servants. It had an eat-in kitchen and no dining room. We spent many happy hours in that kitchen, together. It wasn’t huge, but there were places to sit comfortably. And perhaps I need a separate post for this, but in terms of caring for babies, and interacting with them, whether the kitchen is open or not, there should be a design that allows a parent and baby to interact in the same room. Cheerio time.

  32. Ask me what I thnik about the positive and negative impact HGTV and similar programs have on buyers’ sometimes unreasonable expectations. Examples: desiring/demanding all matching/same brand stainless steel appliances and absolute need for only granite counter tops whether the home is entry level modest or a mansion.

    1. I totally agree after 7 years in the real estate biz that HGTV has done a dis-service to home buyers AND sellers by creating unreasonable demanding buyers and leaving sellers with endless demands to meet. I used to have a cleaning business and let me tell you, marble and granite and so called “stainless” steel AND glass walled showers are a joke for anyone who has to keep up with cleaning them! I have bought/sold and custom built homes and for practicality theres no way I would ever buy a totally open concept floor plan. At the very most I might consider the type of kitchen that had a sitting area at one end. That way if one has small kids they could be nearby and also anyone visiting the “cook” could be nearby, but the mess of entertaining and doing what you do in the kitchen would be only there, not open for the whole house.

      1. One ding in a stainless steel appliance and it looks absolutely awful. I appreciate the sitting area in the kitchen comment. Sometimes people read my post and think I’m advocating against family time. I’m actually mean the opposite. I want to be able to sit down with my kids in the kitchen, not stand over them. I want a friend to sit at my kitchen table and have a cup of coffee. When my kitchen was closed my oldest would spend time within feet of me in his high chair or play pen. I could talk to him, make eye contact, sing, read to him in between kitchen chores. The younger kids were babies in an open plan. They were much further from me. I ran back and forth. Once they learned to walk the kitchen was dangerous and I had trouble keeping them out with no door or doorway. HGTV says an open plan allows you to keep an eye on the kids, but it’s more remote control.

      2. I have to laugh at these HGTV shows. One shows remodeling, and making your space your own with crazy paint colors (as they were formerly neutral), then the next insists the only way you’re going to sell your home is if everything (walls, rugs, bedding, ad nauesem) is neutral! Seems like a lot of work if you sell within 5 years….

    2. I completely agree with this. I don’t think anyone who is in the process of buying or selling a home should watch any of those shows.

  33. In addition to the things you’ve mentioned in your post, the thing about open incept kitchens that drives me NUTS is the fact that all the greasy little particulates from cooking end up on EVERYTHING in the house. That makes for the need to clean (I mean really scrub) light fixtures, blinds, sit around items all the time. Before the open concept kitchen, once a month I’d scrub up the kitchen top to bottom. Now I have to do it to the entire house. It’s hard on lamp shades too.

    I remember my grandma’s house had a closed kitchen, and once the evening meal was over, the dishes washed and put away, that kitchen closed for the night. Lights out, doors closed, and nobody went in there except for a drink of water (nothing else) or a bandage.

    1. I had a comment a while ago that suggested that he open plan may contribute to the obesity issue in the U.S. Like you said, when the kitchen is open, it’s never closed. At some point, except maybe for a movie snack, cooking and eating should be over and the kitchen should be clean. Done.

      Huh, the cleaning issue is not one people talk about much. I do remember that when I had the open plan my sofa always smelled bad. I lived on Frebreze.

  34. Single in Midwest | Reply

    I have a semi-open kitchen. It may have even had doors and was totally closed at some point in time (the house was built in 70s), but when I bought the house there were none, and the opening to the living room is fairly large. I like it the way it is, and won’t be putting any doors there. Although I’ve noticed that when I entertain in this one, or any of my prior homes, people had a tendency to congregate in the kitchen regardless of how open or closed it was, because that’s where the action was.

    1. Actually now my kitchen is closed, except for a doorway sized pass-through. I converted the dining room into a family room. There is a door between that and the living room, because of noise and because there’s a piano in to the living room. I don’t have parties, but when my friends come over we tend to sit in the kitchen at the table. It’s nice. My kids come in and out and vice-versa when they have friends over. My house is very old. In fact, originally it had no kitchen at all, the kitchen was an addition in the early 1900’s. Originally there were only two rooms on the first floor, one with a hearth where I assume the family spent most of the time, because it was the warmest. I guess that was the original open concept floor plan. So really, it’s not all that new.

      Taking the wall out would be very expensive because of the chimney and duct work, and I’d lose a room in an already small house. Originally I was going to put a door in the pass through (which was originally a door to the outside), but even with the opening the heavy wall in between cuts out much of the noise from the kitchen so I don’t think a door is necessary. There are many reasons why people end up in the kitchen and you’re right, sometimes it has absolutely nothing to do with the floor plan. Thanks for the comment.

      1. People end up in the kitchen because the person they want to hang out with is…in the kitchen. If that person (usually the host) is the living/dining/family room/deck…the guests will follow. I’ve observed this in both closed kitchens and open concept homes.

        I once saw a HGTV episode where a man criticized the placement of the range against the back wall of the kitchen. He said he didn’t like it because his back would be to his guests while he was cooking. I guessed he must be the kind of person who does all the cooking after his guests arrive. Why? It is soooo much easier to do the prep/cooking before guests arrive. And gives the host much more time to enjoy their time with their guests. In any room.

  35. […] have” shown on the real estate shows.  Having previously written about the “Open Floor Plan” a commenter suggested I  discuss other popular real estate “must have” […]

  36. I think the open concept kitchen looks good, but is not ideal for entertaining because everyone just stands around the island, picking and snacking on food and drinks. No one ever sits on the stools around the island because everone else is standing and it feels awkward to be the only one sitting down. I always find myself looking over at the comfy looking family room right there so close by and wonder why we can’t go in there and sit down and relax. I just don’t enjoy standing around someone’s kitchen for hours. That is not my idea of a good time. Especially after a long week or working and other busy activities. Sorry open kitchen fans, I don’t want to watch you cook the meal you are going to serve me either. Get it ready before we get there, at least the majority of it. That is just so awkward. Watching the cook try cook and entertain guests at the same time. Just doesn’t work. Dim the lights too in that big open kitchen. Who wants to be on display in those bright drop down pendant lights on a Friday or Saturday night standing around in that atmosphere? I simply do not want to go to house parties anymore because I don’t want to stand around for hours and that is the way it always is.

    1. Yes, the open kitchen has that wow factor, my original post was just pointing out some of the realities of living with one as I experienced. I’ve found the thing with the stools around the island to be true as well, they are too close to the actual cooking and at parties people don’t sit there. On the HGTV shows at the end they show people standing in the newly open kitchen with wine and I wonder why they don’t show people sitting in the new family or living room or deck or yard? The “get it ready before we get there” is a huge point. That should be true whether the kitchen is open or closed. The host should be entertaining his/her guests. Remember that show, “Queer Eye for The Straight Guy?” those guys taught about getting the meal ready, sitting down and talking to your guests, etc. Guests should never feel awkward, in open or closed kitchens. That’s why with closed kitchens, people used to be told never to leave your guests for more that the minute it should take to check on or grab a tray of food. Just like you should never leave your guests alone for too long, you shouldn’t make them watch you cook. And they shouldn’t feel obligated to help clean up. And it you are having a dinner party open or closed shouldn’t matter. Once the food is ready don’t people sit down and eat and talk together? I’ve gotten a few comments where people are saying I’m awful for wanting to cut the cook off from everything. That completely misses my point. I want the cook to leave the kitchen to entertain and I want the family to be together when not entertaining. You’ve made me think about parties when the plan is open, I went to one where the kitchen was open, but it was an older house that had been remodeled. So there was a massive big room and an open kitchen but there was still a dining room and sitting rooms. Most of us moved from room to room, not just the kitchen and then we congregated in the family area for the game. I think it would have been the same if the kitchen had had a wall. One awkward thing, though, was that the couple had gotten a woman to help them with serving/cleaning. She had no place to go away from the guests and I’m betting some people thought she was one of the guests — until she asked them if they wanted a drink. Awkward.

      1. With an open kitchen, the rooms spread. Sitting down your guests should be right on front of you. Bar stools, great rooms….no more living in your bedrooms. Cooking shows are hot! Kids are learning to cook too and are interested. How great is that!

  37. Good God, I am grateful that I don’t have kids. This way I can have any kind of house and kitchen layout that I want and not have to worry about these sorts of things. Open, closed; doesn’t matter because I have no one to “hide” from in my own home. That sounds scary. If I did want to “get away” the kitchen is not where I would go to do it though anyway, I would hit my hot tub, but that is just me. Y’all have fun in your kitchens.

    1. Have fun in your hot tub. I’m jealous.

  38. hi everybody,
    My husband hated open kitchen since it makes noise, smells and complained all the timer that he cannot watch any T.V shows. He used to yell and slam at me.
    Actually it is his house, he wanted me to cook after midnight. I tried everything and now we are going our separate ways.

  39. Fascinating. I thought I was the only person alive who appreciates a little separateness in her rooms. :)

  40. I currently have an open kitchen, and also have four cats.Needless to say, cats are difficult to keep off the counters.UGH.All I can think of is E Coli, and always wash the counters down with bleach, but that is getting old.My next kitchen will have a door and I can stop worrying about gross kittie toes on my counter…

  41. 10 years ago, we remodeled a small kitchen in our 1940s Los Angeles tract house. Every book on kitchen remodeling that we bought showed open plans with sweeping granite counters, eat-in center islands and more cupboard space than you could possibly fill. On the advice of our kitchen designer, we chose to push out an exterior wall and expand the kitchen, but keep the space enclosed. We have a Caesarstone table that extends from one counter and is big enough to seat five (six if two are small children). The layout feels open because of the materials our designer help select, but we don’t have to walk more than a three steps between the points of the classic refrigerator-stove-sink triangle. All of our friends say it is their favorite kitchen, and they enjoy sitting in our separate dining room (which is by no means large) because it gives them a feeling of warmth and intimacy. The kitchen and dining room are separated by a swinging door with reeded glass, which hides messes but lets in light. 10 years after the remodel, we love our kitchen as much as the day it was finished. I would strongly recommend consulting a qualified designer if you are thinking about remodeling and opening a kitchen up into an open floor plan.

    1. That is a wonderful story. Using a good kitchen designer makes all the difference. I used a designer who in hindsight was only concerned about the light and spaciousness feel but not the warmth or intimacy. If I had it to do over in my old house I would enlarge the kitchen to include a table like yours and leave enough room for high chairs and play pens. I wasn’t able to be as physically close to my babies after the kitchen opened up with an island. And I’d make sure there was a way to gate off the kitchen — from toddlers and dogs, especially when no one is in there. A good contractor can knock down a wall, a good designer can make the space function in a way that reflects the family. My current home has the wall but everybody seems to love my kitchen, it has warm colors and a handmade table. The designer did a good job.

  42. I sell new construction luxury homes. Our open plans are my most popular hands down. The kitchen is now an art piece for entertaining and family to get involved. Bring everyone together. It’s not your moms house anymore!

    1. I know they are very popular, but they aren’t for everyone, that’s all. I did have the wow factor with my open floor plan because of the spaciousness, though. I admit. It just wasn’t very fun or engaging for me.

  43. Small kitchens became popular in the 1920s as modern appliances made it easier for a housewife to run the house. So a small kitchen made it made efficient, as less space need to be cleaned and walked. There’s an article in an issue of American Home magazine from 1950-1952 in which a house housewife rails against this new fangled “open concept” in that it didn’t solve problems so much as it created new ones.

    But this article also set me free. We have a 1931 house with a small kitchen cut off from the rest of the space. Now, we actually live in our living room, and we have been laboring over how to open up the kitchen, which would require joining three doors, into one and “T” shaped steel truss to support the load bearing walls ahead at $30k. MADNESS.

    So today, this morning we decided to simply rework the 144 square foot kitchen we have, and be happy with it. Finding this posting tonight set me free. All things come around. BTW – we have also made the decision not to do granite. Its expensive, cold and it offgasses radon.

    By not opening up the kitchen, ditching the granite and using a smart design, I think we’re going save about $40,000 grand on the project.

    1. You make an excellent point that it is a current very popular trend, as were brass fixtures in the bathroom and green appliances, etc. Reworking a design is a valid and cost-saving alternative. I gutted my kitchen before I even moved into my current house. But if I’d knocked down a wall I’d have to move a chimney and duct work and wiring and put up a support beam — so that I could see my kids watch TV? But actually I’m not sure where I could put the TV is I had done that. The new design makes the kitchen easy to work in, allows family to gather and sit. There was no family seating in the kitchen in my open kitchen house. It’s all really personal choice, but the HGTV shows and realtors suggesting that people can’t cook or entertain or interact with family without an open floor plan is really overstating it. Look at Europe — in Italy, France– people known for cooking and entertaining and enjoying each other. They manage just fine without the large open kitchens and interact with their guests and enjoy the food. The trend in the U.S. is all kind of a throw back — not just the design, the advertising for the design. We’re told to remove a wall so that we can stay in the kitchen and show off our appliances and counter-tops and cook in front of our guests. Meh. I had a comment that the kitchen is now an art piece. That kind of made me sad. Anyway, it’s all the rage, but people should rush into it without really thinking about how they live.

  44. Boy, do I hear you about this (I saw your blog mentioned on a Yahoo news story about this subject. Here’s the reply I left:
    I hate my open kitchen for all the reasons stated. The worst feature is the kitchen island. I walk around it like a dog on a chain. It gets in the way of the work-triangle. I finally shoved it up against a row of cabinets and made a peninsula out of it instead of an island. The whole open floor plan we have really invades your privacy. We all sit around watching tv, read, listen to CDs and playing on the computer all with our head phones on so that we can have some privacy. You can see every item and possession we own all at the same time and it makes the place look like a cluttered barn. And drop-ins see all the mess. However, on the good side, it prevents cabin fever during our long winters. You don’t feel closed in. Thanks for listening.

    1. Thank you. I didn’t like my island either, but I admit I needed it for the storage because I lost a wall of cabinets. Because I had the island I couldn’t have a table or space for a playpen or high chairs so lost a lot of Cheerio time with my younger kids. I could see them, but they weren’t as close to me if I was in there. I’ve said it before, I liked the space, but I would have moved the wall instead of removing it. I would have gone with the 80’s sitcom kitchen — Huxtables, Family Times, etc. even the 90’s Fresh Prince.

    2. I’ve lived in a couple houses where the kitchen was open to a great room or den, and had a central island. Man, did I do laps around it! Both homes had formal living rooms, but we kept the TV in the den/great room. I just hated any clutter in the kitchen if folks were over for a movie or game.

      1. It makes for more work with guests, I think. I clean while I cook but there’s no way to get everything clean before the meal is served. Maybe designers should consider having some sort of screen that can close off the kitchen after the food is served.

  45. civillascybercafe | Reply

    I hate my open kitchen for all the reasons stated. The worst feature is the kitchen island. I walk around it like a dog on a chain. It gets in the way of the work-triangle. I finally shoved it up against a row of cabinets and made a peninsula out of it instead of an island. The whole open floor plan we have really invades your privacy. We all sit around watching tv, read, listen to CDs and playing on the computer all with our head phones on so that we can have some privacy. You can see every item and possession we own all at the same time and it makes the place look like a cluttered barn. And drop-ins see all the mess. However, on the good side, it prevents cabin fever during our long winters. You don’t feel closed in. Thanks for listening.

  46. I love to cook, and have folks over for a meal. While I do clean up after myself, I don’t want to wash the roasting pan or gravy pot before I sit down to eat with family and friends! Whether my guests or I face the open-plan kitchen, someone’s going to see the mess – definitely NOT appetizing! I love the house I’m in now; there’s a bar counter so folks can sit while I’m finishing up, but the dining room (formal, thank you!) is completely separated from the kitchen. We can relax, and enjoy the meal and each other. My fiance and I looked at a new subdivision model with a “French country plan” (living area, dining area, and kitchen combined); his immediate and vehement reaction was “absolutely not!” I don’t mind an eat-in kitchen, or breakfast nook, but give me separate kitchen and dining areas any day.

    1. THIS! “We can relax, and enjoy the meal and each other.” It’s nice for the cook to sit and enjoy the guests.

    2. Juliette de Saint-Vincent | Reply

      “My fiance and I looked at a new subdivision model with a ‘French country plan’ (living area, dining area, and kitchen combined); ”

      I live in France, in one of the most remote, rural communes. My mother is French, and I spent much of my childhood in France. My mother’s family still live in France.

      I have yet to see an open-plan kitchen/dining arrangement anywhere in France. They may build some open-plan houses that have been built for “les rosbifs” who cross the Channel to retire here, but for the French… never.

      Entertaining is done in the living room and dining room, or outdoors in the summer. A dinner party guest never goes into the kitchen.

      When guests arrive apéritif is immediately set out on a low table in the living room so guests can settle on the comfortable chairs, chatting amongst themselves. The dining room table has already been set with the good or best china, silver, glassware, and linen.

      The food is mostly prepared earlier in the day allowing the host/hostess to enjoy apéritif with the guests.

      I HATE open plan for all the reasons you listed. The kitchen is a workroom, not the ‘heart of the home’, as so many claim. When I’m cooking, I don’t want toddlers underfoot, or any other distractions. I don’t want toys, homework and stacks of paper on the kitchen table that I have to clear away before I can sit down to chop vegetables.

      Of course, we all eat together in the dining room (except when there is a match on during dinner hour, in which case we all gather round the TV to watch Les Bleus lose… again.)

      The kids know that they can come into to talk to me, especially if there is something on their minds, knowing that their irritating siblings won’t be there to overhear what they have to say. Oh if those walls could talk!

      1. You raise a lot of the concerns I have about how the open floor plans are marketed. There is so much emphasis on the cook/host being able to be in the same room as the guests and interact with them while he/she is cooking. And I always think — shouldn’t most of the food be prepared ahead of time? Shouldn’t the host greet the guests, put a drink in their hands, have appetizers ready and talk to them? And sit and eat with them? Whether the kitchen is open or a separate room the host shouldn’t be in there all night anyway. I think people are being trained to entertain badly. Even in an informal party situation, there should be a table of food, and a drink station. There’s no need to stay in the kitchen and that stuff should be set out before there’s a knock at the front door. The best parties I’ve been to are where there is plenty of food available and the host is not frazzled and I don’t have to watch him/her cook or clean. Yet the folks that want and sell the open floor plan say things like, “I can still talk and interact with my guests while I’m chopping vegetables.” Regardless of the floor plan, the chopping should have been done ahead of time so the host can enjoy his/her guests and vice versa. The other thing that happens when the planning is not timed right and there’s an open floor plan, is that guests feel obligated to offer to help — the next thing you know, the guests (often the female guests) are behind the counter chopping, seasoning, loading the dishwasher, wiping the counter, etc. at the very start of the party. It’s rude not to offer to help when the host is right in front of you struggling. And if nothing is ready, if you’re hungry you need to help if you want to eat any time soon — haha! So, thanks for pointing out the optimal way to entertain — which requires preparation. I know it can be hard to get the timing right, and any host will have to duck into the kitchen at some point, but preparation is key, and appetizers, and — conversation.

        Thank you also for the authentic French point of view. I’ve only visited briefly, but it seems like in many cities and regions in Europe, certainly in France and Italy the reputation is that people enjoy their food and each other. People prepare good, fresh food and then eat it together, around a table. That is one of the reasons why I’d like to do more traveling abroad. In the U.S. the emphasis is on big spaces and appliances, and the design and construction industry wants to convince us that we cannot entertain without these very large spaces. And we cannot cook unless the kitchen is huge, new, and shiny. But some of the best parties and times I’ve had have in small apartments or houses. And some of the best food I’ve had has come out of little kitchens.

        Thanks again for your thoughtful comments.

  47. I couldn’t disagree more — my home has a flowing and open plan — . My dinner and party guests still seem to congregate in the kitchen area, but can also meander into the living room and dining room .with ease. Maybe my plan is not truly open. This thing about privacy and separation will die out soon. I would not buy a home with a kitchen that is in a “room” of its own.

  48. I HATE open concept kitchens! I have had many homes and only two of them had the open concept kitchen. It was awful!!! My kitchen is a work area; although I like it to look nice, it is not a display. I have cooking tools such as mixers, food processor, blender, toaster, etc. on the counters. They have covers, but it certainly isn’t like a model home. My husband watching TV drove me nuts because he kept turning up the volume. He said he couldn’t hear the TV over the noise I made cooking. It was a constant battle. Give me my closed kitchen any day! I like my island or breakfast bar where friends can be in the kitchen with me, but I sure don’t want the whole family room in my kitchen.

  49. Nodinnerpartiesforoldmen | Reply

    I agree so much. My apartment has a wall between the kitchen and the rest. I can’t even imagine having it as part of the rest of the living room.

    I’m also sure, so deeply and completely sure, that the fact that every, every renovator wants an “open floor plan” on HGTV means that in a few years it’s going to go out of style, and hard. People will walk into those houses and scream, “this is sooo early century!” in the same way that people see shag carpeting and say “how 70s.”

  50. Amazing timing to see this article. Just mentioning to friends over dinner “remember when the homes use to have a door to the kitchen and there was more peace contained?”. We live in Florida and there is only an open floor plan; homes are smaller and kitchens are too close to bedrooms. Try getting up earlier than your mate and cooking or starting the family meal plan with pots and pans clamoring! I’d love if builders would incorporate attractive door(s) and provide options. Good to know I’m not the only one who favors changing the ever popular open kitchen concept. There are multiple lifestyles and options should be available.

  51. My kitchen had walls when the children were growing up. When we retired we built a more open floor plan because it is geared more to the family gathering at Holiday time and need of dining area, etc., therefore the kitchen/dining/livingroom area is all open to ramble through. I tell everyone…this works for us, but I would have never had it when the kids were growing up—because you are correct in saying, the TV or a Game would have been blaring through the open floor plan at all times, no quiet time for mom to think or plan—or have a glass of wine! It is hard to shoo company away from the kitchen area and out of your way.

  52. These are actually very good points. I hate to admit I was surprised to find myself suddenly understanding 100% and agreeing with every point you brought up. LOL. I had always thought ‘wow, an open kitchen would be great’ – but I get it. If the Kitchen is open onto ‘living’ the noise would be unbearable.

    My kitchen was tiny when my son was born; in a house I had a kitchen smaller than my old apartment’s, it literally had just ONE drawer. Stove, drawer/counter,sink,counter on one wall, fridge & kitchen table on the other. Blah.

    So we knocked down the back wall of the kitchen & opened up an entire room onto the porch, extending out over the deck (BUT it did NOT open into the rest of the house, it just greatly enlarged the room) a wonderful row of tall windows looking out over the yard, a high arched ceiling, bright & airy. It did become kind of the heart of the house & my retreat, something I didn’t have before that. We built cabinets where the table had been, moved the table next to the windows in the addition. Added a couple of comfy chairs, a TV (I even made my son his own little table, which he loved to sit, eat & play at) and the new back door opened onto a thin wooded deck with a bench at the end.

    Eventually, it worked out like so: my husband would watch a boxing match in his den, my son would watch power ranger videos in his room & I would stay in the kitchen and watch whatever I wanted. PEACE. It most definitely became a little haven. Weekend mornings, we’d all be in there together, cartoons on the tube – adults at the table reading the paper. But, otherwise, everybody settles into their own groove and that NOT open plan kitchen was mine!

    Also, it was well centered, with my husband in one direction (far enough to not hear him) and my son’s room in the other. But if my son needed me I could hear him calling ‘MOM’, so I felt at ease.

    Come to think of it – my grandmother’s kitchen was similar in that there was a ‘kitchen/cook’ side and a table/sitting side. She used to sit in the kitchen & drink coffee and watch TV when she had down time and it’s where she visited with all her friends. We never sat in the living room to visit – ALWAYS the kitchen.

    Whoa – I turned into my grandmother! HA! Well, that’s okay, she’s a wonderful woman.

  53. Every new house has an open floor plan now. I bought one and I am thinking about putting up a wall to close the living room portion. Or I might close off the kitchen. With a wall, you get more cabinets that you can hang up. I can’t hear the TV because of the garbage disposal or the water running or the fan over the stove running. The light over the sink shines on the TV and you can’t see the TV picture. I might just remodel and put up a wall. I have had the granite counter tops and they are cold and chip. I don’t like them. I have white appliances now because I had the stainless ones and you have to clean those constantly and they are hard to keep shiny. I see those HGTV shows and they walk in and complain that the cabinets need replaced (they look fine). They need wood floors everywhere. I have had wood floors they show dust bad and they are slick. I like carpet. You can’t put wood in a kitchen, it does not work well. They all want high end stoves, those cost $10,000. But they show the house they are leaving and it looks like a dump. They didn’t take care of the house they have but they want it all in the new house.

  54. I agree. I like a love a more formality when entertaining. It is relaxing to serve a meal in the dinning room to a 3-4 couples while the kids have their own table in the breakfast nook. I use my kitchen and while I try to keep it clean, but I’d rather invite people into a living room. Additionally, I can’t tell you how many parties I’ve been to with the open concept only to get frustrated because 20 people must be involved in the same conversation, the kitchen ends up being a congested mess because the host can’t escape so nothing gets put away and everyone is trying to talk over a TV. Before we even called it an open concept we just referred to them as “loud houses” since you could not escape the noise. I am glad HGTV is showing the reverse trend in some of their shows.

  55. I just now found this blog and therefore this post, but had to say, I am right with you when it comes to the open floor plan. Open floor plans suck! My husband and I hate ours and both agree that it is the bane of our existence. We are putting the house up for sale and moving on to more peaceful pastures. We live in a 2200 square foot house: smallest in the neighborhood, but large by yesterdays standards. His chair sets about 6 feet from the bar where the kitchen sink is. And I like to cook. So running water in the stainless steel sink, and the sound of the dishwasher running, and pots and pans banging, force him to turn the TV up so loud, that I can barely think. Football is blaring while I would prefer to listen to soft, pleasant music while I cook. Our college age kids hide in their rooms, seeking refuge from the madness. We cannot wait to move!

  56. Open is great concept for some. However …the noise from the blender, mixer and moving dishes and pots from the DW to the (must say it: very noisy) granite counter is a nightmare for whomever was enjoying a quiet moment in the living area? I would never have an open kitchen again.

  57. The open concept kitchen looks great when it is staged on t.v. but very seldom looks that way in real life. Give me my walls any day :-)

  58. […] argue that open-concept kitchens let busy parents keep an eye on their children, I’ll defer to this mother, who became disillusioned with her airy renovation once the little ones no longer required constant […]

  59. I walk through the ‘open floor plan’ kitchen in my home dozens (hundreds?) of times a day – my office is off the back hallway next to the kitchen. Every time I walk through the kitchen to get to another room, I think about food. I’m in my fifties now and need to knock off on the noshing. My next house will have a kitchen separate from the other living areas.

    1. I had another comment from someone saying perhaps these designs contribute to the obesity problem in the U.S. I hadn’t thought of it, but the plans do make a person think about food all the time. It’s hard to “close the kitchen” when the kitchen is part of the every other room. I think designers should work on having some sort of screens or doors that can hide view of the kitchen when desired yet allow it to be open when people want that spacious feel.

  60. […] some people are having second thoughts about them. Roxanne writes on her blog that she later regretted opening hers […]

  61. I agree. Although strongly marketed, the open floor plan isn’t for everyone. I, too, prefer a closed kitchen.

    1. Thanks for commenting. It would just be nice if the real estate shows and magazines and websites showed alternatives, people with different tastes. As you said, open floor plans aren’t for everyone. But the shows are sponsored by the contractors/home improvement stores and suppliers that benefit from homeowners who want to knock down walls.

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  63. Your post and the comments answered my questions about open concept kitchens in America. I lived overseas for 17 years to return to open concept kitchens and my friends with teenaged children. They complain that they never have a moments peace. I saw the relationship between open living and the inability to get a moment to oneself. I don’t think they see the relationship and can’t imagine telling them myself. Perhaps they will stumble onto this blog like I did!

    1. Ha! That makes total sense! There was that huge shift to open floor plans years ago when people had babies and now they have teens and it must feel like they are living in a mosh pit! I’m also seeing empty nesters who are rushing to sell their open floor plan houses right after their youngest graduates from high school. They say — “We just don’t need this space!” My guess is that they tired of the overstimulation that everyone being in one big room can cause.

  64. I’m a realtor. Sometimes I just want to scream, “Hey Everybody! Granite, stainless steal appliances, white cabinets and an open concept are going to make your life hell if you actually want to live in your home and not clean every single square inch of your home everyday!” Duh.

    I loved this post, you are very witty and practical and wish there were a lot more people like you in this world. Have a wonderful day.

    1. Oh, thank you so much! That means a lot, especially coming from a realtor. There are certain styles that look good but are really hard to live with.

      Thanks again for stopping by and for your kind words!

  65. I am so glad to know that I am not the only person who doesn’t like the open floor plan. And the strange thing is, it doesn’t seem to be going away. I am house hunting, and it is very difficult to find a home that doesn’t have an open floor plan. And I agree with the previous post about the granite and stainless steel kitchens. It explains my kitchen perfectly, and I long for a warm, cozy kitchen, that is easier to clean.

  66. I was looking for some answers about furniture placement if I opened my kitchen into the family room. I will admit that the “open concept” never really appealed to me because I do not like people in my kitchen underfoot when I am cooking. I set up everything in the separate dining room (with a pocket door in between) or the family room (my living room with a 50 inch opening into the kitchen). Reading your comments and others responding on your blog “freed” me to be me and do what works best for me. I am single with no one to consider except Oscar (the dog). When I entertain, I like to supply everything my guest need (food, drinks, entertainment) but out of my way and I can still go in and interact with them. Again, thank you–now I can save money and stick with the footprints of the kitchen and living room that I have.

    1. That’s great! I’m still am surprised when the open floor plan is marketing saying that it’s great for entertaining because the host or hostess can stay in the kitchen and prepare the food while the chatting with guests. I think as much of the prep as possible should be done before guests arrive and that a host shouldn’t plan to be in kitchen very long — even if the kitchen is open. Remember that old show “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy?” — that show taught people how to entertain. Prep the food; when guests arrive greet them and put a beverage in their hand and have appetizers available. Interact. Talk. Make them feel special. Serve food and sit down and eat with the guests. Clear dishes, but the major clean up happens after guests leave.

      Because of the feeling of spaciousness the open floor plan gives, I think it’ll remain a popular layout, but it kind of feels like people are questioning whether it works for them. I hope builders and real estate agents take heart.

  67. Great article! I found it after doing a search on why open concept is so popular. I HATE open concept. I call it studio living. Because that’s what it really is.

    1. Yes, it’s very much like first apartments. I know some people still really like the open floor plan, but I really suggest that they live in one or really picture everyday life (not parties) in one before dismissing other floor plans. Thanks for stopping by.

  68. […] In the early 2000’s, the open first-floor layout became the rage. The benefits are obvious—it makes your house seem larger, it enables you to cook without being closed off from your family and guests, and it creates a great flow. But the longer homeowners have lived with the open floor plan, the more they are realizing it isn’t necessarily the “must-have” they thought it was. So if you live in a less-open home and are considering a remodel or are searching for your new home, give this eye-opening article a quick read: http://justmewith.com/2012/01/11/an-argument-against-the-open-floor-plan/ […]

  69. […] Read this great article on the reality of the pro’s and con’s of the open kitchen. This article states some positive reasons but also states Reasons 1-8 against the open kitchen floor plan. […]

  70. […] An Argument Against the Open Floor Plan | Just Me … – On every home makeover show, every real estate show, they talk about how everyone loves the open floor plan. It’s the new black. Homeowners are forever busting …… […]

  71. I believe that, when something in architecture becomes very popular/advertised, one should stop and think if that is really what would make us feel better. Ideally, we should experience various places before buying or building a home.

    Personally, I don’t like open spaces at all (neither at home, nor at work). An open kitchen-living-dining is a huge room, difficult to upkeep; plus odors and noises spread in the entire space.

    Cozy little spaces can be really comfortable if properly designed.

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