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.
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.
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.
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.
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