Open and Shut Case: Let's Talk Open Floor Concepts

Posted by Ashley Turner on Friday, March 15th, 2019 at 1:34pm.

Let me tell you a quick story. A few years back my friends (and clients) bought a smaller starter home that had these magical things called walls that broke up the main floor into separate areas. When they grew out of it, the wife explained she felt like when they got home from work, they were living in separate worlds, as she would spend time in the kitchen or her room and he generally took living room. Felt fractured, even divisive at times so she decided it made sense for their next property, open concept is the way to go.

What my clients want, my clients get so we got them a beautiful open concept home in Brighton. That was a couple years ago. Last weekend I was in the area doing an open house and I decided to pop in for a quick visit, see how their house was shaping up. As I walked around with them, she turns and says to me, "you know what Jeff: I miss walls".

Turns out what she saw as a negative for their family dynamic, was actually a positive in disguise. Now when she comes home from work and is cooking up supper, she gets a full view of husband in sweatpants, laying on the couch watching TV. And you know what, it pisses her off.

Other times he's in the living area trying to get work done on his laptop, and she's sitting on the kitchen counter drinking wine, talking to a friend on the phone for 45 minutes. And you know what, it pisses him off.

And you know what...I get it.

I'm seeing this more and more. It seems like an unfair stretch to say that open concept is great in theory but not in practice, but it does seem people are starting to notice more drawbacks in that floorplan than when they first started getting really popular about seven years ago here in Saskatoon. I know this is simply anecdotal to a degree, but honestly, I am seeing more people balk at open concept than I used to. Buyers seem to be gravitating away from uninterrupted views. I know why open concept grew in the first place, I kept reading inspiring, bumper sticker type things like "buy a home where love can flow freely". A lot of people saw a lot of logic in sentiments like that.

Of course to not buy into this, also means you're also admitting something some people consider shameful: "I don't want to be around my family during all my free time". HOW DARE YOU!

Hey side question: how many of you are parents and sometimes just wander into a rarely used room just for ten minutes of quiet, uninterrupted time? This doesn't make you a demon incarnate, on the contrary, it assures me you are a sane person. Open concept sort of pitched the idea walls unnecessarily divide families, when in reality in many cases they actually bring them together. Pretty sure if you want to see your wife or your kids at home, it's not difficult to imagine a plan to walk fifteen steps to a different section of your house.

This should not read as an anti-open concept screed but I do want people to realize that the pendulum does seem to be swinging back in the other direction to some degree. It's entirely possible open concept does make the most sense for you and your family, and you would dislike a house that separates instead of constant inclusion. It's also very likely your life is loud, and the people in your home have it loud in different you'll need a house with enough division to allow these to be done with minimal overlap.

If you take away one thing from this write-up, I hope it's this: don't be seduced by wishy-washy proclamations of beautiful harmony/togetherness that made so many people naively bought into years ago when they started to be all the rage. You can still have great parties if your kitchen isn't in absolute full view and connected to your living room, you'll still love your family if they are in a different room, and open concept probably won't make you feel like you're living in a sophisticated New York loft or art gallery. Like any part of the buying process, examine this floor plan objectively. Think of your lifestyle. Think of the separate activities and schedules of everyone in the household. The day-to-day realities of your life really should be what you consider in terms of these kinds of floorplans. Walls aren't for everyone, but they were given an unfairly bad rep for a while now. It's time we recognize them for the value they can provide, and maybe apologize for allowing them to be neglected for so long.

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