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5 Questions to Ask Before Committing to an Open Floor Plan

By Laura Anderson

Open floor plans are great – they can make a home feel larger and airier, create multi-functional spaces, and make it possible to live in a smaller space. But the truth is, they’re not for everyone. Designers have been reporting that some clients have a hard time with this set-up, whether it’s because of TV noise, a desire to hide kitchen mess from view, or a need for a quiet place to read or work. Before committing to an open floor plan for the first time, answer the following questions to see if it’s for you.

1. Do I want to see all the public spaces in my home all the time?
Looking at a beautiful and tidy space like this makes it hard to imagine wanting to put up walls. If your home is one where you like to spread out papers for work or projects, where you prefer to let the kitchen clean-up wait until after you’ve enjoyed the meal, or where kids leave lots of toys strewn about, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But if looking at all those items will make you feel compelled to constantly neaten up, an open-plan layout may not be for you.

2. Is a ‘not-so-kitchen-y’ kitchen for me? 
Within an open floor plan, the kitchen is usually in full view of the dining and living areas. One of the comments I hear most often from designers working within an open plan is that they have designed the kitchen to look ‘not-so-kitchen-y’.

This can mean it has features such as open shelving or windows instead of wall-hung cabinets; an island with a waterfall benchtop to provide visual separation; storage concentrated on one wall; or appliances camouflaged by cupboard fronts.

Do you like to store your herbs, spices, cooking utensils, small appliances and other items on the benchtop? Do you prefer a traditional style look over a sleek, camouflaged kitchen? Do you like to gather for meals at the kitchen table in a cosy space?

If you answered ‘yes’, then consider other layout options in addition to an open floor plan, and imagine your lifestyle in each. Open-plan layouts may be popular, but a closed-off kitchen is not a bad thing – you can shut the door on the mess and enjoy your time with family and guests without feeling that you should be washing pots and pans and putting everything away.

3. Do I need a quiet place to work?
One of the biggest benefits of an open floor plan is that it incorporates multi-functional spaces more efficiently than other kinds of layouts can. But it’s important to think about how these spaces will function for different uses every day.

A home office nook is a great thing, but if there is too much noise from other conversations, the TV and video games or children playing, it can be too loud to make important phone calls and concentrate on work. This also applies to kids trying to do their homework.

4. Will TV noise drive me crazy?
Open plans are great for those who want to keep an eye on the kids and what they are watching from the kitchen and other spaces. But I have a friend with a living room that’s open to the kitchen, and the noise from cartoons seems even louder in the kitchen than it does in front of the living room TV.

If the reality is that other family members will be watching TV when you want quiet, a TV within the open space is not for you. This means you could try a broken-plan layout instead, have separate rooms that contain the noise, or incorporate a closed-off quiet room for reading and working into your home’s floor plan.

5. Are my visions of entertaining realistic? 
‘If you build it, they will come’ holds true only if you’ll actually plan and host the fabulous get-togethers that you’ve conjured up in your head. Ask yourself if this really will happen on a regular basis or if the big groups you’ve imagined entertaining will be gathering around the kitchen island and flowing in and out of other spaces only once or twice a year.

When factoring entertaining into your home-design plans, carefully weigh your day-to-day activities and lifestyle against your realistic entertaining plans.

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