Interior Design Trends: The Pros and Cons of Open Concept Living

If you watch design shows – or follow design and decorating blogs – you might have picked up on a renovating trend: tearing down walls to create airy, open spaces. While not everyone pines for an entirely open concept loft style home (where even the bedroom is on display), there’s no denying the popularity of open concept living spaces, where kitchens, dining rooms and living rooms flow seamlessly into one another.

I was one of those people who longed for an open concept floor plan. I especially disliked feeling closed off from the rest of the house when cooking and dreamed of a home with a kitchen that opened onto the living areas. A few years ago, my hubby and I were living in a small townhouse and had been casually looking for a house on Lake Superior, planning to move in a year or so, when a modest lakeside bungalow sent us into a frenzy! It had nearly the exact floor plan we desired and we were SO smitten with the open concept space, we threw caution to the wind – and our plans out the window – buying the house the day we viewed it and uprooting our lives to move 1600km.

Open Concept Living Space 3

So yes, I love interior designs with open concept space. But while there are so many reasons to love an open concept space, there are some notable drawbacks as well. For anyone curious about the pros and cons of open concept living, I’ve compiled a list drawn from my experience. If you live in an open concept space – or love your more traditional layout – I’d love to hear your input too!

Pros of Open Concept Spaces:

Being Together When Separate...

For families and couples who long for more togetherness, an open concept space is a fabulous decor trend that makes you feel connected, even while engrossed in independent activities. With technology so transportable these days, I’ll often drag my laptop into the dining room while hubby cooks or I’ll putter in the kitchen while he’s in the living room. I love feeling like we’re together more, without being joined at the hip.

Corralling Guests...

An open concept entertaining space is great for gatherings large or small because the spaces where guests usually gather (kitchen, dining, living rooms) naturally flow to one another, creating a large open area for guests to mingle. Plus the host or hostess can still join in on the party and not feel banished to the kitchen!

Cooking Like a Sloth...

I can be a lazy cook with open concept living.  I'll put on some water for tea or start something cooking and just keep my ears open while I’m watching The Mindy Project – I love that I no longer feel tethered to the kitchen, because I can keep an eye on pots from across the house! 

Trying Bolder Decorating Choices...

With 13 foot tall ceilings and half the home's square footage in one spot, there's no need to play it safe with neutrals in my lake house! I find that brighter, bolder colors don’t overwhelm a large, open concept space the way they can dominate a smaller room. So a brighter accent chair, like the Jazz Premier Stationary Chair in a bold aqua pattern, feels right at home! Alternatively, even with a decorating style where neutral colors and textures prevail, a large open space can accommodate larger, more statement-making furniture and accents – like a sprawling sectional sofa (the modern Structure sectional). Traditional furniture placement is thrown out the window as furniture can be pulled away from the wall and used to create different “zones”.

Making a Small Space Seem Bigger...

My house is pretty small but because three main rooms are open to each other, it feels so much larger and each room can "breath" more than if I also had to squeeze in some walls.  My kitchen is especially tiny but because it’s open to the living and dining room, it doesn’t feel cramped or closed in. Nothing makes a home feel bigger like knocking down some walls!

Open Concept Living SpaceEnjoying Your Surroundings...

I love the view from my kitchen.  At the sink, I look on to the lake and working at the biggest area of counter, I can see my whole living room and dining room. Although it’s definitely still a work in progress, I love my home and how I've decorated it so I appreciate the opportunity to ogle it. In my last home, I was always staring at a wall while cooking, but now I can see the whole living space and I love that!


Cons of Open Concept Spaces:

There are some drawbacks to an open concept space that are worth noting.

Seeing the Mess...

People often mention that with open concept living, a kitchen needs to be kept clean because it's in sight, but when I've lived in homes with closed off kitchens, guests end up clustered in there anyway, so there’s really no hiding a mess from curious guests!  But yes, it's true: I have to hustle to keep all of the rooms tidy unless I want to stare at a messy kitchen out of the corner of my eye while I’m watching a movie.  I like to see open concept living as helping with keeping the house clean, though, because I can't close the door and ignore a space, letting it pile up until it becomes unbearable.  I tidy a bit every day - but in turn, I get to live in and enjoy an orderly, beautiful space that doesn’t feel like a lot of work to keep clean.  Granted, I don't have kids - but I have a 100 pound pup and she drags in her fair share of mud and gravel and twigs and sometimes grabs a log from the wood pile and starts chewing.

Catching You Lick the Spoon...

I know people who are very nervous cooks and don't appreciate an audience. The first time I entertained in my open concept space, I hopped up after dinner and whipped up fresh brownies while everyone chilled in the dining room.  Guests watched my every move and I joked that it felt like I was on a cooking show.  You have to be comfortable bustling around the kitchen with an audience to enjoy an open concept kitchen space. They’ll see you lick the spoon!

Lacking Room for Art...

The drawback that bothers me more than having to keep things tidy is a lack of wall space for art!  Were there walls between our living and dining room, I'd have more spots for favorite paintings. This isn't something that dawned on me until I started amassing a basement of art from my last house that has nowhere to live!

Open Concept Living Room 2Hearing Everything...

Another point to note is that sound really carries in an open concept space.  We don't have a family room, so our TV is front and center in our living room.  My partner and I normally watch TV together but if he was one of those guys who had football blaring all Sunday long, I'd probably long for a door to close!

Smelling Everything...

In an open concept space, the smell of cooking onions does travel a bit...at least my coat closet (which is right outside the kitchen) has a door! So do the bedrooms, which I am so grateful for.

Providing Opportunities for Puppies to Go Bad...

My huge pup, Szuka, is such a gentle giant and she's normally so well behaved, but she did once knock a pound of butter off the counter.  She's not a compulsive counter surfer, but she checks out what there's from time to time.  More curious dogs would not fair well in an open concept space without lots of training - even then, you might find goodies go missing!  Having a door to close can keep kiddos and pups away from ovens and fridges and pies cooling on the window sill might be preferable for some families.

Being Together When Separate...

I mentioned this as a “pro” but, if I’m being honest, it’s probably a drawback for some couples and families! Open concept negates a lot of privacy, but in a home with more rooms (like a family room or office), this might not be an issue.  Not to offend the parents out there, but if I had kids I'd definitely want a finished basement or house with more cordoned off spaces because I'd want a break from their high pitched screeching and incessant question-asking. Usually a larger home – with a finished basement – mitigates this concern and open concept living can still be ideal because everyone has space to roam and places to retreat. But in a very small home, you can quickly feel on top of one another when rooms are open onto one another.

 


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Tanya is the blogger behind the DIY and Lifestyle blog, Dans le Lakehouse, a blog about creating a colourful, happy, handmade home.  She shares easy DIY projects, bold home decor ideas, real life renovating highs and lows, delicious and healthy recipes, and snippets of life on the lake.