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The Space Debate: Open Concept Versus Traditional Floor Plan
One of the major decisions in purchasing a new home or custom-building a home is choosing between an open concept or a traditional floor plan. Understanding the distinction between the two floor plans helps to decide which one best suit your needs.
Open Floor Plan
The open floor plan has been interminably the prevailing inclination of modern architecture. Walls that conventionally divide two or three rooms are eliminated to devise one room with unrestricted space. The kitchen, dining and living rooms are collectively integrated into one sizeable room.
Traditional Floor Plan
The traditional or closed floor plan reflects the classical elements of architecture defined by walls separating each room for a designated purpose.
A Brief Architectural History
Prior to the mid-40s, the traditional floor plan included a hallway that channeled access to each room isolated by walls to distinctly serve their function. The kitchen, considered a utilitarian section for food preparation, was located at the rear end of the house. The dining room was a formal area for meal consumption and the living room was essentially for socialization. In the 1900s, forward thinking architects like Frank Lloyd Wright revolutionized the configuration of the kitchen, dining and living rooms into one great space, transforming it into the heart of social gathering and entertainment. Thriving families became more relaxed and less forbidding in their approach to space use, especially in the fabric of urban living.
Pros and Cons
Accessibility and Traffic Fluidity
People can move freely through a large space on an open floor plan, making itself seamlessly accessible to central living spaces such as the kitchen, dining and living rooms. The absence of walls allows efficient traffic circulation for domestic activities or entertainment of large guests. In contrast, a traditional floor plan hinders movement while navigating around dividing walls or opening doors to access another room. People with mobility concerns such as those with walking aids or confined in a wheelchair may find walls and doors challenging in their limited ability to move effortlessly.
An open concept home obliges the sun to bathe the space with natural light through huge windows. A room with lavish supply of sunlight feels more cheerful, warm and cozy. Not to mention the additional benefit of having large windows invite into the interior a view of the outdoor landscape and to enjoy the spectacular changing colors of the twilight sky. Shared natural light also provide the opportunity to save on electricity use.
Traditional floor plans, on the other hand, have walls that are constricting and do not provide even distribution of natural light. Windows are smaller in each room, limiting the amount of light flooding in.
Sound and Smell
Open floor plans have the disadvantage of sound and smell traveling across space, while traditional homes have wall partitions to suppress the spread of bothersome noise or odor.
Heating and Cooling
The traditional floor plan offers more economical heating and cooling distribution. Each confined space can be designated as a separate HVAC section, granting the capacity to manage temperature in rooms that are in use.
Temperature control in an open floor plan can be prohibitive. A large space naturally requires more cooling and heating and is less energy efficient. Huge windows that are typical in open concept homes provides less cushion against the outdoor cold or heat.
Socialization and Entertainment
Unlike a traditional floor plan, open concept homes enable you to enjoy conversing and exchanging stories with your friends and family in the living room while you are preparing meals in the kitchen, because there are no walls separating you from them.
Open floor plans are excellent for social occasions but are limiting when you are looking for a quiet retreat from a gathering. The traditional floor plan provides a public space for socializing and personal space to relax and cherish your private time.
There is a greater need to control clutter in an open concept layout to keep things tidy. Toys scattered on the living room floor need to be stored or a messy kitchen has to be organized at once to avoid unsightly disorder. Traditional homes have the advantage of hiding clutter behind wall enclosures.
It is recommended to conceive a unified and collective design theme for a large living space on an open floor plan. A closed floor plan, however, is more flexible with creating design statements that can be unique in each room.
With an open-concept home, parents who are working in the kitchen have full visibility of their children at play or an elderly family member watching television in the living room. This is a discernable challenge in a traditional home, since wall barriers enclose the occupant of the room.
Open concept and traditional floor plans have both positive and negative attributes. Debating about which one works best ultimately comes down to fundamental considerations such as your lifestyle, funding, space requirement and growing needs.