View Full Version : Open floor plan houses: Your thoughts on them?

Brian Elfert
11-13-2015, 2:29 PM
What are your thoughts on open floor plan houses? Thumbs up or thumbs down?

My previous (first) house was completely open on the first floor except for the 1/2 bath and closet. All bedrooms and related bathrooms were on 2nd floor along with the laundry room. I liked it except you could see any dirty dishes in the kitchen from the eating area and great room. I suspect parents with kids might like to be able to see the kids in the great room from the kitchen while preparing meals. Others say they want rooms separated to isolate noise with young kids. I helped my parents in 1997 remove a wall separating their living room and dining room. It really opened the house up while still keeping the kitchen and informal eating area separate.

My current house has a tiny eat in kitchen and a small living room. The majority of the house is bedrooms and bathrooms. I don't know how the previous owners raised six kids in the house and were able to eat in the tiny kitchen. I've thought about removing the wall between kitchen and living room to open things up. I've even gone so far as to think about tearing the walls out on the front bedroom to make it an eating area or new living room and use the current living room for eating area. Since I'm single it works just fine as it is so it would something I would consider only if I thought I might want to sell. The lack of eating area is a killer for resale for a family.

Matt Day
11-13-2015, 3:13 PM
Major thumbs up from me. I stay home with two kids under 3 and being able to get something done in the kitchen and keep an eye on them is priceless. Same goes for when we have company over - I can cook/clean while being part of the action. Sounds like you know all that already though.

3 major things most homebuyers look for are open floor plan, granite, and stainless steel. I say go for it.

Ken Fitzgerald
11-13-2015, 3:38 PM
While I like open floor plans, one needs to keep certain things in mind when designing them.

Open doorways leading from a living room, shouldn't be placed in front of bathroom or bedroom doors.

In our area, the loss of a bedroom will devalue a home.

Brian Elfert
11-13-2015, 3:56 PM
Before I ever actually did work to convert to a open floor plan I would likely consult an actual architect. I would also look at it to determine if loss of a bedroom is a deal killer. The lack of eating space could be as big an issue for property value. I would still have three bedrooms, but one would be in the walkout basement.

Ken Fitzgerald
11-13-2015, 4:34 PM

In my recent kitchen bump out, we didn't bump out the dining room though the additional cost would have been minimal. There is a basement bedroom escape window below the dining room window and eliminating that escape window would have reduced our home from a 3 bedroom to a 2 bedroom home. That would have significantly reduced the value of our home in our market. There is nor reasonable way of relocating the escape window in my opinion and the opinion of two different contractors.

Also, our neighbors have a home that is a mirror image of our home. The one exception is an open doorway leading from the living room into a hallway. The open doorway is located in front of the bathroom door and there a bedroom at each end of the hallway. The open doorway also aligns with a large picture window in the living room. Thus, anyone entering or leaving the bathroom is visible through the large window in the living room. If someone is scantily dressed, they can be seen by someone approaching the house.

My point is these type of things need to be considered during the design procedure. Hiring an architect would be a smart idea, for me at least.

Erik Loza
11-13-2015, 4:51 PM
Before I ever actually did work to convert to a open floor plan I would likely consult an actual architect...

This ^^^^...

It really has to be case-by-case. We hired a good architect to handle the design when we did our remodel back in 2012 and the results were terrific. In our case, "more open" but not totally open. We have neighbors in the final stages of a remodel right now. I don't think they hired architect. Or possibly, just the builder (who clearly is only a builder, not an architect) designed the layout for them. They gave us a preliminary tour the other day and while it is "open", there is essentially no dining area. Enough room for a small restaurant-sized table. Both my wife and I picked up on it immediately. They put on a second story and took a good percentage of the place down to the studs, put in a whole new kitchen and pantry, so it's not like they had to say within the confines of the original layout, but you literally won't be able to seat more than four people at once in their dining area. We were sure glad we hired an architect.


Stan Calow
11-13-2015, 5:26 PM
Brian, you said this "I would consider only if I thought I might want to sell." I would never spend big money on something like this for potential increase in real estate value without asking a good local realtor for an opinion. But if you want it for yourself I would only do it if you plan to live there for at least 5-10 more years. I personally don't like open floor plans, but it works for some houses.

Brian Elfert
11-13-2015, 5:32 PM
My house currently has a bay in the the kitchen that goes to floor level. Without that bay the kitchen would have zero room to maneuver with a dining table in it. The bay was either added on, or redone after the house was built in 1980 as the windows were different. The bay was badly done and literally falling off the house when I bought it. The contractor had to tear it off and start over from scratch by properly tying it into the house. I only have like a 36" kitchen table since the kitchen is so small.

I am probably years away from doing anything with the floor plan of my house. I spent $110,000 remodeling the house just a year ago. New windows, new interior and exterior doors, new siding, new interior trim, new bathroom, new kitchen (Reused counter tops with new cabinets), many new electrical upgrades, and new flooring. I thought about changing the floor plan then, but it was just too much to add on top of what was already being done. The floor plan changes would be fairly easy when i need new flooring down the road. I thought seriously about getting a range that goes in an island when I bought a new one, but those cost over $2,000 even scratch and dent.

If I use the one bedroom for a living room or eating area I would probably have to leave a portion of the hallway to screen the bathroom and bedroom doors.

Steve Peterson
11-13-2015, 6:00 PM
When I was single, I preferred an open floorplan. Now that there is a wife and kids in the picture, I would not like it. Too many distracting sounds.

We had an open floorplan house once. After dinner and cleanup we would walk 10' to the living room to watch TV. All you can hear is noise from the dishwasher/refrigerator/washing-machine.

Regarding the other comment about removing a wall to open up the space. I would not do it. The primary factors that someone considers when house shopping are location, price, square footage, and the number of bedrooms. More bedrooms is almost always beneficial.


Rich Riddle
11-13-2015, 8:40 PM
In our last two homes the upper floors were open floor plans and the lower levels were traditional. I find myself in the lower level at least 95% of the time because of a preference for traditional rooms. Even the wife who loves an open floor plan spends most of her time in traditional rooms of the home. Our condominium was terrible with an open floor plan in the master bedroom, master path, and powder room off the entry. They had walls that didn't go to the ceiling. I had to place a "roof" on both bathrooms before anyone would even look at the condominium for purchase.

John Goodin
11-13-2015, 9:53 PM
the dirty dishes solution is to have a six or eight inch elevated bar area on the counter between the living room and kitchen. This provides enough height to hide the dishes, preserves the open concept and is functional.

John Goodin
11-13-2015, 9:57 PM
I work with people buying homes and outside of external factors like schools and distance to work open concept is high on most people's list so opening the kitchen living room is a great idea. I would not eliminate a bedroom unless there are five or more.

Brian Elfert
11-13-2015, 10:37 PM
Almost everybody who visits my house comments on the lack of space to eat in the kitchen. The house sold quickly last year, but that is because it was heavily discounted due to the horrendous condition it was in. Is a family of six really going to want a house with no room to sit down and eat?

paul cottingham
11-14-2015, 12:01 AM
I think the only reason people like open floor plans so much is because all the pompous yuppies on the real estate buying shows were so obsessed with them.

I grew up in a house with an open floor plan before they were trendy. The house made people crazy if they spent too much time alone in the open area. We did a bunch if research, and it was called "cabin fever," a well documented syndrome. You can dismiss it if you like, but it is quite real.

people have an innate need for privacy, and open floor plans violate it.

Shawn Pixley
11-14-2015, 12:22 AM
I like open plan and LOML & I live in one right now. Tremendous flexibility.

Whether it is right for you, only you can say. Whether it works with your house, I would need to see plans to assess. Fixing your kitchen seems a good project. Others have offered good advice. Best wishes on your dilemma.

Alan Rutherford
11-14-2015, 11:25 AM
The house we moved into 6 years ago has a "great room" on the first floor encompassing kitchen, living, dining and entry areas. We didn't realize how much the lack of walls would limit our choices in storage, placing furniture and hanging pictures. We love the place but we have boxes of pictures we'd like to hang up and stuff that's in storage because there are no closets, shelves or cabinets to put it in and no easy way to add them.

Brian Elfert
11-14-2015, 2:42 PM
The house we moved into 6 years ago has a "great room" on the first floor encompassing kitchen, living, dining and entry areas. We didn't realize how much the lack of walls would limit our choices in storage, placing furniture and hanging pictures. We love the place but we have boxes of pictures we'd like to hang up and stuff that's in storage because there are no closets, shelves or cabinets to put it in and no easy way to add them.

Was the open floor plan really the problem, or simply a poor open floor plan that didn't incorporate closets and storage? My first house which had an open floor plan should have had a mud room between garage and kitchen so stuff could be dropped there instead of all over the kitchen and first floor. The initial draft of my house plan included a 1st floor office that would have helped with clutter somewhat, but the city nixed that plan by saying the house was too big. The office got dropped in the final revision. (City had to approve size and exterior design due to lot width issues.)

The issue with current house isn't really the need for an open floor plan. It is more about possibly adding a space for eating that isn't part of the tiny kitchen. It would not be very practical to add on due to design of the house. An addition would be way more than I would ever want to spend anyhow.

I was doing some major cooking this morning in my kitchen and now realize it really isn't the best layout for major cooking either.

Alan Rutherford
11-14-2015, 11:32 PM
Was the open floor plan really the problem, or simply a poor open floor plan that didn't incorporate closets and storage? ...

That's an interesting question and I had to think about it. To incorporate closets and storage it would have been a very different house. The house is roughly 42' square with a covered porch on all 4 sides. The great room has 3 exterior walls and those walls contain 2 big exterior doorways, generous windows and the kitchen cabinets and appliances. You couldn't add to the depth of those walls for closets or anything without changing the character of the space inside or out. The other wall divides off a bedroom/office and utility space. It has 2 doorways and is partly blocked by the spiral staircase. What's here works very well for what it is but it's limiting and not very flexible. Adding to it would also take something away .

Your question was about open floor plans generally and my point is that it's not free space - you lose something in return for what you gain. Aside from the privacy issues and the ability to keep cooking smells contained, look at whatever you have now which is located relative to a wall you might remove: TV, china cabinet, kitchen cabinets and counters, sofa, shelves, extra chairs, pictures, wastebasket, phone, computer, coats, small table with a project of some sort.... There has to be a balance between space and utility and it's not the same for everyone.

Brian Elfert
11-15-2015, 12:50 AM
I'll bet there could have been a design for your house that is open yet incorporates those missing features. The design may have been radically different, but I still bet it would have possible. If you have lots of more traditional furniture like a china hutch it might be a hassle to find enough wall space for everything with an open floor plan.

My previous house with open floor plan didn't lose any kitchen cabinets with the open floor plan. You might say the kitchen was not 100% open because it had cabinets over an island. A wall could have been added to the kitchen and all I would have lost is the breakfast bar.

Ian Moone
11-15-2015, 2:25 AM
Open floor plan = Lovely to live in, but expensive to heat and cool.

In an ideal world - Open plan, but with bat wing/concertina doors or something where you CAN close rooms up, in the dead of winter for heating or the dead of summer for cooling - but in spring and autumn when its pleasant temps, can open the house right up!

Best of both worlds is what you want!:cool:

Brian Elfert
11-15-2015, 9:29 AM
The only reason I can think why open floor plan would be more expensive to heat is if you normally close doors and don't heat/cool some rooms. The open floor plan on my house was simply great room, kitchen, and eating area. Most houses those rooms don't usually have doors anyhow. The bedrooms and bathrooms on 2nd floor floor were not open floor plan. I thought my heating/cooling bills were very reasonable.

Mike Berrevoets
11-15-2015, 9:52 AM
I'm in the middle of converting the first floor of our 1975 two story into a more open floor plan. This will combine the separate kitchen, dining and living room into more or less one big room. I'm taking out a good portion of the load bearing wall between the kitchen/dining and the living room. I designed around leaving some of the load bearing wall in place because the heat ducts were running up through that wall and I didn't want to move them to exterior walls. I had a plan all worked out until I opened the load bearing wall last weekend. After taking off the drywall I discovered that the bulkhead in the kitchen was serving as the collection point for the cold air returns which ran down the load bearing wall.

im in the process of reworking my plan. So, my word of warning is to verify where all the heating and returns are located before forging ahead with the plan to open things up. I thought I did that sufficiently but obviously I didn't. I'll make it work but I am having to get creative with a few things in order to keep the HVAC system working as intended.

Steve Peterson
11-15-2015, 2:20 PM
Open floor plan = Lovely to live in, but expensive to heat and cool.

An open floor plan is ideal if your primary source of heat is a wood stove. We had a pellet stove in our last house with an open floor plan. I loved that feature, but didn't really care for the open floor plan the rest of the time. Most house designs today do not work very well with a wood stove. One room would be way too hot and the bedrooms would be way too cold.


Mel Fulks
11-15-2015, 3:39 PM
Some good points in this thread, would make a handy pamphlet. Most who use open floor plan for "public rooms" have to save some money with small bedrooms,and architects often push that to make everything affordable. One possible result ,that I've heard complaints about is everyone wanting to listen to or watch their own entertainment. And no one wants to be in their own room designed for sleeping.

Roger Feeley
11-16-2015, 5:46 PM
+1 on open. BUT, we only had one child and didn't need all that much privacy. My wife and I are empty nesters and like the flexibility of the open plan. I can easily see a family of 5 or 6 wanting a little more compartmentalization.

We are getting ready to sell our house of 20 years and build another, smaller house. I think I've mentioned elsewhere that we are embarking on a grand social experiment. We are building an in-law quarters (think pool house) on our daughters land. Our house will be 900 sq feet not including a small loft. There will be a 1200 square foot basement for my shop. The bride will be doing day-care for our grandson due in January. I will continue to work for a while and then just putter around fixing things and building things.

The poolhouse will be open plan. Kitchen and living in one half and the bedroom and bath in the other. A spiral staircase will lead up to the loft (my office) and down to the basement. There will be a separate staircase to the basement from the outside for moving big stuff in and out. The inside staircase is just for people.

Roger Feeley
11-16-2015, 5:47 PM
Steve, I'm kind of interested in a stove but we will have a vaulted ceiling and loft and I'm worried about stratification. Can I mitigate that by just running the fan on the HVAC? The one bedroom will be on the first floor.

Mike Chance in Iowa
11-16-2015, 7:06 PM
My only dislike of an open floor plan is when they don't have bathroom doors. After searching for a house & property for 5 years that met our needs, we had to settle on a house we weren't thrilled with. The master bedroom has no bathroom door leading into the large bathroom area & walk-in closet. There is a tiny room with a door that has just enough room for a toilet, but the rest of the bathroom is wide open. The problem with that? The first person up, or the last person to bed blinds the person still in bed with a bright light when they need to go into the bathroom or walk-in closet. There are several things we intend to redo in this house and adding a bathroom door will be one of them!

Brian Elfert
11-16-2015, 7:27 PM
There is a trend towards master bedrooms with at least the vanity and sinks as part of the bedroom with no walls. My open floor plan house had a standard 2nd floor. Nothing open on the 2nd floor and everything had walls and doors including the master bath.

My house had an open floor plan, but it still had generously sized bedrooms on the 2nd floor. The smaller bedrooms seem to be more of a cost savings thing in general. I looked at some new or nearly houses last summer and I noticed most of the low end ones had tiny bedrooms, but the living room wasn't that big either.

Rick Potter
11-19-2015, 12:47 PM
Some open plans go to extremes; for example, there is a new tract of homes being built near me with wide open downstairs culminating in a 16' wall of glass doors opening to the outdoor patio. These doors all fold open to become a 16' wide opening to the outdoors. It sure makes the inside of the house look bigger, but my first thought was about how useful that would be, since there are no screens on the opening.

The same model house had an island between the dining area and the kitchen which was literally large enough to park a car on, about 8' wide, 16' long. Very impressive, except for two minor problems. 1: You could not reach the center of the black granite island to clean it, and 2: 128 sq. ft. of floor space, and it included a total of one cabinet door to access under counter storage. I have lived in houses with a bedroom smaller than that.

On the other side of the coin, of course, are some of the older and very popular 1920's Spanish style homes that are near me. Very stylish outsides, but the insides are so chopped up with tiny individual rooms and hallways, that they are simply not practical for modern living. Small windows of course, tiny bathrooms, and closets that probably were not there when the home was built.