Open Concept Spaces: Still Hot?
As a professional interior designer in Bergen County, NJ, I often have clients who want to tear down walls to open their rooms into open concept space. It is something they see on the decorating shows on TV, and they think they want that.
Recently, the open concept idea has met with questioning since we have been home. Really home.
Let’s see what is going on.
#1. HOW DOES OPEN CONCEPT SPACE WORK?
Twenty-five years ago, we had open floor plans. That meant no doors. Now we have open concept plans which mean no walls. With an open concept plan, we must define the areas and their usage.
Social areas are designated by furniture placement, use of color and materials, and wallpaper or wall treatment. A feature wall using a print or geometric pattern can delineate a space. A different wall color will do the same thing.
If you decide to use a wallpaper, here’s a tip:
Select a pattern that doesn’t have a distinct match, so you don’t create a stripe or spot effect across the room.
#2. HOW CAN THE CEILING DEFINE A SPACE?
The ceiling is often called the fifth wall! This works for all kinds of ceilings-flat, tray or cathedral. By using different ceiling effects, the space underneath is defined.
#3. HOW CAN YOU INTEGRATE THE VARIOUS SPACES?
By using an overall neutral pattern or palette, you will get more cohesion. This unifies the entire area and anchors all the furnishings. Using an accent color in one area and making it the predominate color in another area pulls it all together.
#4. HOW HAS THE PANDEMIC STAY/WORK/LEARN AT HOME REGIMENT CHANGED THE DESIRE FOR OPEN CONCEPT SPACES?
It seems that we are quite noisy when working at home. We talk on the phone loudly which interrupts our kids learning and other working persons. The TV interrupts our work and our leisure. Try reading a book with the kitchen noises banging in your ear. Blenders make a lot of noise!
Let’s face it, an open space can echo. There is a lot of hard surfaces which sound can bounce off, making it hard to concentrate.
With multiple rooms, we have separation and an easier way to squash the spread of germs and get more privacy.
Cooking aromas waft through the open space. So do grease droplets that can land on the upholstery in that space.
Then there’s visual clutter. Without walls there is less availability for cabinetry that hides all your stuff.
Open spaces are colder to live in since the heat or air conditioning has nothing to contain it. You can’t just close off the spaces you don’t use much. That also impacts your energy usage and efficiency.
The most serious reason to make some changes to an open plan is fire safety. When there are rooms with doors, a fire can be contained and give more time to exit. With an open concept plan, fire spreads considerably faster and that is something to consider.
#5. ARE THERE FIXES IF I HAVE AN OPEN PLAN THAT IS NOW TOO OPEN?
Small wall additions can make a great difference to create a less open space. It has lots of advantages and doesn’t have to be completely closed to be effective.