If you are a subscriber to interior design magazines, a fan of home remodeling shows or a peruser of real estate listings, you have undoubtedly heard the term “open concept” bandied about to no end. It has become synonymous with spacious floor plans whose rooms flow freely into one another with as few obstructions as possible. Many first time renovators are eager to create open layouts in their own homes, hoping to knock down any walls that aren’t directly holding up the floors above. But how open is too open?
At Andrea Hylton Home, we like to say that you should Finish Before You Start , that is to say that the best way to avoid common design mistakes is to always consider the big picture, to weigh all the possible consequences before committing to a design decision. For instance, how will smells from the kitchen at dinnertime or sounds from the TV room on game day affect their adjoining spaces? From unanticipated sightlines to conflicting room decors, there is a myriad of factors to consider when removing interior walls.
In this home, a large opening joins an informal dining space with a formal sitting room. The solid wall on the right helps organize the seating arrangement while a hanging painting and wall sconces create a focal point.
After all, walls are the primary way designers organize space. They guide the placement of furniture, create places to display artworks and photographs, and provide strategic outlet locations, making it easier to arrange light fixtures. Most importantly, they afford occupants with a degree of privacy by visually and acoustically separating different spaces. So, when deciding whether or not you need a wall, you must think about how, when and by whom a space is used. Do your children need quiet areas to study for upcoming exams? Does your spouse need a secluded workspace to help them meet today’s deadline? Do you need a peaceful place to unwind at the end of a long day?
Around the corner, the dining space opens into a full kitchen, complete with a breakfast bar and upholstered seating. A wall of light blue cabinetry provides much needed storage while a pass-through visually connects the kitchen with the family room.
Once you have decided how open you want your space to become, you will be able to design your interiors accordingly. In more isolated rooms, consider using wall mirrors and an abundance of natural light to help create a spacious and airy atmosphere. In more open spaces, remember to arrange your furniture to create zones for different uses. Area rugs and suspended light fixtures, for instance, are wonderful for breaking down large rooms into a variety of unique spaces.
In this small apartment, a full height glass partition and sliding glass door section off a cozy bedroom. Delicate, white curtains add an extra layer of privacy without impeding the flow of natural light from the window. Image via Pinterest.
You must also be sure to balance the openness of your interior with proper acoustics. Replacing solid walls with glass room dividers, for example, is a great way to make interiors feel roomy and well-lit without sacrificing speech privacy. You can further improve the acoustics of an open plan by making use of soft textiles – rugs, drapes and upholstered furniture – which naturally absorb noise. Lastly, specifying quiet kitchen appliances and bathroom fixtures can be tremendously helpful in preventing unwanted sounds from interfering with adjacent rooms.