The One Thing I Learned About Open Floor-Plan Houses—After I Bought One

Yes, noise carries, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

2020 Idea House Living Room with Wood Beams and Fireplace
Photo: Robbie Caponetto; Styling: Kendra Surface

I love a traditional layout, you know, the kind with separate living and dining rooms, a kitchen that is both highly functional and set apart from the main living space, perhaps with an adjoining pass-through pantry and wet bar (what a dream). At the stage of life my husband and I currently find ourselves in though, an open floor plan is the perfect fit for our family. It allows me to cook dinner while keeping an eye on the kids. My husband can have one eye on the game while he helps with a particularly tricky LEGO build, and—most importantly—we can all be together. I often hear people complain about the downside of an open floor plan being the noise factor. It carries. But, when you have a five-year-old and a two-year-old, silence is never a good thing. To me, the greatest issue with our open floor plan has been defining each space. In my experience it has taken patience, planning, and lots of painter's tape.

Creating individual moments, or rooms, within an open floor plan is a challenge. Our home created an additional challenge in that there was no defining architectural aspect of the space that was meant to be a living room, which gave it a feeling of being just a large bonus area off of the kitchen and dining room. At first, we thought about creating a focal wall, maybe with some wainscoting, large built-in bookshelves, or even farmhouse-favorite shiplap. Ultimately, we decided to really commit and have a large brick fireplace installed. It was a splurge, for sure, but one that has given me zero renovator's remorse. It delivered charm, interest, and a focal point that draws people in from the moment they step through the front door.

The fireplace instantly gave the space weight and importance. It became the central location that the rest of the living room's furniture would be based around. Suddenly, filling in the furnishings to create a true living room, in what had previously felt like a bare corner, started to come together. But before purchasing anything, we used painter's tape to lay it all out, using precise dimensions. It was absolutely vital in the process of furnishing such a large and also abstract space devoid of walls.

Once the living room came into its own, the entryway, dining room, and kitchen each started to shine in their own right. Giving each space their own focal point in an open floor plan matters just as much as making sure there is cohesion between the spaces. When one area is off balance, it throws off the whole house—something we wouldn't have to worry about quite so much in a more traditional floor plan.

So, for now, we're enjoying the noisy chaos of our open floor plan, with three complete spaces and plenty of room for building LEGOs, playing tea party, and watching the game—when he gets to it, of course.

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