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- Open Floor Plans: Is This Design Right for You?
Open Floor Plans: Is This Design Right for You?
- Photo: freshome.com
Prepare for Decorating Changes and Challenges
If you have an Italian buffet or heirloom Persian rug that you love, be sure to mention it to your architect or designer. “When you’re doing something fresh and new and then you move in all your old furniture, it can be quite a letdown if we haven’t designed around the furniture,” says Lord, who designs around homeowners’ prized possessions to ensure that they work well in the new plan. “But more often than not, the homeowners’ furniture doesn’t work anymore, and they want to live differently in this new and different space. After all, that’s why they remodeled in the first place.”
Another potential pitfall is the new acoustics that come with very open spaces. With fewer walls and sometimes higher ceilings, homeowners may experience issues like echoing or cross-room conversations that sound garbled and less crisp. “The easiest way to address this is with the right window treatments and floor coverings,” says Kati Curtis, principal of Nirmada Interior Design in New York City. “Softer materials can absorb sound yet not detract from the open, airy feel of the space.”
The smaller details may get lost when you’re considering larger issues like determining if taking out a wall will cause your roof to collapse, but if you don’t take the time to think about them, you won’t like your open floor plan lifestyle nearly as much. “If your kitchen is open to the rest of the house, think about investing in that really quiet dishwasher or raising an island bar a few more inches so you can’t see the kitchen when you’re sitting on the couch watching TV,” Lord says. “If you don’t want to have to do dishes every night but you don’t want to look at clutter, go ahead and get that extra-deep sink where you can hide your dirty plates.”
Be sure to consult with your designer about places in the home where you need storage. “If your child’s play area or your office is located in the open area, make sure everything has a place and can be put away when guests come for dinner,” Curtis says.
The Bottom Line: Choose What Works for You
“You either love it or hate it, and people should think hard before deciding for a costly remodel,” Heger says. “On the other hand, once you get the ‘bug’ of living in a loftlike space, you may never go back to a traditional house.”
Make sure an open space reflects your personality. Designers say that opening up your home can be like opening up your life. If you’re a very private person, you may not enjoy life without walls, even if it appeals to you aesthetically. “Open floor plan is modern, contemporary, artistic, urban, and social all at the same time,” Heger says. “My clients usually love other people, company, and friends. I’m not a psychologist, but there’s something about this connection. Open floor plans have no secrets.”
The Challenge of Electronics in Open Floor Plans
When you’re looking for a light socket, cable outlet, or phone jack, you usually go straight to the nearest wall. But in open floor plans, plugging into the nearest wall may mean running unsightly wires under rugs, around baseboards, or, worst of all, across a walking area. If you’re thinking of knocking down walls, keep the following advice in mind, courtesy of the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association (CEDIA):
- Hidden installations: Electronic systems contractors (ESCs) can create hidden installations where home electronics blend seamlessly into the living area, storing bulky components in one central location like a closet or cabinet.
- Wiring: It’s important for architects to incorporate wiring systems into floors and ceilings, so they’ll reach throughout the house without dragging wires and cables all over the place.
- Integrate controls: If you’re redesigning electrical and wiring systems, consider choosing an integrated control system that will allow you to activate lighting, control HVAC levels, open and close window treatments, and manage media components in central locations. “Open plan spaces are especially tough when it comes to locating the switches and control interfaces found in a modern home,” says Ray Lepper, president of Home Media Stores, a Richmond, VA-based home systems integration company. “Lighting, temperature, security, entertainment—all of these systems require a user interface, usually a box on the wall.” If control of these systems is not planned out, you end up with what we call wall clutter. But in an open plan space, it’s plain unworkable—there’s not enough wall space, period. The solution is an integrated control system where the subsystems are controlled by just a few simpletouch screen or keypads located strategically throughout the home.”
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