Seen many beautiful open concept homes…and you think that this style of home is right for you.
Maybe? Maybe not?
It could very well be that an open concept home is right for you. You are a person who loves large open spaces and loves to share that space – all of the time.
Remember those key words – all of the time. The sharing required in an open concept home is always and absolute.
So, before you jump in to either buying a new home with an open concept design or you embark on a large expensive renovation to achieve an open concept living area, the essential question you should ask yourself is:
Just how much do you want to share?
Some things are meant for sharing – some things, not so much.
Find out if an open concept home is really right for you, your family and your lifestyle.
What is an Open Concept Home?
For purposes of this discussion, we should first define an open concept home.
While there may be slightly different meanings, I define an open concept home as a main living area which is open. This main living area includes your kitchen, dining room or eating area and living room.
An open concept home will have no walls between these rooms. Hence, all of these spaces – while still defined by their function – will be shared.
Get Ready to Share
Your parents probably taught you to share at an early age. And even if you share well, there may be limits for some people.
With an open concept living room, dining room and kitchen, you will be sharing – sharing everything.
All of the sounds, smells and sights will be shared throughout all of these main living areas – the good, bad and the ugly (hopefully, not too many ugly).
Speaking from my own personal experience, and some other people’s views of living in an open concept home, I will go through a few concrete examples of how sharing all of the space all of the time is not always a favorite thing to do. And you may realize that it may not be yours either.
Oh, the things that happen in a kitchen. If you think about it, there is a whole lot of living going on in your kitchen. And some of that living is not always worthy of sharing.
The main reason, I believe, for opting out of an open concept home is the kitchen. It is the room where messes are common and can be difficult to keep tidy all of the time. Kitchens are also where sounds and smells abound – regularly.
If you have guests, they will generally be either in your dining room or living room – kitchen, not so much. With an open concept home, any guest will essentially be in your kitchen even if they don’t officially step foot into it.
How clean is your kitchen right now? You don’t really have to answer but, chances are, unless you are a super clean freak or you don’t have any children, you probably have some dirty dishes on your counter top or in your sink.
Do you really want to share these unsightly dirty dishes with guests – or even see them yourself when you are sitting on your sofa reading a great book?
The whole out of sight, out of mind mantra applies to homes without an open concept design. You can sometimes forget about a mess – even a small one – for just a short time, at least.
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Kitchen Sink Location in Open Concept Homes
Another really important consideration if you are looking for an open concept living area is the location of your sink. If you are planning to have a large kitchen island which opens to your living room, you may not want to have your main sink installed on the island.
Unfortunately, today in many open concept kitchen designs, the sink is being installed on the island. As for Interior Design standards, it make sense. Kitchen sinks generally do not face a wall and are placed so that there is an open view – either a window or open room. After all, you spend a lot of time in front of the sink doing dishes so looking at a wall is not very pleasant.
Unless you are super tidy, you will probably always have a dish or two in the sink or on the counter – something that will be in full view throughout the open room. This is why I do not recommend putting your sink in the large open island but, rather in a more discreet place so that any normal kitchen mess does not have to be in view at all times.
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An Island Sink Compromise
In order to combat the issue with the main sink in your kitchen island, there is a little hack. You can add a higher bar top portion to your island so that the sink is not fully exposed to the whole room. However, you do lose a few things by doing this.
You lose the larger surface of a solid one height bar counter top. Not only do you lose the larger space, you lose the streamlined look of a one height island.
I used this technique in my home and I love it. Any dishes left in the sink are pretty much invisible if you are in the living area. As well, any dishes which may be left on the counter are much less visible from the other room. This definitely works for me in my open concept home.
Non-Kitchen Kitchen Clutter
Another unsightly mess which can pile up in the kitchen is your letter mail. Often people collect their bills and mail on their kitchen counters so that they know to deal with them. With an open concept kitchen, you will need to find a safe spot somewhere else in your home. Or, if you have an extra drawer, you can put your ‘to deal with’ mail and letters in there.
I don’t know about you but, both cooking and cleaning in the kitchen makes noise. And depending on the person on kitchen duty, there can be even more noise.
Do you really want to hear that while you are trying to watch your favorite television program, sports game, or Netflix show? With an open concept living room and kitchen, you will be hearing all of the pots banging, the refrigerator opening and closing, the sizzling of the frying pans, the mixing in metal bowls, etc…and maybe even the cook who talks to themselves on occasion.
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And if you cook, you know that the better the sear, the more noise it will make.
Unless you are able to completely focus on your show or game, you will most likely not enjoy it nearly as much as if there were not those annoying kitchen noises.
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And when we speak about kitchen noises which will be shared in an open concept home, you cannot forget about the dishwasher. Dishwashers, unless they have special baffles installed, can be very loud. They will definitely be a noise maker which will be heard loud and clear while you sit in your open concept living room. It may even force you to change your dishwasher run schedule – which may not always be convenient.
Whatever you are cooking in the kitchen will be smelled throughout the whole open area. Sometimes, if you are baking cookies or bread, this will be a pleasant experience.
However, there are times when I would prefer that the cooking smells be contained in a smaller area. If you happen to burn something, that odor will be shared – not exactly pleasant.
I also find that if I cook curry or just about anything in my cast iron fry pan, the smell permeates everywhere. With a few walls, the smells – good or bad – may be less able to travel and waft through the open space.
While this pie making in your kitchen may smell delicious all throughout your open concept room, some cooking smells may not always be so pleasant – but they will be shared.
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While this may not apply to everyone, and it really has nothing to do with the sights, sounds and smells of your kitchen, it may be worth mentioning. Have you ever been in your kitchen – working up a sweat – while someone else – maybe your better half – sits on the sofa watching television?
If nothing else, this could become annoying. It does not mean that you will get out of your kitchen duties. It simply means that not seeing the other person not doing anything will be out of your sight. Again, out of sight, probably out of mind.
Dining Room Sharing
For the most part, your dining area in an open concept home will be without issues. As long as you eat at the table and clean up very right after, you will not have any ‘clean and tidy’ problems.
However, you could run into a few issues if you occasionally leave your dishes on the table because you have to leave in a rush. These dirty dishes may become unsightly if you happen to have a friend pop over after work or your children invite a friend to play after school.
For some of you, your dining room table may become that flat surface required for some of life’s things which need a place to be put. I have seen the likes of mail and even clean laundry on a few dining room tables. And those who do this know that this is not the ideal – but, rather, just convenient.
Separate Dining Room Benefits
Instead of a negative of having an open concept home, having a separate dining room has its benefits. The main benefit is that you can completely separate your cooking and preparing self with your dining self.
If you like to have dinner parties, you may feel comfortable making as much mess as you like in a separate kitchen. There will be no need to share your kitchen mess with your family or guests seated in your dining room. Any dining guests will not be distracted by any kitchen cooking mess and can enjoy a stress and mess free environment in your separate dining room.
You can also cook somewhat incognito. You don’t have to prep and cook everything out in the open in an open concept room. If you are still working on your cooking skills and prefer not to share them with everyone, an open concept design may make you even more self conscious. A non open concept kitchen and dining room will be more suitable for you.
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Living Room Sharing
Chances are, you have a television in your living room. With an open concept home, that means you have a television in your kitchen and dining area too.
Sometimes, as I can tell you from first hand experience, – or should I say, most times – people want to watch either their favorite television program or sports game without distraction. And in an open concept home, the biggest distractions are caused by and come from the kitchen.
Just ask my hubby who enjoys watching sports without the kitchen background noise. Apparently, he can’t SEE the game as well if he can HEAR any kitchen noise :-).
Doing dishes and cooking can be very noisy. This noise will most certainly be heard by all those attempting to relax in your living room area.
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Kids and Kitchens
I can attest to that as well. On occasion, I try to relax before heading to bed while watching the News. (Relaxing and News in the same sentence…really? For me, yes.) Some times, during those relaxing moments, a younger occupant of the home (aka teenager) decides to make a meal.
The clinging and clanging in the open kitchen really takes away from what would otherwise be, my relax time. As such, I do have moments where a wall between the living room and kitchen would be welcome.
Who’s Watching What?
If there is a constant battle for the choice of television program to watch, then you may be just like most families. Having to ration the use of the TV is fairly normal.
The difference with an open concept home is that you all will be watching what that one person wants to watch. For the most part, that may be fine. At other times, you may find that particular television program or movie annoying. Remember that you are watching it whether you want to or not – unless, of course, you leave the space completely.
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This idea may apply to each and every space in an open concept home. There are times when you just prefer to be alone. That could mean being alone in your kitchen while you cook dinner. It could mean watching your favorite TV program by yourself. It could mean snuggling on your sectional sofa under a cozy blanket while reading your favorite book.
After all, this is your main living space. You are meant to live in it. But, it does mean that you may not have alone time in your comfortable living space as often as you may like.
Ask Yourself – Is an Open Concept Home right for you?
If any of these things – the sharing of all of the sights, the sounds, the smells, and the lack of alone time – bother you intensely, you may not be ready for an open concept home.
You may want to hold back on that large expensive renovation, or on the purchase of a new home with an open concept design….and that’s OK!
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