Great rooms are becoming even greater – in both size and experience. The vast space of open floor plans is now usurping almost the entire first floor. Great rooms are even expanding to include access to outdoor spaces and garden rooms.
Combining heart and hearth, the great room has won over today’s families with its functionality and casual, yet impressive nature. It gives the illusion of more space, by either expanding upward by opening an existing footprint or adding an addition that is actually more space. Functionally, the great room allows visual access to the key rooms in the home – the kitchen, dining area and family room or gathering space. It allows for easy overflow from the kitchen to adjoining rooms.
The informality of the great room is also appealing to today’s homeowners. According to a recent article on www.washingtonpost.com, Kermit Baker, chief economist of the American Institute of Architects, said that the interest in an informal lifestyle continues to influence the fascination with the open kitchen. Baker noted that nearly all newly designed houses today have more floor space devoted to casual living areas vs. a formal living room and formal dining room.
A study by the National Association of Homebuilders concurs, noting that in larger homes, over 50 percent more space is devoted to the family room than the living room, which utilizes only 7.5 percent of floor space. The family room accounts for 11-12 percent of the floor space in the small, average and large home. Creating a great room makes your space multi-functional.
The combination of “rooms” you include in your great room depends on your family’s needs now and into the future. Some blend of family room, living room, dining room and kitchen will emerge when you visualize your remodeling needs. While a family-living room design is most common, you may want to include kitchen or dining areas, as well. If, for example, you are planning to expand your family with children, elderly family members or pets, your needs will vary according to preferred privacy or communication. Small children may need more open space that allows them to play in the family room under the watchful eye of the parent who is cooking dinner in the kitchen. Teenagers, on the other hand, crave more privacy, so you might dedicate the great room to the living room/family room function, keeping a separate, or somewhat self-defined kitchen and maintaining some literal “space.” The possibilities are endless. According to the NAHB study, in general, the family room is the most common space accounted for in a great room, at 69 percent of the time. Using the great room as a living room comes in a close second at 56 percent of the time, and dining room and kitchen are 24 percent and 16 percent, respectively.
Add the trend of the great room flowing into outdoor spaces, and the result is extended functionality and the illusion of an unending living space. Depending on the local climate, the outdoor spaces are often connected to the home by accordion-style glass doors, or sliding glass doors, opening to a covered outdoor room or a three-season enclosed room, like the California rooms or lanais popular in Florida and California. Builders are using these techniques in the Washington DC/Virginia region, because clients want to blur the lines between indoor and outdoor living.
AIA’s Baker supports the concept with the observation that outdoor spaces are beginning to look more like interior space. They are not only showcasing gas fireplaces and luxury cooking grills, but they are also adding kitchen counters or bar-height counters and stools and using furnishings that are visually connected to the indoor decor. Whether it’s the complementary textures or colors, or simply a recurring theme of “beach” or “farm house,” the seamless transition and the all-in-one expanse will clearly make your home great. Talk to your custom remodeler to see how the great room can work for you.