What keeps a building trend in style? We say consumer demand, coupled with the industry’s willingness to meet that demand in new and innovative ways. Open floor plans in homes are a great example. Defined as the combining of two or more living spaces with no physical wall dividing them, an open floor plan can include any combination of kitchen, dining room, living room, family room or study. Usually, if it does not include the kitchen, it is considered a “great room.” For our purposes, we’ll stick with plans that include the kitchen, which continue to be popular with both home buyers and custom builders.
There were many naysayers who thought these open-space, open-air living areas would go by the wayside after the late 1990s. Surprise to them! Open floor plans are still very much in demand. Why? American lifestyles have continued to revolve around multi-tasking and socialization with all generations. The open kitchen/dining/family room combination makes it easy for the cook to be part of the conversation in the dining area or family room, to supervise young children in any room, and to get help from others more readily.
When looking for your ideal open floor plan, you should decide what areas you want to be combined, as well as how “open” you really want it. A plan that has no barriers, dividers or walls would constitute a fully open floor plan. Partially open offers half-walls, physical dividers such as railings or steps, or visual dividers like paint color. According to the National Homebuilders Association, 84 percent of new home construction has an open floor plan, and over half, or 54 percent, is completely open. Indeed, Realtor.com agrees that one of the most sought-after features in the real estate market is for a home to be described as having an “open floor plan.”
Kitchen/Family Room Combination
If you’re looking for an open kitchen/family room combination, you are likely to look a little harder, because the inventory of that particular combination is tight, according to national averages. Or, if you are remodeling and want to incorporate an open kitchen/family room, it may prove to be a good investment. The NAHB reports that 86 percent of home buyers want either a completely or partially open kitchen/family room configuration. There’s a slight difference in what the market wants vs. what builders are supplying. Only 75 percent of new homes offered by builders have the open kitchen/family room plan.
Why is this combination in high demand? It’s practical, for one thing. Since the kitchen became the heart of entertaining in the home, the open kitchen/family room concept has flourished, especially among young families. It’s ideal for the person cooking the meal to see children playing in the family room, or supervise young teens. When entertaining, it provides an overflow room from the kitchen where everyone inevitably gathers, and it gives more people the incentive to help out in the kitchen.
Kitchen/Dining Room Combination
The other popular open floor plan combination is kitchen/dining area. The available open floor plans with this combination are similar to the demand – 45 percent of home buyers say they want a completely open kitchen/dining area, and 51 percent of newly built homes have this feature. Meanwhile, 41 percent of home buyers want a partially open kitchen/dining area, but new homes do not tend to offer this feature. (Only 24 percent do.) This might be another good investment if you are considering remodeling your home to include an open floor plan.
Open Up! Making the Shift from Closed to Open
Some customers think that opening a house up by removing walls, moving columns and rebuilding as an open room should be easy and inexpensive. “Oh, we’ll just blow out a wall here, take down this column and open up the foyer and the family room!” But wait! What’s holding up your ceiling? If you have load-bearing walls in your kitchen, living room or dining room, converting to an open floor plan can be a time-consuming and expensive process. In addition, if you have wiring or pipes running through the walls, these will also have to be moved elsewhere. The builder must make sure the structure is sound, so it’s not always as easy as it seems.
While there is no reliable data on the number of existing homes that have open floor plans, professional remodelers say that about 40 percent of their remodeling projects are creating open floor plans from closed-in rooms. Despite the fact that remodeling to include an open floor plan is more complicated than it seems, it remains popular.
Be sure to check with your custom builder about whether converting to an open floor plan is right for you. If you’re thinking of moving soon, consider the market for closed vs. open plans and the potential for a change that could mean more money for the sale of your home. Work with a builder you can trust, who will help you to find the right floor plan for your lifestyle. A design-build team is ideal for this task, because the architect, builder and designer will work together seamlessly for your dream open floor plan.