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The Open Floor Plan and the Downfall of Society

Last February, as Robert, Pat and I sat together in Robert’s Sears Home, he said, “The open floor plan will probably be considered one of the most heinous atrocities ever committed against American architecture.”

A man after my own heart.

When historians write about the unraveling of society, it will probably all be traced back to The Open Floor Plan.

Who decided it was a good idea to remove every wall and door from a house?

For months, I’ve been looking for a home for me and Teddy and The Horsies™.

We’ve found a few homes that are close, but nothing has been a real match yet.

For a variety of reasons, I’m hoping to find a house that’s not more than 50 years old and well built and in a safe area. And most importantly, I want a house that does NOT have an “Open Floor Plan.”

It’s not bad enough that the big ugly houses with open floor plans are taking over the planet, but even older homes are not safe.

Reading through listings for once-lovely 1950s and 60s brick ranches, I’ve found this awful comment: “Completely renovated with new and inviting open floor plan.”

Though I’m not a woman given to strong language, this phrase hits a nerve and induces me to say things that are quite unladylike.

I don’t want to smell the kitchen or worse, SEE the kitchen. I don’t want to see the dining room. I need lots of doors and walls between me and the world. My secret to good housekeeping is plenty of heavy doors and hiding places. If I wanted to live in an open commune, I’d move to Berkeley. I want private areas and secret rooms. My dream house would have an underground bomb shelter with vintage rations from the Eisenhower era.

How do you paint  your own house when the living room wall is 17-feet tall? How do you change a light fixture on a chain that’s seven feet taller than you on your tallest ladder? How do you kill spiders ensconced in a dark corner at the tippy top of a cathedral ceiling?

The Open Floor Plan: stultissimus notio!

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Need a palate cleanse? Read about Sears Homes here.

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Dumb

This makes no sense to me. In fact, I'd say it's one of the most foolish things a person could do to a house. I looked at this house, hoping it wasn't as bad as it sounded. It was.

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So open that its brains fall out

So open that its brains fall out? This is a lovely log cabin recently listed in a nearby city. This 1,500-square foot space is - for all purposes - one big room.

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Open

Twitch, twitch.

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Open More

Blech. And how do you clean those windows above the door?

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Open and depressing

What a waste of space and energy and materials.

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This one is the very worst. This hosue started life as a fine home, a 1950s brick ranch.

This one is the very worst. This house started life as a fine home, a 1950s brick ranch.

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But they managed to make it ugly on the exterior, too.

It started life as a lovely brick ranch (1950s) with good symmetry. Closing in that garage was not a good idea. Having seen many of these "flipped" houses, I can tell you that, for the most part, they're not well done.

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I hate open

The Aladdin Villa (a kit home) had lots of doors. I love doors. I hate open.

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Villa

Here's a real life Villa in Augusta, Georgia, and I'm sure it still has a lot of doors and walls.

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And then there were seven...

The Seven Horsies of the Apocalypse detest open floor plans. And yes, there are now SEVEN horsies. Number Seven (center stage) was a gift, so that's good because now I have enablers of my Stuffed Horsie Habit. Yay! :D

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Read more about the Aladdin Villa here.

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  1. Dale Wolicki
    May 17th, 2017 at 16:41 | #1

    But Rose, without an open floor plan how can I be hip without a big screen television with lazy-boy stadium seating and a pool table in my living room?

  2. Deirdre Mundy
    May 17th, 2017 at 20:53 | #2

    I have many small children. Open floor plans mean cacophony. We moved into a 1920s Bungalow, and it is heaven. So many rooms! So much privacy!

    No more big kids crying because the little ones are too loud. It’s heaven.

    My other rant about the newer, open-floor-plan homes is that the only other room as huge as the great room is usually the master suite.

    These homes are designed for people who are only home to watch TV and sleep.

    They are not livable and were not designed for living people.

  3. bfish
    May 17th, 2017 at 21:14 | #3

    I would add to your list of abominations, Rose, that the open floor plan combining living, dining and kitchen areas don’t provide any intimate space.

    Now these houses usually have conventional bedrooms with doors so I’m not talking about *that* kind of intimacy.

    Rather, when I’m enjoying my living room, dining room and kitchen I’m able to focus on, and appreciate, each of these spaces and enjoy the sense of enclosure.

    I’m with you — don’t like open floor plans!

  4. Rhonda LaPointe Frazier
    May 17th, 2017 at 22:36 | #4

    I have lost count of how many times my brother has tried to convince me that the solution to my oh, soooo tiny kitchen problem, is to remove the wall to the dining room, and create a large kitchen.

    I continue to refuse his suggestion.

    I’m sure that after everyone destroys their older homes, an appreciation for original will return. And my house will be back in the desirable realm!

  5. Rhonda LaPointe Frazier
    May 17th, 2017 at 22:39 | #5

    @Dale Wolicki
    BTW, we moved to my house because my husband went on disability, and it turned out his big old stupid tv was too big for the living room, we realized we had to make one of the bedrooms our “tv room.”

    I’m stoked because the pretty living room doesn’t have to lose its identity as a big screen tv theatre.

  6. Rick S
    May 18th, 2017 at 15:36 | #6

    You are so right. People think the open concept is great for living and entertaining.

    One or two people at home feel lost in wide open space and 30 people over for a party have to talk over each other.

    My home is c 1978 is best of both worlds with separate living room, and dining room and basement family room. The most open area of main floor is kitchen/dining area/ and family room with sunroom.

    The sunroom French doors can close off the space and make it quiet. I can have many people over and still not have anyone shouting to be heard.

    Everyone thinks the open plan means togetherness until the kids all retreat to their bedrooms for privacy :( .

  7. May 18th, 2017 at 16:47 | #7

    The other travesty is the black-grey-white color scheme and SUBWAY tile.

    Reminds me of the smelly old train station in the town I grew up.

  8. Rivka A Strom
    May 18th, 2017 at 22:25 | #8

    Open concept homes are nothing more than basketball courts with bedrooms on the second floor and 12 types of window panes.

  9. May 19th, 2017 at 10:02 | #9

    @Cheryl
    Hi Cheryl,

    Personally, I’m a fan of the old black/white subway-tiled bathrooms, but as the sages have said, different people like different things.

  10. Adrienne
    June 4th, 2017 at 16:00 | #10

    Please, come buy my home in a quaint little town in Hunterdon County New Jersey. Almost 120 years old and I left everything the way it was.

    You can put the doors back on. I left them in the cellar.

    Seriously, I agree with you about the open space floor plan. I love my old Victorian homes and would not have it any other way…

    Currently shopping for another one to renovate and love.

  11. Shan
    June 21st, 2017 at 00:36 | #11

    Open floor plan and “newly renovated” kitchens and baths make my skin crawl.

    I love the two tone tile of 50s bathrooms in funky colors and old custom build cabinets.

    OOOO…look. You ripped all the walls out, put in generic white tile in the bathroom, and installed brand new craptastic IKEA cabinets.

    HARD PASS

  12. June 21st, 2017 at 06:09 | #12

    Shan, you’re my hero of the day.

    Spell-check didn’t recognize “craptastic” but it should have, and I’ve added it to the dictionary. There can’t be a better word to describe the building materials used in these “modern” renovations.

    HGTV: Houses Getting Totally Vandalized.

    And landfills being overwhelmed with perfectly good building materials.

  13. June 28th, 2017 at 19:46 | #13

    I TOTALLY agree! I love my 1910 California Bungalow with the kitchen which can be shut off using doors!

    The original owners took down the glass doors and put in lovely wide archways from entry hall to front room and from front room to dining room…this was in the 30’s I think, when “Spanish” decor was big in California.

    The arches are beautiful actually and add grace to the house. I don’t mind seeing the dining room from the front room.

    I love our bedroom upstairs away from the living area and I love the narrow passage to the back bedroom.

    I love the cozy breakfast room which is tucked away off kitchen. OPEN FLOOR PLANS are indeed grotesque and may well have started the downfall of civilization!

  14. Laurie
    July 7th, 2017 at 11:10 | #14

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this article about open floor plans. I had one and HATED it.

    You had to crouch down behind the island to sneak a cookie so the kids didn’t see.

    You could always see any mess in the kitchen. It was L-O-U-D.

    I long for companies to recreate the craftsman bungalow plans.

    Robinson is close, but too many vaulted ceilings…anyone know where I can buy original plans?

    Thanks in advance,
    Laurie

  15. Laura
    September 18th, 2017 at 07:58 | #15

    I thought I was the only one who thought this! I live in a home from 1969 and it has what I call “definition of space”…meaning each space or room is defined by WALLS!!

    Our neighbors took their 1969 house and opened walls…and it actually feels smaller to me than it did before. Alll my friends are looking for “open concept” houses and it makes me cringe. I just don’t get it.

    A house looses all its cozy appeal with vaulted ceilings and one big open space. I hope this concept gets lost and builders go back to building real houses. :(

  16. Denis
    September 20th, 2017 at 10:52 | #16

    We have a 1922 center hall colonial, in plan and detailing typical of its vintage and neighborhood.

    That means the kitchen is small by current standards.

    We bought it because it was one of only two of the 38 houses we looked at that hadn’t had the wall removed between the kitchen and dining room removed to make way for Ikea cabinets and that same old granite countertop every other house has.

    The kitchen is fine.

    We removed the ugly plastic 1990’s cabinets from the Home Despot and reproduced the original cabinets and the original detailed moldings.

    The house is serene, pleasant, intimate, and allows for people to find quiet spaces during big gatherings. It’s never too loud.

    And EVERYONE who visits comments on how elegantly livable it is, and how suitable it is for entertaining. And they’re always surprised by that.

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