Open Concept: Living In Your Comfort Zone
By: Andrea Bernstein Rodarte
The idea of open concept living has evolved as we expand our comfort zone to include the kitchen, living areas and dining spaces. Centering a home's design on open concept living has many advantages and a few possible drawbacks. It's important to know just how much of an open concept you desire. For example, there are those that crave their solitude in the kitchen while others appreciate the trend of a completely open space that allows foot traffic to flow from space to space. Reflect and decide what is best for your 'comfort zone'.
An 'open concept' design often starts at the front door with a clear sight line to all public airy expansive spaces. This can be achieved through a single flooring material, color palette and cabinetry choices that continue throughout.
Eliminating walls and doorways gives the illusion of a larger and brighter space, allowing natural light to stream into each area from windows that were once blocked off into compartmentalized rooms.
Open or Semi-Open
There are flexible options to be considered as alternatives to the completely open plan. A semi-open kitchen allows partial views through double-sided glass upper cabinets while still providing a closed off room for the cook who prefers to keep prep, cooking and clean up under wraps. A bi-level work island is another option to conceal kitchen mess. A raised breakfast bar will hide the view of pots and pans in the island sink. Include a dishwasher in the island if you choose to make this the main clean up zone.
For those who own an older home and wish to maintain the original integrity of the space while bringing it forward, widening doorways and installing modern frosted glass sliding doors or rustic barn doors can update and open up smaller, closed-off rooms when desired.
For newer homes, pocket doors between sections of the wide-open great room can close off a specific area, such as a modest reading nook, when one wants some quiet time while others are watching television in the inviting social space.
Spacious open plans are perfect when the family includes small children who require a watchful eye while mom or dad is in the kitchen.
For entertaining, the open kitchen also creates a nice flow, keeping the host in the midst of the party. As we all know, family and friends naturally gather in the kitchen. When this happens, cooks and take-out connoisseurs alike will reap the benefits of an island, which will provide a gentle barrier to the work zone, allowing the cook to move freely while keeping others close but at bay. The family can eat breakfast at the island, children can do homework and have after-school snacks while mom or dad prepares dinner. Plus, guests will enjoy ringside seats where you can show off your knife skills to a captive audience!
In addition to bar seating at the island, a dining area in the open plan (or great room) will serve for casual family meals and as extra dining space when entertaining.
A fireplace will bring an inviting warmth and sense of coziness to the living area no matter how vast the space may be. Plan for multiple sitting areas or 'conversation groups' to invite guests to spread out. Include plenty of comfortable seating in front of the media center.
Wellness and comfort include relaxing both indoors and out. Indoor/outdoor living offers the best of both worlds. Move the party outside through bi-fold, French or sliding glass doors that open to terraces or decks. Enjoy effortless entertaining at the grilling station, al fresco dining area and captivating outdoor lounge where guests can snuggle up by the two-sided fireplace that opens to both the indoor and outdoor spaces.
It is thought that this is one design concept that has staying power. The resale value of such a modern and updated design is favorable now and will be for years to come.
Andrea Bernstein Rodarte is an executive editor and author for national publications including home design--from luxurious kitchens and baths, to gourmet outdoor kitchens, exterior living spaces, sophisticated child-proof pool fencing, and high tech home security systems. With her extensive history in kitchen and bath products and trends, Andrea brings a knowledgeable and unique perspective to her work.