In the past decade or so, life at home has become increasingly informal (Netflix and Trader Joe’s freezer meals, anyone?). Not surprisingly, our houses have grown to reflect that, too. A key indicator? The demise of formal living and dining rooms in favor of open concept living, where rooms flow into each other to maximize entertaining opportunities and casual togetherness.
“The walls came down to create a space where the living room, dining space, and kitchen were all one big, family-centered space where you could prep a meal, still interact with family and guests, see what’s on TV, and keep an eye on the kids,” says Janet Lorusso, an interior designer at JRL Interiors in Acton, Massachusetts.
While it may sound like nirvana for some, it often is a tricky layout to live with, in practice. To put it lightly: The walls were there for a reason! Here, interior designers share the three most common gripes they’ve heard from clients who’ve opened up their homes:
1. It’s loud
“Noise is easy to overlook. Open floor plans are designed to be great for entertaining, but what about for everyday life? It can be tough when someone is trying to unwind with a glass of wine and a page-turning book after a long week at work while the other is checking off a to-do list of dishes, laundry, or vacuuming.” —Sherri Monte, co-owner of Elegant Simplicity, an interior design firm in Seattle, Washington
“It’s inevitable that everything will seem louder when you don’t have as much room separation. I recommend adding insulation between interior walls and ceilings to help with this.” —Crystal Nagel, the lead designer at Crystal Nagel Designin Charlotte, North Carolina
2. It’s high-maintenance
“With open floor plans, everything is typically visible from one side of the house to the other. You’re either going to be on the constant prowl, cleaning, dusting or mopping or you’re going to have a mess within eyesight.” —Monte
3. It comes with new design challenges
“You will need to designate spaces. While this can be achieved with furniture placement, rugs, and hanging light fixtures, you’re going to need to be creative. For example, you can make an entryway feel like a new space by painting the walls a different color, using a cool rug and maybe turning the console table to create a ‘barrier-like’ feel, so when you move into the living space, it feels like a different part of the house. You can also use wallpaper to designate that ‘this’ space is the living room, ‘this’ is dining, etc.” —Sarah Cousins, an interior designer in New York City
“With fewer walls comes fewer opportunities to display your personality on the walls of your home.” —Monte