We’ve been house hunting. Actually, we have an offer in on a house, so I guess we’re further along than that. But this is about something else: the open floor plan. It is oh-so-trendy right now in real estate listings, at least here in Massachusetts, to brag about the “open floor plan.” The idea is that all of the common living space opens up and flows together into one semi-partitioned area. It creates an atmosphere that is open and airy. And who wouldn’t want that?
Here’s the deal there. We have a what could easily be called an open floor plan. It’s not entirely open, but there are large arched doors that lead from formal living room (technically the dining room, but whatever) to the kitchen and then into the family room. The rooms are large and the kitchen has a pass-through into the family room as well (don’t ask ME why it doesn’t go into the dining room…). And the effect is open and airy and bright and cheerful and all that. [This is a picture of the living room – and the pass-through there on the right – before we bought it, just to give you a sense of space, not décor.]
What it isn’t is private or quiet or cozy.
If you love to entertain (and, strangely enough, we do), this is a dream space. We can fit dozens of guests comfortably, and they can mingle and roam. You can talk to people in the family room while doing dishes. It’s wonderful for congregating.
What it isn’t is wonderful for introspection.
The family room, which has cathedral ceilings with two skylights and four massive windows, plus glass doors into the sun room, is where I work. I am perched on the couch as we speak. It’s also where all of the kids’ toys are and where they play. They have a dedicated space (nearly half the room), marked off by a large foam play mat. It’s also where we watch TV and play video games and eat meals. It’s a pretty room. What can I say? Sure, we could spend time in the formal living room (it’s not even all that formal), but we don’t. I could work in my office downstairs (which is not properly climate-controlled and is currently serving as one of the largest walk-in closets of all time), but I don’t. We could send the kids’ stuff down into the finished family room downstairs (aka the man cave), but, once again, we do not.
Instead, we all congregate here. And stress each other out. The kids playacting in high pitched voices drives Big Guy and I insane. They leave crumbs all over the floor. My laptop takes up valuable coffee table space. Big Guy’s laptop takes up what should be valuable dining table space. If I’m watching TV at night and he’s washing dishes (this happens far more often than I should really admit), I have to stop because I can’t hear anything. In fact, if he’s doing anything in the kitchen (making a snack, getting a drink, or just walking around), I can’t hear.
The house we are looking at is still somewhat an open concept space, but there are more rooms that are a bit smaller. None of them are big enough to serve as an office, living room, dining room, play room, game room, and family room all at once. And for that I am thankful. I like hanging out together, really I do. But I like it best when we’re doing things together. Reading, watching TV, playing a game, or just lounging around. If we’re not, I’d rather be in different spaces instead of trying to compete with each other in the same area.
It’s true, you know. Open concept is an extrovert’s dream. Our society is shifting focus to an emphasis on togetherness, creating communal workspaces, and embracing everything extrovert. And even if we introverts just love how airy and flowing everything is, even if we sometimes enjoy hosting every-single-one-of-our-friends all at once, a lot of the time we’d just like everyone to go somewhere else. Unfortunately, with no walls, there’s just nowhere else to go.