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Privacy vs. Accessibility: Can You have Both with Open Living Spaces?

Open plan living is the zeitgeist of the 21st century, a palatial look modern homeowners are longing for increasingly. So, is this trend towards the casual, open space that encompasses the kitchen, dining, and living room areas, known collectively as the 'great room', really right for your lifestyle?

Pros and Cons of Open Plan Living

You might be surprised to learn open plan designs work more effectively in smaller homes and apartments. It's all about privacy. Singles and young marrieds without children can easily maintain privacy in an all-in-one living space. But for a bustling family with children, privacy is key to establishing a sense of separation for all the various activities occurring throughout a day: preparing meals, getting homework done, working on the computer, cleaning house. And what about the dog? Does he get any peace or quiet? You get my point.

It's important to establish what your privacy needs are, and should you opt for a closed plan space or a loft-like feel? How much privacy do you need? Think about the personality of your family and what floor plan would make your living space comfortable, allowing each individual their personal space, but easy access to other family members as desired, if you go for an open space plan. An open floor plan can work well if it is designed with the needs of your family in mind and modified to accommodate how your family interacts with one another.  If you decide an open plan space is a good choice for your busy home, Pzazz Building has a few suggestions on how you can achieve a balance between a sense of separateness and openness.

Ambient Lighting

Ambient Lighting

Various kinds of lighting are one way to separate the great room for different activities while maintaining an open, relaxed space. The kitchen, in particular, needs sufficient lighting to allow the tasks of food preparation and clean-up to be accomplished without eye strain.

Downlighters installed on the kitchen ceiling will provide even lighting without a bright glare to tire eyes; a single hanging pendant, or perhaps a series of them in the dining area can create a mood ideal for family meals and celebrations; while your living room could be set apart with access lighting or uplighters. Or if you want a more defined division, install inset lights into your flooring or beneath baseboards.

Flooring Types

Floor Textures

Another way to divvy up an open floor plan is through the choice of flooring materials. In the kitchen your options are plentiful: woods like oak, ash, cork, or bamboo; synthetic coverings such as vinyl, laminate, and stone/tile options: travertine, marble, granite, and slate, all ideal for warmer weather.

You can also switch off hardwoods, using one type for the kitchen, another for the dining area and still another for the living room. But you may not want to go that far, and instead select carpeting for another type of area definition.

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Room Partitions

Room partitions

An easy way to define your open plan layout is the use of room dividers. These can range from islands to section off your kitchen from the living room, to open shelving, folding screens, or a sectional sofa. Also consider a central fireplace, gaining in popularity, to segment the kitchen and living/dining areas, lending an aura of warmth and intimacy.

Hashing it Out

There are more considerations in deciding whether or not you and your family will benefit from an open plan living style, factors such as noise levels, kitchen odors, and children's messes. Here is where the rubber hits the road. A sit-down with your partner to sort out the pros and cons of closed floor plans as compared to open ones is the place to start the decision-making process.