Throughout this month, I have been reading, and only reading, books related to Florida history. Nothing else. While I find the subject endlessly fascinating and educational, I don’t expect that my readership is interested in endless reviews of books recounting various aspects of the native peoples, discovery and trajectory of all things Florida. There are exceptions of course, such as the story of Joseph Clark, which is well worth sharing regardless of geography.
Rather than allow this little spot to languish for another week or more, by which time I hope to have completed a non-Florida education book, I thought I’d share some thoughts on a recent article from the links worth a look page.
Citylab.com makes the case for rooms. Specifically, they delve into the trend of open floor plans which tend to be designed with the entry, kitchen and living room connected without walls. Because our home has an open floor plan (and vaulted ceilings which I fell for before I considered having to paint them), this article piqued my curiosity.
If someone asked me five years ago whether or not I thought the open floor plan would still be popular, I would have said no. Domestic architecture seemed to be taking a turn toward the rustic. Today, “Farmhouse” and “Craftsman” modern designs, hearkening back to the American vernacular tradition (complete with shiplap walls), are a tour-de-force.
But I would have been wrong. Although these houses bring all the exterior trappings of beloved vernacular houses of the past, they do not extend that to the interior plans. In fact, the open concepts from the oversized houses of the pre-recession era have only gotten more open.
Much has been written about the open floor plan: how it came to be, why it is bad (or good), whether it should or shouldn’t be applied to existing housing. The open floor plan as we currently understand it—an entry-kitchen-dining-living combination that avoids any kind of structural separation between uses—is only a few decades old. Prior to the last 25 years, an “open floor plan” meant a living configuration without doors; now the term has come to mean a living configuration without walls. I will refer to the latter from now on as an “open concept,” in order to differentiate it from a traditional open floor plan.
There are times when I really enjoy our open floor plan. We entertain four to five times a year (birthday parties, holidays, and the occasional small dinner party). On those occasions, when every part of the house is tidy and spotless, and engaging with several guests and family members in different places from the central hub of the kitchen is easier, I thoroughly enjoy the open concept. It’s utilitarian for the purposes of entertaining.
There are other times, however, when having walls separating one or more of those rooms from another would be convenient. Our home is lived in all day, every day. There are meals prepared in the kitchen three times a day and kids educated at the kitchen table. Books, paper, pencils, experiments, and the paraphernalia of life dots the landscape of our home on a regular basis. No amount of anal obsession with keeping things clean is going to lead me to the nirvana of a perpetually company ready house. There are days when a mess kitchen might come in handy:
In a recent essay in The Atlantic, Ian Bogost described a new luxury concept called the “mess kitchen”—a second kitchen out of sight from the main kitchen and the rest of the open plan. He cited it to demonstrate why the open floor plan and its rhetoric around “entertaining” have reached new levels of absurdity. However, to me, the mess kitchen offers hope for a transitional period where open spaces may become closed again.
On normal days if someone drops by, the open concept feels inconvenient. It also means that I have to embrace the reality that very few people are judging my home as harshly as I am. In fact quite recently someone came over for an appointment I’d forgotten about and while I was having an internal crisis about the state of my house, they said, “You guys have a great house. Your family room looks like a great place to hang out and watch a movie.” Failing homemaker fire extinguished.
Our house is our home, for better or worse, and I do love it. If we ever decide to leave it, perhaps I can revisit the decision to choose an open floor plan. I do wonder however, if this trend will hold or if sometime in the near future, walls will make a comeback. After all, our house was built 25 years ago.