Open Floor Plan: History, Pros and Cons (2024)

Open floor plans have been the dominant architectural trend in new residential construction for decades. Open floor plans are the goal in many major remodeling projects where the objective is to join the kitchen and dining room, dining room and living room, or all three, into a form of communal living space or great room.

What Is an Open Floor Plan?

An open floor plan in a dwelling is when two or more common spaces have been joined to form a larger area by eliminating partition walls; usually, the rooms have separate but related functions. An open floor plan promotes a sense of openness and greater traffic flow.

Most often, open floor plans involve some combination of kitchen, dining room, and living room. The kitchen and dining area are a classic example of separate but related spaces. The kitchen is for cooking, and the dining area is for eating. These associated functions deal with food, so it makes sense to join the rooms if desired.

An open floor plan doesn't mean all rooms are connected, nor does it mean there are no barriers between the rooms. Open floor plans usually apply to common areas, not including bathrooms, powder rooms, bedrooms, and sometimes,home offices.

In open floor plan construction, heavy-duty beams, instead of interior load-bearing walls, carry the weight of the floor above. That's why it is usually more efficient to incorporate an open floor plan into the initial building plans rather than doing so retroactively.

Open Floor Plan Layout Ideas

Kitchen and Dining Room Open Floor Plan

Often, a kitchen and dining area share one common space. Sometimes, akitchen island or peninsula acts as a visual dividing line between the two areas.

Dining Room and Living Room Open Floor Plan

With this popular open floor plan, a dining area and living room occupy one shared area. A visual dividing line may be a short set of stairs, two different paint colors, a pair of columns, an accent wall, stairs leading to a sunken area, or a handrail.

Kitchen, Dining Room, and Living Room Open Floor Plan

All three areas may be connected in a very large great room, often with a vaulted ceiling. Connecting the kitchen, dining area, and living room maximizes the home's social aspect. It's especially good for homeowners who frequently cook and entertain guests.

Open Floor Plans Pros and Cons


  • Better traffic flow. Without doors to open and close and no walls to hinder traffic, people can move through space unhindered.
  • Improved sociability and communication. Without walls, it's possible to talk to one another across rooms.
  • Shared light. Interior spaces that were once without windows now get natural light from windows in exterior walls.
  • Higher real estate value. In almost every instance, an open floor plan is highly desirable and increases your home's value to prospective buyers by up to 7.4 percent a year.
  • Easier to watch kids. Parents cooking in the kitchen or setting the dining room table can easily supervise children in the living room.
  • Layout flexibility. Without partition walls, it is easy to reconfigure furnishings and accessories to different room layouts.
  • Spaces can be multifunctional. With open floor plans, the area can serve as a family room, a recreation room, a home office, or an entertainment space, depending on your needs.


  • Costly to heat and cool. Great rooms with high ceilings are often energy drains, especially when the outer walls are equipped with large windows, as they often are. While traditional floor plans allow you to heat or cool only certain rooms, with an open floor plan, the entire space must be heated or cooled.
  • Higher construction cost. Without partition walls, open concepts depend on steel or laminated beams for support. These are costly to install.
  • Poor sound control. Without partition walls to block noise, open-concept homes can be very noisy.
  • Spaces can appear cluttered. One advantage of traditional floor plans is that they confine furnishings and accessories to designated areas.
  • Lack of privacy. Open floor plans are great for social activity, but they make it hard to find quiet spaces for private reading or study.

Open Floor Plan: History, Pros and Cons (1)

Open Floor Plan History and Development

Before the mid-1940s, most homes used a very basic floor plan in which the main hallway served as a kind of artery that provided access to branch rooms serving specific functions.

Traditional Floor Plans

In these traditional floor plans, the kitchen was usually placed at the back of the house because it was seen as a service area and not used for socializing at all. A rear door off of the kitchen allowed for food deliveries or as an entrance for staff. Entertainment until the 1950s was a fairly formal affair conducted in other areas of the house—served by a kitchen that was strictly off-limits to guests.

At this time, the kitchen was still a separate area since it was still regarded as a useful space. The kitchen was for cooking, and concepts like an entertainment kitchen were still decades away.

Open Floor Plan Development

Architects like Frank Lloyd Wright sowed the seeds for open floor plans. Like other innovators, Wright began to design homes with large open living spaces that combined dining areas and living areas, often separated and united by a large open fireplace.

Open floor plans took hold in the post-war years, where formality gave way to a more casual attitude with hundreds of thousands of young growing families with children. Other changes also made the open floor plan more practical since house footprints became smaller as families grew.

An open floor plan began to include the kitchen, offering design flexibility for reconfiguring the space. Homes no longer had space for a library or office, with children doing their homework at the dining room table. It made it possible to watch kids during meal preparation and cleanup.

Construction innovations like steel structural beams, central heating systems, drywall, and cinder-block construction also made it easier to build larger rooms and heat and cool them appropriately.

Modern Open Floor Plans

The 1950s were when open floor plans began to appear regularly, and they were regarded as incredibly modern. One hallmark of the midcentury modern decor style is a home with an early version of an open floor plan, often featuring a fireplace open on all sides. In the open floor plan concept, the kitchen cooking center became the center for social activity.

By the 1990s, open floor plans became almost the norm for new construction, especially in suburban environments. In many areas, that trend holds true today, where familiar phrases like open floor plan, open concept, or great room are understood by sellers and buyers alike and often add value to a home.

Movement Away From Open Floor Plans

Recently, some designers and homeowners have been shifting away from open floor plans. Some aim for more efficient heating and cooling options. But, also, the rise in personal streaming versus shared entertainment has segregated families into different rooms based on their TV-watching preferences. Greater city density also drives the desire for privacy among family members in smaller homes.

Andrew Cogar, president of the Historical Concepts architectural firm of Atlanta and New York, highlights that some challenges come with this popular layout:

There’s been a slow but steady change. The thought was that an open and informal plan would create a sense of ease, but people are realizing that it also meanseverything has to be organizedor else the house can quickly feel cluttered. Closed-off rooms allow people to cut down on some of that visual noise. It may sound counterintuitive, but people are returning to separated spaces as a way of simplifying how they live on a daily basis.

Is an Open Floor Plan Right for You?

For most homeowners, an open floor plan is highly prized when shopping for a new house. Creating an open floor plan is why many people undertake major remodeling projects.

Open floor plans allow for social togetherness. Family members can do their activities spaced out in the same room yet still communicate with one another. For entertaining, the kitchen, dining room, and living room blend into one large social space. This concept works particularly well for families with younger children.

Your intended room use should guide your decision. Do you want more family cohesiveness to do group activities or for entertaining guests? Or are you in need of more private spaces to do work or for valued "me time?" An open floor plan works well in the first case while working against giving you privacy options.


  • Are open floor plans a good idea?

    Open floor plans are a fantastic option to make a home feel more spacious, improve movement throughout a space, and plan to entertain. But, if none of those factors are necessary or appeal to you, then an open floor plan may not be what you need.

  • Are open floor plans losing popularity?

    Open floor plans have been all the rage since the 1950s baby boom, but recent trends with family members wanting private spaces in the home have begun a shift away from this once-ever-popular home design concept.

  • Does an open floor plan increase home value?

    Open floor plans increase home value since more Americans prefer buying a home with this concept. Down the road, if a homeowner wants to add rooms, it's easier to do than knocking down walls since that requires considering load-bearing properties, home electrical, or other infrastructure.

Open Floor Plan: History, Pros and Cons (2024)
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