Open concept vs. Traditional layout: which is better?


Open floor plans have been the dominant trend in new construction since the 1990s, and they have also been the focus of many renovation projects in older homes. Turn on any home design TV show and you’ll likely see potential buyers talking about knocking down walls and joining the living room, dining room, and kitchen into one big “big room.”

However, COVID-19 has brought about a lot of changes, including more time spent at home – living, working, studying, etc. With a desire for more separation and privacy, REALTORS® have seen an increase in the number of buyers turning away from the open concept and instead looking for a more traditional layout.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each of these designs.

The open floor plan

An open floor plan refers to two or more common rooms (kitchen, living room, and / or dining room) joined together to form a much larger space.

Open concept floor plans are paired with a more modern design style. And because they often include higher ceilings and large windows, the open concept home can appear lighter, brighter, and much more spacious.

This arrangement has long been desired by families because it allows them to easily spend time together while working on different activities. Kids can do their homework at the dining room table while their parents cook dinner in the kitchen. A parent can do the dishes or store groceries in the kitchen while easily keeping an eye on a toddler playing in the living room.

Open floor plans are also appreciated by those who entertain. For example, while celebrating Thanksgiving, the host can easily work in the kitchen and still feel connected to guests chatting in the dining room or watching football in the living room.

However, there are a few drawbacks to living in an open concept. While this arrangement may make a space appear larger, it is possible that it is too large. Achieving a “warm and cozy” look can be difficult with a large open space. Plus, heating or cooling a large space can add to your energy bills.

The sound of an open floor plan can be problematic. Sounds from kitchen appliances and living room entertainment such as a television may conflict.

Realtor Amanda LaVoie with Inspired Home Real Estate and Staging says another downside to the open concept floor plan is that the kitchen is always on display.

“We’re spending more time at home and our kitchens are being used more and more, which means they’re probably a bit messier than they were in the past,” she said. “Not only can it be embarrassing when guests come, but it can also be awkward for owners who like things to be clean and tidy. For some people, it is difficult to relax in the living room when you can clearly see a pile of dirty dishes on the kitchen counter.

And while usability is an advantage of the open layout, it also means there is a lack of privacy. This can be a problem in today’s environment with so many people working from home. If you are working on the computer at the dining room table while your kids are attending a virtual school or watching TV, it can be really annoying.

The traditional layout

With the traditional layout, the walls separate most of the common areas, including the kitchen, living room and dining room. Sometimes doors are present between rooms and other times there are only doors without doors. Either way, the pieces are distinct and separate and LaVoie says the separation is what attracts buyers today.

“The needs have changed and buyers are looking for different ‘spaces’,” she said. “They need a desk, maybe a practice space, a room for their children’s homeschooling, or just a place to relax and read a book. Having multiple closed rooms not only provides privacy, but also allows homeowners to tailor each space to their specific needs.

A big concern with so many walls is that a house can appear smaller and visually “chopped up”. However, it can also have the effect of making the rooms more comfortable and warmer. And the separation can also be a design advantage. In an open concept home, the whole area should be cohesive, which can be more difficult to design. In a closed floor plan, each room can be individually styled, giving you more options.

While buyers may want more walls than just a year ago, they don’t necessarily want all walls. LaVoie says a “hybrid” approach is what many buyers are looking for and something she says builders and designers today are starting to implement.

“There is a new demand for a layout that incorporates separate rooms and open spaces, allowing people to come together, but also the possibility of having privacy when needed,” she said. . “For many, the ideal floor plan is a partial open concept approach where there is at least one downstairs room with a closed door for an office, library, classroom, etc. life.”

Each of these layout options has its pros and cons, so it’s important to think about your lifestyle and needs when determining which route to take. A professional real estate agent can walk you through the process and you can find a list of experienced local agents by visiting the Greater Lansing Association of REALTORS® website at


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