Please Stop With the Open Floor Plans

When did walls become the enemy?

Modern Kitchen Living Room Hone design with open concept
YinYangGetty Images

Somewhere in the early 1990s, "room" became a dirty word. That's when American builders first began eschewing the notion of distinct rooms designated for, you know, distinct purposes. Instead, they started touting the attributes of the "open plan," a concept that would grow steadily in ubiquity over the next few decades to culminate in our current state of vast echo chambers posing as interiors. Anyone who has ever watched an episode of Fixer Upper is all too familiar with the sight of Joanna Gaines marching through soon-to-be renovated projects, demanding walls be demolished left and right. And it's hardly a suburban phenomenon either: In New York City, where I live, the new standard apartment layout—even in luxury units that miraculously don't skimp on square footage—is some spatial amalgamation of entry-kitchen-living-dining space separated, at most, by a kitchen island—or if you're really lucky, a pony wall.

Why, I ask, this utter avoidance of walls? When did the noble interior wall, a necessary structural element and blessed provider of privacy—not to mention shelf and art hanging space—become the enemy? Is it our destiny to be forever shedding walls until we one day wake up in a dystopian future, living in glorified gazebos with nary a room divider in sight?

Kitchen and living room in luxury home
Why?
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Look, I understand the instinct to connect the kitchen and family rooms, encouraging spillover of the kind of hangout that inevitably happens around an eating space. But consider this: You're hosting a dinner party and have labored to create a beautiful and delicious meal, in the process letting cleanup fall by the wayside until your guests, sated and happy, have gone home. You sit down at the carefully set table, only to find you're staring down, across one wide room, the precarious pile of dishes in the kitchen sink. While you enjoy dessert, the smell of the main course wafts across the vast expanse, marring the taste of a chocolate mousse with a pungent reminder of the earlier swordfish.

Besides that, what hellish existence will we have built if we can't ever, during a tense moment, ask to please speak to someone in the other room? The home is a space for real lives, after all, not the stage for an experiential drama playing out for all to see.

My humble suggestion: Instead of knocking down innocent walls in your home to allow for a family-friendly gathering place, try actually using all the rooms in your home. Why should the dining room be reserved for Christmas dinner? Why let the living room be a mausoleum to a lost era? Gather in your living room, enjoying the art that's only there because it has a wall to hang on—hey, you can even mount a TV on there if you like. Sit at your living room table, no matter how formal it might seem (yes, you can train your kids to behave in there). And while you're at it, eat off of your best plates. There's no day like today.

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