Sick of Open Floor Plans? Try These 5 Tricks to Separate Your Space!!!
By Jamie Wiebe
We're blaming the Property Brothers.
For what, you might ask? Well, lots of things. For playing bait and switch with stunning new homes early in every episode. ("You like this house? Well, you can't afford this house!") For overusing the color blue and all its various shades. For being just a bit too tall and good-looking.
But here's what we're most blaming them for right now: Every time they see a wall and tell their (TV) clients to "tear it down," it teaches one more homeowner that open floor plans are the only floor plans.
Sure, open floor plans have their place. A tiny kitchen feels much more expansive with one less wall; a cramped layout gains a big boost when you blend it together. And if you're a big entertainer, that über-buzzword—flow—really means something.
For everyone else? You might want to think again. Open floor plans are terrible for families who like to do their own thing (you can't watch TV with someone banging pots and pans in the kitchen) or who have loud children. There's no privacy in an open floor plan; there's no separation of space.
And they can be seriously hard to decorate, especially for the novice designer.
"I find the trend toward an open floor plan is changing a bit these days," says William J. Hirsch Jr., an architect and author of “Designing Your Perfect House.” "People seem to be looking for more definition of the rooms, although they still like to retain the 'shared space' aspect of the open plan."
We're not the only ones looking forward to the end of open floor plans. The Wall Street Journal has been banging that drum since 2012, and a recent survey of U.K. designers indicates a shift toward "broken-plan" homes, with partitions and split-level floors.
Are you eager to close off your home just a bit, but unsure about installing walls? Here are five architectural and design solutions to rebel against the open floor plan and separate your space—without ever having to deal with the disaster that is drywall.
1. Add ceiling beams
The simplest dividers don't touch the floor at all. Not only is it trendy to add wooden ceiling beams stained with a contrasting color, but beams create clear divisions between living spaces, helping you differentiate your kids' playroom from your formal living area.
"To create a sense of separation while keeping the spaces open, I'll often drop a beam from the ceiling at the edge of the room," Hirsch says. "But any kind of ceiling detail will define the edges of the spaces."
Depending on your ceiling, you can use a single beam or stretch several across a single space to create a box-beam effect. If you're lucky enough to have a vaulted roof, consider installing a decorative archway.
2. Use color
Using different hues is a simple way to form some separation between spaces.
Not handy enough to hammer in some beams? Try using color for definition.
Stutzman recommends choosing two or three colors for each section of the home, making sure each area shares a shade to ensure a smooth transition between spaces. For example, try gray, aqua, and white for the living room, but paint the kitchen in gray and yellow to distinguish it without clashing.
"These color palettes can exist next to each, but also define the areas as separate spaces," she says.
3. Install columns
Want a little grandeur with your room separation? Columns might be the answer.
Another architectural option: Add columns. These can stretch from floor to ceiling, or meet your dropped beams to create an archway effect between the different areas.
"This kind of detail implies a structural separation between the rooms, even if the columns are fairly far apart," Hirsch says.
Just make sure there's enough space between your columns to preserve that blessed "flow." This is especially handy for entertaining: If you're hosting a large party, a wide opening between columns lets you still extend the table into the neighboring space, Hirsch says. It's the best of both worlds: openness without endlessness; definition without walls.
4. Put in french doors
But maybe you should add walls. Hear us out: Do you really all want to live in the same room? Really? Really? The ability to shut out your husband's hockey game and your teenager's Mario Kart marathon is priceless.
But you can still keep that open-space feel, even with some drywall between your spaces. Try adding french doors, letting the home feel open when necessary and closed-off when you're dying for privacy.
5. Set up bookcases
Of course, there's an easier way to divide spaces without going full-wall: Add open-backed bookcases, also called étagères (the French were really into dividing open spaces, it seems).
"Bookcases are a fantastic way to create separate zones in an open floor plan without making the space feel closed in," Stutzman says.
Choose a material that fits your space—you can go with wood, metal, or glass—and make sure the shelving looks just as gorgeous from either side.
While all of these measures are gorgeous ways to make your open floor plan feel a little less so, there's no reason to avoid going whole-hog. Be brave! Reinstall those torn-down walls. We built homes with separation for a reason, once—maybe it's time to remember why.
Even if the Property Brothers disagree.