Open Floorplan | Madison WI | Westring Construction, LLC
This older home has incorporated an open floorplan but is it making the best use of valuable space?

In all the popular places – TV, video and magazines – the concept of an open floorplan is a hot topic. Before you plan to knock down a wall in your Madison WI home, consider how – and if – it will really work in your daily routine.

Home buyers, especially first-time buyers, put the “open concept” high on their must have list. At the same time, owners of older homes consider opening up the floorplan a way to modernize. With the wide variety of architectural styles available throughout the Madison area there are plenty of options.

Does your home feel cramped and crowded as your family grows? Does it seem dark? Is it hard to communicate with family members and friends even if they’re on the same floor? People rarely wish they could make their homes small and more congested. Opening things up is the popular answer.

The modern definition of the open concept includes undisturbed movement from entry to kitchen to dining to living spaces. About 2o years ago an open plan meant rooms without doors. Now it means fewer rooms, fewer walls.

Match Open Floorplan To Lifestyle

As the name suggests, an open plan provides few private spaces. It has become the go-to for active families “with a lot going on.” If that’s your lifestyle, consider these benefits:

  • Ideal for multitasking – anyone working in the kitchen can easily interact with others on the same floor of the house. Cooking and overseeing the kids doing homework or watching the big game are easy.
  • More natural light – without walls all the available natural light fills the space.
  • “Feels” bigger – few people want a “small kitchen” and an opened space provides more space. While the overall square footage of the home may not change at all, it just “feels bigger.”
  • An entertainment venue – whether for the “big game” or family holidays an opened space brings everyone together without walls in the way. It makes entertaining more efficient and more fun.
Open Floorplan | Madison WI | Westring Construction
A unique bookcase room divider keeps the open floorplan concept of the space going while providing definition and separation.

No plan to open up the living area comes without drawbacks. Consider:

  • Filtering out sounds, smells – there may be times when you like to have a kitchen away from the living area. The “banging of pots and pans” distracts from TV viewing and studying. The smells from the process of cleaning an oven are never welcome.
  • Keeping the house clean – the kitchen for most people is a workspace. It gets cluttered, it gets dirty. With no separation dirty dishes become part of the living area. Outside dirt and debris tracked into the entryway easily flows into the living area.
  • No “quiet places” – when the walls are removed there are fewer quiet nooks to relax, read or just take a break. And because there’s no separation concentrating on TV or a movie while children are playing, for example, is distracted at best.

Center Your Thoughts On The Kitchen

Nine out of 10 renovations planned to open the living area are prompted by homeowners who want a bigger, more modern kitchen. The kitchen is the acknowledged hub of family activity. So the kitchen is where you begin to “open up.”

How does an open kitchen define the rest of the home? Usually, it blends kitchen, dining room and living room/family room into one big room. The kitchen is accessible from all angles. An open kitchen isn’t a new concept, it’s been a staple of home design for about 20 years. Making it work in homes designed in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s is a challenge. And even more challenging for the period homes that populate many Madison neighborhoods.

As your plan develops, consider these pluses of opening up your kitchen:

  • Lighting – removing walls and possibly adding windows brings more natural light throughout the space.
  • Ventilation – fewer walls allow warm and cool air to circulate more freely.
  • Connections – preparing a meal doesn’t take you out of the conversation and meal time doesn’t mean missing what friends and family are doing.
  • An informal “vibe” – 21st century lifestyles trend toward more informal interactions. Open spaces keep you connected without pretense.
  • A showcase – an open kitchen offers unique ways to show off kitchen equipment, décor ideas and collectables.
  • Big is better – few people complain their kitchen has too much storage or counter space. On the contrary, when it comes to work space and storage in the kitchen big is always better.
  • Up-to-date – a spacious, open kitchen is a sign your house is in step with the latest trends.

Open Floorplan Not Always Better

Some of these perceived benefits are also potential drawbacks. Consider:

  • The mess shows – preparing a meal, especially for guests, creates a mess. Without benefit of walls, whatever mess is in the kitchen is also in the living space. It’s harder to “leave it until later” when you can see dirty pots and pans from every angle.
  • Annoying sounds – sounds like running water, an ice maker, garbage disposal or mixing cake batter are annoying to others trying to concentrate.
  • Smells – not every smell coming from the kitchen is pleasant. Even with the best range hoods ventilation in a large space is harder to control.

Even with all the popular acclaim, there is a positive side to a closed, traditional kitchen design. Advantages include:

  • Sanctuary – some cooks don’t like to share their private space, preferring to work without interruption and distractions.
  • Filtering – the smells and sounds of routine kitchen activities stay in the room.
  • Formality – if you’re looking for an more old-fashioned, formal dining experience, separating food preparation and dining is the answer.
  • Less is more – when the visual appeal is less the benefits from walls is more: more potential cabinet space, etc.

Consider A ‘Transition’ Kitchen

You don’t have to go all in to update your kitchen and living areas. Another hot trend is a “transition” kitchen. That’s a kitchen that flows into the living area but isn’t completely open. It combines the best of both open and closed design – grabbing the best from both.

The most common ways to separate living space from the kitchen include:

  • An island or countertop extension as a room divider – with its top raised above normal working height.
  • Doors between the space – French doors, glass panel doors or trendy rolling barn-type doors.
  • Partially removing a wall and opening up entry via an arch.

Some of the elements of an open design created to be labor saving, often prove to be labor-creating. A large, continuous space is harder to get clean and keep clean. It limits choices for flooring, too. In most cases flooring has to mesh between entryway, living room and kitchen. Meaning hardwoods have to withstand heavy traffic and kitchen spills.

Discuss Pros And Cons With A Pro

Only you know your daily routine and how opening up your living spaces will make a difference. However, only a seasoned professional contractor knows the ins and outs of making it happen efficiently and cost-effectively. There is more to it than knocking out a wall here and there. It’s a detailed process. Realtors and interior designers agree that a well thought-out plan to open your living space is a prime selling point when the time comes, too.

Westring Construction LLC specializes in renovations throughout the Madison area. If you want to energize a dated older home or expand upon your existing space no project is too large. Call Westring Construction LLC at 608-441-5435 or email us to discuss we can incorporate an open floorplan into your Madison WI home.

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