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Bill Spohn

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Why I Don't Like Open Concept Homes

by Bill Spohn » Tue Sep 22, 2020 4:48 pm

Open concept floor plans became a 'thing' from about the 1990s on, and to listen to just about any of the home improvement shows on TV, you'd think they had invented the idea - everyone says that's what they want, unless I missed one where they said they'd like some potential solitude.

I took a look at what the 'other side' was saying and came across a site for a guy I like and respect from watching season after season of This Old House, Bob Vila.

https://www.bobvila.com/slideshow/15-re ... plan-52554

I can see people with young families wanting to be able to see their progeny to be sure they weren't doing anything particularly destructive (and my option of shutting the little blighters away in a padded basement wouldn't have many followers).

I have spent most of my life in traditional floor plan houses where one got privacy when it was wanted and you didn't have to watch and listen to whatever your other family members were doing, watching or listening to. I did put in about a 10 years stint in a West Coast Modern house so at least have a personal acquaintance with the issues raised by that sort of lay out.

Have a look at what old Bob has to say about open floor plans, particularly as it pertains to kitchens and see if you agree.

Count me as the first vote for traditional floor plan.
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Larry Greenly

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Re: Why I Don't Like Open Concept Homes

by Larry Greenly » Tue Sep 22, 2020 5:15 pm

May look nice, but wouldn't work for me. No privacy, no place to hang art, etc.
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Jeff Grossman

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Re: Why I Don't Like Open Concept Homes

by Jeff Grossman » Tue Sep 22, 2020 10:19 pm

I am totally onboard: open plan is a disaster, for all the reasons Bob Vila gave. I think they became popular because most people don't actually cook so the choice is "waste" space on a small dark kitchen somewhere or "donate" it to the main room and make the argument that you can watch the kids, talk to your guests, etc etc, anything but concentrate on what you're doing.

A contributing factor is that "no one" decorates their walls, anyway, so why bother to have them?

But I'm firmly anti. The final nail in the coffin is sound control. You can't contain any activity - everybody is being interrupted by everything happening in the house. (Which happens in really small houses, too!) But the shrieking kids, the droning televisions, the kitchen cussing, the dog barking -- it's all one endless migraine.
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Ines Nyby

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Re: Why I Don't Like Open Concept Homes

by Ines Nyby » Wed Sep 23, 2020 12:34 am

I love this discussion. Sorry again for jumping in so infrequently, but I happen to be a person who has lived in a 100 year old house for the last 44 years--and I love the quirkiness, the unexpected corners and alcoves and the potential for privacy that only an old house can give you. We have a large country kitchen that is completely separate from any other rooms--adjacent to an actual breakfast room, a formal dining room and through a quaint alcove, to a large living room. I wouldn't have it any other way. In terms of family life (we have 3 adult children and 5 grandchildren) is that the kitchen, dining room, den/library and breakfast room are all connected in a circular way, so kids can crawl, run, scooter or otherwise use up energy going around in this room to room circle which on some elemental level, satisfies their needs to explore and be rewarded by returning to the familiar room very easily. I hope this makes sense. Very few open plan homes have this feature--everyone is just piled into the "great room/kitchen" and all around mayhem and mess ensues. Of course I come to this discussion with the baggage of family history...but I think old houses with discrete Purposed rooms are wonderful.
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Re: Why I Don't Like Open Concept Homes

by Larry Greenly » Wed Sep 23, 2020 12:35 am

Plus I'm a slob. :mrgreen:
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Re: Why I Don't Like Open Concept Homes

by Jenise » Wed Sep 23, 2020 6:29 pm

Hey, that's my house you're talking about! It really is. And Bob Vila's mostly right about the negatives which is why it's not a good family home. But for two people who don't need a separate listening room or a dining room with it's own zip code, who compatibly share one office, who share the same taste in TV and movies and love to entertain people who love to hang in the kitchen with someone who doesn't mind that at all during dinner prep and will even put them to work: it's great. The only time I have a privacy issue is that at night I can't go watch TV when I'm awake. This computer's my only hidey-hole because what and where our bedroom is, there's no place to hide both the noise and the light from downstairs (but that's the fault of the design, it could have been much better). Once we FINALLY get the upstairs remodeled, all will change. Can't do it right now, though. Tragic.

As for no room for art? That's fiction. My house has more art on the walls than anyone else I know. The big expanses make big art and groupings dramatically possible in a way that small descrete rooms can't.

But no offense taken. Bob's points are (mostly) excellent for people to consider when designing a new home. Open isn't for everyone.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Jeff Grossman

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Re: Why I Don't Like Open Concept Homes

by Jeff Grossman » Wed Sep 23, 2020 9:49 pm

We once rented an 'open plan' house for the mid-summer D&D game. This was The Worst House Ever Built. It was so bad that it came with a VHS tape explaining how good it was. The pinnacle of bad was that the bathrooms had no walls; they were just part of the main room. (There were some potted plants standing around the space but... no, no, no, NO, NO, NO, and NO.)
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Re: Why I Don't Like Open Concept Homes

by Jenise » Thu Sep 24, 2020 12:36 am

Jeff Grossman wrote:We once rented an 'open plan' house for the mid-summer D&D game. This was The Worst House Ever Built. It was so bad that it came with a VHS tape explaining how good it was. The pinnacle of bad was that the bathrooms had no walls; they were just part of the main room. (There were some potted plants standing around the space but... no, no, no, NO, NO, NO, and NO.)


Have you noticed that you have to be careful about hotels with glass bathroom walls these days? And sometimes, no walls? Nixed the otherwise coolest place in Nashville because of that last year, one with a Lincoln Continental in the lobby and a real tour bus on the roof (it's the pool bar). No way.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: Why I Don't Like Open Concept Homes

by Jenise » Thu Sep 24, 2020 9:54 am

Ines Nyby wrote:I love this discussion. Sorry again for jumping in so infrequently, but I happen to be a person who has lived in a 100 year old house for the last 44 years--and I love the quirkiness, the unexpected corners and alcoves and the potential for privacy that only an old house can give you. We have a large country kitchen that is completely separate from any other rooms--adjacent to an actual breakfast room, a formal dining room and through a quaint alcove, to a large living room. I wouldn't have it any other way. In terms of family life (we have 3 adult children and 5 grandchildren) is that the kitchen, dining room, den/library and breakfast room are all connected in a circular way, so kids can crawl, run, scooter or otherwise use up energy going around in this room to room circle which on some elemental level, satisfies their needs to explore and be rewarded by returning to the familiar room very easily. I hope this makes sense. Very few open plan homes have this feature--everyone is just piled into the "great room/kitchen" and all around mayhem and mess ensues. Of course I come to this discussion with the baggage of family history...but I think old houses with discrete Purposed rooms are wonderful.


I love your house. Yes, indeed, very quirky in all the best ways--for the family you and Kirk raised to the grands who prowl it now. I like how the kids' rooms are in a wing more or less of their own, and your room is...where? At night you mysteriously disappear to, and in the morning reappear from, somewhere behind the den/library which I've always presumed to be an upstairs master suite added later. Though I love this house and it suits me well, I envy the privacy that affords you. I feel bad for guests who stay with us as I am sure they don't feel this home if private enough even when they're in the guest room with the door shut.

All that said I wouldn't trade my big open kitchen for any other. The original configuration had a wall and breakfast bar between the kitchen and the dining room to impose that difference Bill Spohn referred to. As it was explained to me, it's a particularly Canadian thing up here, obviously inherited from British architectural norms about what/who should be 'seen' or not for people of a certain station, to dine entirely separate from the mess of meal prep. This isn't a manor home--3500 sf--but at one time my little neck of these woods was more a Canadian Riviera than it was an American homestead, and the original owner of my home was a Canadian hockey superstar.

I lived with that division a year or two and hated it; I doubled the size of the kitchen and it's now completely open to the dining area. There was/is no way that while finishing dishes/courses for guests that I want to be shut out of the loop of conversation. I don't care what they see, but I want to remain IN my own dinner party while I'm having it.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: Why I Don't Like Open Concept Homes

by Dale Williams » Thu Sep 24, 2020 11:31 am

I love our old (1885), small house. When we remodeled kitchen we discussed opening walls, but decided against based on historical integrity. I love our house, but I certainly also see the pluses of the open concept. The biggest is Jenise's "being at her own party." If there is still cooking to be done I really appreciate the ease of conversation as we have snacks/nibbles/canapes at some friends' open concept kitchens, whereas at our house if more than one other couple the cook (whether Betsy or I) is isolated. Several of Vila's cons can be eliminated by being a better cook.
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Re: Why I Don't Like Open Concept Homes

by Jenise » Fri Sep 25, 2020 8:22 am

Dale, not only "if there is still cooking to be done", but in fact it is very much central to the kinds of menus you can plan. Things like souffles and complicated finishes are possible because you don't have to leave the dining room for 20 minutes to babysit a timer or hot oven in a remote area.

Of course, we all adapt to whatever we have. I've had both--open works best for me.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: Why I Don't Like Open Concept Homes

by Ines Nyby » Fri Sep 25, 2020 12:26 pm

Jenise said,
" I like how the kids' rooms are in a wing more or less of their own, and your room is...where? At night you mysteriously disappear to, and in the morning reappear from, somewhere behind the den/library which I've always presumed to be an upstairs master suite added later."

Haha that's funny. All the times you've been at our house an never went upstairs? We've got a large (25X20) bedroom with a fireplace and sitting area, a closet dressing room, a large bathroom and an office upstairs. Yes, added during the 1980's.
And I really love the way your house works for ;you. If I lived in a house like that with an endless view of the sea, I'd make it as open as possible just like you have done!
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Bill Spohn

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Re: Why I Don't Like Open Concept Homes

by Bill Spohn » Fri Sep 25, 2020 3:21 pm

When we decided to move, I got a real estate agent that I knew and could put up with (lawyers do not in general suffer fools gladly and an untoward proportion of real estate agents are definitely fools).

I knew her from business - she had sold many of the more expensive homes in our location (i.e. $10 million +) but even though we were looking for something much more modest, she was still toeing the party line and telling me that a given house had a nice 'open plan', the mantra of the agents even though it isn't quite as pervasive an idea as it once was.

I finally had to go out and find a new house myself and get her to write it up (in our market at east, the buyer's agent costs the buyer nothing - they share in the selling commission).

Now where I agree with Jenise is on the kitchen area - I do prefer that to be an open plane with easy access to all things related to the task of cooking (both Jenise and I have a separate pantry area for storage and for small appliances we don't use every day - but hers is much larger than mine!

Maybe it is my pastimes that militate some separation. I am very much into high end audio and reading, so have a separate library plus three main sound systems (plus another minor one in the library) in various places in the house, and SWMBO and I have somewhat different viewing and listening preferences and so need to be able to indulge them without imposing on the serenity of the other.

Just an aside on music - I ripped all of my digital library as flac files, which retain original fidelity and put them on a network drive where they are accessible from anywhere using a computer, cell phone, or ipad, so anyone can call up whatever they want to listen to. Highly recommended for preservation of marital harmony (I also have just as much music on vinyl, which can be listened to in only two rooms).
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Re: Why I Don't Like Open Concept Homes

by Jeff Grossman » Fri Sep 25, 2020 4:55 pm

I live on the parlor floor of an 1853 Brooklyn brownstone. It has three large -- and tall -- rooms, with everything else jammed into the old main front-to-back corridor. A few pics (I think I've shared these before?): https://public.fotki.com/jeffg165/beauc ... portfolio/

Jenise has Zoomed my kitchen so she knows I speak the truth when I say there is no photo of it because there isn't room for both me and my focal length in there. :lol:
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Re: Why I Don't Like Open Concept Homes

by Bill Spohn » Fri Sep 25, 2020 5:17 pm

That's my kind of house, Jeff!



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Re: Why I Don't Like Open Concept Homes

by Jeff Grossman » Sat Sep 26, 2020 12:32 am

Ooh, I love those flower prints!
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Re: Why I Don't Like Open Concept Homes

by Jenise » Sat Sep 26, 2020 8:26 am

Jeff Grossman wrote:Ooh, I love those flower prints!


He was so lucky to find that house. Exterior's tudor just like the previous abode (where he grew up), and interior a warren of spacious old rooms including one that's a perfect cellar space. Plus a backyard that opens onto a river so no backyard neighbors to stare at. I can't imagine him and Sue anywhere else!
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: Why I Don't Like Open Concept Homes

by Bill Spohn » Sat Sep 26, 2020 10:29 am

The prints are antique engravings dating from the late 1700s to mid 1800s and between them and the clock collection I am running out of wall space (imagine how many I could have hung in an open plan house - maybe 1/4?)

I was lucky to have a 14'x15' room on an outside wall that I could spray foam and stick a cooling unit through the wall. But I'll never forget when two friends were helping me move my fairly large cellar and first came into the house with dollies of wine, I said "We put the wine cellar upstairs...." :twisted:
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Re: Why I Don't Like Open Concept Homes

by Jeff Grossman » Sat Sep 26, 2020 3:31 pm

A friend of mine, who was living in a modern apartment at the time, had converted his second bedroom into a cellar. All was well, for a while. Then, the floor started to bend....

He moved a bunch of wine out before anything bad happened but I learned that it ain't all about the cooling. :shock:
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Re: Why I Don't Like Open Concept Homes

by Bill Spohn » Sat Sep 26, 2020 3:54 pm

The wine in my cellar weighs approx. 18,000 lbs., not including shelving (hmm - does Petite Sirah weigh more than other varietals or does it just seem like it should?)

That's just over 85 lbs/sq.ft. averaged over the whole floor, although point loads under the shelves will be much greater. That's double the acceptable load allowed by industry standards. It is on slab with a subfloor made of 8x10 on edge so unless the Big One hits we should be OK.... (and every time Jenise comes by she helps lighten the load a bit!)
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Re: Why I Don't Like Open Concept Homes

by Jeff Grossman » Sat Sep 26, 2020 4:06 pm

Bill Spohn wrote:But I'll never forget when two friends were helping me move my fairly large cellar and first came into the house with dollies of wine, I said "We put the wine cellar upstairs...." :twisted:

Did you show them where the dumbwaiter is or did you just smirk while they carried the cases up the main stairs?
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Re: Why I Don't Like Open Concept Homes

by Bill Spohn » Sat Sep 26, 2020 4:09 pm

There was about to be a palace rebellion until they realized I wasn't serious.

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