If you’ve followed along with me and my blog for any length of time now, you know I am not-so-fond of open-concept living. Let’s be honest. I abhor the tyranny of the open-concept kitchen we’ve lived under for the past two decades. In my opinion, the open-concept trend is over, and it’s time to put up some walls — specifically some boundaries around these oh–so pristine kitchens taking over our homes and minds. Now, Martha Stewart and I haven’t been duking it out over our floor plan preferences or anything, but I was heartened to see in a recent article that she is starting to agree with me on this whole closed-concept idea. She is a guru of all things home. So, having her support on any idea I back feels validating. One thing she notes is that when we have more variety of spaces, we can take more design risks — creating more variation in our abodes. I might not want my whole interior painted a bright shade of Purple Orchid, but it would look so charming in a small dining space that I can pop into for special afternoon teas. So, what are the other benefits of closed-concept living?
Finding Closed-Concept Floor Plan Inspiration on Vacation
I recently took a trip to Charlottesville, Virginia, with my sister, and we stayed in the lovely South Street Inn. The bed and breakfast welcomed us with remarkable old architecture that harkened back to a different period of history and all its charming divided spaces for sitting, reading, formal dining, and gathering around to play cards and gossip. The effect of discovering new rooms and having a space to focus on the task at hand was so relaxing and civilized that I found myself studying how that sense of comfort was created. A feeling like this could only be made possible by walls. Our stay reignited my love of period interiors and the classic closed-concept floor plan.
The Benefits of a Closed-Concept Floor Plan Design
Everywhere I turn, even on vacation, I keep coming back to this topic — the tyranny of the open-concept floor plan and kitchen. The false promise of “great sight lines” has spoiled any possibility of creating variety in the home. Think about it. Every open-concept home provides a full view from the front door of neutral walls, white cabinets, and uniform textiles. How can you have variety when your kitchen cabinets and backsplash dictate your furniture and decor? Interior design affects our mood, and the ability to remove oneself from the kitchen (a noisy and smelly place at times) is paramount to comfortable living. In an open-concept plan, the kitchen takes the top hierarchy of importance and has no problem nagging you about the dirty dishes in the sink when you’re trying to enjoy a glass of wine in the living room. Open-concept plans come with more cons than pros, while the benefits of closed-concept living often go overlooked. Here are some points we should all be taking note of.
- Building walls allows us to create specialty rooms — places we can devote to our most beloved pastimes, from wine cellars to formal dining spaces to billiard rooms.
- Closed floor plans provide separate working spaces, so the family can coexist without feeling on top of one another.
- Walls provide much-needed privacy and quiet — no more distracting kitchen commotions breaking your concentration in the next room.
- Just because walls separate a kitchen doesn’t mean it’s closed off. Closed kitchens can include a variety of seating, from in-kitchen dining to conversation nooks.
- I don’t throw around the C-word often in design, but closed-concept living provides a layer of comfort that open-concept plans can’t match.
Picture It: Walking Through a Closed-Concept Home
A closed-concept home feels welcoming because there is a defined hierarchy of rooms that unveil themselves in a pattern that makes sense. Like a Georgian-style home, the space opens up room by room with guiding cues for residents and guests. Picture what walking through a closed-concept house could feel like.
The Entry Hall
The entry hall is the gatekeeper to the privacy of adjoining rooms. It gives folks a sense of arrival, an opportunity to put things down, gather themselves, or say hello before moving through to the next room. It’s like a little hug on the way in. Who wouldn’t be comforted by that?
The Formal Entertaining Spaces
Next, you move into formal entertaining spaces. These areas aren’t necessarily fancy but rather prepared to be seen. They’re at the ready to offer a comfortable seat to any visitor.
The Casual Living Spaces
Then, the family residents have their casual living spaces, offering a more intimate feel that reveals something deeper about the inhabitants. These rooms can be further divided into areas for work, play, TV watching, music, gaming, or even just napping.
The Closed-Concept Kitchen
Finally, the kitchen is just where it should be — behind closed doors. A separate kitchen offers more functionality, containing the mess, odor, and noise of the chore. However, it can still offer casual spaces to gather, including banquette dining seating or even armchairs that provide a spot for one to entertain the cook.
Time to Dethrone the Kitchen
It is time to put an end to the tyranny of the open-concept kitchen, so I am staging a coup! We’ve gone too far in creating an entire home around the kitchen — a spot for chores. Open-concept kitchens put so much pressure on us to prepare the Food Network-ready meal, maintain a 50s housewife level of cleanliness, and just all around be “perfect.” Crowning the kitchen king and giving it the full reign of the home is too damaging and distracting. It’s time to banish the kitchen from the kingdom and restore leisure. A closed kitchen allows us to leave the dishes in the sink overnight and focus on our relationships instead of the dance of performative housework.
Join Martha and Me in Our Revolt
Are you ready to join us in our revolt? As kitchens become larger and larger, I encourage the design world to rethink how we’re making use of the space at hand. Rein in the kitchen before it takes over the home completely. I invite us all to think of our kitchens as still important spaces that can be beautiful and even very comfortable for relaxing or entertaining but also as spaces that should be separate from other household activities. Give us a door to shut away the mess so we can stop focusing on being so perfect and get back to enjoying our homes. We have enough distractions in our lives, and the kitchen shouldn’t be one of them. We need our kitchens to work for us — not take over our homes and minds.
Shut Out the Noise and Relax…Finally
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate kitchens. I even adore spending whole days in my kitchen preparing special meals, and I have a variety of seating options available, so my kids can join in on the experience. However, I do hate the idea of my kitchen looming over me in the background as I attempt to play cards with my family or chat with my friend who popped in for a visit. One of the best moments my sister and I shared during our stay in the inn was eating breakfast in the library. We had delicious coffee and pastries and could take in the view and chat without rattling pots and pans taking us out of the moment.
I invite you to consider what life could be without a range hood looming over your shoulder from across the room.
Amity Worrel is an award-winning interior designer based in Austin, Texas. She has worked on high-end interior design projects for celebrities and tastemakers in NYC, LA, and the Bahamas. In 2008, Amity decided to bring her passion for diverse design back to her hometown of Austin. Her spaces pull from timeless design concepts ranging from coastal contemporary to cozy cottage to Austin eclectic. Emotional connections, functional flow, and a touch of humor remain central to every interior design scheme. Her work has been published in national and local publications, including The Wall Street Journal, House Beautiful, HGTV Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, and Austin Home. In her free time, she loves perusing estate sales and diving into design history. Learn more about Amity.