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Renovating? Here's what's in store for open floor plans

A post-pandemic to-do, or not to?

Fully furnished modern open-floor-plan home. Credit: Getty Images / PC Photography

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Saying that this pandemic has changed our lives overnight is not hyperbole. Literally, from one day to the next, offices and schools shut down along with train, plane, and bus travel. Introverts and extroverts alike had no choice but to become homebodies.

With all the attention focused on and within our own four walls, what have we learned about our houses and lifestyle habits? How have we adapted, and what does the future of home construction and renovation look like? Namely, post-pandemic, are we sticking with or straying from open-floor-plan living?

Open floor plan was the thing, pre-pandemic

Modern home with open-floor-plan.
Credit: Getty Images / Hikesterson

While an open floor plan in your home offers the illusion of more space, it might impose on your personal need for seclusion.

Janelle Blakely Photopoulos, owner and creative director of Blakely Interior Design in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, says, “Before the pandemic, open floor plans were requested and celebrated.”

Routinely, walls were torn down between kitchens, dining rooms, and living spaces to create large common areas or great rooms where families could be together and also entertain guests in a more casual manner.

In new construction, the open-plan trend evolved over decades, spurred on in part by the aesthetic allure of all things bright and airy.

Confronted with this extreme openness during lock-down, however, Photopoulous says, “People sought out private spaces to have a bit of alone time, and the desire for a bit of separation emerged as a true need.”

The pandemic inspires a need for privacy

Father and two daughters in kitchen together as father is on talking on his cell phone and works on laptop computer.
Credit: Getty Images / Geber86

We've witnessed an overnight transformation of commuting to work into commuting to your makeshift office at home.

The abrupt onset of Zoom meetings and remote classrooms has been disconcerting, forcing us to shift gears fast. Left to their own devices, homeowners carved new spaces out of what already existed.

We saw the birth of the “cloffice” (a closet converted to an office) and other jerry-rigged solutions to give family members privacy, like extra bedrooms converted to office space. Little-used basement rec rooms became prized commodities.

Liz Young, CEO and Founder of Realm, a data-driven homeownership insight platform that helps you maximize the potential value of your home, says, “During the pandemic, homeowners hacked together private space for offices, gyms, and childcare by evolving their garages, basements, and attics. They made temporary modifications to create home offices.”

Post-pandemic, design professionals accommodate changing needs

On left, white pocket sliding door in home setting. On right, man sitting in home office at desk while looking out of window.
Credit: Getty Images / BanksPhotos / Visualspace

In the next coming months, pay attention to the emergence of multifunctional room trends that offer flexibility for different purposes.

Now that we are entering a post-pandemic world, professionals have pivoted, too.

Based on what they observed about people’s new habits during the pandemic, architects and interior designers are favoring ways not to obliterate open-floor-plan living, but rather to refine them.

As the world just now starts to reopen, people are trying to figure out what the future work-life space looks like. For many, working from home may become permanent, so private spaces are all the more important.

Director of residential design for San Francisco-based Pfau Long Architecture (the residential studio of Perkins & Will) Melanie Turner says that moving forward “the open-plan space won’t go away, but there will be more interest in smaller-scale spaces for break-out activities.”

Dens for TV-watching, for example, are seeing a resurgence. Turner says these spaces may be “adjacent to the wide-open area but allow some physical, psychological, or acoustic distance from where the action is.”

A word that comes up often when discussing the future of open-floor-plan living is “flexibility,” as it pertains to areas that you can easily close off or separate when needed, or open up when not.

For example, a popular way to do this is with pocket doors.

Andra DelMonico, lead interior designer for Trendey, a website for home design inspiration, predicts, “I think we will move toward homes that have more flexible and adaptable rooms and spaces. Instead of having specific rooms that are designed with one use in mind, they will be more like general spaces that you can easily adapt to your needs. I think the future will see more homeowners creating zones within their homes. It will be a balance between having a completely closed-off home and a completely open floor plan.”

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