For quite a while, many listings have favored the phrases “open concept” and “open-plan living”—contemporary phrases evoking spacious-feeling architecture only a true agoraphobic would shun. The result that well-executed open concept floor plans deliver is the impression of additional roominess without adding actual square footage. Such listings usually included wide-angle photos—like shots from the kitchen showing an unobstructed view into what looks like a distant, high-ceilinged family or living room.
So the prospect of challenging the appeal of the ‘open concept’ idea hadn’t occurred to many—at least until recently. That’s what British architect and lecturer Tara Hipwood advanced in a recent thought-provoking article appearing on the Fast Company website: “The end of open-plan living?“
Is multi-purpose a dead issue?
Hipwood’s challenging assertion is based on the assumption that the advantage gained by opening up ground floor rooms to form a single multifunctional space often depends on homeworking parents being able to occupy it during the day “before the family comes together to socialize in it in the evening.” But the pandemic era has created a new drawback. Now that more family members are necessarily spending more time at home together, the lack of privacy this “concurrent” pattern of occupation creates has emerged as a real issue. “Self-isolating is also more difficult in such spaces,” she writes, “as is quarantining objects coming into the home.”
It’s probably not surprising that these concerns are first arising in England, where the effects of extended lockdowns are increasingly the subject of heated public debate. Even though there is more Stateside optimism that today’s lifestyle adjustments will prove to be temporary, for the moment, no one should be surprised if fewer “open concept” references appear in this spring’s listings.