Do As A Designer Does

Say hello to “Do As a Designer Does,” our monthly advice column dedicated to answering readers’ burning interior design questions with some of the best brains in the business. Have a question? Shoot us a message on Instagram, or email us at editorial@semihandmade.com for a chance to be featured!

For this month’s installment of Do as a Designer Does, our expert is Jessica D’Itri Marés, the graphic designer and consultant behind Renovate 108. D’Itri Marés and her husband Tyler Mares renovated their Thousand Oaks, California home using Semihandmade products, and it became our most popular Instagram post last year. Now, she is answering a follower’s question about open-concept floor plans, and why they may not work for everyone. 

Question:

Dear Jessica,

Do you think the open concept theme will go out of style any time soon? Furthermore, which homes are well suited to this style, and which homes are not?

Thanks,

Kat from Seattle, Washington

Answer:

Dear Kat,

I like to think that trends exist on a pendulum: Once a style reaches its peak, it will swing in the opposite direction—often with equal velocity and strength. This is true for open-concept spaces, which have been popular for years now (thanks, in part, to HGTV). 

We’re due for a pilgrimage back to the cozy, enclosed rooms that encapsulated the 1960s, and to be frank, I’m more than ready for the shift. First and foremost, the open-concept design can be challenging. If you have a large space that would traditionally encompass four or five walled rooms, then the design needs to feel cohesive across all 2,000-plus square feet. I can’t imagine trying to pick out a rug for my living room that’ll match my kitchen cabinets, or deciding on a tile for my fireplace to complement my backsplash! 

A lack of wall space can also make for a restrictive decorating process—your options for hanging art, shelving, bookcases, and TVs are limited. Although it may feel like you’re gaining square footage, it’s much more difficult to actually utilize it all in a cohesive way. 

That being said, homes with hinged doors at every turn can certainly feel cramped. For me, the ideal home layout exists somewhere between open-concept and a more “closed off” floor plan. I particularly love large, cased openings between spaces that allow for definition while promoting connectedness. Why? In this scenario, the design elements and color palette can play off each other from room to room without being as beholden to one prevailing aesthetic. 

If you have your sights set on an open-concept layout regardless of its potential pitfalls, there are a few things to consider before taking a sledgehammer to your walls. Generally speaking, homes with high or vaulted ceilings are better suited to open-concepts. Zero walls and traditional eight-foot ceilings can make a space feel even more squat!

Secondly, what historical elements, if any, do you want to keep intact? I’m always wary of tearing out character in the name of a trend. Finally, think about your future self and family in this home. If an open-concept currently appeals to you because you want to be able to keep an eye on young children, what happens when they grow up? Teenagers love their space. 

While I definitely understand the desire to utilize every square foot in your home, remember that there are other ways to achieve that airy, open flow without knocking down every last wall. Be sure to consider all of your options—even if it means going against current trends.

Hope this helps!

Jessica D’Itri Marés

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