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Just last week we had an inquiry from a first time home buyer who is purchasing his grandmother’s house in North end St. Catharines. It’s a common phone call: “Hi! We’ve just bought a house in the north end. It has the typical closed in kitchen with an “L” shaped living and dining room. We would like to open up the kitchen, and are looking for some direction.”
Open concept! What a fabulous idea! As was mentioned in last week’s blog, open concept layouts are much more compatible with the priorities and values of today’s homeowners. However, you want to avoid making decisions now that you may regret five years down the road. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Open Concept Renovations 101
Do you hear what I hear?
One of the most common oversights that we see with an open concept design, is sound. Keep in mind that when you take down walls, your sight lines improve, but so does sound travel. Whether you have a bungalow and the sound from the living room begins to echo down the bedroom hallway, or you have a two storey home with the sound sweeping up the staircase, sound travels.
It’s important to think about where the sound is coming from and where it is going. Whether a bungalow or a two story you need to ask yourself, will your open concept layout open up the living space to the bedroom areas? Will your sleeping baby put a damper on playoff hockey? What about the laundry – is the highspeed washer competing with the chatter around the kitchen island? When planning an open concept renovation, think about your living spaces as well as your sound zones. A strategically placed door or wall will often do the trick.
One for you. One for me.
Just recently we were working with a couple who had opposite TV watching habits. She loved to watch TV in the evening and he had no interest. Not only did he have no interest but he hated the sound of the TV if he wasn’t watching it. When thinking of doing an open concept reno, this became a real concern: where was he going to sit and enjoy his book while she enjoyed TV?
Now you and your partner may enjoy watching TV together and so you may think this issue doesn’t apply to you. However, the greatest strength of open concept is also its greatest weakness- you are all together, all the time. Whether it’s kids wrestling on the floor or sports fans screaming at the TV, you don’t always want to be in the same room as each other. This needs to be a real consideration when planning your open concept reno. Do you have a rec. room in the basement? Is there a play area upstairs? Think through your priorities and your lifestyle and make sure you accommodate these within your layout design.
Walk right in.
The last element that we’ll touch on today is your entrance. It’s not unusual to see North End bungalow with the front door opening directly into the living space – maybe a 1950’s display case or a short wall provides the only separation. It’s not unusual for those wanting an open concept, to want everything in the “open” including the entrance. The tendency makes sense – our homes have too many small rooms. Living in larger spaces with open sight lights is a very different living experience. But when that tendency runs up against the front entrance we encourage our clients to think twice before they get rid of the entrance all together.
The entrance to your home serves a purpose. An entrance gives guests a moment to gather themselves before they enter the room. An entrance is practical, giving you a predictable space for coats, shoes and purses. An entrance sets the tone for the home and when an entrance is taken away, it changes your experience completely. Having no entrance at all can feel abrupt, vulnerable and uncomfortable. When thinking of your open concept, don’t forget about your entrance. It’s like the cover on a book, or the appetizer for a diner – it introduces you to what is to come – a beautiful open concept home!
Open Concept Done Right
At TLC, we absolutely love the open concept layout and it’s by far the most common design element in home renovations. However, it needs to be done right. When dreaming about your renovation project, do it right the first time by keeping these simple tips in mind.
If you need some help knowing what’s right for you house, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We would love to help you brainstorm some ideas of how you can make your grandmothers north-end bungalow into your open concept dream.
Feature image courtesy of a Call Karl listing.