Open concept has pros and cons

These days, people don't have to be stuck in a small, compartmentalized home if they don't want to be

Designers and contractors are able to take their cramped (or cozy, to some) homes of old and transform a divided house into an open, wide living space.

This style is called open floor planning, and it comes with a great set of pros and a few cons as well.

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"Most of the homes that we grew up in, in sort of most generations now, they were one-level living, and all compartmentalized homes," says Mark Cooper, owner of Shakespeare Homes and Renovations in North Vancouver. "The basement was often a storage cellar, unfinished, with Grandma's pickles on the shelf. Now, there's a bit of a push for a lot of people having this minimalist look, a more modern, more contemporary feeling. A lot of that is encompassed in the open floor plan."

One of the biggest draws of an open-floor plan is that parents can keep an eye on kids in an open space that includes the kitchen and the family room or living room while they are making dinner or entertaining guests.

"A lot of people like that feeling, it sort of keeps everybody around," says Cooper.

Another pro to an open floor plan is airflow inside the home. As is often the case with walled-in homes, air can become stale, explains Cooper.

With an open floor plan, air flows easily throughout the house, with vents in each room being able to spread to others with ease.

"A room with one heat duct may now end up having two or three heat runs," he says. "And possibly two cold returns in the same large areas. You get more air exchange."

Cooper likes the open floor plan as it allows for natural sunlight to reach more of the house, which is especially welcome on the North Shore.

"Quite often with our short summers, and the height of the sun, getting good daylight to transfer through large portions of the home is limited when you have partition walls in there," he says.

But that's not to say there isn't anything to gripe about when it comes to open floor living: privacy can be a concern.

There is also a cost associated with opening up a floor plan, as it can represent challenges in terms of electrical or structural work, which might need an engineer's touch.

"These are more considerations than cons," notes Cooper.

Some other considerations include fewer walls to hang up art, or a place to lean the couch back on, and fewer electrical outlets on walls. But all of this is not usually enough to deter clients.

"I don't think I've ever had a client say, 'Could you put a wall up here?'" says Cooper.

Before you start planning to rip out walls in your home, it's important to learn about the design of the space and why a wall might be in place, explains Cooper. It might be structural or have wiring running through it.

"There are ways around that, but they need to be part of the consideration," says Cooper.

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