Long Island Owners Rethink Open Floor Plans

It wasn’t until after the pandemic and the necessary quarantine that Debra Geller realized that the pretty open floor plan of her Huntington Station home was perhaps a little too open.

“We have a ranch, and I was working in what was the dining room, and my husband was in the kitchen off the dining room, my daughter was downstairs and my son was in his bedroom,” says Geller, 51. , who had worked from home before the pandemic and now works from home as an IT project manager for the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab in Maryland. “It was a convoluted noise, and concentration became difficult.”

She and her husband Gregg, 51, who owns a marketing and communications business, realized they needed a way to seal off areas of the house so they could continue working from home alongside their two. adolescents, but without losing the feeling of openness and fluidity. Debra liked. As he continued to work in the kitchen, the old dining room officially became Geller’s office, closed with glass barn doors that let in light. The old living room is now a large dining room. The cost, including electricity and paint, was around $ 5,000, Geller says.

The new layout still includes a den, but the kids have fun in the finished basement. Debra Geller says the family hadn’t used the formal living room much, which turned into a large formal dining room that was more important for family gatherings.

“I absolutely adore him,” she said.

A new need for privacy

America’s love affair with open floor plans is still going on – the awe-inspiring panoramic views, the natural light, the ability to get together as a family. But the pandemic has exposed some flaws – the lack of private space and the acoustic echo in the great outdoors. Some owners, like the Gellers, erect or move walls. Some add temporary nooks and crannies in open rooms by adding half walls or screens. And pocket doors are making a comeback, providing the ability to temporarily shut off an area.

For Maggie Keats, who sells luxury homes in the Manhasset area for Douglas Elliman, the kitchen / large room concept isn’t going to go away, but here she sees a new appreciation for separate spaces.

“Buyers are starting to realize that they need noise walls, spaces for privacy, walls to hang artwork,” she says. “I don’t think we’ll see things compartmentalized, but the relationships between the pieces have become important.”

Open floor plans got a huge boost when they became a staple on HGTV’s popular “House Hunters” shows, which still include a large kitchen / living / dining area, generally referred to as a large room. The shows feature an overall visual of the area, usually all white, that looks expensive and modern. The concept allows parents to watch the kids in the great room while cooking in the kitchen, and the layout is perfect for entertaining.

According to a 2017 survey by the National Association of Home Builders, while people like open floor plans, they also see an advantage in having some separation. The survey showed that 45% of buyers wanted a fully open plan kitchen / dining room, while 41% said they preferred a partially open space.

Bari Klein agrees with the benefits of having separate areas. Currently working with architects to design a new family home in Sands Point, she first told them she wanted an open floor plan, she says. But when they explained how open it would be, she said, “No! No ! This is not what I want!

She says she realized that with two children, she wanted a good layout of the room / kitchen, but also some separation in other areas of the house, for more privacy. “The children will have their own space, a play area,” Klein explains.

“People are really rethinking their lives,” says Nancy Fire, of Nancy Fire Design of Manhattan and East Quogue, whose clients include HGTV and Food Network. “People are discovering how to live together and work together. “

Families always want to have that kitchen / large room space to congregate in, she says, but personal space has also become important, especially since remote working doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon.

Make parts multifunctional

Eric Smith of Eric J. Smith Architect of Manhattan, who works in the Hamptons and North Shore of Nassau County, says people are asking for a more hybrid layout, like a kitchen and family room, but maybe with a pocket doors that would close off certain areas to create separate spaces.

“A lot of it is traffic, and noise is also part of the conversation,” Smith said. “Rooms are rooms, and they have windows and doors and privacy. There is an unconscious comfort that people have in these spaces.”

Still, open floor plans have their advantages, including flow and light.

“My barometer is that you can walk around the house during the day without turning on the light,” says Smith. “The job is how to make the parts multifunctional.” One way is to change the use of a rarely used formal room, he says, much like what the Gellers did with their living room.

For Kevin Lichten, a Manhattan-based architect who also works on Long Island, there is a big call for separate office spaces. In a large home it may be easier, say, transforming a bookcase or home theater into an office, but with smaller homes there is less square footage to play with.

“For a long time we made very large kitchens with family rooms with plush seating,” Lichten explains. “But across the hallway from the kitchen, with pocket doors that you can open when you want that open feeling and close in more low-key rooms.” Pocket doors are installed as large at 10 feet high by 10 feet wide, he added. “That way, when they close the door, the sound doesn’t ricochet all over the house.”

Still, large rooms with large sectional sofas continue to be popular as families spend more time together.

“I wouldn’t say open space is dead,” says Ann Conroy, CEO of Douglas Elliman’s Long Island brokerage division. “The open layout makes the house look bigger. I would say it’s part of the house, but it’s also about having places to retreat.”

“COVID has really changed the look of homes,” she says.

Renovations are not always the answer to creating new personal spaces in a home for working, playing and resting. Designers and architects have some tips on how to create niches in your home.

  • Set up a corner using screens or other stamps to create a place for yoga or mindfulness.
  • Think of outdoor spaces as sources of refuge, even in cooler weather. A pretty, carefully landscaped patio can be a place of rest. Use outdoor heaters to stay warm.
  • Use a “she shed” or “he shed” as a workspace, provided it has electricity, heating and WiFi. Although he had a beautiful house, novelist John Steinbeck wrote in a small octagonal hut on his property in Sag Harbor.
  • Turn rooms into hybrid spaces. A small, collapsible desk can be used in a guest bedroom and then moved as needed for overnight visitors.
  • Rethink parts and their functionality. A formal living room that is rarely used can be reused for more urgent needs, such as an office or a playroom.


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