Open floor plans are fairly new in single family homes but the concept of an open floor plan has been around for many years, and is often associated with lofts. Lofts typically are light industrial spaces in cities which have been converted to residential use with huge open space and high ceilings. That's why loft open floor plans are so popular.
Lofts can also be considered “… an upper story or attic in a building, directly under the roof” according to Wikipedia. There's more confusion too as some converted lofts (or homes) with very high ceilings have an upper loft that you access by a ladder instead of stairs, and there might only be a half wall between the loft and the living space below.
What's fascinating is that start as open warehouse space, which is then divided to create livings spaces, which may or may not have walls and doors. For example, we recently rented a 2 bedroom apartment in New York City. The larger bedroom had 10 foot walls but were open to the 14 feet tall high ceiling, and there was no door. The second bedroom didn't have a door and you walked through this space to get to the only bathroom, so maybe 1+ bedrooms?
Residential homes traditionally have small rooms with doors, and you move from one room to another through hallways. Open floor plans are removing these walls to create open concept living, where you may have 1, 2 or more rooms without walls like the photo above where the kitchen, dining room and living room are part of one open space.
The loft floor plan to the right does a great job of illustrating how a loft starts with one big space. There's lots of flexibility in how a loft gets designed and often, you'll see movable room dividers so homeowners can redesign their space as their lifestyle changes or simply for a new look.
What's fascinating in the design to the right, is the rooms and functional spaces span the entire interior wall on the right. Wrapping around the bottom of the loft and up the left side are 3 more bedrooms, and then the kitchen.
For structural support there are lolly columns down the center, which is common in open floor plans and basements too. In fact you can see how an unfinished basement is similar to a loft, with a large open floor plan until you finish the space, … another article? Now I wish I'd incorporated the lolly columns into a basement design rather than using them to define rooms.
Here are some fun loft photos showing how various people have reclaimed this space. There are many more loft photos on Pinterest with creative solutions for wrapping support beams with circular book cases and using lolly columns to support a bed over the living area for more living space.
Open Floor Plans in Homes Combine 1, 2 or 3 Rooms
As new homes are designed with open floor plans and existing homes get renovated to create more open living space by removing walls, it's still important to define smaller living spaces within the larger open floor plan. Here are ways to create subtle borders between rooms.
- Paint colors can define where one room ends and the next one starts, but stay in the same tone (learn the difference between color hues, tints, shades and tones) family.
- Custom trim can define different rooms in open floor plans while hiding structural elements. Below the columns (left) were needed for structural support and custom trim (right) between the kitchen and dining room was built to match transom windows over the patio slider. For more tips on interior trim, see Interior Trim To Spice Up Any Room.
- Lighting can be used to define each space within open floor plans to create visual separation. One room might have recessed lighting, another a chandelier while a third space like a living room, can include floor lights.
- Rugs are a great way to define different rooms within an open floor plan (below center).
It's important to remember open floor plans provide wonderful open views through multiple rooms so you want to use furniture, window treatments and accessories that are similar in color and style. Red accessories in your kitchen mean you'll want to include red accents in adjacent rooms.