More often than not, renovation projects knock down walls and remove doors to create wide open spaces. But with many companies announcing employees will be working from home—even after the pandemic is over—we began wondering if this popular home trend will start to lose its appeal.
An open floor plan creates the feeling of more square footage without actually adding to your space. But it comes with its disadvantages, including a lack of privacy. “Sure, an open design is great when you’re socializing or when you need to keep an eye on small children, but when everyone is working and studying from home, things can get stressful pretty quickly with no doors to shut,” Pam Chimel, a realtor associate at Tarvin Realtors in Ridgewood, New Jersey, says.
Chimel noticed a major difference in what home buyers are now prioritizing in a home. “For years, an open design has been high on my prospective buyers ‘must have’ list and has, without doubt, added value to a seller’s home,” Chimel adds. “And though it hasn’t completely lost its appeal, young couples and families are now requesting more closed-off spaces, including an office or extra bedroom, which are things that wouldn’t have been a priority prior to the pandemic.”
Though [open concept] hasn’t completely lost its appeal, young couples and families are now requesting more closed-off spaces, including an office or extra bedroom, which are things that wouldn’t have been a priority prior to the pandemic.
So if the trend of WFH continues, will walls and doors once again become fashionable? We asked some of our favorite designers to share their predictions on what open concept design looks like after COVID.
Traditional Homes Will Make a Comeback
"There's a need for more separation now with so many people working from home, and my own open concept is driving me crazy! More delineation between spaces allows you to feel like you're not always sitting in one room. Traditional homes where designers refrain from taking down every possible wall are making a bit of a comeback. The open concept was kind of already on the way out before the pandemic, which only accelerated the departure. When you're working from the kitchen, it can be extremely distracting (who doesn't want to bake cookies all the time?). There's now an idea of a never-ending work day between Zoom calls and home life, so that separation has to be created with space."—Holly Waterfield, principal designer of The Brooklyn Home Company
Dividing Up Spaces is In
“Design has shifted from a focus on entertaining spaces to creating ‘destination rooms,’ like a study, front parlor, or music room. In older homes, where we had previously taken down walls, spaces are being divided once again and clients are looking for traditional layouts, which often includes a first-floor guest bedroom. These rooms are seen as flexible spaces that can easily shift from remote learning to welcoming guests or extended family members in the future.”—Marika Meyer, principal of Marika Meyer Interiors
There Will Be an Emphasis on Functionality
“I have felt for a while that open concept design is not a good fit for everyone, and I’m now finding homeowners are wanting dedicated spaces for classrooms, offices, and private places to have meetings. We are reimagining basements and media rooms, and putting more functions into dens and offices.”—Tiffany Brooks, HGTV host and owner of Tiffany Brooks Interiors
Open Concept Will Become Impractical
“Even before the pandemic, I've been against the open plan lifestyle due to its lack of practicality. In a recent project, we partially enclosed an open kitchen—the client cooks often, as do most people these days, and didn't want the sights and smells traveling to the living area where they spend most of their time.”— Kati Curtis, principal of Kati Curtis Design
We'll Rethink Layouts
“I do think more liberal work-from-home policies will create greater demand for homes with separation and privacy. In dense cities like New York, where square footage is extremely limited, apartments with open concept design could get subdivided with glass walls or French doors to maintain a sense of openness while allowing natural light to permeate throughout the space.”—Tariq Dixon, founder of TRNK
Open Concept is Here to Stay
“Many people don't want to go back to the more traditional home layouts, with smaller, private rooms that tend to feel a bit claustrophobic. The biggest effect work-from-home will have on the open concept floor plan is how we utilize it. With technology, custom millwork, and the ability to carve out specific areas within the larger space, it's possible to create an inviting and functional live, work, play, and study environment.”— Molly Torres Portnof, interior designer at DATE Interiors
Homeowners Still Crave Open Spaces
“Despite the lack of privacy with open floor plans, people crave that feeling of expansiveness while spending more time than usual at home. Technology like ear pods allow several people to work, learn, and be entertained in the same room and stay relatively quiet. Rather than open floor plans losing popularity, I would imagine functional outdoor workspaces will gain momentum.”—Leah Alexander, principal interior designer at Beauty Is Abundant
Embracing Flexibility is Key
“Open-plan design has an enduring appeal that I don't think will change—particularly for city dwellers where joint living-room and kitchens are too small to subdivide. The differences, while subtle, will be that the spaces we inhabit will become more flexible and dexterous. For example, coffee tables will become table height, while electric sockets will get closer to the sofa and dining table.”— Alex Holloway, creative director and co-founder of Holloway Li
Hybrid-Style Spaces Are In
“Open concept spaces have many benefits when it comes to contemporary living, but I believe there will be a move to a more hybrid-style concept that includes the addition of smaller spaces to accommodate working from home. Multifunctional design will also be important, allowing spaces to easily transition from say a workspace to a guest room, with areas that can be reconfigured with the use of room dividers or moveable partitions.”— Michelle Halford, interior stylist and designer at The Design Chaser/Studio TDC
We'll See Fewer Open Concept Renovations
“I don't think you'll see an all-out elimination of the open concept, but rather a modification. Privacy is valued these days and necessary to keep us all productive. I think you'll see fewer people compelled to completely eliminate the rooms in their home for a more open living space, and instead they will be looking to create more zoned living areas. The living room and kitchen are still an ideal combo that will remain, but smaller rooms and auxiliary-type spaces will be more desirable and will no longer be absorbed into the home’s open concept. I also think guest rooms will become converted spaces, and with less guests and more workspace needed, I foresee the return of transformable furniture such as the Murphy bed and the pull-out sofa.”—Allison Petty, design director at Hyphen and Co.