When Facebook was just getting rolling, the unofficial mantra was “Move fast and break things.” When they moved into their first real offices, they won plaudits for breaking the mold for workspaces. Gone were the individual offices and rows of cubicles. In their place were open spaces that encouraged collaboration and modular units that could be reconfigured to accommodate whatever project a team might be working on.
Funny thing, that.
As the world emerged from COVID and people began returning to their offices, a large number of folks still preferred the luxury of working via video apps like Zoom. This posed a problem for the computer folks at Facebook, as there was a constant hum of online meetings throughout the office. So, they hired a fancy design team to come up with a solution.
The design team introduced these curvy walls and dividers that could be placed around individual workspaces. They called it – no joke – “The Cube.”
The “open concept” idea also caught on with homeowners. Most traditional homes were built with the model of individual rooms, generally somewhere along the lines of a square or rectangle, and some form of “8 x 10” or “10 x 12.” When you think about a kitchen in an older home, it’s that classic rectangle, with counters, stove and sink taking up one or two walls, room for a table, and space for a refrigerator. When this was used by a mom, dad, and two kids, it worked out fine. Holidays or social gatherings, however…
Where does everyone end up? In the kitchen.
Open floor plans were created to offer an easier flow to social gatherings and to accommodate people’s growing reliance on entertainment centers as the focal gathering point in the home. If you watch any of the 8,000 home shows on television, you know that the first thing an owner or prospective buyer raves about is the “open floor plan.”
But what are the pros and cons?
The first obvious pro is the improvement in sociability. Guests in your home will no longer have to crowd into a noisy kitchen to interact with each other, and conversation, food, and traffic can freely move from kitchen to table to seating.
This improvement in flow also extends to functionality. Cooking, cleaning, and entertaining can now be accomplished without having to navigate a warren of rooms and hallways.
This flow also improves your air circulation. Instead of needing vents and returns in multiple rooms to keep your home warm or cool, a few well-placed units can do the trick. A central ceiling fan can help to distribute air to multiple areas at once.
What, then, are the negatives?
If you have an extraordinarily large space, finding the right mixture of seating and focal points to fill it can be a challenge. You’re one chair or table from a warehouse. Your hobbies and tastes are also left out in the open. Instead of a dedicated room for your collection of vintage record players, you have an open museum-quality display of antique turntables.
An open floor plan also means that you need to brush up on your cooking protocols. In the restaurant business, it’s known as “working clean.” On Thanksgiving, each of your guests will know what went in to making your feast.
We think that the right mixture is a bit of both. Open spaces that connect living and entertaining areas, with dedicated spaces for the more intimate parts of our lives.
What are your thoughts?