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Last updated: June 10, 2021 • Home Improvement

What’s Happening with the Open Concept in 2021?

Any homeowner, new or experienced, who had to deal with or is in the process of planning a renovation is aware that interior design trends change. Whether they are influenced by the fact that family sizes change, lifestyle changes or exterior elements affect how we live our lives; some trends last longer than others. 

Looking back on how interior design trends have changed over the past few decades, we can see industrialism, minimalism design styles, and color trends changing. One trend seemed to last for a long while but now has the potential to shift, flip on its head, or simply be altered in today’s world. We are here to discuss what will happen with the open concept trend that has been all the rage for many years. Things have begun to shift in this trend for a while now. Still, the pandemic kind of accelerated the process, and now we have something of a mix between compartmentalization and open-concept.

With so much time spent indoors last year because of the pandemic, 2021 came with a higher demand for privacy despite the fact that living in a big home can have a negative impact on family life. While the open-concept idea is still appreciated at large, when a family of four eats, entertains, plays, works out, studies, and works in the same space, things can become crowded. As many of us started to work from home, someone cooking in the background, children playing, and a dog needing our attention deterred our focus. Zoom calls became a norm and background noise a nuisance. 

Things are shifting, and we’ll see what 2021 will do to this interior design trend. What influenced the shift and how significant will the change be, depends on each individual household, but the need for privacy increased over the past couple of years.

All About Open Concept: the good and the bad

Stunning panorama luxury home

When you enter your home, if there is a clear line of sight to your kitchen, family room, and dining area, then you have an open-concept space. These are the spaces with open floor plans that don’t compartmentalize rooms but allow them to flow together into each other. Because the kitchen is the heart of any home and, most often, the room with the most use, the family room, and dining area are connected to it without walls to separate them. Whether they are big or small as a studio apartment, open concept living spaces are very popular. You might have separations through a sectional sofa, a carpet, or different lighting, but you can see from one to the other without anything blocking your view.

This open-concept space became more and more attractive in the ‘90s and early 2000s because formality within a household started to diminish. The purpose of each room shifted from unique to multifunctional as families began to interact more. As the kitchen is the heart of every home, entertaining your guests while you prepare them a meal or something to drink became popular, and the need for a larger, open space was paramount. Home renovations usually started with tearing down walls in the kitchen or new house projects included open-concept space from the get-go. Natural light can flow freely throughout the space with no barrier to obstruct it. Parents can monitor small children with ease. The home’s flow of traffic is increased, and open-floor plans are easier to maneuver for people with disabilities or for the elderly.

However, the pandemic shifted these needs while focusing on others. The need for private space increased as people spent more time at home, but we can still use the trend if only a bit changed.

Our Lives Influence Our Interior Design

Mother working from home with kids

The highest peak of the COVID pandemic might be over, but the effects of the pandemic on how we live our lives can still be felt. The way we interact with each other at home and how we use the space affects our interior design, and the open-concept trend is taking the hard blow. It’s not like the open floor plan is out the door entirely, but the concept will suffer some changes.

If before 2020, having the kitchen, family room, and dining room in an open-space concept was the go-to interior design trend, things changed. Because of the pandemic, many people had to work from home. Children had to study from home, university students returned to live with their parents for a reduced cost of living, and the open-space concept had even more uses than before. A zoom call in the family room while someone is cooking in the kitchen and the children are studying in the dining area isn’t ideal. When we work, study, or work out, we need space to focus. The open floor plan can not offer the amount of privacy necessary for that. 

Nowadays, we need a space to work, an area to exercise, a room where our children can study. The open floor plan isn’t ideal for all those scenarios, especially if they happen simultaneously. We are accustomed to relaxing in our family room, together or individually. Our kitchen is for cooking and entertaining guests, while our dining space is for eating and entertaining. But you need an office to work or study, and a separate room to exercise. The entertainment area can not also be your work area because it confuses our mindset. It’s not easy to get into the right mindset to work in a space that is used for unwinding. 

Because of this, we will see a change in the open-space concept. While walls might not instantly make a comeback, other means of creating privacy will be applied. With so many of us working remotely, we will need task and activity dedicated areas. The psychology of color and light are both great ways to increase the level of functionality in any home, add comfort to an armchair, focus on desk space and use the colors that will maximize your productivity or comfort level accordingly.

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In 2021 we Focus on How we Use Space

Modern retro composition of living room interior

When 2020 rolled in with the pandemic, many of us were in lockdown or under imposed limitations for activities outside our homes. Even if we didn’t have bars on our windows and locks on our doors, we started to spend a lot more time indoors than before. We began to work, study, and exercise from home, so how we used our homes changed.

The interior design started to change because our needs changed. Even if walls didn’t start to appear to separate every room, the need for privacy grew. The need for outdoor amenities also grew to help ease our minds from the stress of the pandemic. This need for privacy is not likely to diminish because now, with the pandemic so close behind us and not entirely gone, we became aware that our homes might need more functionality and flexibility. The use of the space we have available needs to be increased. The open-floor concept, while flexible in some kinds of activities, is limited in others. During 2020 and 2021, people are gravitating towards office spaces in their homes more than ever before. Nowadays, we need to know that, if necessary, we have an area with enough privacy that we have no problems working from home. People looking into buying their first home or moving into a new one request an office space where they can work, while those who already bought homes are looking into compartmentalizing their home to allow for a private office space.

Similarly, because we spend more time indoors the need for a clean aspect grew, and we also evolved into amateur chefs. With few walls in an open-floor concept, the lack of storage space grew. Open shelves became less practical as the more time we spend indoors, the more clutter seems to expand. The art of Konmari can come in handy, but if that fails, open storage might no longer be the best option. Storage space has been a priority as of 2021, with 94% of homeowners who consider renovating are planning to increase theirs.

Regarding other elements of interior design, the need for comfort increased as the need for nature grew. With so much time spent indoors, we are seeking ways to bring the outdoors into our homes. This can easily be done through materials such as wood, metal, cotton, rattan, and plants.  A few flowers scattered around the home can add to a more natural interior design style when we cannot go out in nature. The Hygge concept can help you transform your home into an oasis of comfort that you don’t want to escape from. 

The types of items purchased changed as well, with more people looking into sustainable options, maker-made gaining traction while fast furniture is losing its appeal. As our rooms serve multi-functional purposes, adding accent furniture representing you and your style will personalize your home to fit you better. Some of 2021 furniture trends showcase how and why these changes happened, and if you’re planning to renovate your home, it might be helpful to shy away from large sectionals and lean towards a softer design style.

Is Open Concept out the Door?

Modern boho interior of open room

Having been the go-to trend for so many years, it’s unlikely that the open-floor concept will just disappear quietly. Besides the fact that completely undoing an open-floor plan is incredibly costly, things might change back as interior design trends do after a few years. As we are still dealing with the after-effects of the pandemic and, while things are improving, they aren’t 100% like they used to be, alternatives for walls are available for a lower cost.

In the 20th century, homes were large boxes with smaller boxes arranged inside them for rooms connected with doors and hallways. However, in the 50s and 60s, the open concept was pioneered, and there were fewer smaller boxes in one large box. The kitchen was opened up towards the family room and dining room, opening up space and allowing the rooms to flow into each other. With the changes brought about by last year, around 25% of homeowners turned to their interior designers to help them close off their open concept living spaces. The need for private space to work grew as they worked from home. Homeowners began to look into ways to separate rooms. Walls aren’t the prime choice, however, because of their cost and invariability.

While drywall is relatively easy to install, their installation can be expensive and, once up, are costly to take down. Another con for drywall is that they can take 2 to 4 days to install, depending on the size of the project and style. Glass is a great alternative to separate a space. It provides a closed space that is not entirely separated from the rest of the area while also giving the option for curtains or blinds to increase privacy. It also provides a sound barrier but not completely, allowing one to work, while also being somewhat aware of what is happening in the rest of the house. The best thing about choosing glass to limit an area is that it takes between 3 or 4 days to install and even less to take down.

Room dividers are another alternative to walls if the homeowner only needs to limit the space visually. However, when it comes to sound barriers, they are not a viable option. The same applies to curtains as they limit the area visually but not entirely. However, if you do decide to add more walls, other design opportunities will open up, like creating an accent wall. If the room is not an open concept living space, one smaller wall can be spiced up without changing your entire floor. Wall art, bold colors, or wallpaper work perfectly in an office space, especially if you want to have a good background for your zoom calls.

Conclusion

While the pandemic significantly impacted the open living space concept, that doesn’t mean that the trend will be obsolete. A possible outcome of this transition will be a combination of open space with more delineation of areas. This happy medium will allow us to enjoy our open space with natural light flowing through most of the floor plan freely while also giving us the private areas we need for work and other activities. Modern families change and the way in which they use their homes changes. Because of that, the way our homes are organized will also change to fit the current needs. Children need more privacy, and parents need an area where they can work undisturbed. This new type of open concept is the solution we’ve been looking for. Chances are, this type of space organization will be around for many years to come, maybe as many as the original open concept home we have loved for so many years.

Let us know in the comments section below what you plan on doing with your interior design in the post-pandemic period. Will you build walls to provide privacy or leave it as is? We’re curious to know if you have any questions about the subject or if you’d like to find out more. Like & Share this article with friends and family planning to improve the way they use their home.

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