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Open concept floor plans are still wildly popular

Modern, bright and spacious, the open concept floor plan remains one of the most enduring trends in home design. It allows light to spill through rooms and its easy, breezy versatility appeals to modern homeowners.

According to interior designer Nathalie Tremblay, the first big draw of an open-plan, or open concept as it is uniquely known in Canada (good to know if you are Googling for renovating ideas), is the way it makes your space look larger. And with fewer walls and doorways to step around, it maximizes your living area.

“It is ideal for the easy living, modern lifestyle,” says Tremblay. “Each room blends into the next, creating multifunctional areas. The space feels larger and it also feels unified. And it’s great for entertaining because it allows for better interaction between family members and guests.”

Tremblay says taking down walls on the main floor is a sought-after renovation, especially opening up the kitchen and the traditional dining room. She points out that, in a new build, choosing open concept also reduces construction costs.

“The budget for doors, mouldings, hardware, walls and paint will be reduced significantly,” she says.

THINGS TO CONSIDER

Of course, there are a few downsides to the design. There will be limited privacy, and noise will easily travel throughout the open spaces (i.e., you’ll become intimately acquainted with your kid’s Minecraft prowess). It can be hard to choose where paint colours should begin and end and you’ll probably have less wall space for artwork.

If you’re renovating, there also may be unexpected costs related to moving your electrical outlets or plumbing, and you may need to add or move structural supports in older houses which can be costly. The overall feeling in all the rooms will be less formal, too. But less formal is often what people are looking for.

In an award-winning renovation, Tremblay took down walls in Ric and Mirella Malatesta’s Woodbridge home, doubling the size of their kitchen and having it spill into a bright, open concept eating area.

“We never, ever used the dining room. We used it maybe three times in 20 years,” says Mirella Malatesta. “Now we’re utilizing the whole thing. And it’s so much brighter, too.”

NEW NANAWALLS

Some people take the quest for light one step further with a folding glass wall concept called Nanawalls. Becoming increasingly popular in Canada, Nanawalls are not uncommon in commercial and retail scenarios; you’ve likely seen them in restaurants or stores where walls of weather-sealed windows fold back and open out to the sidewalk or patio.

Yet, Nanawalls sales manager, George Wiedenhofer, says about 50 per cent of the company's business is in residential installations.

And Canadians will be pleased to hear that Nanawall's heavy-duty design makes it suitable for cold climates. Manufactured in California and designed in Germany, Nanawalls have four layers of weather stripping on the door panels and triple-glazed glass. They also meet the European Passivhaus standards (a rigorous, voluntary standard for energy efficiency in building).

“They’re completely weather-sealed.” says Wiedenhofer, “In the winter time, you’re enjoying the light and the view. There’s minimal framing.In the summer time, poof, that wall is gone and you’re enjoying fresh air. A typical 12-foot opening takes 4.5 seconds to open.”

The glamorous applications of Nanawalls boggle the mind: ski chalets, indoor/outdoor showers and Malibu homes opening onto rocky cliff faces. Yet, Wiedenhofer says the majority installations are much more accessible to most home-owners.“The majority of our work in homes is in three- and four-panel systems that open out to a deck or a screened-in porch,” says Wiedenhofer.

He says the wall completely alters the room and, like a main floor renovation, changes the way you interact with your space. Says Wiedenhofer: “Our sole purpose in life is to bring in as much light as possible.”

And that’s really what at the heart of the matter, isn’t it? Changing the way we interact with our homes is what renovation is all about – a desire to make our homes a more natural extension of ourselves.

TREMBLAY’S TIPS

Nathalie Tremblay has a few tips for decorating an open concept home:

  • Chose a neutral and earthy colour palette of two to three colours and use them throughout the main floor for a cohesive look. These tones are easy to live with and are the most versatile colour choices for a naturally soothing home.
  • Integrate architectural details such as stone, pillars and/or ceiling treatments to add interest and visual excitement.
  • Use light fixtures, area rugs, movable dividers and furniture as dividers to define different areas by forming groups within the open space.
  • Float furniture into the space and use pieces that are finished on all sides.
  • Select one floor covering for the whole area to provide unity and flow.