The great floor plan debate: open concept vs. traditional. You've probably seen countless articles about open concept floor plans, and you know that it has been a popular trend in home design over the past decade.

One of the most popular questions is whether or not you should choose an open concept layout over a more traditional one. But what defines an open concept? What do its pros and cons entail? What are traditional layouts like? What is the right way to design your home? There are many factors to consider when deciding on a floor plan for your dream house. Let’s discuss all of these topics to help you make the best decision for your custom home build.

What is an open concept floor plan?

An open concept floor plan has no or very few walls separating any major living areas. The 1950s were a decade of significant change in the American way of life. The open floor plan became popular and was regarded as modern because it seemed to represent progressiveness after being closed off for so long. Today these homes are admired by those who follow "midcentury modern" decorating styles, which often include an early version of this style with all sides exposed, including that fireplace - one hallmark characteristic.

The term 'open floor plan' is now almost standard in new construction, especially for suburban properties. The trend continues today as a house with an open concept or great room instantly gains value on the market and can be sold at a higher price to eager buyers looking for a spacious home design.

What is a traditional floor plan?

Traditional floor plans are found in many older homes and rooms typically consist of four walls, a door, and a ceiling. The living room is on one side, the kitchen on another, and the bedrooms are towards the back. This layout allows for privacy in different areas of the house - sometimes even having other smaller rooms for guests to stay in while they visit.

The origin of the traditional floor plan is not entirely clear. In the early 1800s, homes were very drafty, and large families often had to live in one room because of how scarce heating was at that time. The kitchen was usually located towards the back, serving as a source of heat during colder months. Only wealthy people who lived near coal mines or forests (or in warmer climates) could afford a house with several rooms.

The traditional home design evolved and is now typically used as an alternative for those who want more privacy. It's also common in urban areas where space may be limited due to smaller lots, taller buildings, or higher apartment density.

What are the advantages of an open concept floor plan?


Traffic Flow

An open concept floor plan can make for a more comfortable flow of traffic, especially when you have large gatherings like family dinners or friends over for game night. They are perfect for households with a lot of people where everyone is always on the go.

Open concept floor plans provide a sense of spaciousness that is unlike traditional, enclosed layouts. With the lack of walls limiting movement - spaces are more fluid, and people can move about freely without any obstruction or constraint. This creates a seamless design that maximizes the visual space and makes a home feel larger.

A traditional floor plan does not lend itself well to traffic flow. In a traditional floor plan, the traffic flow is dictated by the layout of rooms. You can't just walk through a wall and into another room - you have to open a closed door! As a result, people have a more challenging time navigating around your home to find what they need.


The open concept floor plan is a great way to create an environment that is more accessible. It often provides increased accessibility to areas such as the kitchen, bathroom, and other main living spaces. For example, people with disabilities or mobility issues may use their wheelchairs in these environments without being confined by walls or other small areas. This means they have the freedom and opportunity for a greater range of movement than what would usually be possible in traditional floor plan designs.

Accessibility is more difficult in a traditional floor plan. The rooms are often narrow and smaller, making it difficult for those with mobility issues to navigate without assistance. We are always on the go, so better accessibility is ideal. Not only does it make our home feel more spacious and inviting, but we can get to what we need with minimal effort, in an open concept floor plan!

Entertaining & Socializing

One of the significant advantages of an open concept floor plan is that it provides more space and opportunities for gathering groups of people. It's no secret that people love socializing, so a room with ample seating and plenty of elbow room is perfect! No one wants to be stuck in a tight corner or squished at the dining table because someone else is leaning on the back of their chair. The open concept floor plan creates an environment that is perfect for entertaining, which equals a home that's always full of energy!

The downside of the open concept floor plan when it comes to entertaining and socializing is that it can be challenging to have conversations because of the lack of noise control. This means that you might want to create different zones where people can have an intimate conversation away from the group.

Natural Light

If natural light in your home is essential, an open concept floor plan is for you. It allows the sunlight to flow and fill the spacious design. The abundance of natural light will make your home feel more warm and welcoming - not only on cold days but all year round.

An open concept design lends itself to include many windows with beautiful views! When you flood your home with natural light, there is far less need to use electric lighting. This can potentially save you money on your electricity bills overtime.

A house becomes home when there are plenty of opportunities for us to enjoy our surroundings. You can bring nature in while keeping the elements out. The benefits of having natural light coming into your home are excellent. It does wonders for your mood and helps you relax in the evening time - not to mention it's a great way to see that breathtaking sunset! An open concept floor plan can provide an environment where you will have more natural light to keep you energized and refreshed all day long!

In a traditional floor plan design you will have to work a bit harder to achieve natural light. Generally, traditional floor plans are more enclosed and have fewer windows, which means you may not get as much natural light. The walls often block out most or all sunlight due to their proximity. When we aren't able to see the sun, it can make us feel restricted and less energized.

Home Value Considerations

What makes a home appreciate? HGTV may have told you that stainless steel appliances and granite countertops are what you need to make your house worth more, but they're just minor factors. When it comes to what factors affect how much homes increase in worth over time, people can make some false assumptions about these features that do more for appearances than functionality - such as shiny kitchenware or luxurious furniture items. While they're all nice things you might want at your house someday, studies show their contribution doesn't mean much when it comes down to the big picture of appreciating property values.

In almost every instance, an open floor plan is highly desirable and increases your home's value. Having an open floor plan could help you get up to 7% higher resale offers. These types of properties draw several times as many potential buyers compared to their counterparts. The increased traffic will also typically lead to a faster sale.

A traditional floor plan can still increase the value of your home. A floor plan is just one consideration that impacts the home's value. It is crucial to keep in mind that other factors like location, size of the lot, and proximity to schools are all relevant as well - not just how your house looks on the inside!

Keeping An Eye On The Kids

So, which floor plan works best when it comes to the kids in the house? Both types of floor plans have their upsides! On the one hand, you have an open concept floor plan usually comprised of large spaces with few barriers. With an open concept floor plan, you don't need to worry about your kids wandering off and getting into trouble! With the kitchen or dining room just a few steps away from where they're playing in the living area, it's easy for parents to keep their eye on them at all times - while keeping up with dinner prep! In a traditional style house, the kitchen is often far away from where children play or watch TV, making it harder to multitask.

On the other hand, there's the traditional floor plan which offers more privacy for your kids as they grow up. Having more time to themselves will allow them to focus on assignments, homework, and other projects without distractions. It may be a preference to have a traditional floor plan as the kids get older simply because they can have some freedom of their own. It can also be more quiet and private for the adults in the household when they need to get some work done.

What are the advantages of a traditional floor plan?

Up until this point, we've given you some advantages of an open concept floor plan with some thoughts that may have you considering a traditional floor plan as well. There are some perks to living in a home with more walls.

Energy Costs For Heating & Cooling

Traditional floor plans can be more energy efficient to heat and cool all year long. Because each room is separate you have the ability to split your home into HVAC zones, so you can choose to control the temperature in only the occupied spaces. Keep your home cooler on hot summer days and warmer on cold winter nights.

With an open-concept design, managing temperature becomes more difficult! It’s more costly to heat and cool a larger space which can be a downside to this style floor plan. Open-concept homes also tend to have more windows, which means there's not as much insulation from outdoor elements, making it harder to control the temperature in the room on sunny or cold days!

Better Sense Of Privacy

Open concepts are great when it comes to socializing, but it can be challenging to relax in a space where people gather all around you. The traditional floor plan will allow you to keep your private and public spaces separate, which means you can have the best of both worlds. Retreat to find solitude in a private space where you can study, read a good book, or just relax on your own.

Sound & Smell Control

Poor sound and smell control is a disadvantage of an open concept floor plan. Without partition walls to block noise and odors, the home can be boisterous with the sounds traveling across different rooms.

While lighting a candle and having the aroma waft through every corner of the home may be a dream come true, your dog having an accident can have the reverse effect. Without any partitions for containing smells in one area, it becomes difficult to rid your house of unpleasant aromas, whether it is from cooking, pets, or the toddler.

The traditional home layout enables you to address these issues by creating different spaces that can keep odors and noise from one room contained.

The Flexibility In Furnishings

Are you the type of person who doesn't like to be nailed down to just one thing forever? Are your guests always complimenting you on the new changes in your gathering room? You enjoy change and the freedom to go where your heart leads you that day. Then a traditional layout may be more for you.

In a traditional layout, every space has four walls that can be adorned individually, which makes for more manageable and focused design decisions. If you want one room to be a bold and bright color scheme, but the other to embody neutral tones and textures, a traditional home will work in your favor.

In contrast, open concept floor plans require that the entire space needs to be cohesive. The home aesthetic will remain similar throughout, so it might not look like each area has its distinct feel. Some people love this, while others think of this as a disadvantage.

How Wausau Homes can help you determine what is right for your family's needs.

The bottom line is that there are both positives and negatives with an open concept floor plan versus a traditional one! It all boils down to your lifestyle - the things you want from your home, what works for you, and what doesn't work for you. If you are considering building your first home, the debate between whether to go with an open concept floor plan or a more formal traditional one can be tricky!

Wausau Homes wants you to know our experts are here to help you decide. We have been in business for more than 60 years and have built custom homes for more than 200,000 families. We know what questions to ask to help you determine what is best for your family and lifestyle. Through the years, we have streamlined our building process to make it easier and more informative for you. Let us help design the custom home of your dreams! Find your local Wausau Homes builder today!  

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