The Leisure, Labor of the Open Floor Plan

August 9, 2018
Table with cooking utensils
Photo: Unsplash/Todd Quackenbush

With the rise of the open floor plan merging kitchen, dining, and living spaces, the mess of cooking and the need for privacy are being eliminated from the heart of the domestic sphere. 

Tracking the origin story of the domestic open floor plan in America, editor Ian Bogost writes for The Atlantic that the design was first, "a luxury for the servant-run upper class home, then they became a social aspiration for the prosperous, individualist middle class," adding that in contemporary homes, this concept translates into the desire to hide "unsustainable personal labor," and segregate it from the pleasure and performance of everyday life around it. "In this respect, the open plan might represent the most distinctly American home design possible: to labor in vain against ever-rising demands, imposed mostly by our own choices, all the while insisting that, actually, we love it."

That this is “necessary” at all is a consequence of the rise of the open floor plan in the first place. On the next block or on HGTV, remodels blow out walls, enlarge kitchens, and couple them to the surrounding space. In new construction, enormous great rooms combine hundreds of square feet of living space into singular, cavernous voids, punctuated only by the granite or marble outcropping of a kitchen island. This amorphous, multipurpose space has become the center of domestic life.

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