My husband and I live in what is called the Heritage Hill Historic District of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Our 104 year old colonial home bewitched me the moment I spotted it on Zillow, and a week later we had put in our offer. Our home is full of nooks, crannies, historic charm, wood trim, a front and back staircase, even a butler’s pantry!
Whats interesting about the giant homes in our neighborhood is that, from looking at their exteriors, you'd expect them to have these grand, spacious interiors, but unless they’ve been seriously renovated, most of the historic homes are broken up into lots and lots of small spaces (aside from the "ballrooms" so many of them have on the third level. No joke!).
If you’re up to date on modern housing at all, you’ll know that the open floor plan is all the rage. If you’ve ever watched Fixer-Upper, you know Joanna’s drill: Open up the kitchen, knock out a few walls, put in a huge island, etc. Many new homes completely combine the kitchen/dining/living spaces so that the whole main floor is one large room. These open plans allow for everyone to be in the same place all the time and make for amazing entertainment spaces—great for extroverts! You’ll notice that even workplaces are moving toward open plans.
I’ve always been very interested in personality and behavior styles. A while back I read through Susan Cain’s book, Quiet (all about the power of introverts in leadership). Early in the book, she talks about the shift in our culture over the past century from a culture of character to a culture of personality, and how with that, we’ve shifted into a culture that is catered toward the extroverted personality. As I though about this shift, I realized our homes, too, are now catered toward extroverted living.
When walking through older homes, I’ve often thought, why in the world would they put a wall THERE! But, in thinking through these trends in culture and the differences in modern and historic housing, I’m realizing that, though it may not have been intentional, these older homes were catered toward introverted living. My husband and I both lean the introverted direction, and sometimes all we crave is a little nook alone to read, write, or work on something creative. That can be hard to do in a big, open room where a TV’s going on one end, someone’s on the cell phone, and someone else is whipping up a snack. Luckily for us, our home has an excess of nooks!
So, as you think through your next design project or home purchase, consider the personality traits of the people who’ll be living there. If you're a family full of extroverts, an open floor plan is perfect for you! But if you have any introverts in your clan, consider that they’ll need private, quiet areas to recharge and do the things they enjoy, in which case, even if you do go with an open plan, be sure there are at least a couple of private hideaways in your home.
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