Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Open-Concept Nightmare

Someone recently asked me how our family of 7 fits into our house, and the first answer that came to my mind was, "Like a popped-open tube of Pillsbury biscuits."

The Open-Concept Nightmare -- Ah, open concept floor plan, how you beguiled us. Little did we know that because of you, no one in our household was ever going to sleep again.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

It's not that our house is too small, although I do know plenty of people who have larger houses (and smaller families) than we do. The real problem is our house's open concept layout.

Ah, open concept floor plan, how you beguiled us when we were house hunting. We were dazzled by your two-story living room. We thought it would be great to have the kids so close, their bedrooms just inches away from this central space.

What fools we were.

Little did we know we'd be tiptoeing around our own house like burglars after 8 P.M. because the slightest noise echoes off the tall walls like a yodel in the Swiss Alps.

We didn't realize it'd be impossible to wake up early without 4 bleary-eyed children stumbling out of bed, since the microwave warming up our breakfast might as well be a foghorn in their bedroom.

I was unaware I'd be passing the nighttime hours frantically trying to quiet a fussing baby before he really gets going, because the only place in our house where a crying baby won't wake everyone is the garage.

It's a nightly game of Dominos around here, and I lie in the dark wondering who's going to wake up first and start the whole line toppling over.

After a particularly rough night followed by a 4 A.M. session searching for a house big enough for all 7 of us to get a full night's sleep, I found myself grabbing Phillip by the collar and demanding, "How did people in the 1950s do it?"

The Open-Concept Nightmare -- Ah, open concept floor plan, how you beguiled us. Little did we know that because of you, no one in our household was ever going to sleep again.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
It wasn't at all unusual for families in the '50s to have 4 or 5 kids, yet the average single-family home built in 1950 was 1,000 square feet. Much smaller than ours. So what was the deal?

And then it dawned on me: they may have had less square footage, but they did have something we don't: walls. And doors. Blessed barriers to sound that allow sleeping children to just sleep, even when someone else in the house is doing something terribly loud like writing on a piece of paper.

Sometimes I do enjoy our open concept floor plan. For example, I'm extremely lazy, so I like that I can call the kids to dinner from the kitchen and they'll hear me anywhere.

Other times, though, I don't think about that much because I'm busy calculating how many rolls of 3" sound-deadening eggshell foam I'd need to cover every surface in the house. And maybe a little extra to wrap myself in.

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Megan said...

This is so funny. I remember your house very well. There are a lot of things that have improved so much in home building! David and I dream of having the laundry near the bedrooms. I somewhat understand the concept of why they built the laundry hookups as far away from everything as possible, but really? It's like builders were conspiring against us mothers and our broken backs. :)

Cynthia@wabi-sabi-quilts said...

Funny! There are pros and cons to every type of house, for sure, in each stage of family life! There is such an advantage for PARENTS being able to hear everything, not the children;). How about.... a couple of white noise machines outside your kids' rooms at night?

Anonymous said...

You could take advantaged of that open house concept and do the "Waltons, goodnight John-boy" thing they did every night. Other than that, I hear ya. I once taught in a school for a few years that had no walls. What a nightmare. Instead of 5 kids, it was 500 kids and the noise was deafening.

Jenny Evans said...

I never did understand that. I love having my laundry on the first floor, although I do regret just a little that my kids won't grow up with fond memories of throwing toys down a laundry chute.

Jenny Evans said...

Open concept schools were a product of the '70s, right? That must have been interesting.

Jenny Evans said...

Pleased to say they're on the way from Amazon already. I was so desperate for sleep yesterday that I debated strapping snow chains on my minivan and driving to Target in the blizzard so I wouldn't have to wait for two-day shipping!

normaleverydaylife said...

I think of this everytime I visit someone with an open concept. I like to imagine whether the house would work for five children and I invariably decide no. I wish we had a huge gathering room for parties downstairs, but in reality having that space split between two rooms with a wall allows us to function much better. Our TV could never be right off the kitchen because I don't want to hear everything they're watching and I know they don't want to hear the water running and dishes rattling. Spaces to go where you aren't under constant observation are important for my sanity! :)

Jenny Evans said...

Your assessment is completely right. Too bad it doesn't work for five children, because that's what we have.

We got rid of our TV years ago, which is just as well because we can't handle one more noise-making appliance in this house, anyway.

Jennifer - The Deliberate Mom said...

Interesting. I would have never thought of a down-side to open-concept. We have walls between all of our rooms and I often wished we had an open -concept house. Now... not so much!

At least when they're teens, you'll know exactly all their comings and goings LOL.

Thanks for sharing.

Crystal Foose said...

I think having constant noise from our tv is the reason my kids can sleep through anything! If no one is watching it, we turn it to music. All day, every day. If I am home alone with the baby and don't turn it on, she naps for about twenty minutes. Maybe you could start listening to music all the time.

Jenny Evans said...

Does screaming count? Because that is on all day, every day here!

Carla said...

We have 5 small kiddos and a massive old home from 1910 with doors and more doors..and hidden doors and hallways. It is AWESOME. Baby napping? No biggie, 3 doors between her and awake kids. Toddler napping? Use back staircase so you don't walk past her room. Want to hide from Mom when she calls you for a chore? exit through door #2 in living room, out into sitting room, go to dining room, kitchen down hallways to laundry room, go down the stairs and then exit through another staircase to the freedom of outdoors....and when Mom finally finds you you innocently say, 'Why Mom I never HEARD you.'

PurpleSlob InRecovery said...

Oh, Jenny, I feel your pain!
"Terribly loud, like writing on a sheet of paper!" You are hilarious!!

Unknown said...

I still love your house. Though like so many other things about grandparenting. I get the pleasure without the pain!

Jenny Evans said...

There are so many things I love about our house, too! Ironically, I do like that I can hear what the kids are doing or call them for dinner from anywhere in the house and they'll hear me - it just doesn't work well for sleeping. We need a nighttime house and a daytime house, I think.

Jefferson said...

This reminds me of when my wife insisted that we needed to remove the carpeting in the main hallway that led to the bedrooms. We realized within a day that the sound now echoed down the hallway, bouncing into everybody's bedrooms as if they were right in there with you. Bathroom privacy also diminished since there was an inch gap under the door, allowing the sounds of last night's dinner to bellow out.

Jefferson @ TJ Lamb

Our Family said...

I hear you. I also would rather have small rooms of 2 children rather than my dream of a boys room and a girls (large) room. I didn’t take into account the teens wouldn’t want lights out at 8:30 but the littles NEED that. It was so easy when they were all little. So we now are losing our school room to big girls bedroom.

Jenny Evans said...

That's exactly what we have: a boys' room and a girls' room. Which worked great when they all went to bed at the same time! It's a little trickier now.

Sam Martin said...

Yas! I have two (really) little ones in a tiny two bedroom apartment and muy single best investment was box fans so the baby can sleep, the toddler can sleep and the other baby (my partner,lol) can also sleep no matter what else is going on. :)