By Ann Zimmerman

159aRecently, mountain homes feature open floor plans. Areas that once were divided into rooms now comfortably flow into one another. People feel more connected and never far from the views of the beautiful outdoors and its recreational opportunities. While it’s a challenge, an open floor plan becomes the art of connecting and differentiating where nothing is lost and all is gained.

161aThese connections happen by surrendering confining walls and solid doors. From everywhere in the open floor plan, the views are a reminder to people that they are living exactly where they want to be. And the open floor plan makes it easier to share this experience with others. The mountain lifestyle is hospitable, and an open floor plan works for entertaining and takes advantage of all the living space indoors and outdoors for gathering together friends.

161“People want to walk into a large open space and enjoy fantastic views,” explains Scott Maizlish, who has extensive experience vetting clients’ wishes as a Park City real estate broker with Summit Sotheby’s International Realty. “Open floor plans work for entertaining because otherwise everyone ends up in the kitchen area. It’s appealing to families with children because they interact more and spend more time together.”

Connections, Flow, and Sight Lines
Executing open living can be a challenge to architects, builders, and designers. They must make spaces function while having an identity and individuality, at the same time, protecting the design’s overall balanced beauty and cohesiveness.

163Architect Scott Jaffa with Park City’s Jaffa Group has a reputation as someone who truly understands open floor plans and ties the designs especially well to outdoor living. “The view is key to the design,” Jaffa explains. “We will even design decks with no visible railing so they don’t obstruct the views from the inside of the home. I consider the kitchen to be the heart of the home, and it must be able to look out to the rest of the home and the views.”

163aAccording to Jaffa, using the same flooring material keeps the space more uniform and whole, and there are a variety of ways to define the functional areas. But, a key component to the design is circulation. “I always do a traffic flow study,” Scott explains. “I want to ensure that one path leads to another and that there are no dead ends. Our design includes laying out the furniture, as you want foot traffic to go around some areas. It raises considerations like including a window wall to open up more access to outdoor living.”

The importance of views translates into design jargon as considering the prevailing sight line. For the analyses architects like Jaffa conduct, windows and doors need to be configured so the views can be best appreciated from where people will be standing or seated. As far as sight lines within the space, there are some areas where one might especially need a clear sight line, from the kitchen to the children’s play area and where guests are seated. There are some other sight lines that one might like to be obstructed, like to the sink from the main living area to hide the dishes.

Delineating Areas by Function
After addressing the first challenge of creating a rich wholeness, the next is creating spaces within the home. These must accommodate functions like cooking, dining, media-viewing,and conversation. The test is that they do not have the advantage of walls for sound attenuation, blocking out light from other sources, or privacy. On top of this come the issues raised by Scott Jaffa like sight lines and paths for foot travel and boundaries to discourage it.

165aFrom an architectural perspective, Jaffa has developed some approaches for delineating spaces that work well. “Ceiling height creates variation in the space and defines it, and so does lighting like chandeliers. Columns and furniture arrangements address traffic patterns. I will sometimes create two seating groups so traffic goes around but not through.”

Local interior designers have become adept at designing for open floor plans. Kris Ellis, designer and owner of Pinto Pony Design comments, “I pay attention to traffic flow and address it with furniture placement and area rugs. With open floor plans, I feel it is important to unify but not to match the treatments.”
Kelly Wallman, owner of San Francisco Design in Park City and Salt Lake City, reflects on her experience. “The goal is first and foremost to see the space as one. Generally there are three rooms that traditionally were divided by walls: a kitchen, a dining room, and a living room. I always put the dining area as close as possible to the kitchen. Sometimes there is enough space for both an informal and formal group, and I position the formal dining a bit further away and perhaps near a fireplace.

165bI group seating by function. For example, positioning a sectional facing the television on one side with a grouping of chairs and sofa on the other, which is conducive to entertaining. Colors, patterns, textures, and area rugs are coordinated but not matching, and conversely, paint and window coverings match to create the unity the space needs.” a goal to not obstruct the view. “For modern rustic design, I keep everything low, and for transitional design, I allow more variation in furniture height without taking anything away from the views. Sofas are open for flow, plus I do not like to walk in and see the back of a sofa. At Robert Kelly Home, we carry quite a number of swivel chairs and bar stools because they work so well when the floor plan is open — you can turn toward the conversation.”

Open floor plans are becoming part of the Park City lifestyle. Parkites love the beauty of the place and the views, and they delight in entertaining and opening their homes to friends and family. Open floor plans allow the views to permeate the space, and provide more connections within the living space to enjoy the company of one another. However, there is more to executing and designing such space than one would guess. Because they are so in demand, there are many experienced local professionals available to help.

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