These days, when you walk into a room, you are actually in several rooms. The popularity of open floor plans has erased virtually all interior walls; rooms with doors that close are practically a thing of the past. Open floor plans are the result of nearly every home renovation on HGTV; apparently, as some HGTV executives once told Ronda Kaysen, a New York Times contributor, the reason why is that men love to see a little sledgehammer action.
“I spoke with HGTV executives,” Kaysen said on NPR at the end of 2019. “And the reason that they are so big on open concept is because it gets the male viewers. Like, guys like to watch sledgehammers and, like, taking out walls.” She added that HGTV decision makers feel that straight men won’t sit down with their girlfriends and wives for an hour of tchotkes and bathroom upgrades if they can’t catch a little sledgehammer action along the way. “It’s for TV,” Kaysen said. “It’s not for, like, what’s the best interests of the house, necessarily.”
I want to say, “No way!!” but I can, unfortunately, see how this is true; it is kinda cool to see people rip down walls and stuff. And I can definitely see how a television executive would assume the boyfriends and husbands of America need a home décor program to have a Monster Jam vibe to be able to sit through it. However, the fact remains: open floor plans are terrible. According to a history of open floor plans in the Atlantic, the concept is rooted in a sexist understanding of labor; one in which women essentially live in the kitchen, and need to be able to attend the needs of their children and husbands without walls getting in the way:
“In one telling snapshot of the era, a 1950s box cover for the board game Battleship, a father and son play a game on the dining table while a mother and daughter look on in the background from the kitchen, where they wash dishes. Open plans, it would seem, worked best when enabling a request from the living space to be heard and carried out in the kitchen.”
Open plans, while aesthetically pleasing (ish) on TV, are also an environmental scourge. Architecture critic Kate Wagner points out that, “the closed floor plan, especially the closed kitchen, can help save energy by the simple principle of not heating and cooling rooms that are not currently in use, as well as by isolating rooms we want to keep warm or cool.” Open plans have also led to the trend of having not one but two kitchens (one that looks pretty and faces the rest of the room, and a hidden “mess kitchen” where the actual work takes place). Simply put, there’s no need for two kitchens!!!! Yet we have now been living this way for so long, it’s become normal.
What might be nice? For walls to become normal again. Walls facilitate all the essential home vibes, like peace and quiet, coziness, and the sound of slamming doors. HGTV’s alleged insistence that men love breaking down walls and creating big, simple rooms with nary a wall in sight is only perpetuating a bad trend. I love a nice wall; I welcome walls.
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