Mr. Schmidt pointed to millennials in particular as a “generation who crave that social interaction,” and so “are going to crave that open concept versus walling everything off.”
Owners of older apartments also see the potential in a sledgehammer, with an enthusiasm fueled not only by HGTV, but by home-improvement design websites like Houzz, which features endless images of Instagram-ready open living spaces.
“People walk into every space, regardless of the condition, and want to make an adjustment,” said Sydney Blumstein, an associate broker with Corcoran. People “feel like they must personalize a space to make it theirs, and that goes beyond home décor.”
And what better way to personalize than to make yours look like everyone else’s?
The fixation with openness extends to the suburbs, where buyers eagerly take down walls in the kitchen and living room, and widen doorways. “People are definitely looking at the floor plans,” said Judith Daniels, a sales associate with Prominent Properties Sotheby’s International Realty, who works frequently with first-time buyers moving from the city to Summit, Short Hills, Maplewood and South Orange — New Jersey towns with large, colonial homes that weren’t originally designed to look like lofts. “They’re looking for openness that’s already there or the ability to do it, just by opening the wall.”
But do we really need so much togetherness? That fabulous dinner party where guests wander endlessly from the kitchen to the living room feels far less glamorous with everyone staring at a sink full of dirty pots, or smelling the burned soufflé in the oven. Sure, the idea of watching your children play while you make dinner sounds great, but only until you’re trying to listen to Terry Gross on NPR while an episode of “Peppa Pig” blasts from the other side of what used to be a wall.
Then, of course, there are all those Houzz pictures. None of them show what it’s like when you haven’t tidied up in a week and you’re left staring at the living room clutter while you eat breakfast. With no walls, there’s nowhere to hide.
“It went so far about opening everything up,” said Jade Joyner, the chief creative officer of Metal + Petal, an interior design firm in Athens, Ga. “There’s something nice about privacy and having your own space.” In the last year, she’s noticed the beginnings of a pushback against the doctrine of openness. Clients have been asking for media rooms, libraries and playrooms set off from the main living area. A quiet den means you can come home from work and not immediately join the family, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. “It’s been indoctrinated that walls are bad, but they’re not,” Ms. Joyner said.