Losing the Living Room

by Chicago Agent

According to local builders, recent research shows buyers have less need for this traditional space. Couple that news with the fact that home sizes are shrinking, and the trend toward homes that are losing the living room just makes sense.

“People are so busy these days that they spend far more time in multi-functional rooms, like a great room. Buyers said they simply weren’t using their living rooms very much,” says John Wozniak, president of J. Lawrence Homes. “We are always looking for ways to create a more efficient floor plan so we designed several plans that don’t feature a living room, but instead incorporate a flexible great room that is open to the kitchen and family room or dining room, depending on the floor plan.”

One example of a home sans living room is the 2,019-square-foot Hampton plan, available at Ambry Estates in Lynwood. This plan offers two to three bedrooms, two baths, an attached two-car garage and a full basement. In lieu of a traditional formal living and dining room, the Hampton has a 320-square-foot great room featuring 11-foot ceilings. It is open to an eat-it kitchen and adjacent family room. If buyers want more division between the great room and family room, they can separate them with an optional three-sided fireplace.

“The great room concept is appreciated by young families who like the practicality of the open plan for keeping an eye on the kids,” says Wozniak. “Plus, having both a great room and a family room lets families have a living space for adults as well as a separate area that is more kid-centric.”

J. Lawrence Homes also offers floor plans with great rooms in lieu of living rooms at Tanner Trails in North Aurora and Midlane Country Club in Wadsworth. Homes are priced from the $160,000s to the $340,000s, depending on the community.

Brian Brunhofer, president of Meritus Homes, says buyers of estate-style homes also often prefer plans with multi-purpose living areas over formal living rooms.

“For the vast majority of our buyers, this home purchase is not their first. They’re either upsizing or downsizing and they know exactly what they need from a home to suit their lifestyle. For some of them, having a formal living room that they’ll only use a handful of times a year just isn’t necessary, especially when they still have a dining room. They’d rather see that living room square footage allocated differently – like for a larger kitchen and family room or a den/home office – rooms that they use on a daily basis,” said Brunhofer.

At Creekside at Inverness Ridge, a Meritus Homes’ community in Inverness, two of the community’s five plans do not have a living room – the 2,610-square-foot Marquis and the 2,828-square-foot Kingston. Both homes are ranch designs and have three bedrooms, two baths, a family room, eat-in kitchen, dining room, den and an attached two-car garage.

But even in the community’s three plans that include a living room, Meritus Homes provides options for converting the living room into a flex space to use as a playroom for young families or a second office for buyers who might need two work spaces.

The gated community of Creekside at Inverness Ridge features 27 estate-style single-family homes surrounded by mature trees, a creek, and preserved prairie land. Buyers can choose from five floor plans with three to four bedrooms, 2 to 3½ baths, full basements and attached two- or three-car garages. Pre-construction pricing starts at $489,900. For more information, visit www.MeritusHomeBuilders.com.

Owners of existing homes are embracing this trend, too, said Rick Croce, vice president with Smykal Renovations. The remodeling firm recently won a Gold Key Award from the Home Builders Association of Greater Chicago for the renovation of a home in Naperville that included re-allocating space from the old living room into a larger dining room with a sitting area and a new den.

“The family had lived in this home for nearly 20 years and they wanted to give it new life with a more modern, open feeling,” said Croce. “So we removed several walls, changed the angle of a doorway – and did away with the old, formal living room.”

Homeowner Laurie Brown said she is thrilled with the renovation of her family’s home and was surprised by the dramatic change in the look and feel of the home.

“No matter whether you’re building a new home or remodeling your existing home, you want to make your square footage work as hard for you as it can,” Croce said. “If you find you’re using a room only a few times a year, there is probably a better way to lay out the home.”

Wheaton-based Smykal Renovations has been overseeing additions and renovations in the Chicago area for decades. For more information, call (630) 281-4740.

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