TimmyDaddy: Wide-open family spaces

By Tim Sullivan

When did it become imperative for every young family to have (or aspire to have) a home with a wide-open kitchen looking out over the wide-open family room? If parents can’t prepare a casserole while overseeing their children tackle a jigsaw puzzle are they failing to realize the new American Dream?

The write-up of every listed home seems to include the words “open floor plan” which connotes updated and clean with neutral wall colors and stainless steel everything. Should you see the word “cozy” the house is obviously a dated, rat infested hovel with linoleum floors.

Our first two homes as a family unit were older houses. The kitchens were in the back of the house while the TV/Family rooms were in the front of the house. I was okay with that. I’ll grant that there were instances where an open floor plan might have hastened our response, like the time Margo gnawed the corner of our coffee table. Still, when migraine-inducing shows like “Power Rangers” or “Caillou” were on TV, I was willing to take risks to be a couple rooms removed from the action.

But like most Americans, we could only resist the allure of living in something that resembled a VFW Hall for so long. I suppose we longed to skateboard throughout our home, unencumbered by walls or pesky thresholds so four years ago we took the leap. From the wide-open kitchen of our new home, we can just about view the whole main floor. But I’m careful not to gaze at the expanse too wistfully or I run the risk of being ankled by Margo’s scooter.

Of course we know we are very fortunate and indeed, there are perks. It’s a great house for entertaining and by the way, that’s what all the realtors say to perpetuate this trend. What they fail to point out is that on most days of the calendar year, you will not be entertaining. A typical weeknight at our house starts with a scramble to make dinner while guiding the kids through homework. They may not even need help but heck, we’re all right there so why not make it groupthink.

After dinner I’ll walk the dog. Kristen does the dishes and Elliott claims the front room. Kristen and I envisioned this as a den of sorts where we could slide the pocket doors shut and get some work done, do some reading or just catch up on each other’s day. Instead it’s basically Elliott’s YouTube viewing station, catching up on the latest pranks or “fails.” Margo reigns over the family room. She watches tween shows like “Henry Danger” or “The Thundermans” and turns the volume up obnoxiously high to overpower the running water from the sink. March Madness takes on a new meaning when we suggest putting on a game instead.

By time I get home with the dog it’s a cacophony of kitchen cleanup and a high decibel Nickelodeon laugh track accented by Elliott’s cackling from the front of the house. We do have a finished basement and it’s got a TV with xBox and toys and a Nerf Hoop and all sorts of things kids might like. Only problem is, they won’t go down there (unless we’re entertaining other kids).

I know what you’re thinking. Turn it into a Mancave, right? Just get some oak and polyurethane and mix it with whiskey and plaid and then I’ll be all set. Honestly though, the thought of hanging out downstairs by myself with a dart board or something is wholly unappealing. Plus, there would be nothing of the sort in the Sullivan household anyway. It would be a Gender-neutral cave open to all or Margo would be women’s marching all over me. Oh well, I guess “Henry Danger” is a pretty high quality tween show and my bracket is busted anyway. Maybe I’ll just go ahead and buy that skateboard.

Tim Sullivan grew up in a large family in the Northeast and now lives with his small family in Oakhurst. He can be reached at tim@sullivanfinerugs.com.

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