Something became apparent to me a while ago I was watching too much HGTV. (I’m now working to limit that channel viewing. It sucks up too much time.) I had the best intentions of trying to pick up some design cues and ideas for my own home as I had work done, like bathrooms, flooring, painting, etc. A couple phrases, usually uttered by “normal people” searching for a home or having theirs remodeled, constantly caught my attention and got me thinking recently:
- “I want/love the open concept!”
- “This will be great for entertaining” or “I really need a space to be able to entertain”
What was it about this ideal that is so appealing and apparently universal to all American families that we all must have these huge open concept main floors and spaces to entertain all our friends and family? Why did this become such an important facet of our personal lives? When did homes become a stage instead of a place to be with family and friends?
Practically speaking, I get the tangible benefits of big open spaces for parties and get togethers. Nobody should feel crowded, navigating a room isn’t hard because there’s lots of room, 50 people can all watch the game on the big screen TV at once without feeling cramped and everyone feels like they’re together. Though my favorite reason, from shows anyway, is that whoever is in the kitchen can “entertain” while they prepare things and continue to interact with their guests. Or that the backyard is “perfect for entertaining.” I never realized this element was lacking in all our lives before. The question that really keeps gnawing at me now though is:
Why do we need to be entertaining all the time?
The word choice I believe is key and signals this shift in our culture which has been evolving for quite some time. It’s no longer enough to have people over and enjoy their company and conversation. We are being told we are to put on a show; we are a host and must ensure our guests have maximum enjoyment during their stay. Our personalities and parties must be fun and exciting. It simply isn’t enough to just… be.
I am not a natural entertainer. I can be a good host and usually remember to ask friends who come over if they want something to drink. Usually. As an introvert, my desire is to spend quality time with people in whatever setting that may be. I think what is lacking in these types of home designs are cozy nooks and rooms that facilitate and create a sense of closeness, both figuratively and literally. The furniture may be situated closer together or a couch may just be smaller because the room isn’t humongous. While I like and enjoy larger homes, I also love finding those small spaces or nooks within that larger space to hide away and be on my own or with one or two other people for a more intimate conversation. This desire also ties in with what I like about being last at the party. It also doesn’t provide that stage where I’m always visible and therefore (visually) accessible. Cozy surroundings create atmospheres that better facilitate conversation that goes beyond the weather and sports.
What does this mean for home design or our incessant need for everything and everyone to entertain? I don’t know. It’s something I need to ponder a bit more to understand how any fundamental shift in either would alter my life and the circles I’m in. This topic demands more time for processing and questions about our status quo and about what should change.