Few phrases in home design inspire diverging opinions quite like “open-concept floor plan.”
For decades, real estate agents and developers have pitched clients on the idea, arguing that flowing, wall-less spaces could be the solution for more natural light, more family togetherness, and more flexibility in how spaces are used. The concept is featured prominently on HGTV network shows — and, apparently, in real life, too: In a 2016 survey by the National Association of Home Builders, 54% of builders said they were regularly designing homes with open floor plans.
Yet in the last few years, the open-concept floor plan has found a community of people who aren’t, well, open to it. An article published by CityLab last year called for ending “the tyranny” of open-concept design. Another in the Atlantic said they create “constant conflict,” rather than “fluid harmony.” While open floor plans were ideal in theory, these articles said, allowing parents to supervise children in the living room while they cooked nearby, they have, in reality, left residents with angst — and a desire to house-hunt again.
But in West Philadelphia, one local real estate investor isn’t ready to give up on open floor plans just yet — so much so that she’s marketing a home with an “open-concept bathroom.” That means that no doors formally exist between the bathroom and the bedroom, though, to be sure, a small wall separates the rooms. Even so, it might make good bathroom policy to always leave the toilet seat down.
The design captured the attention of social media earlier this week, with hundreds of Twitter users weighing in on the design. Some users wrote that the shower looks “drafty.” Another said it was the “type of toilet I see in my nightmares.”
Still, others said they weren’t necessarily opposed, noting that open-concept bathrooms have been embraced elsewhere, including in several luxury hotels around the world.
The property’s owner and designer, Kamara Abdur-Rahim, told The Inquirer that she and her business partner know the bathroom design isn’t for everyone, but they are confident that a single person or a couple will recognize its “wow factor.”
“It’s about finding the right person — I don’t have a problem with someone not liking it,” Abdur-Rahim said. “... People are scared of negativity or someone not liking something. I think the other way: If you try something different, you never know where it might go.”
Abdur-Rahim noted that the bathroom is in a private third-floor master suite, which is being marketed as its own unit, separate from the rest of the West Philadelphia house. Tenants who rent the space will have access to the kitchen, living room, and dining room on the floors below. The third-floor unit will have a door that can be locked.
For that reason, she said, the bathroom may be more palatable once renters discover that the unit is “a private suite," which she said also includes a “massive walk-in closet” and fireplace with a TV area. Plus, she added, the potential for awkward encounters can be avoided depending on “where you put your bed.”
She added that she plans to soon add L-shaped glass around the shower to enclose it. The rest of the bathroom, however, will remain as is.
“No one will be on that floor besides a single person or a couple,” Abdur-Rahim said. “They’re not taking the entire house into consideration and the privacy of the third floor into consideration.”
The unit, near the corner of 51st and Chestnut Streets, is advertised on Facebook Marketplace for $1,200 per month. The entire house has 3½ bathrooms.
Originally a biology major at Temple University, Abdur-Rahim, 29, said she “fell into” real estate, and today is the co-owner of Hewitt Realty LLC, which renovated the West Philadelphia house. In addition to being a real estate investor, she calls herself a design consultant and draws inspiration from style and architecture she has seen while traveling the world. While this is Abdur-Rahim’s first open-concept bathroom, she said, “they do this all around the world.”
“The idea is about making a space bigger, making it feel like you’re not stuck in one room,” Abdur-Rahim said. “It’s easier to maneuver. It gives a different feel to the room.”
Abdur-Rahim’s West Philadelphia rental unit is not the first time that the open-concept idea has been applied to the bathroom. Some rooms in New York City’s Standard hotels feature exposed bathrooms, as do other luxury hotels across Europe. Even more, Elle Decor named open-concept designs as one of 15 bathroom trends to “keep on your radar in 2019," noting that “showering and getting ready in the open air is awesome.”
Abdur-Rahim says largely the same. She envisions the ideal renter for her unit as being someone “about the age of 26 to 35” who is a “working professional.”
“I think we’re coming away from the age of everything being boxy and being compartments and having these different sections,” she said. “... It’s about to be 2020 — it’s OK for us to try new things and new concepts.”