Compass Greater NY, LLC
Ann Marie Damashek, GRI, CBR, SRES, Compass Greater NY, LLCPhone: (917) 623-0624
Email: [email protected]

Open Floor Plans: Where Accessibility and Design Unite

by Ann Marie Damashek, GRI, CBR, SRES 04/04/2021

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels


It may come as something of a surprise to prospective home buyers and contractors, but the open floor plan was popularized as far back as the 1950s. The open floor plan boom took off during the 1990s, and that’s when it evolved into a new construction norm.

By its very nature, the open floor plan reduces many of the accessibility impediments found in traditional homes that emphasize separated rooms and sometimes narrow doorways. In terms of new construction homes improving accessibility for people who use wheelchairs, walkers or have growing physical limitations, these are ways open floor plans can be modified to increase accessibility and quality of life further.  

What Constitutes an Accessible Floor Plan?

It’s essential to understand the open floor plan through a lens of accessibility. Although new construction homes are typically exempt from Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations, elements that improve accessibility also tend to enhance the enjoyment of living spaces. Layouts that merge rooms eliminate things like door thresholds and tight spaces, among others. These are three popular open floor plans that increase accessibility in this fashion.

  • Kitchen Merged with Dining Room
  • Dining Room Merged with Living Room
  • Kitchen, Dining & Living Room All Merged

Merging rooms in a new home design only increases accessibility. Given that new residential property owners want higher resale values and better quality of life experiences, these layouts make sense.  

How Can Open Floor Plan Modifications Improve Living Spaces?

The basic open layout can be a jumping-off point for more robust accessibility. Many are designed with little consideration given to the physical limitations of our valued community members. By rethinking living spaces in terms of accessible use, simple changes can be integrated that deliver substantial benefits.

  • More Large Doorways: Front door entryways are typically the largest in a new home. This tendency makes that entrance point the most logical for accessible ingress and egress. But this design element also tends to limit how people with physical challenges use the living space. For example, larger doorways out to backyard decks, patios and verandas make fresh air more readily available.
  • Hardscapes: Too many people with physical limitations require assistance to enjoy outdoor dining areas and leisure spaces. Hardscapes that include flagstone walkways with concrete between the flat stones and other materials can create a pathway from non-threshold doorways to any point in the landscape. Open floor plans are not necessarily reserved for interior layouts.
  • Lower Countertops: Both interior and exterior kitchen and dining areas can benefit from lower countertops or accessible tables. These spaces need only meet the ADA guidelines. They also double for convenient meal preparation counters when not needed by a loved one.
  • Storage Space Modifications: When home buyers work with contractors to create open floor plan homes, the next logical step may involve walk-in closets. Wide doors without threshold lips make these storage areas perfect for people with specific accessibility needs. An extension of open floor plan spaciousness, walk-in closets and storage rooms generally increase values.

Open floor plans still rank among the most popular new construction layouts used today. They are inherently accessible due to the elimination of walls and doors found in other designs. With a few cost-effective modifications, an open floor plan home has the potential to become fully accessible.

About the Author

Ann Marie Damashek, GRI, CBR, SRES

Ann Marie Damashek has always been a natural at helping people prepare their homes for sale. She started out with a successful business selling goods for people on eBay. "Nine times out of ten they were hiring me because they were down-sizing,” Ann Marie says. "So I decided to get my license. I said, ‘Might as well sell their house too.’” The transition was a smooth one and for nine years she’s had a thriving full-time real estate business that allows her to marry her entrepreneurial spirit with her passion for helping others. With an office in Larchmont, New York, she serves all of Lower Westchester County, with her primary market in the Sound Shore region. The majority of her business is "sphere of influence” with former clients referring her to friends and family. A gifted communicator, Ann Marie quickly builds trust and rapport with her clients by being both thoughtful and responsive; she understands that during the purchase or sale of a home, a quick response time is crucial. "I am very accessible,” Ann Marie says. "I always make time for my clients. They can call me, text me, email me up until 10 o’clock at night and I will respond. I’m available on weekends. I get back to people very promptly. I’m very customer service-oriented.” Her clients appreciate her professionalism, passion and enthusiasm and as a result her repeat and referral rate continues to grow each year. While selling real estate is serious business, Ann Marie knows that at times humor and a moment of levity can be a relief to clients. While she has a laidback and easygoing personality, she can be assertive when needed on her clients’ behalf. She loves being of service to them, and the continually changing nature of the work keeps her engaged and fulfilled. "It’s never boring,” Ann Marie enthuses. "Every day is different. That’s probably what I like most about it. But I also enjoy helping people sell or buy and educating them about the process. I love helping them achieve their goals.” This ethic of service has resulted in well-deserved recognition. Ann Marie has received the Westchester Magazine Five Star Real Estate Agent Rating four years running, in 2015 and 2016 she was the #1 agent in her office, and she’s a Zillow 5-Star Premier Agent. To keep in touch with former clients, Ann Marie sends cards to mark special occasions or reaches out via email. To market her listings, Ann Marie uses Multiple Listing Services (MLS), as well as, a service that allows both agents and their clients access to MLS data. She also uses a Facebook business page and ads to boost new listings or promote upcoming open houses. "That drives a tremendous amount of traffic,” Ann Marie says. She also uses the most popular real estate websites such as Zillow and Trulia. A strong believer in giving back, Ann Marie sits on the Board of Trustees of her church and is involved in a variety of social justice projects. She’s affiliated with Furniture Sharehouse, a furniture bank for Westchester County, which collects and distributes gently used furniture free of charge to those in need. "I love it on so many levels because as a realtor, it’s helps my sellers downsize through charitable donations. I like the environmental aspect of it as well. And it helps people who truly need things.” She’s also involved in Impact 100, a women’s philanthropic giving organization. In her free time, Ann Marie enjoys gardening, traveling, and spending time with family and friends. For the future, Ann Marie wants to continue expanding her business and developing her brand, and she someday hopes to grow a strong team. But her main goal is to stay in the real estate business, helping her clients to achieve their dreams.