Well performing recreational open spaces (ROSs) are essential amenities that improve the quality of urban life in the context of rapid urbanization prevalent in developing nations. In Indian cities, the quantity and quality of recreational amenities like parks and playgrounds do not compare well with global standards. Design interventions that are undertaken while developing ROSs significantly impact their value in terms of attractiveness, accessibility, and usability. To evaluate this impact, an empirical survey of select ROSs was conducted in Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Chennai. The analysis revealed the dichotomous nature of design interventions. Multiple interventions or ‘too much design’ resulted in the open space losing its ‘openness’ and allowed only an orchestrated use of space. Whereas the lack of any intentional intervention or ‘too little design’ resulted in informality, which made the open space susceptible to encroachment. Using photographic evidence, this essay illustrates the dichotomous nature of design intervention affecting the use value of ROSs in urban India.