There’s so much to love about open plan living – it’s a great way to maximise light and space, gives you plenty of room to entertain, and allows the whole family to stay connected. But large, open areas can be a challenge to decorate.
The key to making an open plan area work is to choose a simple, cohesive colour scheme that can be used throughout the space, and then carve out distinct zones for separate activities with furniture, artwork and accessories. Here are six tips to guide you in styling and laying out your open plan living space to maximise functionality in your home.
Think about how you want to use the space, and plan accordingly. For example, do you want it to remain fully open at all times, or would you like the ability to close certain areas off for privacy? Sliding doors or folding screens will give you the ability to close areas off when required. Will acoustics be an issue? If so, carpet would be a better choice than hard flooring as it will help muffle sound. Does the room open onto a deck, and would you like to create a seamless sense of flow between the two? Running the same flooring material or colour will help achieve this. Do you have sufficient storage, or do you need to consider adding built-ins or wall shelves?
Furniture and finishes.
To keep the area bright and open, select light colours for the walls, ceiling and cabinetry finishes. Consistency is key – aim to use the same ones throughout the living, dining and cooking zones. If you’re keen to add a touch of pattern or bold colour, look to do so with furniture upholstery, scatter cushions or artwork.
When it comes to furniture, rather than cluttering up the space with lots of small pieces, seek out a few large-scale furniture pieces such a generous modular sofa, a bold patterned or leather armchair, and a beautiful dining table. Don’t forget to measure up before you hit the shops - regardless of the types of pieces you choose they should still allow enough space for people to move around the room comfortably.
Open plan living gives mess nowhere to hide, so smart storage is essential. If you have the space, consider dedicating an entire wall to shelving, taking it all the way from floor to ceiling – it will not only provide a great spot for books, but display items too. If empty wall space is in short supply, look elsewhere for storage opportunities, such as the areas around windows and door frames for shelving, an under-utilised hallway or corridor where you could install built-in cupboards, or by choosing double-duty furniture such as storage sofas or ottomans.
If there are one or two areas that are prone to mess, such as a home office or an entertainment area with television and gaming accessories, look for a desk or cabinet with sliding doors so that everything can be hidden away without any fuss.
Create separate zones.
Large open plan rooms can often lack intimacy. You can combat this by creating distinct zones for different purposes within the space, such as a lounging zone with sofas and television; a dining zone with dining table and chairs for family meals; and a practical zone with a desk and shelving.
Give each zone its own focal point, such as a dramatic pendant light hung above the dining table, a work of art above the fireplace in the living room, or a bright statement splash back in the kitchen.
Flooring is also a great way to help create the sense of rooms within a room – consider laying rugs under the coffee and dining tables, and if you’re building or renovating, you could even vary the floor height between the different zones.
Good lighting will help make your open plan room feel bright and airy. Make the most of natural light by opting for sheer curtains or blinds, and supplement this with dedicated up or down lighters in the form of pendant lights or lamps in each zone, and accent lighting to highlight artwork, a statement splash back or architectural detailing.
Cooking smells wafting from the kitchen to the lounge area is one of the unfortunate – and often overlooked – side effects of open plan living. To overcome this, invest in a good kitchen ventilation system (Schweigen, Miele and Ilve are some good brands to check out). Whichever model you choose, make sure it boasts a quiet mode so that operating noise won’t disturb conversation or your favourite television programme.
We hope these six tips will be useful when it comes to planning and decorating your open plan living areas. Happy decorating!
Georgia Madden is a freelance interiors journalist and writer. She is a regular contributor to House & Garden magazine and a number of interiors websites. Confessions Of A Once Fashionable Mum is her debut novel.
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