Open Floor Plan Decorating

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Open floor plans consist of a single space acting as multiple rooms. This approach offers a larger feel, allows easy access, and gives more natural lighting to your living room and dining space. It is no wonder that this layout is trending. Over the years, I have discovered that decorating and furnishing an open floor plan is not the same as furnishing conventional spaces.

Decorating a large open space can be harder than it seems

You may think it should be simpler to decorate one large open floor plan rather than several smaller rooms, but that's usually not the case. This is because you are blending what would be different rooms into one large area with no walls. The furniture and finishes in each space must complement each other and flow together, which isn't as true for traditional layouts. More importantly, you have to delve much deeper into space planning. You must ensure that people can move around the space efficiently and naturally.

Begin with my tips and then check out some examples to get you inspired.

1. Start with space planning

The first and maybe most important of my tips and ideas. Furnishing an open floor plan means you need to have a plan in place. If not, each of the areas might look like a messy jumble. My advice to clients is to create a designated zone for each function. You'll need to map out each distinct area, including the kitchen, living area, and any other spaces such as a foyer. Some of your planning will be done for you. After all, it's clear what space your kitchen occupies. However, when it comes to your dining and living areas, your home may present no clear boundaries. It's up to you to create them.

Open concept space planning tips

  • Before you purchase any furniture, determine how big each zone is.
  • Don't just use your existing furniture or pick out furniture at random and try to fit it all in your great room.
  • Choose furniture to fit within the zones you have mapped out.
  • Avoid placing furniture right up against the walls. Give your layout space to breathe!

How can I ensure good flow in an open floor plan?

  • Use pencil and paper or an online tool to draw a simple floorplan.
  • Use masking tape to fill your room with imaginary furniture.
  • Pay special attention to leaving sufficient space for people to walk between areas. I recommend aisles of at least 3 feet, with 4 feet being even more comfortable.
  • A big challenge is circulation. Try to avoid floor plans that have the foot path cutting through the sitting area.
  • If you get stuck, enlist the help of a professional interior designer. Even a short consultation may help you avoid costly errors and years of annoyance navigating a layout with poor ergonomics.

See also: The One Thing You Need to Know About Great Kitchen Design

2. Plan for storage

Almost as important as space planning is planning for storage needs. Look for living room storage options like opening ottomans, a sofa with hidden storage, and built-in cabinets or shelving. You'll want to take advantage of the limited walls you have since an expansive living space will ideally have just four walls. A large sofa with hidden storage is perfect for holding blankets, holiday décor, or board games. You can store extra dishes and bar items in a hutch placed in the living and dining areas.

Earth Tones

This minimalist interior seamlessly blends earth tones and neutrals for a calming whole.

Open Farmhouse

Image: Magnolia

I just love this refined farmhouse style that retains a few shabby chic elements but adds a modern edge with materials like black-painted steel and rich leather.

Partial Partition

This half-wall of slatted wooden partitions does so much to separate the living room and dining room areas, yet these two rooms remain visually connected. Brilliant design!

Paint Divider

Here's a bold way to delineate spaces: Bisect a room with contrasting paint colors. This small dining room gains immense presence with its eye-catching slash of bold black paint.

3. Use consistent themes

The zones in your open plan need to feel distinct, but they also need to work together visually. Therefore, having elements of uniformity throughout the space is paramount. Multiple color palettes could complicate an open plan home and make it look busy. Though different elements will need to be used in each area, these elements need to offer continuity. Pick one to three shades, materials, or shapes that can be incorporated into each zone. 

4. Introduce new furniture for in-kitchen dining

If you're moving into an open concept home after living in a traditional house, you may not be able to successfully incorporate all of your old pieces. Your new space will feel more expansive, but it might actually be smaller than what you had. For example, you may be giving up a full dining room for some form of kitchen dining, like an island, banquette, small table, or some combination. You may have to trade in your formal dining set for counter-height stools or other furniture.

See also: 10 Mid-Century Modern Home Accessories on Amazon

Boho Theme

Open floor plans do best when they have a bright theme. This can open up the area even more. Adding touches of wood and plants to each of the areas gives off a fresh cozy feel.

Modern Luxury

Image: Fresh Start

This family went with a warm luxurious theme by blending cremes, stone, and metal accents into their open floor plan, making the areas blend seamlessly.

Pendant Lighting

The dining area should have a different look and feel to it when it comes to lighting. This makes the area look intimate. Dimly lit globes like the photo above will work just fine.

Statement Pieces

Image: 2id Interiors

A large statement piece will help create any mood your heart desires. One statement piece is all you need to leave a lasting impression on your guests.

5. Don't ignore lighting

Lighting plays a critical role in setting the mood in open floor plans. Yet, it is often ignored during the design process. Built-in and plug-in lighting fixtures should be part of the plan from the start. As with any room, you should think of lighting in layers. Here are a few tips on different forms of lighting -

Ambient lighting

This is the general lighting for the living spaces. Recessed lighting and flush-mount fixtures are common examples. These lights ensure that every part of the room is lit and you can walk around without passing through shadows.

Task lighting

These fixtures provide more focused beams of lights that help illuminate tasks such as cooking. Under-cabinet lights in the kitchen are prime examples. A chandelier can provide light over the dining table

Accent lighting

This layer adds a sense of coziness and comfort, as well as personality. Accent lighting can be plug-in table and floor lamps or hard-wired sconces. A well-chosen lamp can also help define a space in your great room by bathing that area in a pool of lighting.

See also: The 5 Main Types of Kitchen Island Lighting

6. Use rugs to define spaces

Homes that lack any form of room separation need rugs on the floor to make each area distinct. Add a large area rug to pull together a seating zone in your living room area. Two rugs under the living and dining areas can give a distinct design as if they were separate rooms. Be sure to size rugs large enough to extend slightly beyond the immediate spaces you are trying to define. The defining-space effect works best if you can see the edges of the rug from across the room. Different rugs in wide-open spaces need not have the exact same pattern, but they should complement each other to help create that singular theme that you are going for.

Plants & Greenery

Image: Michelle Gage

Setting nature as your element gives you a bit of variety to work with. Plants, natural wood textures, and green textiles all come together to form an earthy element.

Dark Wood

Image: Alison Lind

The color of the dark wood offers balance to the stark white of the countertops and cabinets. This balance is great for keeping the space bright but not overwhelming to the eye.

Forest Green

Image: Soko Design

The muted green subway tiles complement the off-white wall in a way that adds color to the overall look of the space but doesn't overdo it at the same time.

Bright White

When you don't have floor-to-ceiling windows or your home is surrounded by trees, it's hard to keep your home well lit. White paint can help reflect artificial and natural light throughout your home.

7. Pick an element and repeat it in each zone 

The trick to open-floor-plan design is to make all the areas feel consistent but to maintain distinct zones. Picking one design element for all living spaces and incorporating it into the micro-design of each zone can pull the whole thing together. This element can be a material or pattern. For instance, a certain species of natural wood repeated in your dining table, your coffee table, and your island can make the entire room feel like a cohesive whole.

8. Tie your open concept spaces together with color

Running out of ideas? When thinking about the color scheme in an open floor plan, less is more. You will want the colors in each zone to work together, not clash. In a traditional floorplan, you could get away with a different color scheme in each room because you would never look at them all at once. But in a great room, you would never want your sofa upholstery to clash with your dining room furniture, and all your furniture must work with your wall paint. Chose one color family and a natural pattern or material, like wood, to help make the areas of your open floor plan blend well.

9. Keep wall colors muted

I usually recommend "safer" shades for the walls of a large open space: whites, very light beiges, or greige. Bolder colors are hard to match with living room furniture, dining room furniture, and kitchen cabinets and fixtures—all of which will be visible in an open floor plan. If you are to add an accent wall, it's best to do so when your themes are full of bright colors that complement each other.

Wall Shelving

Image: Rauser Design

This staircase shelving is a perfect example of efficient storage ideas for those who are looking to save on floor space when you have less square footage to work with.

Dinnerware Shelving

Image: Soko Design

The wooden shelves are a decorative storage option for those looking to add some contrast to the open areas of their home.

10. Carefully consider windows and doors

Decorating open floor plans is all about themes and textiles. Your design should also involve window and door placement. The best open floor plans will have an abundance of natural lighting during the day. This will allow your artificial light to distinguish each room during the latter half of the day when your family is home. Windows for morning light will be set east facing. Avoid small windows and try to go for floor to ceiling windows placed next to a pair of French doors that lead to your backyard. Skylights will also help add more lighting if your home is backed by trees.

11. Think twice about open shelves

You may want to avoid open shelves in an open plan house. Enclosed cabinets will ensure a smooth finish and give you more usable storage space. Open shelves can work if you have a few choice items to show off, but a room full of open shelving can quickly devolve into clutter, especially if it's an open floor plan.

See also: Yes, Interior Design Is for You (and Your Messy Family)

This article highlights a hand-picked selection of work by a variety of designers and builders and is meant to showcase their talent. Please drop us a line if you would rather not be featured on this page.

Article Categories: Interior Design, Design Tips And Trends, Lifestyle Solutions, Customer Satisfaction

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