Mastering Open Plan Living Spaces
There’s a lot to love about open plan living spaces. They facilitate social interactions (even if it’s just chatter between whoever’s doing the washing up and the lucky ones lazing on the couch), maximise natural light, and are great for smaller homes, thanks to their ability to create the illusion of space. Despite all these factors working in their favour, open plan living areas can detract from a home if they’re not designed well, with common mistakes resulting in areas that feel over-stuffed, messy or cluttered. If any of these adjectives are a good fit for your living space, keep reading: we have some easy-to-follow principles that will help you master the art of the open plan in no time at all.
Define your zones
If you only adhere to one of the principles of open plan design, please make it this one. Defining each area based on function (e.g. dining, lounging) is the best way to give your area a sense of space and purpose. You can use a number of things here, from furniture (e.g. an island bench to separate the kitchen from the rest of the space) to accessories (particularly rugs), and colour, playing up different hues within your palette. Once you incorporate these tactics you won’t need to rely on walls to delineate your spaces or define your furniture placement, freeing you up to try a whole new range of configurations.
Keep it open
This may seem like a no-brainer but it’s often a collection of little things that combine to make the room feel cramped. Start with your spacing: is there a discernible gap between the zones you’ve created? Can you easily walk between the dining table and sofa, for example, or is it a tight, sideways squeeze? Designers recommend a gap of at least 800mm where possible, so pull out your measuring tape if you’re not sure. Something else that can make your room feel cramped is the use of tall furniture, like high-backed chairs, standing lamps or bookcases. Because you’re often interacting with people in different zones, it’s important to keep the line of sight clear. Additionally, you want to maximise the amount of natural light that flows through the space so, unless you’re lucky enough to have good windows on three of the four walls, you’ll want to keep furnishings above window height to a minimum.
Create cohesion and continuity
Look to include similar design elements across all your zones to maximise the impact and appeal of the space. Let the colour palette flow through from the kitchen to the living and dining areas and avoid elements like feature walls, which detract from the sense of space. Pick accessories that complement each other throughout, choosing similar materials and textures as you go. Even little details, like light fittings, window coverings and indoor plants can help create an overall effect of cohesion.
Size your furniture to fit its zone, not the room as a whole
When faced with the task of furnishing a large, open area, it can be tempting to go big. Sure, the room itself might fit a 12 seater dining table, but would that purchase leave you with enough space for a comfy sofa and breakfast bar? Similarly, would it take up a disproportionate amount of space for the time you’ll spend using it? Obviously your answers to both these questions will depend on the space you’re working with and your lifestyle: if your living area is the size of a standard one-bedroom apartment or you’re the kind of person who hosts extravagant dinner parties every other weekend, the 12 seater dining table might make sense. However, if you’re dealing with a more modest amount of floor space or you eat most meals on the sofa, you should downsize your table to something more conservative. Remember that you can still purchase furniture that’s generous for its zone if you want to play with scale; just make sure the rest of the room won’t suffer as a result.
Include plenty of storage
Fewer walls mean less built-in storage; one of the main causes of household clutter. Counter this with clever design choices, such as a well-equipped island bench framing the open side of the kitchen, a crafty coffee table, stylish storage trunk or wall mounted shelving.
One of the most common complaints about open living is dealing with lingering kitchen smells. Combat this gripe with a great rangehood, easy-to-access windows and a few thoughtfully placed scented candles. Ceiling fans are also a great idea to keep the air flowing cleanly and you’ll be grateful to have them throughout the warmer months.
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