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Design tips for open-plan living

Design Ideas

The trend towards open-plan living emerged with the Scandi fashion of interior and architectural design.  There arose a need for bright and light open spaces that feel natural and more energised.  The fewer walls in a building, the less light is blocked from windows, which makes the space more pleasant.  It also allows families to spend more time together.  The kitchen that is blocked off in traditional design becomes the heart of the home once more.  The cook of the house no longer needs to isolate themselves – and can maintain their connection with the whole family. 

With all these positives comes a dilemma.  Furniture is designed for fixed square and rectangular spaces.  Therefore, planning your interior is a challenge – but one that is quickly resolved and exciting to imagine.  Here is a guide, focused on some of the best advice out there.

1. Zone with textures

Although you don’t want to block off your home into sections with walls, you might still want to create different zones.  You can use different textures – in wall coverings and furniture – to take a large open plan area and divide it into dining and living spaces.  Although you may want specific features, colours and shapes that connect the space, you could use subtle differences to create a sense of purpose in certain areas.   

For instance, in the dining area, you could use bare wooden floors.  The same flooring could stretch into the living area, but you could use large rugs to mark the boundary from one to the other.  Another suggestion could be to use a smooth plastic surfacing on seats around the dining table, but the same coloured cushions on the sofa would be in crushed velvet.

2. Bring the outdoors in

You can use the outside to continue the theme of light and space.  A wall with images of trees and plants could accentuate the love of nature that made you opt for open plan living.  You can then use large house plants to act as markers between spaces.

Not only will these plants thrive in the natural light that flows into your open-plan room, but they will help to filter the air of dust and allergens, which will create a much healthier environment.  The sense of improved wellbeing in an open plan house is not an illusion.  Improved air quality and extra light are excellent for your physical and mental health.

3. Use partitions and platforms

Open-plan doesn’t have to be like a school sports hall.  You can have partial walls, called partitions, to help separate spaces and offer storage solutions.  These partitions will also add interest to the depth and width of the room.   

You could also use platforms.  If you go fully open-plan, with bedrooms open to the main house too, you could build mezzanine levels which will create a sense of three-dimensional interest and practicality.  You might not need to be so dramatic in your use of levels.  You could try raising the floor from one zone of your house to another – which might be a necessity if you are transforming an old barn or similar where the bottom storey is unlikely to be even. 

4. Be bold with colour and shapes

Although you want to maximise the sense of light and nature in your home, you can also have more daring sections.  You could have a reading corner, for instance, that is marked with the use of bold patterns on the wall and a patterned rug on the floor.  You could create a backdrop with a floor to ceiling bookcase too; a corner unit would make this area feel snug. 

Alternatively, if you want a more formal area for dining, you could create your zone with some classic wallpaper that would deliver a more mid-century vibe.  When you have a family, you sometimes need markers for your family routines and traditions.  With young children, it will be easier to enforce dinner-time rules if young people are asked to switch to this area of your home. 

5. In brief

Although you want open-plan spaces to encourage more light and nature in your home, your interior design should create the zones of a home.  With some clever use of colour, pattern, texture and levels, you can break down barriers while maintaining that critical homeliness. 

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