Open-plan living works beautifully for our lifestyle in Australia – it’s relaxed, encourages family togetherness and it’s great for entertaining. Plus, it fosters the indoor-outdoor flow we hold so dear. To make the most of an open-play layout, you’ll want to create distinct ‘zones’ within the space, while maintaining a sense of connection.
Sound tricky? Here are 10 styling tips from Carlisle’s expert interior designers to help you get it right.
1. Artfully arrange furniture
How you place furniture in an open-plan room makes a huge difference when it comes to creating separate zones. Group sofas and armchairs so they’re facing towards each other rather than out into the room. If you have the space, position a console behind the sofa near your dining room to create a sense of division between the two areas. And leave at least 1.5 metres of clear space between your kitchen, living and dining areas.
Also consider sightlines; when choosing sofas and armchairs, seek out low-height styles that won’t block your view through the space. And remember that furniture may be visible from different angles, so you’ll want it to look good from all sides.
2. Lay rugs to define areas
A couple of great rugs can be a godsend in an open-plan room; they add softness, colour and texture and can be used to delineate different zones. They can also help with acoustic control – a bonus in a busy family home!
Consider size carefully; rugs should be large enough to fit under the legs of your sofas and armchairs and to accommodate a pulled-out chair in the dining area. Also think where you want one space to end and another to begin – your rug shouldn’t extend beyond this point.
To help you visualise how different sizes will look before you make your selection, mark the dimensions out with masking tape on your floor before you hit the shops.
Utilising rugs in your open-plan space will help to zone certain areas visually. They also add softness and warmth to your living room, and help with acoustic control. Featured here: Langholm, Newhaven Estate, Tarneit.
3. Use built-in joinery to create connection
Create a subtle sense of visual continuity between your kitchen, living and dining areas by carrying through built-in joinery in the same finish. It’s a technique that works equally well in a contemporary and classic interior, while giving you oodles more storage space.
4. Define zones with contrasting materials
Looking to create more of a contrast? In that case, use different materials to define the cooking, living and dining zones in your open-plan space, such as wall cladding in different timber tones or a different floor finish, like tiles in the kitchen and herringbone timber flooring in the living and dining areas.
5. Think of your kitchen island as furniture
An island bench works brilliantly in an open-plan home, but you don’t want it to visually dominate the space. Think of it as a piece of furniture and look to link it decoratively to other elements in the adjoining living spaces. For example, use the same timber lining or paint colour on your island facing and living room joinery, or carry through the same handle detailing. You’ll find a little detailing can make a big difference.
6. Add a focal point
Give each ‘room’ within your open-plan space its own focal point, such as a striking splashback in the kitchen or island bench, a fireplace in the living room or a fabulous artwork in the dining room. These standout elements will draw the eye and emphasise that each zone has its own purpose.
Work to a cohesive selection of colours and finishes to create harmony across the kitchen and adjoining living spaces. Rather than allowing the island bench to dominate, think of it as a piece of furniture and link it decoratively to other elements in the open-plan area. Featured here: Matisse, Jubilee Estate, Wyndham.
7. Include plenty of circulation space
Make sure guests and family members can move comfortably through the different zones in your open-plan area; as a guide, aim for at least 1.5 metres space between your kitchen, dining and living areas.
8. Consider open bookshelves
A freestanding shelving unit is a quick and easy way to carve up an open-plan room. Make sure the piece you choose is tall enough to function effectively as a room divider, with open shelving that allows for light and view-through.
9. Keep clutter at bay
With no walls or doors to hide mess and clutter away, mess can easily take over an open-plan room. Plan for the inevitable by incorporating plenty of smart storage; think built-in joinery with a mix of closed-door cupboards and shelves, storage ottomans and baskets where you can quickly toss toys and family clutter at the end of the day.
10. Create visual boundaries with wallpaper
A statement wallpaper in your living or dining area is a great way to visually separate it from the other nearby zones. It can also add texture and cosiness to the space. You may also wish to use the same wallpaper in other parts of your home, such as the master bedroom or hallway, to create a sense of cohesion. Discover more on how to add wow factor with wallpaper here.
Another way to add interest and define a ‘room’ within an open-plan space is with a dramatic painted ceiling treatment. It’s a bold option, but one that’s sure to get your guests talking!
As a rule, allow 1.5 metres of space between your kitchen, dining and living areas to ensure guests and family members can move comfortably across different zones. Incorporating a feature wall with a statement wallpaper can also help to establish a visual boundary for each area. Featured here: Canterbury Grand, Newhaven Estate, Tarneit.