With open kitchens becoming the norm and condo living increasing in popularity, open-plan spaces are multiplying. Long gone are the days of formal living rooms and enclosed kitchens à la Mad Men. But as much as open-plan living can be a lesson in togetherness, styling a space to encourage family time can be challenging.
Our human instinct is to push furniture against walls—a big no-no for many interior designers—so open-plan living is a chance to experiment with layouts. While walls once provided us with a paint-by-number furniture plan of sorts, the open-plan space is more akin to a blank canvas, where anything is possible.
Where do we put the TV? What's the best way to tackle storage? How do we create separate living areas in one big open space?
To make navigating the world of open floor plans easier, here are 21 tips that can help inspire your layout.
It's common practice to assume that the sofa should face a wall—preferably one with a TV on it. But if you're not much of a Netflix enthusiast, why not move your floor plan around and have the sofa face the rest of the room? Putting dining chairs back-to-back with lounge chairs will also create a separation in the space while keeping it open for circulation. This setup is great for entertaining.
Other ideas include arranging your furniture around a focal point, especially if you have say, a great fireplace or an impressive gallery wall.
Float the Sofa
Let go of the idea that a sofa should be backed up against a wall, and float it in the middle of the room. For homes with minimal wall space, doing so may be your only option.
Additionally, floating the furniture in your living room helps accomplish a number of things: It encourages better traffic flow by creating obvious areas where foot traffic should flow, it's a practical way to create a clear divider between the living space and kitchen, and it anchors a room by creating a focal point.
Creating a sense of room separation with a sofa is especially efficient with sectionals, which can create visual separation on their own due to their shape.
Define Areas With Rugs
Are you a rug aficionado? Us too. One of the easiest ways to separate a living and dining space is to anchor each with a rug. Most rugs will work together, but when in doubt, keep a similar style or color palette.
For more reasons to incorporate rugs as part of your home décor efforts, consider that rugs help soften hard surfaces, can introduce color into an otherwise neutral room, hide scuffed wood floors, and give the illusion of more space in an otherwise smaller room.
Browse for rugs online at places like home décor standby IKEA, One Kings Lane, and even Parachute—best known for their chic linens, the brand launched a line of area rugs in four distinct styles in 2019.
Add a Console
When floating a sofa in an open room, back it with a console table. It provides storage and a place for drinks, and it's visually more appealing than the back of a sofa.
To style your console, take cues from these five themed ideas; whether your vibe is beachy, modern, Scandinavian-minimalist, or impressionist maximalist, shop our edited console table décor picks.
Adopt the Round Table
Round tables are a great alternative for smaller open-plan spaces, and for square rooms, round tables offer architectural harmony. The circular shape helps keep everything contained in one corner. They also look great against built-in bookcases where you can store dinnerware, linens, and display a fully stocked bar.
For more round tables, we rounded up a selection of nesting tables to tiered furniture for inspiration, and for every style and budget.
Close It Out
Close in open spaces with a pair of statement chairs. While it would have been easy in this space to place a sofa across from the TV and call it a day, the pair of chairs create a separation between the kitchen and living area.
Turn Bookcases Into Walls
This is one of our favorite hacks for keeping a space open while still providing separation—use open-ended bookcases. This is a great setup to hide away kitchen clutter when entertaining or to keep an eye on children playing in the next room.
Create visual continuity in the space through color. In this room, shades of white, warm woods, and grays are repeated from the living area to the eat-in kitchen, creating a coherent space. Fun fact: Repeating colors and patterns is a go-to style trick for some of Italy's best design-forward hotels.
Separate With Plants
A plant wall is as good a visual separation as any. Bring the outside in, and separate living areas while keeping everything light and airy. See also these ideas for decorating with large plants like fiddle leaf fig trees and bulbous citrus.
And if you're a bit hesitant with your green thumb skills, our roundup of expert-selected indoor plants is practically indestructible.
Space It Out
If the space allows, spread out your different living areas by a few feet. This room could have easily accommodated a long dining table, but a smaller round one leaves room to breathe—visually and physically.
Creating a sense of harmony, even in a colorful or eclectic space, makes all the difference. Try balancing large furniture with complimentary shelving and a gallery wall, for example.
Create Cozy Nooks
Creating nooks within your open floor plan gives the space a more intimate feel. The position of the leather sectional here helps create a cozy corner that anyone can settle into to relax, read, or watch tv. The matching love seat is placed a few feet away, still leaving room for a walkway into the space without fully closing things off.
Line Things Up
To make things feel more intimate, try lining up your furniture. The placement of the coffee table and accent chairs line up precisely with the sectional, while the accent table and decorative stools are perfectly in line on the outside. The defined parameters make the living room feel cozy and sophisticated.
Get Creative With Seating
Especially with a small scale open floor plan, it helps to get creative with seating options. Rather than a sofa or sectional, opting for a bench with a cushion that lines up against one wall not only save space, but leaves plenty of room for other much needed items.
Play With Angles
If you're not a fan of keeping things perfectly in mind, then don't worry—there are other ways you can make the most of your living room. With accent chairs, or even a loveseat, try angling them in relation to the couch. It will allow the space to feel less closed off, yet still have a defining transition from one room into the next.
Use Statement Pieces to Transition
Speaking of transitions, you have plenty of ways to go about them with an open floor plan. While furniture placement can fill the role, it makes sense if you want something that is a bit more subtle. Using large statement pieces, like an oversized mirror or piece of art, can do the trick. The large piece draws the eye while also making it clear you're moving into a different part of your home.
Use Bold Flooring to Tie Things Together
While most open floor plans do keep the same flooring from room to room, it's usually more on the subtle side. Bold flooring can easily make your space feel more connected—especially if you connect it to another prominent feature, like the fireplace.
With large open floor concepts, try establishing clear zones. A couch and chairs near the fireplace is an ideal seating area while hanging chairs towards the back mark a different vibe. Choosing a zone for relaxing, one for conversing, and one for working can help you make the most of the space without feeling chaotic.
Look to The Kitchen
In most cases, an open floor plan usually has a living room linked to the kitchen and dining spaces. When choosing dećor or color choices, it's helpful to look to the kitchen—what colors and styles do you have in place there? Redesigning a kitchen can be more costly than your living room, so if the goal is to keep things cohesive, take some decorative cues from the kitchen.
Embrace Your Architecture
Exposed beams—whether installed or built into the architecture—already make a stunning statement. When it comes to an open floor plan, though, they can also serve as a seamless divide between multiple rooms. Lindsay of Leaf and Lolo had an exposed wooden beam that was painted the same color as her ceiling and walls. She decided to strip the paint off to allow the natural wood to show, and the results were clearly worth it. The beam also marks the shift from the living room into the dining room.
Let the Natural Light In
Open floor plans are beloved for their airy, spacious concept. However, the best way to really embrace it is by ensuring you have plenty of light coming through. Natural light is always recommended if possible, but if not, you can still work with other light fixtures to create a similar feel. The important thing is to not keep your space dark and dreary.
And if it's intimacy you're after when decorating an open-space floor plan, consider these additional tips:
- If you've got high or vaulted ceilings, hang a chandelier to tone down the height.
- If your space allows, consider adding a few accent chairs to create an intimate seating area.
- Add functional zones, like a sleek workspace area (perhaps in a corner of the living area, along with a plant).
- To balance out the straight lines of a large space, include organic shapes and materials (a round rug, more plants, for example).
- Vary your light sources for a layered (and less severe) look; think overhead lighting, as well as table and floor lamps.