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 11 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.
If you're not much of an adventurer when it comes to mixing and matching, repeat the same rug multiple times to visually separate the space.
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 are 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.
Balance large furniture with complementary shelving and a gallery wall, for example.
Create Cozy Nooks
Create a cozy reading nook, just like Heidi Cheng of Mimi Cheng's Dumplings in New York City. A rug, floor lamp and accent pillows further define the space.
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.