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How to Decorate and Create Spaces in an Open Floor Plan

Linda is a seasoned writer and home-decorating authority. She loves sharing design trends, decor ideas, and useful tips with her readers.

When asking home buyers their number one wish list item most will say they want an open-concept living space. Open-concept floor plans suit modern lifestyles and offer a number of benefits that older, compartmentalized homes just can’t match. Flow, space, light and unobstructed views are among the top reasons open-concept living is so popular today. For those who love to entertain or just want to keep an eye on the kiddos while cooking a space that combines living, kitchen and dining areas makes daily life easier and more enjoyable.

As wonderful as open concept homes seem, decorating one large, uninterrupted space can be quite challenging. Make the most of your open-concept living space by maintaining a cohesive design throughout while creating visual separation to subtly delineate each area.

Consider the Space and Its Function

Look at your space noting the size, layout, and any architectural dividing lines. Determine how many functions the space will serve based on the square footage. If your open plan is extremely large, you may be able to designate separate areas for TV viewing, dining, and relaxing.

Take advantage of walls, columns and variations in flooring to dictate different "room" functions. If you have a wall that juts out, use it to divide the space into two separate areas. Similarly, the dividing line from a tile to wood floor provides a natural line of demarcation between spaces.

Consider technology and locations for electrical outlets when planning the function for each specific space. Take note of the placement of cable and Internet connections, phone and ceiling junction boxes to determine an area’s use. They will dictate where your media area, computer center, and lighting will be located.

Space adjacent to this kitchen is used for dining and living.

Space adjacent to this kitchen is used for dining and living.

Choose a Consistant Color Scheme

Tell a consistent color story. If you want to simplify your open-concept floor plan, keep the wall color the same all through the space. If your walls have distinct breaks or angles, you might want to consider a monochromatic paint palette. Use subtle variations of the same shade to indicate a focal wall or where one “room” ends, and another begins. Coordinate your primary seating upholstery with those of your dining or breakfast nook chair covers. Use area rugs in complementary colors. Take a cue from your kitchen cabinets and carry that wood tone into living and dining furniture.

While each area in an open concept floor plan should retain its distinct personality, the use of a unifying color palette creates a sense of flow from area to area. Try neutral colors for large-scale furnishings to maintain continuity throughout. Jewel tones in accessories and artwork add small bursts of vibrant color to create visual interest and movement in a large expanse.

A neutral color palette will unite spaces of an open floor plan.

A neutral color palette will unite spaces of an open floor plan.

Furnish and Accessorize Wisely

Select furnishings and small touches that give each area a singular presence, while creating a cohesive flow from space to space. Pretend you are decorating a single room and keep furniture and accent pieces in the same style. Try not to be too matchy-matchy but make sure the elements are consistent.

If you have a kitchen with a sparkling, glass tile backsplash, European cabinetry, leather and chrome barstools, and stainless appliances, carry that look into your dining and living areas with a sleek, streamlined furniture and minimal accessories to create a dynamic, contemporary vibe.

Coordinate adjacent spaces with similar furnishings so the areas aren't too visually jarring.

Coordinate adjacent spaces with similar furnishings so the areas aren't too visually jarring.

Use Rugs to Delineate Space

Another great trick is to use area rugs to define separate areas within an open floor plan. Use two identical or coordinating area rugs to delineate your living and dining rooms. Rugs don’t have to be huge, just large enough to anchor the furniture in each space. The gap between rugs actually serves to help divide the spaces, creating a visual traffic path between two areas.

Rugs are employed to separate the living and office spaces in this apartment.

Rugs are employed to separate the living and office spaces in this apartment.

Divide and Conquer

Create separate areas based on function. Use furniture groupings to define your “rooms” allowing enough space between each to accommodate traffic flow. Avoid shoving your seating against the walls. Open plan seating areas look best when situated within the space and well away from the perimeter.

Outline each space with painter’s tape on the floor to determine the optimum placement of furniture pieces. If you feel the effect is still too cavernous, bring in freestanding shelving units to establish a greater sense of separation between each area. These clever dividers will create visual definition without obscuring sight lines.

Create a sense of walls by incorporating decorative folding screens. They come in a variety of lengths and heights. You can choose a style and material to suit any decor from ornately carved wood, antique Chinese, upholstered fabric, rice paper or slatted just to name a few.

If you want something more permanent, consider ceiling mounted room dividers that operate on a track system. This will also give you the option of opening and closing off rooms to suit your needs–say, for an intimate dinner party or to provide daytime privacy for a home office. If you're on a tight budget, simply install curtain hardware and panels from the ceiling.

Gliding room dividers are extremely practical to create privacy in open floor plans.

Gliding room dividers are extremely practical to create privacy in open floor plans.

Create Separation With Lighting

Lighting offers a discrete way to identify and separate each designated area within a large space. Choose fixtures that coordinate with one another to maintain a consistent look.

A single chandelier over the dining table will provide ample illumination for mealtime. Try a long rectangular pendant over your dinner table to delineate the dining room. Separate the kitchen from other areas by installing a row of pendants above the kitchen island. Employ recessed and under cabinet, fixtures to enhance the space and keep the resident gourmet happy.

Ceiling mounted lighting fixtures can also break up spaces within an open floor plan. In the living area combine a lighted ceiling fan with recessed lighting, floor and table lamps to handle all your families lighting needs. Choose a distinctive drum pendant hung low over the coffee table or a retro arc floor lamp to create a cozy conversation area.

Employ a variety of overhead lighting fixtures to define different areas of an open floor plan.

Employ a variety of overhead lighting fixtures to define different areas of an open floor plan.

Use Consistent Window Coverings

As with paint color in an open-concept space, the best advice is to keep it constant by using uniform window coverings. If you prefer curtains, stick with the same fabric, color, and pattern on each window. For extra privacy, light control and insulation, layer curtains over natural wovens, cellulars, roller shades, Romans or wood blinds, depending on your decor style. For the ultimate in simplicity, install crisp, white plantation shutters on each window opening for a clean, casual look.

Neutral window coverings throughout an open floor plan gives the space a consistent feel.

Neutral window coverings throughout an open floor plan gives the space a consistent feel.

Furniture Placement Advice

So, the next time you are in the market for a new home, don’t be hesitant to consider an open floor plan. You are now equipped with the knowledge and confidence to decorate those spaces like a pro.

© 2013 Linda Chechar

Start a Conversation!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 10, 2019:

nfdesigns,

Thank you for your comment. So glad you enjoyed this article.

nfdesigns from Mumbai on July 10, 2019:

Hi Linda, Your article is very much impressive and certainly one should bookmark this for future reference. I personally recommend this post to everyone who have a bit of acquaintance of interior decor. http://www.nfdesigns.in

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on December 10, 2013:

Vespawoolf, hope you get a house/apt with an open floor plan. It was hard to find one in Uruguay except in brand new homes. The older, more traditional home construction consisted of boxy rooms with the kitchen completely segregated from the living area. That was difficult to get used to. Glad you were able to revisit this Hub and get some ideas that will come in handy! :)

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on December 10, 2013:

I came back to take another look at this useful information as we may be moving to an open floor plan next year. I like the idea of delineating space with area rugs and subtle use of wall color. Even the room dividers are interesting. Thank you!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on March 01, 2013:

It's one of my favorite topics to write about, Kathryn. So glad you enjoyed these tips for open floor plan decorating! :)

Kathryn from Windsor, Connecticut on March 01, 2013:

I love the subject of home design.

I like open floor plans. They're flexible, and as long as you take care in the arrangement, they can look nice!

Thanks for sharing this information with us.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on March 01, 2013:

Thank you, vespawoolf, hopefully you can incorporate some of these ideas into your new home. I really appreciate your support! :)

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on March 01, 2013:

I love your home décor series and this one is no exception. I like the suggestion of planning the space, creating flow and defining with area rugs. What a clever stretched canvas room divider! Great ideas here--marked for future reference. Voted up across the board and shared.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on February 07, 2013:

Thanks Jackie! :)

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on February 06, 2013:

This is really great and I love the roominess!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on February 05, 2013:

idigwebsites, I too enjoy the ease of communication that an open floor plan allows. My husband's main complaint, however, is that whenever someone is busy in the kitchen it makes it difficult to hear what is going on in the living room. I have to agree with him on that point. And yes, rugs are one of the easiest ways to give different areas visual separation. Thank you for the votes and comment! :)

idigwebsites from United States on February 05, 2013:

I love an open space room, it allows us to communicate within just an earshot. I love the ideas you show here, the rugs are a good idea to mark specific places. Voted up and useful. :)

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on February 04, 2013:

Om, open floor plans can be fun to tackle--you just need to think outside the BIG BOX and come with ideas that divide and unify spaces at the same time. That canvas room divider is my favorite as well. Glad you enjoyed these tips. Thanks for stopping by! :)

Om Paramapoonya on February 04, 2013:

These are great tips, Linda! Decorating an open floor plan can be fun and challenging at the same time, I think. On one hand, it allows lots of flexibility and room for creativity. On the other hand, such a large empty space can be overwhelming if one isn't quite sure where to start. I like that bedroom with an asymmetrical canvas divider. So chic!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on February 03, 2013:

Thanks ComfortB! The stretched canvas is an awesome idea for a kid's room. Hope it works for you! I'm so glad you enjoyed these tips--although it sounds like you are already a seasoned home decorator! Thanks for the votes and comment. :)

Comfort Babatola from Bonaire, GA, USA on February 03, 2013:

I love the creative ideas presented in this hub. Really beautiful. I have a semi-open floor plan as my kitchen is enclosed but opens into the living room a little, and I've employed most of what is mentioned here. It's practical and really does work !

I may need to look into the stretched canvas as room divider for my kid's room.

Great hub. Voted up, beautiful and useful.