Recently we’ve been exploring how to take back space in your home, and benefit from being able to create open plan living. 

Creating spaces that interconnect and bring the family together is so popular in Australia, but sometimes having such big spaces to work with is challenging. Knowing how to avoid creating the feeling of a ‘warehouse’ is important. 

In our Block 2021 house we created huge cathedral ceilings and open plan living for the communal living areas, and there was a risk that it would feel cold and impersonal. However, every time someone walked in, they commented that it felt cosy and homely. 

There were a few things we did to bring that cosy feeling to life. 

From the start we envisioned the large open space as a ‘wow’ factor, but we also were conscious of the placement of ‘functional areas’ in the space, and how they related to the different ceiling heights in the space, the light coming in along with the traffic flow through the space.  

Our first question to ourselves is ‘what will the space have to achieve’. What living zones do you need to accommodate in the open space and how do they relate to each other. We wanted to accommodate a kitchen, breakfast nook, entry area, living room and dining room. This meant we need to create zones that were each distinguished by their purpose, are related to each other by their proximity, and think about the use of ‘negative space’ too.

Here are a couple of things we consider. 

Integrity through consistent flooring

Acknowledge the integrity of the open space by using the same base flooring across the entire space. Avoid using the flooring materials to create the different living zones, as this can be done via the use of rugs and furnishings. Using the same flooring will create a sense of unity and flow, avoiding the creation of too much pattern or ‘busy-ness’ in the space. If you choose colours or textures that add warmth you will bring in that sense of homeliness that can be lost in large spaces. 

Define zones through furnishings and ‘hero’ pieces

Define spaces by including a focal piece or element. While the beauty of open plan living is that spaces flow into each other, it’s still important to find ways to define the living zones. This is how you can create homeliness while getting the benefit of open plan living. 

You can do this by using a fireplace as the focal point of a living space, or a pendant light over a dining table, or even a hero piece of art. 

Using rugs in open spaces is a key way of creating and anchoring zones. They will distinguish space and anchor the furniture which in turn creates the living zones and the sense of homeliness. For us it’s important the scale and shape of the rug, or rugs, you choose will do their job best. For your living area ensure the rug is large enough to sit under the sofa and any armchairs. A rug is the anchor that connects each zone together via it’s link with the furniture within the zone. 

Not having walls means using furniture to define space, while maintaining an open flow.

Select the right scale of sofa, chairs, coffee tables and dining table. Too often we’ve seen this go wrong, resulting in the balance of ‘negative’ space being out of balance, creating either a sense of things being cramped, or so distant and disconnected you will feel like you’re in a shed. 

Use your furniture, anchored with a rug, to create and define the zones by thinking about the scale, proportion, and relationship to each other. Just plonking a sitting area in a vacant space won’t create unity and is more likely to draw attention to the fact that planning, function, and scale in the room is wrong. 

Colour and texture to link and define

Consider the colours and textures you want to use in the space. While you want to define different living zones, you need to link them together as they co-exist in the space with each other. 

It’s easy to use colour to create difference however using a consistent colour palette creates a relationship between each of the zones that coexist in your open plan living home. To avoid things looking flat and one dimensional, use different tones and textures in your colour palette, which will add depth and layers. 

Bringing colour from one zone to another zone creates a link without it all being too ‘matchy matchy’. By replicating a colour across zones via the use of different pattern or texture you will tie the space together and create a sense of integrity and homeliness. 

Consistent styling creates cosiness and warmth

While each zone has a different purpose you probably get the idea now that cosiness and warmth will come from the links between the spaces, while maintaining differences. Ensure a continuity of style. 

Having your décor, colour and textures across the zones relate to each other, and there is a consistency of style. This comes from elements like vases, art, fabrics, textures, finishes, natural textures, or metallic finishes. 

With a few little tips you can create amazingly cosy living zones within your open space home which relate to each other but add depth and homeliness.

November 01, 2022 — Mark McKie

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