How to Pull Off an Open-Plan Layout

Follow these hot hints to segregate, allocate, and maximise space for open plan awesomeness.

Updated on June 14, 2017 12:06 pm

Deborah Jane Goon


Open plan living has gone from being a luxury choice to a typical home layout, due to the diminishing space in our local context. In order to maximise your space planning potential, you really need to explore your lifestyle choices to get the best for your needs. Here are some top tips to help you on your way.

Demarcate your space

• Create a focal point with a wall in a different colour or use wall art to demarcate your space.

• Use lighting to segregate the various spaces. Pendant lamps in the dining room and task lighting in the kitchen. If you prefer a more moody atmosphere, opt for dimmer lights so you can tailor the lighting to suit the mood.

• Use occasional furniture like a hall table in the living room or a bookshelf to give your living room more substance. You could also create a subtle boundary with a buffet counter for serving food when you entertain.

Design by Prozfile

• Create separation between an open concept kitchen, dining and living room by using different materials, colour or textures in each space. For instance, if you’re having lots of woody elements in the living and dining space, maybe limit the use of woody elements in the kitchen.

• A wallpapered feature wall can do wonders to create a distinct look and feel in an open plan. Choose stripes to elongate the area or loud patterns for a funky feel.

• If you need a workspace to be included as part of your living room, choose sliding doors or glass partition doors so your space stays versatile.

• A large bookshelf works wonders to create book storage and can give your living room a lovely, lived-in feel.

• Use carpets or rugs to anchor a space and distinguish between areas to form subtle boundary lines in your space. For instance, use a bright patterned rug for the living room and a more sombre one for the dining or just use one rug in either area.

Space allocation for each zone

• Your lifestyle preferences should dictate space allocation. Clearly if you usually spend more time in the living room, you should try and opt for more space here.

• Your style of entertaining will also affect your home. Are you a party animal or do you prefer a sit-down dinner? If you prefer drinks and canapés, an extended island bench with bar stools might be your best bet and can save you heaps if you forgo the dining table too. If you prefer formal sit down dinners, opt for a larger dining space with more storage for serving platters and crockery.

Photo courtesy of Journey East featuring the d-Bodhi Ferum coffee table

• If you’re big on cooking and having people over to taste your meals, opt for a large, extended kitchen where you can entertain in—to keep things informal and relaxed.

• If living room entertaining is more your thing and you hardly use the dining room, why not sacrifice this space a bit more and opt for a larger living room with versatile seating to accommodate more people.

• If you’re an audiophile or movie buff and your living room space is of utmost importance, choose to enlarge and equip this area so it suits your needs best.

• These days, many people don’t even cook a lot at home. If this is you, opt for a central island which doubles as a dining area for quick meals and enlarge your living room domain instead.

Maximise your space potential

• The key to achieving an open plan kitchen, living, and dining room is to keep furniture low rise. The higher your furniture, the more you cut into the space. Try and keep all furniture on the same plane (below eye level) for best results. A sofa with a click-clack headrest that folds down when necessary can be a versatile option. Just remember to team this with other low rise pieces too.

Photo courtesy of Grafunkt featuring the String System

• It’s also wise to ensure there is adequate natural light that flows through the space so your open plan looks and feels crisp and well planned. Strategically placed mirrors can help to distribute light more easily.

Proportion is always key to achieving an interior that is well balanced and feels homely.

• Maximise seating space in the living room by having a large enough sofa that caters to the whole family. Supplement this with low lying armchairs or occasional pieces like stools to add extra seating options.

• Family-friendly homes normally require a separate dining area for meals and this space usually gets used for private tuition and homework time.

• Transparent furniture such as Ghost chairs and glass consoles can help to add an element of space and keep your home fluid and functional.

• Steer away from hanging pendant lights if your ceilings are not high. Instead, opt for lighting that casts shadows on the ceiling as this takes the attention away from the small space and instead adds interest to the ceiling.

• Textured elements can help to break up the space and add an element of warmth to an open concept.

Article originally published in SquareRooms Issue 104 December 2013. Visit their website here.

Cover photo courtesy of Bo Concept

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