Designing Open Concept Homes

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Open Concept

If the 50’s were the era of ‘every function needs it’s own room’ then today we are all about ‘how few walls can I get away with?’

Of course, this is usually restricted to our main living spaces; kitchen, dining and living room. We want that easy-breezy flow, being able to have someone in the kitchen mixing cocktails and still able to chat with guests or making dinner and helping the kids with homework. All great reasons to knock down a few walls. But we can’t forget that having fewer rooms can present some hurdles design-wise. Luckily for you, we have some tips and things to keep in mind when you’re approaching that giant open room and wondering where to start

First, Create Separate Areas

You will generally have a few different functions going on in the space, living, dining or kitchen. Figure out where you want each area to be and then allow adequate breathing room between each one. Don’t rush to fill every spare nook, but allow quiet space between them. This will also help to keep the overall effect not look cluttered. Plus, you always need to to give yourself enough room for walkways and chair push back.

Next, Anchor Each Space

Each area can be anchored by having a feature in each space, such as a fireplace, a statement dining table or an island. Make sure these features are the focus of their area and that they are not competing with other items in their space.

image via Aspen Ridge Homes

Layer in Lighting

Lighting can be one of the most difficult aspects to do well. Make sure there is a cohesive lighting plan for open spaces with overall lighting (like pot lights) and then layer in task lighting or overhead feature lighting specific to each area.

In a dining area, lighting over the table could consist of a statement chandelier or multiple pendants. Over an island, either subtle directional task lighting or adequate pendants work. In a living area, floor or table lamps add ambience and task lighting.

We don’t believe that matching all the lighting from one series is a good idea as it can get boring. Instead, tie it all together by making sure there is some commonality in all of them, such as style or colour. And find some balance by varying the numbers of lights. We would not recommend, for instance, three island pendant lights directly next to a dining table that also has three pendant lights. Visually, this creates competition. Instead, try having one larger feature light in one area and perhaps 3 smaller pendants in the other area that accent the first. Mixing lighting style is fine if you can see that there is a balance of size, colour, and scale. Sometimes, it just comes down to the pieces looking good together. If you were to put photos of all your lighting together and it looks good, much like an outfit, then you should be okay.

Never forget Colour

Often we walk into homes and see multiple wall colours throughout an open space. This can be done intentionally, in an attempt to define areas, or may be a leftover from a renovation where walls were removed to create open spaces. In either case, it always looks more pleasing to use one wall colour throughout. You can still highlight a small feature area, such as a colour block over a fireplace for instance, but please do keep the remainder of the walls one colour. It will make the space feel consistent, larger, and calmer. It allows the eye to be more focused on other details rather than being distracted by different coloured walls. A painted feature wall should be very intentional and only used to highlight something very specific.

image via Interior Concepts

Flooring is Foundational

This is where things can get a bit tricky. Whenever possible, the same flooring should be used throughout an open space as it is easier on the eye. Hardwood flooring throughout a kitchen, dining, and living area looks pulled together and suits the architecture of most homes. On the other hand, mixing flooring can be done if there is a lot of thought put into the design or intent of it. Adding beautiful tiling in a kitchen area can absolutely be the way to go if you know what you are doing and have a creative transition. This would be a good time to have a design consultation rather than just choosing a tile and transitioning to another surface without a lot of thought. We have seen many a new build that appears to randomly end tile at odd angles and switch to hardwood and it can be very jarring. If you must do this, then choosing a similar coloured flooring will be easier on the eye.

Define with Furnishing

Furnishing follows the same rules, where there should be a larger feature piece in each area, supported by smaller pieces, and with some breathing space between zones. Colours of fabrics and wood tones should flow and be complimentary throughout. This does not necessarily mean always using the exact same colours, woods and fabrics, but that there are complimentary ones sprinkled throughout.

Using these guidelines should help you to create a gorgeous open space that looks like it is well thought out and had a designers hand in it, while still allowing you to make it your own!

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