I’ll be honest; I’m particularly fond of the open floor plan trend that just keeps on trending. To be sure, there are advantages to compartmentalization – especially when it comes to privacy and/or hiding the mess from guests. However, in my experience, the pros of open floor plans far outweigh the cons.
Ideas For Getting the Most Out of Your Open Floor Plan
Open floor plans offer several advantages: they are spacious or can provide the idea of space in smaller homes, they are great for families – allowing parents to keep their eyes and ears on children of all ages – and open floor plans are the best idea for serial entertainers.
With all of those benefits in mind, the following ideas will help you to enjoy an open floor plan design to its fullest and will make future redecorating easier.
- Be proactive and practical. Before you get started choosing colors, furniture and fixtures, you need think about the practical realities of the space you have to work with. What areas do you need to have (food prep, dining, toys, living room, pet areas, etc.). How many people will be using these spaces on a regular basis? What’s the square footage of the available space? Which dimensions need to be respected in terms of moving around the kitchen comfortably, scooting chairs back to eat while leaving enough room for others to pass by, the general walking flow of the space? The more practical you are at the outset, the better use of space, function and flow you will enjoy when the design is complete.
- What are you living with now? Changing major structural components like load bearing walls or posts, windows, exterior doors, etc., can be quite costly. Unless you have an unlimited budget, it’s best to identify structural limitations now so you can design an open floor plan that integrates with existing features. An experienced interior designer can be a lifesaver if you are struggling to “make it work,” because she has the ability to picture various configurations in her mind and, odds are the designer has created an open floor plan with similar features or limitations in the past. Even if you don’t plan to hire an interior designer for the long-term, paying for a consultation or two is well-worth the investment.
- What are your priorities for the future? Now that you’ve listed your practical reality, it’s time to live in the dream world. What are your priorities for these spaces in the current moment? How will your household change in the next five years? What about the next 10 or 20 years? What type of energy, space, or functional/playful aspects would you like the home’s living spaces to facilitate? Your open floor plan will evolve more fluidly if you design flexibly and in a way that minimizes any modifications or transitions that may arise in the future.
- Unified but segregated. Here’s where things get really fun. In an open floor plan, everything is visible and sort of layered against everything else. This means there needs to be a certain level of continuity or agreement between the colors, patterns, textiles and furnishings in the individual spaces. At the same time, clearly defining each area from the rest helps to set the tone and mood. A monochromatic paint scheme is one way to accomplish this, using textiles and furnishings to add a different tone or subtle energy differences to each space. Or, you can choose complementary colors that look great together but set color boundaries between the kitchen and family room, and between the living area and formal dining room.
- Focus on transitions. How will the spaces transition from one to the next? One of my favorite ways to do this is to have a unified hard surface flooring material for the entire space. Then, area rugs and even layered area rugs can be used to anchor specific seating areas, to define spaces and to create different moods or tones – soft, warm, cool, contemporary, traditional, cozy, formal, etc.
- Layouts and arrangements. Most rooms are laid out or organized along either linear or axial arrangements. Linear arrangements will create zones or living areas that are arranged along a straight line. These are quite flexible and the key is to keep it all in alignment with that invisible guideline so things remain balanced and proportional. Axial organization means arrangements that use two or more differing center-points. For example, the kitchen and dining room are arranged around one line while the family, reading or toy areas are arranged in alignment with another. Axial arrangements can be a bit trickier but work well in larg spaces. The path and access ways between the two become a focal point on their own.