Décor tips for open plan living

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09 Aug 2013

In many modern homes, the kitchen, living room, dining room and patio are designed to flow seamlessly together. In studio apartments, even the bedroom is part of the living area and often the dining area doubles up as a home office.

The sunny atmosphere created by natural light flooding free-flowing spaces, is the most appealing quality of open-plan architecture.

At the start of the trend, homeowners had to knock walls out to get the look, but almost all newly built houses are designed with free-flowing spaces at the core of the building philosophy.

Anton Odendaal from Rochester says architecture, just like the rest of our contemporary lifestyle is about comfort, convenience and saving time. Open plan living areas provide easy access to different zones in the home. "The awareness of sustainability and saving energy further endorses openplan living, as this design style tends to optimise natural light and ventilation.”

Odendaal notes that there are a few drawbacks to open plan living areas, including heat loss, less privacy and noise. He also points out that there are, however, many benefits.

It's practical

Fewer walls mean less wasted space so there is no need for passages or corridors, which saves on building costs. It also translates into more natural light and ventilation.

A happy place

To create a relaxed yet elegant openplan living area, it is advisable to decorate the space as a whole, otherwise the different zones won’t blend seamlessly and could end up looking messy and disjointed.

The sunny atmosphere created by natural light flooding free-flowing spaces, is the most appealing quality of open plan architecture. Homeowners’ needs have changed and formal lounges have been phased out.

Cooking in a stuffy kitchen is never fun for anyone, but with openplan living, there is no need to cook in solitude – you can be cooking dinner, while your kids watch TV in the living area. The flexibility offered by openplan living spaces fits in well with the zeitgeist of informal living and less rigid roles of family members.

Loads of options

One large room allows for flexible floor plans for furniture placement. You can change, shuffle or combine work, leisure and dining zones with little effort, giving you more creative and practical options.

Living as a family

Walls are barriers, so when they come down, Odendaal says the result is more social interaction. Each family member can be busy with his own activity, yet have a conversation across different zones.

Repeat the accent colour - be subtle, a hint of red in a painting in the dining area is enough to pick up a red vase or a red stripe in scatter cushions featured in the lounge area.

To create a relaxed yet elegant openplan living area, he says it is advisable to decorate the space as a whole. “This will strengthen the desired free-flowing look and feel of the space." If you don’t, the different zones won’t blend seamlessly and could end up looking messy and disjointed.

Odendaal says it is similar to garden design and architecture, as you start by planning the whole project, then you can execute it over time.

  1. Furniture doesn’t have to be from the same range, but it should at least be of similar style.
  2. Choose furniture in proportion to the space. If it is a big area, go for chunky furniture, such as an L-shaped sofa with oversized arms.
  3. Use furniture made from the same type of wood, or at least wood that is the same colour, throughout the space.
  4. Leather and earth tones go well with any colour wood.
  5. Upholstery pattern and texture can differ, but stick to a specific colour scheme.
  6. Repeat the accent colour - be subtle, a hint of red in a painting in the dining area is enough to pick up a red vase or a red stripe in scatter cushions featured in the lounge area.
  7. Use loose rugs in various spaces to create warmth and to define the specific zones.
  8. Group furniture to form cozy 'rooms' within the openplan space.
  9. Lighting is another way to define zones, whether pendants, floor-standing or table lamps. Instead of lighting the room evenly, create pools of light in each zone. Moody lighting creates a sense of warmth, whereas bright lighting often feels cold and impersonal.
  10. Console tables and sideboards work well as understated partitions between zones.
  11. Bigger furniture pieces, such as TV cabinets and bookcases, can be placed as dividers between zones. They also provide some privacy and can serve as sound barriers.
  12. Use ornaments and artworks to add personality, warmth and to create a more lived-in feel. 

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