Renovation & Design

How to tackle an open-concept design

When decorating an open-area home, different areas can be distinguished with artificial barriers such as furniture and different colours of paint.

Decorating an open-concept home can be fun but challenging. For instance, I'm often asked where one should stop and start with wall colour in an open-concept home. It's tricky because the walls and ceilings usually don't have regular corners where there is clear definition of where to stop or start with paint. Each home will have a different design, so you have to consider your specific layout in order to determine where to put your wall colour.

The open-concept layout of the kitchen, dining room and sitting area in our feature photograph is a good example to study. The large wall in the background, with the patio doors, is a perfect example of a wall with no end. You might not notice it at first but that wall runs right into the kitchen. A clever use of a vertical plumb line divides the white paint and the orange paint to create a sense of separation from the kitchen to the rest of the open space. The rich orange wall in the kitchen complements the wooden cabinets and provides a focal point. Adding floating shelves to the focal wall supports the visual separation and beefs up its visual drama.

On the faux fireplace wall to the left, the orange colour is continued. Carrying the accent colour to the other side of the space makes the whole open-concept feel cohesive. The accent colour is carried into the sitting area through toss cushions in a similar tone.

The fireplace wall is most likely a freestanding wall that is open on both sides. This makes it perfect for rich colour or a dramatic finish. Even without the faux fireplace, a wall like this can be treated with a strong wall colour and a large piece of artwork, a stone feature wall or a focal wall treated with wallpaper and art. Other options for an awkward half wall are a floor to ceiling photo or art display, a display for collections (maps, stamps etc.) or a floor-to-ceiling library.


Create zones

Often times in an open concept home, furniture placement can be just as tricky. In our feature photo you can see a clever placement of two armchairs angled to the fireplace wall makes for a nice vignette. If left empty, this area would seem cavernous and bare, which would belie the earthy, cosy atmosphere the homeowner is trying to create. Also, when entertaining, a space such as this supports the interaction of friends and family while the host is working in the kitchen. Guests can sit at the dining table, in the armchairs or on the stools along the outside of the kitchen peninsula to enjoy the gathering.

Creating zones can help make sense of an awkward layout. The three zones in our feature space are the kitchen, dining room and sitting area. They are all in the same open space but have definition. The kitchen has visual separation from the rest of the space via the kitchen peninsula, however it's still open to the rest of the space. Creating a visual zone with wall colour helps define the kitchen further.

The area rug under the armchairs helps visually separate the small sitting area from the dining room space. It also supports the feel of a cosy, restful sitting area with soft armchairs and warm carpeting beneath.

The small dining table and chairs stand alone to create a dining area. The choice of a round table helps with the traffic flow in this small area of the open-concept space. Even though there is no chandelier above the table, a vase of flowers in a co-ordinating colour, helps define and enhance the dining area.

Keeping the flooring the same throughout the open-concept area is a good idea to create visual flow. Using area rugs, furniture placement and colour to define each zone helps keep the space from feeling cavernous.

In other parts of the main level of the home, use furniture to create conversational groupings, don't place it all around the walls of the room. Most likely a living room, as just one example, will be too large to have the furniture sitting against the walls around the perimeter. In a large space, create a smaller conversational grouping and a larger movie to watching grouping, just as one option. Include a great area rug under one or both of the groupings to give them definition and use items like sofa tables, floor plants and lamps to further the separation if a sofa or loveseat seems to be floating in the space.

Once you think you have a plan in mind, consider it from all angles of the space to ensure the view is spectacular from anywhere. Be sure to group furniture so that it doesn't block traffic flow.

Large-scale artwork and decorating accessories can certainly help your cause. On, say, the fireplace wall, you might hang an oversized clock, salvage find piece or a large, ornate mirror instead of artwork on the mantle. Because the open concept design has large soaring wall with a cathedral ceiling, there is a great opportunity for over-scale and unique items to be considered. From a vaulted ceiling perhaps something like a large, antler chandelier or display of painted driftwood.

You also have to consider your lifestyle when making plans. Maybe you have a regular game night, or poker game and require a games table and chair to be part of the d©cor. There's no reason the table in our feature room couldn't be used as a games table, which would make that zone sort of a den space with the armchairs and fireplace for after game cocktails. This is just one idea to help you on your way.

Send me an email if you're having trouble. I'll see what I can do for you.


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