Open Floor Plan Setup:

Setting Up Your Open Floor Plan

Keeping a Healthy Home with Open Space

In some homes, an open-plan living area is built into the layout of the ground floor area by design; in others, walls have to be knocked through to combine two or more small rooms into one large open area. In a restricted space, the absence of clearly defined rooms produces an illusion of spaciousness and makes a greater floor area available. In larger homes, an unpartitioned layout engenders a feeling of unlimited space with limitless design potential.

When decorating an open-plan area, you are aiming not only to create an attractive-looking room but also to make the large living space workable. You may have the luxury of a fabulous amount of space to play with but, unless you have a very large house, you also have to fit a lot of activities into it – certainly living and dining facilities and sometimes the hall, stairs, and/or kitchen, too. So in your planning you need to allow for socializing, watching television, relaxing, working, and dining - in some cases maybe even cooking and sleeping as well.

It helps to get the layout of the activity areas and the furniture placement sorted out before you finalize the color scheme and soft furnishings. You can demarcate functional areas within the broader scheme using furniture, flooring, lighting, or screens. Then you can use colors and patterns either to unify the various zones or to reinforce their moods and functions. Time spent at an early stage, working out how the open-plan area will look and function, makes the world of difference to the ease with which you can use it.

Division of Space

The key to a successful open-plan layout lies in keeping it simple. Sometimes your freedom to maneuver is limited. The location of a fireplace, for example, largely determines the best place to site the easy seating. Windows, doors, and other rooms also impose themselves on the layout of the space. For instance, it makes sense to site the dining section at the end of the area nearer the kitchen. If possible, it is pleasant to position the dining table near a window where it will catch die sunshine at breakfast time. On the other hand, you want to place the television where the screen doesn't catch the glare of the sun through a window.

Arranging Furniture

A few well-chosen pieces of furniture - a sofa, a dining table and chairs, maybe a desk, side tables, and storage units - are preferable to crowding the space. Strategically positioned, they help to create a structure for the area and accommodate all the people using it. A sofa bed offers the sleeping option. Ample storage makes it easier to preserve an uncluttered look.

Practical positioning: Arrange the furniture so that people will use it rather than reorganizing it every time the room is occupied.

Traffic flow: It is important to work out a convenient traffic flow through the whole room. When the open-plan living area is the only route from the front door to the kitchen, you want to avoid having to make a detour around a table or cutting across a group of armchairs to get there.

Creating zones: A table, chest, sofa, or sideboard placed across the open-plan space sets up a spatial and visual break to differentiate activity zones without destroying the sensation of roominess.

Organizing the dining area: If you prefer to use most of the open-plan area as one large living room, a folding dining table that you can push against a wall until you need it is a good idea. When you want a distinct dining section, instead of leaving the dining table surrounded by chairs, disperse some to other parts of the room for a more informal look and extra seating.

Creating Dividers

If you find you need more privacy in a particular area of the living space, erect a formal room divider. Before rushing into building a permanent divider or buying a freestanding screen, experiment with an improvised divider to make certain that the new arrangement fits the bill. Floor-to-ceiling curtains, for example, drawn across between two sections of the room, muffle sound and create a sense of division and coziness. You must position the partition carefully so that it does not cut across a window, make a room disagreeably dark, slice into an elegant plastered ceiling, or obstruct movement around the room.

Click here for more information about dividers.

Color and Pattern

Color and pattern are crucial to the success of the whole layout. Overall cohesion is best maintained by the use of the same or coordinated wall coverings, fabrics, and flooring throughout the area. The flow of colors between sections of the room visually holds the space together.

On the other hand, you can positively emphasize a change of shape or function in the room with color or pattern. By following an obvious structural division, such as the line of a former dividing wall or an alcove, you can modify the color scheme and atmosphere in each activity area. Avoid too many changes, or the area can look cluttered and lose the sense of space.

Flooring

Floor coverings usually play a significant part in reinforcing the overall or subdivided nature of an open-plan space. In general, it is best to keep to the same tone throughout the area, even if you vary the material. You can combine a pale carpet in the living space, for example, with woodstrip flooring over the dining section, or vinyl tiles in the kitchen area.

It's worth remembering that footsteps tend to reverberate in a large area. All-over carpet or natural-fiber flooring, laid on good-quality padding, muffles the sound and forms an excellent background for decorative rugs. If you prefer the bare-floorboard look, scattering a few rugs over the floor helps to deaden the sound.

Well-placed rugs are also useful for demarcating definite territories in the room - perhaps in front of a fireplace to anchor a seating arrangement or under a dining table to mark out the eating area.

Windows

Many open-plan conversions result in a room with a window at each end, often of a different shape and size. The same window treatment may not be appropriate for both. However, using the same or complementary fabrics to make a blind or perhaps a valance for a small window at the back of the house and more lavish curtains for the front windows establishes continuity between the two ends of the room.

Accent Features

Dashes of the same eye-catching color, appearing on cushions, ornaments, pictures, plants, and rugs dispersed around the area, are all excellent devices for drawing attention to specific zones while unifying the whole scheme.

Lighting Schemes

A flexible lighting system is vital to making the whole open-plan area work effectively. The immense diversity of activities that go on in an open-plan area calls for general, task, and accent lighting.

Efficient background lighting, supplied by sconces or other wall-mounted lights and spotlights on the ceiling, is supplemented by localized task and accent light sources in separate activity areas. Table lamps, desk lights, floor lamps, and freestanding torches are portable light sources and flexible design tools that create warm pools of light around the room wherever you want them. At the dining area, concentrate most of the light on the dining table. A rise-and-fall pendant which lifts out of the way when not in use is an ideal light source, as long as you remember it is fixed and governs the table position.

An outlet sunk into the floor under a sofa or armchair means that you can have table or floor lamps close to the seating area without the need for a light cord trailing dangerously across the floor from the wall. For a variable atmospheric effect, fit dimmer switches. These let you adjust the level of lighting in different areas of the room to suit the occasion and to balance natural and artificial light.





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