How To Decorate an Open Floor Plan

An open floor plan can encompass anything from a spacious urban loft to a studio apartment. No matter the size, open floor plans have a knack for tripping up even the most seasoned interior designers.

Spaces sans walls provide no cues as to where one area ends and another begins. So how do you tackle an open floor plan in your home? Never fear! These creative tips will help you conquer the challenges of wide-open interior spaces.

Consider the Space and Its Function

Take a look at your space, noting the size, layout and any architectural dividing lines. Determine how many functions the space will serve based on the square footage. If your open plan is extremely large, you may be able to designate separate areas for TV viewing, dining and relaxing.

Space adjacent to this kitchen is used for dining and living.
Space adjacent to this kitchen is used for dining and living. | Source
Columns and other architectural features can provide divisions of space in an open concept home.
Columns and other architectural features can provide divisions of space in an open concept home. | Source

Take advantage of walls, columns and changes in flooring to dictate different “room” functions. If you have a wall that juts out, use it to divide the space into two separate areas. Similarly, the dividing line from a tile to wood floor is a natural demarcation of space.

Use technology cues when planning the function of specific areas. Make note of the placement of cable and Internet connections, phone and electrical outlets to determine an area’s use. They will dictate where your media area, computer center and reading lamps will be located.

Create a Sense of Flow

I once had an open floor plan and used paint and furniture placement to create visual divisions. The variation in wall paint colors were very subtle (no more than one degree up or down a paint color chip), yet they were just different enough to create separation between the dining and living room.

The use of a long sectional and low console bookcase created the “wall” between the living and dining spaces. The kitchen island and bar counter divided the dining space from the kitchen.

A neutral color palette will unite spaces of an open floor plan.
A neutral color palette will unite spaces of an open floor plan. | Source

While each space retained a distinct personality, the use of a unifying color palette created a sense of flow from room to room. I used neutrals for the large-scale furnishings to maintain continuity. Jewel tones in accessories and artwork added small bursts of vibrant color to create consistency throughout the large expanse.

Use Rugs to Delineate Space

Another great trick is to use area rugs to define separate areas within an open floor plan. Use two of the same or coordinating area rugs to delineate your living and dining rooms.

Rugs are employed to separate the living and office spaces in this apartment.
Rugs are employed to separate the living and office spaces in this apartment. | Source

The rugs don’t have to be huge, just large enough to anchor the furniture in each space. The gap between the rugs actually serves to help divide the spaces, creating a visual traffic path between the living and dining areas. In the image above, the homeowner should have used complimentary instead of contrasting rugs.

Divide and Conquer

If you are uneasy with all that open space, create the feeling of walls by using room dividers. Folding screens come a variety of lengths and heights. You can choose a style and material to suit any décor – ornately carved wood, antique Chinese, upholstered fabric, rice paper or slatted, to name a few.

Using stretched canvas is a unique idea for a room divider!
Using stretched canvas is a unique idea for a room divider! | Source

If you want something more permanent, consider ceiling mounted room dividers that operate on a track system. This will also give you the option of opening and closing off rooms to suit your needs – say, for an intimate dinner party or to provide daytime privacy for a home office. For homeowners on a budget, simply install curtain hardware and panels from your ceiling!

Choose Different Lighting Fixtures for Each Space

Ceiling mounted lighting fixtures can also break up spaces within an open floor plan. Choose a distinctive chandelier or drum pendant to define a room.

Use a variety of overhead lighting fixtures to define different areas of an open floor plan.
Use a variety of overhead lighting fixtures to define different areas of an open floor plan. | Source

Use a row of pendant lights to divide one space from another. Try a long, rectangular pendant over your dining room table to mimic the space you are trying to create.

Furniture Placement Advice From a Designer!

So, the next time you are in the market for a new home, don’t be hesitant to consider one with an open floor plan. You are now equipped with the knowledge and confidence to decorate those spaces like a pro!

© 2013 lindacee

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Start a Conversation! 14 comments

ComfortB profile image

ComfortB 3 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

I love the creative ideas presented in this hub. Really beautiful. I have a semi-open floor plan as my kitchen is enclosed but opens into the living room a little, and I've employed most of what is mentioned here. It's practical and really does work !

I may need to look into the stretched canvas as room divider for my kid's room.

Great hub. Voted up, beautiful and useful.


lindacee profile image

lindacee 3 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

Thanks ComfortB! The stretched canvas is an awesome idea for a kid's room. Hope it works for you! I'm so glad you enjoyed these tips--although it sounds like you are already a seasoned home decorator! Thanks for the votes and comment. :)


Om Paramapoonya profile image

Om Paramapoonya 3 years ago

These are great tips, Linda! Decorating an open floor plan can be fun and challenging at the same time, I think. On one hand, it allows lots of flexibility and room for creativity. On the other hand, such a large empty space can be overwhelming if one isn't quite sure where to start. I like that bedroom with an asymmetrical canvas divider. So chic!


lindacee profile image

lindacee 3 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

Om, open floor plans can be fun to tackle--you just need to think outside the BIG BOX and come with ideas that divide and unify spaces at the same time. That canvas room divider is my favorite as well. Glad you enjoyed these tips. Thanks for stopping by! :)


idigwebsites profile image

idigwebsites 3 years ago from United States

I love an open space room, it allows us to communicate within just an earshot. I love the ideas you show here, the rugs are a good idea to mark specific places. Voted up and useful. :)


lindacee profile image

lindacee 3 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

idigwebsites, I too enjoy the ease of communication that an open floor plan allows. My husband's main complaint, however, is that whenever someone is busy in the kitchen it makes it difficult to hear what is going on in the living room. I have to agree with him on that point. And yes, rugs are one of the easiest ways to give different areas visual separation. Thank you for the votes and comment! :)


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

This is really great and I love the roominess!


lindacee profile image

lindacee 3 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

Thanks Jackie! :)


vespawoolf profile image

vespawoolf 3 years ago from Peru, South America

I love your home décor series and this one is no exception. I like the suggestion of planning the space, creating flow and defining with area rugs. What a clever stretched canvas room divider! Great ideas here--marked for future reference. Voted up across the board and shared.


lindacee profile image

lindacee 3 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

Thank you, vespawoolf, hopefully you can incorporate some of these ideas into your new home. I really appreciate your support! :)


Kathryn Stratford profile image

Kathryn Stratford 3 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

I love the subject of home design.

I like open floor plans. They're flexible, and as long as you take care in the arrangement, they can look nice!

Thanks for sharing this information with us.


lindacee profile image

lindacee 3 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

It's one of my favorite topics to write about, Kathryn. So glad you enjoyed these tips for open floor plan decorating! :)


vespawoolf profile image

vespawoolf 2 years ago from Peru, South America

I came back to take another look at this useful information as we may be moving to an open floor plan next year. I like the idea of delineating space with area rugs and subtle use of wall color. Even the room dividers are interesting. Thank you!


lindacee profile image

lindacee 2 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

Vespawoolf, hope you get a house/apt with an open floor plan. It was hard to find one in Uruguay except in brand new homes. The older, more traditional home construction consisted of boxy rooms with the kitchen completely segregated from the living area. That was difficult to get used to. Glad you were able to revisit this Hub and get some ideas that will come in handy! :)

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