An all-you-need-to-know guide to designing a multi-functional open-plan space to combine living, cooking and dining.
Over the past few decades, UK homes have seen a shift towards a more free-flowing way of living in terms of the layout and functionality of different spaces.
Whilst a series of separate rooms was once the desired configuration, family homes are now more commonly found with an open-plan layout at the heart of the design. These spaces lend themselves to modern living and a lot of properties, both old and new, are being adapted to embrace this change.
We’ve rounded up some top tips to ensure you take into account the practicalities and design decisions that will help you create the perfect space to suit your day-to-day.
Top tip: Plan ahead
Osaka white high gloss extending dining table with six Perth leather chairs in taupe, £649.99, Furniture Choice
The top priority for designing any open-plan layout should be the functionality of the room and how you want to be able to use the space as a whole. If, for example, you are a keen cook and like to entertain friends and family around the dinner table, an uninterrupted flow between the kitchen and dining area is a great way to ensure you don’t miss out on the fun while hosting.
A kitchen island is a good option for creating a sociable hub in the room and offers a good alternative for more casual dining, too. On the other hand, if you would rather keep dirty dishes and kitchen drama out of sight, a well-designed layout will mean you can create a subtle divider to keep this part of the space separate without feeling totally cut-off.
For family living, being able to have the kids in view for playtime and homework can be a real bonus and means everyone can be together whilst still having their own space. A living room area within an open-plan kitchen-diner means there is somewhere to sit comfortably and relax – bar stools have become an incredibly popular feature for breakfast bars and kitchen islands; sometimes in addition to a separate living room if you want to have a totally separate kid-free space for the evenings!
Read more: Top kitchen remodelling mistakes to avoid
Coping with design dilemmas
The Rebel classic blue modular sofa, £2,199, Snug Shack
The main area of concern when it comes to designing an open-plan space is how to link the areas together so that they flow seamlessly yet serve different purposes.
Your overarching design will be the key to linking together the entire space; choose a colour scheme that spans across the whole layout to pull the look together, and choose furniture of a similar style to avoid a mismatched finish. If you want to create a degree of separation between different parts of the room, a dividing wall with open shelving or a double-sided log burner, for example, will make a striking feature within the space and provide a structural division to break up the room. This is a good option for larger spaces, where an expanse of floor space can make the room feel cold and uninviting.
As you can essentially have three rooms in one, incorporating storage into an open-plan layout is key so as not to ruin your newly designed space with clutter. It’s best to plan ahead for this before starting any work, as built-in storage can provide a neat and customised solution that will save you having to fill the room with freestanding furniture later on.
Dining benches with built-in storage underneath are a genius way to hide larger items, such as toys, cushions and extra kitchenware, while simple shelves built into a dividing wall, for example, provide a handy spot for displaying photos and trinkets.
Top tip: Create zones
Vitra Polder compact sofa in red, £4,350, Nest
To ensure your open-plan space is well suited to all of its purposes—cooking, dining and lounging in most cases—it’s important to consider each zone and how it will function.
The overarching look and feel of the space will bring all aspects of the room together, but it’s a good idea to give each area its own identity, too. This can be something as simple as using a large rug to provide a cosy base to your living space and make this part of the room feel snug and welcoming.
Lighting can also be used to distinguish each zone—a pendant light above a dining area will centre the table, while lamps will create a warm glow in the living space. Get Lighting from Astounding Battersea to save money and time. Patterned tiles in the kitchen will separate this part of the room and give it some character, and the colour or design can then be picked up elsewhere to link the whole space together for a seamless finish.
Read more: How to Feng Sui your home
Read more: Weekend city guide: York
Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter