How to create zones in an open-plan space

Cassie Pryce

Discover how to make the most of modern living spaces and design a multi-purpose room without compromising on style.

With open-plan homes becoming increasingly popular, particularly with young families and new build properties, it can be a challenge to achieve the balance between flow and division.

Kitchen-dining areas are a common alternative to having a separate dining room nowadays, and guest bedrooms are often doubled-up as playrooms or home offices in smaller properties.

We’ve rounded-up some top tips to help you create a practical space that will work for everyone in the family.

 

Floor fillers

floor fillers

A simple yet effective way to show a separation in part of a space is to use different flooring options. In kitchen-dining areas, for example, this could be changing up the flooring from kitchen tiles to wood flooring as you go between the spaces.

Alternatively, if you have a lounge area within or nearby to the kitchen, consider using a large rug to mark out the living area and give it a cosier feel underfoot.

This is an inexpensive way to clearly show a division within the space and will encourage family and guests to treat the various parts of the room differently.

Read more: A guide to laying perfect floorboards

 

Smart layout

John Lewis
Anton coffee table in Oak, £129; Anton extending dining table, £350; Anton dining chairs, from £79 each, all House by John Lewis

How you arrange your furniture is key when it comes to creating zones in open-plan spaces. Use bulky furniture, such as sofas, armchairs and dining tables, to act as the anchors for each zone, and then position them according to how you want the room to flow. For example, having the back of a sofa facing into the middle of a room may not always be the most aesthetically pleasing position, but it will instantly cut off the living room space if you want to create a feeling of separation.

Use open bookcases or freestanding shelving units as an alternative way to show a division if you want something less bulky between different areas. Style up the shelves with pretty trinkets and ornaments that can be viewed from both sides but leave enough space to see through the shelves so they still feel open.

A drawback of open plan living is that there is no way to shut away mess and hide it in another room, so make sure your furniture includes plenty of storage to hide away clutter such as toys, homework and work files.

This same principle can be applied to other rooms around the house, too: office spaces that are part of a bedroom need to be given a separate feel, so use clever furniture like wall-mounted desks that can fold away at night, or put up a decorative screen to hide the office area from the bedroom.

Day beds are a good solution in guest bedrooms, as they double-up as sofa seating when not in use and often come with in-built drawers to store bedding.

Read more: The benefits of building a garden office

 

Bright idea

Lighting is another way you can mark out zones in a room. Spotlights are common in kitchens as they’re a practical choice, so why not hang a statement pendant light above your dining area to show a clear difference?

Install an individual shade, or trio of pendants, over the dining table to indicate a change in mood to the kitchen and use dimmer switches to create the right atmosphere when eating.

If your guest bedroom is dual-purpose and is also used as a home office, for example, implement different lighting solutions so your guests don’t feel like they’re intruding on a space that isn’t meant for them. Choose a desk lamp that can easily be used as a bedside light at night time or go for wall lights to provide less harsh lighting than overhead fittings.

Read more: How to make your home lighter and brighter

 

Design decisions

IKEA
Varv floor lamp with wireless charging, £85; Stockholm rug, £100, both IKEA

While creating zones can help to manage the function of a space and give it a stronger sense of purpose, it’s still important to have an overarching interior design that pulls the look of the space together cohesively.

This can be achieved through the use of colour: select a main palette of two or three shades for the space and then use this as a base from which to make other design decisions in each zone. For example, pale green kitchen tiles can be extended to a coordinating rug beneath the dining table, or even echoed in smaller accessories such as vases or cushions elsewhere in the room.

On the other hand, you could use colour in the opposite way and choose a mixture of shades to create a colour-coded system to identify the different zones around the open-plan space and give each a distinctive feel.

Pull together materials and textures, such as natural woods or modern glossy finishes, so the different areas work as a whole and don’t jar against each other. These small considerations will greatly improve the flow of the room and help create a pleasing balance of unity and division within larger spaces.

 

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