As a home stager and someone who lives in a home that has a partially open floor plan I understand the pros and cons when tackling this kind of space. However, this setup is not for everyone. Some homeowners want an open concept but don’t know how to decorate it or differentiate the space. Some want it for the entertaining space but how do you know if it is really something you can live with?
Advantages to an open floor plan
If you have kids and you want to keep an eye on them, the open floor plan allows you to do that. The space also just feels bigger because you are not visually hindered by walls. In addition, you only have to pick one wall color and one type of flooring that covers the large open space. Finally, the open floor plan allows you to have expandable space (my personal favorite advantage) to do what you want when needed. Small pieces of furniture work great in this plan because you can rearrange it to fit what you need.
There are some disadvantages to an open floor plan though. By removing the walls, you have less space to hang artwork. If you like using lamps to light the space, the proximity to an outlet may be a limiting factor on where you place your furniture unless you have floor outlets. Therefore you might want to consider installing recessed lighting in the ceiling which can cost extra if it’s not already there. Another disadvantage is if the back of your furniture is unsightly, then you really can’t use it without cringing every time.
If you like privacy then you don’t want an open floor plan either. Some families have pets and want to be able to close them in a small room. This can’t be done with an open floor plan. Finally if you have kids watching TV and you are trying to have an adult conversation, an open floor plan can hinder both parties involved.
Keeping it tidy
There are many things I use to keep my open floor neat and tidy. My favorite is the use of an IKEA armoire I use for the kids toys. Instead of using it for clothes, I added shelves in it to store board games, Legos, blocks and other toys where I can close the door. My kids know that if it doesn’t fit in the armoire they have too many toys! Low bookcases are another great way to store items. Use some pretty boxes and store them in the bookshelf. No one will know that is where you store the paper and crayons unless they look!
Privacy and kids don’t really work together unless you have a designated space. An open floor plan can still do that as long as you give kids their own area, otherwise they will encroach in yours. Use baskets or see through bookcases to help divide an area which can help differentiate it too.
Differentiate each area
This brings me to the topic of how you can separate each area. Rugs, furniture and color are great ways to do this. Use large area rugs to help anchor the space in a living or dining area. Low bookcases or console/sofa tables against a couch also help separate it. With such a large space, you will more than likely have a column or two. Use those architectural features to help define the space as well.
You can use color to help separate each area as well. Use the same color palette such as blues, greens and browns for the overall space, but use blues in the living area or green in the dining area. They still complement each other but the colors help define the space.
Hang a chandelier in the dining area and use floor lamps in a living area. Lighting helps define the space too and you can make it as cozy or as open as you want.
How do you know if an open floor plan is right for you?
If you need an office space or don’t want to hear or see the TV then this type of living arrangement isn’t for you. If you find yourself blocking off areas with tall items such as bookcases in the middle of the room, then you are essentially putting up “walls” anyway. One client stated he didn’t like open floor plans because he likes to close the door when working. Doors also help keep the pets from coming into a room that is off limits.
Use the Open Floor Plan for an Entertaining Space
Open floor areas are a great asset when it comes to entertaining. When I redesigned my 1,000 square foot basement we didn’t want to put up any walls so that it looked bigger. It has many different functions for the whole family for every day use: movie watching area, seating, kids play area, craft nook, wet bar, bedroom and a bathroom. But whenever we entertain our guests, the whole space can be converted to fit everything we need for an indoor party. The seating area is used for the appetizers, tables are brought in to sit and eat a meal, the craft area becomes the buffet area and the wet bar serves the drinks. We used this space for intimate birthday parties for 10 or Halloween parties for 50. It is a great way to maximize space when you are limited to indoor parties.
In the end, you decide whether an open floor plan works for you. There are many ways to use it to your advantage while there are some negatives such as privacy, lack of walls to hang art and lighting. You can separate the areas using furniture and other items to help define the space but you ultimately know if it is right for you.