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15 Simple Ways to Create an Open Floor Plan

Optimal furniture placement and the creative use of design elements can help create a more open concept. Read this guide for ideas on how to make your home feel more “open.”

Open floor plan iStock

Open floor plan design has become a leading architectural trend in houses built since the 1990s, and with good reason—the layout offers a feeling of spaciousness without increasing the home’s overall square footage. An open floor plan is defined as two or more rooms—excluding bathrooms, utility rooms, and bedrooms—that are located within a larger common area.

While the open floor plan is prized among homebuyers who like its modern feel, it can be hard to delineate the different spaces and prevent the kitchen, dining, living, and family areas from becoming blurred and feeling disorderly. We offer several ideas to help you maximize your open floor plan by creating adequate separation between the spaces.

Open Floor Plan Design Ideas

Think of an open floor plan as a blank artist’s canvas on which to define and combine living spaces in a manner that complements your way of life and sense of style.

Use Area Rugs

Open floor plan. iStock

One of the simplest yet most effective ways to separate an open floor plan and create individual areas is with area rugs. A large rug can define the size and location of a living room, for example.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with furniture placement; a sofa’s back legs don’t have to be positioned on a rug even if the front legs are. Use your eye to gauge what looks good and best delineates the separate spaces.

Rearrange Furniture

Living room and dining room in open floor plan. iStock

Create the perception of individual living spaces within an open floor plan simply by rearranging furniture. By positioning an oblong dining table between the kitchen and family area, you can visually separate an open kitchen from the dining and living areas, giving each its own space and character.

Define Intent with Furniture

While you can isolate individual spaces with furniture placement, you can also combine them. If you entertain a lot, you may want to position the sofa on the far side of the family area and face it toward the dining area. This configuration will create the effect of pulling the family room and the dining area together as an expansive entertaining space, where guests can comfortably drift back and forth.

Direct Foot Traffic

Position furniture to direct foot traffic around the sides of spaces, not through them. This can be as simple as pulling sofas and chairs a few feet away from the wall to create a walkway behind them. This allows people to navigate the space without having to walk between others who are conversing in the family area.

Add Simple Barriers

Invest in physical barriers for added separation when family members are vying for a bit of space to call their own. If you need to tuck a home office in the corner of an open family room, do it by using a privacy screen or freestanding bookcases which will offer a sense of privacy even though the office is still in the same room.

Arrange tall potted plants, such as Norfolk pines or triangle ficus, to create a living wall between spaces. With plants, you can create the feeling of privacy and add a measure of sound dampening throughout the area.

Incorporate Similar Design Elements

Echo design elements from space to space. For example, if the dining table has a sleek stainless-steel frame, unify the look by introducing stainless steel hardware on the kitchen cabinets and a stainless-steel floor lamp in the family room.

Incorporate Focal Points & Visually Divide an Open Floor Plan

By designing each space around its own focal point, you’ll give each area a distinct identity that’s easy to recognize.

Center Around a Fireplace

In the living area, a large item, such as a stone fireplace or gallery wall, can serve as a focal point and set the stage for the rest of the décor. Arrange furniture and add design elements to complement the focal point.

Use Complementary Design Elements

Dining room with big windows and a wall mirror. iStock

The focal point in a dining area is usually the table, so choose one that defines the style you’re going for and introduce complementary-design elements around it. A wall mirror that reflects the table visually enlarges the space and emphasizes the table’s distinction as the focal point.

In the kitchen area, the focal point might be an eating bar, an island, or even a distinctive-looking stove.

Give Focal Points an Update

Update an outmoded focal point. In order to draw the space together, the focal point should be worthy of its star status. A dark, drab brick fireplace that’s seen better days can be whitewashed to brighten up the entire room and give it a completely different feel.

Open floor plan ideas for small spaces

Small open areas present a unique challenge. One bedroom and efficiency apartments are inherently designed with open floor plans. The following guidelines will keep these diminutive spaces from feeling crowded or cramped.

Opt for a Sectional Sofa

For a decluttered look, opt for a sectional sofa over upholstered chairs and a traditional sofa. The sectional will provide just as much seating and take up less floor space.

Use Light and Airy Paint Colors

For a roomy feel, use light, neutral colors on both walls and furniture. Consider whites and light grays to make the space look bigger and add in splashes of color in the details.

Go for an Eating Bar

Eating bar in kitchen. iStock

When there’s not enough room for a separate living and dining area, ditch the dining table and turn the kitchen counter into an eating bar that serves the whole space.

Establish an Entryway

Establish a foyer with a rug that’s a couple of feet wider than the entry door to visually define the space. Add a chair or small bench for taking off shoes and mount a couple of hooks on the wall to hang jackets and hats.

Add Lighting

Light it up. Small living spaces can feel even smaller when the lighting is dim and dreary. Add pendant lamps over kitchen counters and install dimmable light switches in family areas so you can crank up the brightness when desired.

Mount the TV

Get rid of the television table and hang a flat screen on the wall for a clean look that frees up space. Get step-by-step instructions on how to mount a TV.