Broadgates Road:  Living room by Granit Architects

​The homify guide to an open-plan living room

Johannes van Graan Johannes van Graan

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Modern times have certainly influenced trends in the architectural- and interior design industries, and perhaps the best evidence is the fact that open-plan layouts have become the norm. However, an open-plan living room that shares its space with a kitchen, dining area or home office (or other equally practical space) does not always work well. How so? Bad planning is usually the culprit, not taking one’s lifestyle into account, as well as a failure to envision how the new space will actually function on a day-to-day basis.  

But have no fear, for here at homify we have tips and tricks to help make your open-plan living room the best space in your entire home…

1. Open-plan living room: Envision invisible walls

Busy designing an open-plan living room in your home? Imagine where walls might be placed. 

Visualising the space as a series of rooms instead of one big layout forces you to think about proper circulation, storage options, plus lighting and furniture placement. Furniture placement is especially vital, as you can’t just push those sofas and side tables up against the walls – you need to consider how you and your family (and guests) will move through the living room from one ‘zone’ to the next.

2. Open-plan living room: Consider a broken plan

Also known as ‘semi-open plans’, the broken plan takes into consideration quiet zones, teenage spaces, home offices, and grown-up living rooms. And more and more people are aiming for it. 

The most successful open-plan layouts incorporate ways of closing off spaces when needed. One brilliant example is sliding doors that hide into cavities within walls when not needed. Bi-fold doors are another option, although they take up more space than sliding ones. Glazed walls and doors are also great ideas, as they allow light to move through the layout while still keeping certain zones separate.

3. Open-plan living room: Zone spaces

To avoid that vacuous, cold feel that certain large open-plans have, room dividers are used to break up zones. Breakfast bars and island units are some of the more well-known examples, used to divide off kitchens from dining areas and living rooms in open-plan layouts. 

Partial (or half) walls are also great for maintaining a sense of flow whilst creating separate zones. Storage units are also great for creating partitions while enhancing a home’s storage potential. 

And don’t overlook double-sided fireplaces (or free-standing stoves), which work especially well between living rooms and dining halls and bring a lovely sense of homeliness to open-plan layouts. Just keep in mind that, should you want to opt for this in your open-plan space, they need to be planned in at the design stage of a build.

4. Open-plan living room: Visual room dividers

Broadgates Road:  Living room by Granit Architects
Granit Architects

Broadgates Road

Granit Architects

A simple colour switch can also help to visually break up an open-plan layout. Think about painting your kitchen area, for instance, a lighter and brighter colour than the dining/living space to immediately set them apart from one another. 

And don’t overlook the importance of flooring. Tiles in the kitchen, timber in the dining room, and perhaps a lovely carpet in your open-plan living room are not just beautiful, but also makes practical sense.

5. Open-plan living room: Floor- and ceiling levels

A split-level layout is perfect to ensure open-plan spaces are organised into different zones. Think about a living room separated from the kitchen via two or three steps, for example. This divides the two separate zones without closing off either one. 

Varying ceiling levels is another popular idea, such as a dining room with a lower ceiling height than the adjoining living room, for instance. 

homify hint: Ceiling beams are also used to indicate a change in use from area to area. This is a very practical way for renovators opening up various small rooms to one another, as steel beams are usually needed for support.

6. Open-plan living room: Lighting schemes

Living Room and Dining Area:  Living room by Roselind Wilson Design
Roselind Wilson Design

Living Room and Dining Area

Roselind Wilson Design

Want character and interest in your open-plan living room? Use different lighting styles. 

For the kitchen, we recommend task-based lighting; thus, lights placed to illuminate work surfaces like the island, hob and sink. When it comes to the dining zone, pendants dangling relatively low over the dining table are fantastic, plus wall lights to include an extra level of ambient lighting. 

One needs to become creative with the lighting in open-plan layouts where the reduced number of walls can limit the lighting options. Thus, don’t forget about tried-and-tested options like floor lamps and side lamps (which also help in creating layered lighting).

7. Open-plan living room: Prioritise extraction and sound proofing

Schoolmasters:  Living room by build different
build different


build different

One of the drawbacks of open-plan living rooms is the cooking smells and steam, as well as sounds and noise, migrating over from the kitchen’s side. 

To ensure your living room’s socialising goes off without a hitch, ensure there is sufficient means of extraction within the cooking space. Locate your cooker and hob near a window and, ideally, at the point furthest away from living spaces.

In terms of sound-proofing, opt for soft flooring instead of hard surfaces. Plenty of soft furnishings (like heavy drapes and upholstery) will also help drown out some of the noise. 

And remember: you can always fit in sliding doors to separate your cooking space from the living- and socialising ones. 

Want more visual inspiration? Then see these 15 fabulous open-plan dining- and living rooms.

How do you feel about modern open-plan living rooms?
Whitton Drive:  Terrace house by GK Architects Ltd

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