Design Dilemma: Decorating an Open Space Interior
In the last couple of decades, there’s been a landslide movement toward houses and apartments featuringÂ large open spaces. After all, modern open floor plansÂ offerÂ advantages that cannot be replicated by the tight, closed-off rooms of the Victorian era.Â There is light.Â There is space. There is flexibility. Even togetherness. And let’s face it, there’s also a bit of glamour. Open space floor plans harken back to bohemian artists living and creating with wild abandon in open space New York lofts in the mid-20th century.Â Now, even homeowners with older homes are knocking down walls to get a bit of that bohemian feel.
Of course, open space floor plans are great — until it’s time to decorate them.
The reality is thatÂ lots ofÂ undefined space presents a number of design challengesÂ that can frustrate even the savviestÂ interior decorator.Â Here are a few tips for making it all work:
1. Keep things cohesive. This goes for wall color, floor coverings and furniture choices. For wall color choices, you’re better off sticking with light and bright paint colors that will highlight the light and space in your open floor plan, rather than challenging it. Colored accent walls are losing favor inÂ recent years in favor ofÂ very subtle paint color changes in trim and wall color. Â Maintaining one type of floor covering for the entire expanse of space will also go a long way to giving yourÂ space a feeling of unity.Â For example, wood floors throughout –even in a kitchen — will create an elegant and soothing effect.Â Finally, keep your furniture in the same scale and tonal range. For example, go with all wenge or dark woodsÂ or all birch or lighter woods. Â Having a dining area featuring all-Victorian furniture and a living room area featuring all mid-century modern just won’t work, unless you are able to bring elements of both periods into both rooms.
2. Create defined spaces in subtle ways. Even if your kitchen, dining room and living room are just one wide room, you’ll likely want to define each area so it’s clear what function it serves. You can help create this definition by creating furniture groupings. Floating furniture groups in the middle of a room willÂ encourage conversation and interaction and make a room feel whole. On the other hand,Â furniture lined up against the wall will have the opposite effect,Â creating an incompleteÂ bowling alley feel. You can also help define spaces by making use of room dividers such as open book shelves, hanging cloth panels, shoji screens, and even sliding doors that can close off an area or disappear completely to leave a room wide open.
3. Pay special attention to lighting. Lighting is your chance to give an open space more definition. Choosing a variety of lights — recessed lights, pendants, track lights, accent lights — will instantly allow you to set off one area from another. For example, recessed lights on different switches can allow you to highlight an area near a bar, or, instead a reading corner.
4. Pare down. At the heart of an open floor plan is a simplicity in living that does not look kindly upon redundancies. In keeping with this simplicity,Â eliminate unnecessary furniture. For instance, do you really need aÂ breakfast table AND a dining room table just a few feet from each other in an open floor plan? Probably not. So get rid of the breakfast table and use just the dining table.Â Paring down furniture is truer to the spirit of an open floor plan and will prevent your home from looking like a big box furniture store showroom.
5. Choose furniture pieces that look good from all angles. In the old days, you would stick a couch against the wall and not worry what the back of it looked like. Not any more. In an open space floor plan, a couch might easily float in the middle of the room, so the back of it has to look good too. So when you choose furniture, approach it as you would approach choosing a sculpture and check out all the angles.