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5 key design tips to create a seamless open plan environment

By Justine Stedman, Director and Principal Stylist at Vault Interiors

It’s no secret that people love open plan living and its increasing popularity is evident when reviewing new home designs. The problem with such large open spaces is being able to define the different zones within the open plan, and still achieve areas that feel cozy and homely. There are five key design tips that will create a seamless open plan environment – yet also create and enhance smaller, imitate spaces within the overall space – meaning you can get the of both worlds.

Tip 1 – Finishes

Keeping interior material finishes and the accent colours consistent throughout a large open plan will help the overall space flow. Repeating colours is a great tool to help all areas feel visually balanced. For example, if you select a timber veneer look for the kitchen island, repeat the same finish colour on the entertainment unit joinery in the lounge area to achieve a visual connection. With accents colours my mantra is always to repeat, repeat repeat!

Take teal for example, you can repeat this one colour in vessels and accessories, lampshades, artworks and cushions and throws. You can take shades of the same accents colour and mix and match so it doesn’t feel to heavy. If the dining room has a feature artwork with teal colours, look to incorporate the same tones via cushions in the lounge room, and repeat in accessories used in the kitchen. The overall scheme will then feel tailored, considered and connected.

Tip 2 – define the spaces

Rugs will really help section off smaller zones within open plan living concepts. A rug can be integrated under the dining table and also under the lounge room furniture. This will help define the separate zones and create more intimacy in each space. The rugs can be different textures, i.e. sisal in the lounge room, plush under the dining table. However the trick is to keep the colouring is consistent (i.e. wheat tone, grey tone etc). The areas will present well together but have their own feeling and texture underfoot and help to also feel like separate spaces.

Tip 3 – lighting

Lighting will work wonders to create dramatic focal points – it’s very affective when carefully considered and incorporated into open plan living concepts. Take a combined living, dining and kitchen area – different types of lighting help the eye rest on different points of visual interest. Kitchen pendants are a great way to illuminate and highlight the kitchen. They also create glamour when hung over a kitchen island. Large-scale dining room pendants look amazing over a dining table. In the living room think side lamps tables and floor lamps.

You want to be able to control the levels of light within a large space. It can feel boring or too stark to have the area flooded with just overhead LED or downs lights, so use ambient lighting as a tool to define smaller zones and play with the light levels in each separate area for the most impact.

Tip 4 – Scale

Scale is very important in open plan living. All elements should feel equally balanced; this should be a major consideration when selecting furniture. There is no point having a 12-seater dining setting if you can only then squeeze in 2-seater sofa in the lounging area. It will end up feeling cluttered and unbalanced. Proportions of the furniture should feel consistent throughout and the best way to plan this is draw up items on a floor plan before you buy. This will help you visualise the amount of items you can fit in each zone and get a feel for the overall spatial flow.

Tip 5 – Colour

You achieve big impact by layering colours. If your kitchen has a walnut look in the finishes, for example – take those earthy tones and consider painting a feature wall in the living area caramel and the same kind of colour tone but a few shades darker in the dining room. You can also play with texture, wheatgrass wallpapers never date and there are some beautiful and sophisticated tones around. Just pick a colour tone similar to the other painted feature wall or kitchen joinery. It will achieve visual consistency overall. Block colours will define spaces and again work to create separate zones within the whole overall environment, which should be the overall goal well balanced open plan spatial living.

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