It’s no secret that builders, developers, and architects have favoured open-plan layouts in the past decade or two. Bigger kitchens that spill out into family and dining rooms are the new norm, but this has not always been the case. Here are some tips for creating a flowing layout without compromising much or throwing any walls down.
· Use furniture to create vignettes. This also doesn’t involve a permanent, structural redo, just positioning existing furniture to suggest a distinct room within a larger space. Simply pulling sofas, chairs, and tables away from walls and setting them atop an area rug can accomplish the intended effect. An edgier option could include floating curtains from the ceiling rather than at windows and doors.
· Use light effectively. Lighting can make a big difference in how open or closed rooms appear. With the advanced controls, LEDs and smart fixtures offer, homeowners, can adjust bulb colour and temperature (lower and warmer light conveys small, intimate space, while cooler and brighter lights accomplish the opposite). Recessed lights are a more permanent, costly option but new longer-lasting, energy-efficient LEDs help keep costs down in the long run.
· Differentiate areas with flooring, paint, and wallpaper. Changes in material, colour, or texture on a floor, wall, or ceiling are more visual than structural but still can fool the eye into thinking there’s separation. Deep intense hues that some manufacturers are debuting as their 2018 Colors of the Year—Sherwin-Williams’ rich oceanside blue and Benjamin Moore’s deep barn-red Caliente—help make rooms feel smaller and more nurturing. Certain dark wallpapers and panelling have a similar effect. The upside is that these choices can be changed fairly easily to reopen space; the downside is that they won’t deflect noise as well as structural changes.
· Blur room lines with furniture groupings and design choices. Separate rooms can feel more like one entity if lines are intentionally blurred between them. The trick is to use floor materials, wall colours, and even furniture groupings to bridge the spaces, says Mary Cook, principal of Mary Cook Associates, a national commercial interior design firm based in Chicago. Be sure to use furniture that’s finished on all sides since it’ll be viewed from all around, advises Kipnis.
· Use mirrors. Reflective surfaces that extend vertically up to ceilings and horizontally along entire walls have an effect of opening up space and allowing light to bounce around more freely, says Dickinson. Even using mirrors along smaller expanses—say on bookshelves or backsplashes—can help.
· Go light and repeat. One of the reasons white remains one of the most popular colours in design is that it opens up space more than deep intense hues and woods do. And today there are literally hundreds of white and off-white paint shades to consider, as well as light beiges and greys. Repeating the same wall, ceiling, and trim colour offers an even more effective approach.