Keeping wall and flooring colours consistent is key when designing an open-concept space. Photo: Crate and Barrel.
Crate and Barrel
I miss the days when I would walk into a home to help decorate and see the rooms laid out formally and familiarly: the living room leading to the dining room that guides me to the kitchen. These days, in many homes individual rooms have given way to open-concept floor plans. Although spaces that aren’t separated by walls allow family and friends to easily interact, open-concept floor plans pose decorating challenges.Usually, the entire space appears large, but actual individual areas are often smaller. As well, you’re limited to one decorating style throughout the open-concept space, otherwise you’ll have too many looks in one room.After many years of decorating open-concept and small spaces, I’ve come up with my top tips that will make each area appear larger, as well as create a cohesive, beautiful space for you, your family and your friends.Limit colourPeople are often tempted to decorate each individual area of an open-concept space with different colours in order to define each area. This usually ends up creating colour chaos and chopping up the space visually.My tip is to limit your colours to three: a neutral, its opposite, and an accent. The neutral should be the main wall colour. Use the contrasting colour (a colour opposite the neutral on the colour wheel) on a focal wall or on upholstered furniture. For instance, if your walls are a warm, yellowy taupe, your contrasting colour would be cooler, such as blue, grey or teal. Then use an accent colour to add punch. I like to use rugs, art and smaller accessories like pillows, vases or lamps for this final layer of accent colour.If it feels too difficult to balance all these colours, create a monochromatic colour scheme by using various tones of one neutral colour you love. Almost any colour can become your chosen neutral, such as khaki green, terracotta or slate blue. The result will be a simple, modern feel throughout the space.Create zonesThe goal in an open concept space is to define each living area through decorating. All areas must blend, which can be achieved by using a common denominator, such as the same colours on walls, with furniture wood tones and in flooring materials.At the same time, each area needs to be defined in order to create a visual pathway to each one (such as dining, living and hallways areas). For instance, backing a sofa onto a hall or dining area will instantly define the living area and set boundaries for each space.Area rugs are also a great way to define areas; especially when you want to create walkways, a runner-style rug automatically guides the eye throughout a large space and in a living or dining area. An area rug can ground each area and the furniture for that room. Artwork is another way to anchor each area; if it co-ordinates with the local area rug, you will be well on your way to creating easily identifiable areas within the overall space.Choose a lookAn open-concept space needs to own a singular look to feel cohesive. My tip is to choose your favourite foundational look (usually traditional or modern) and ensure all your furnishings fall within this style category. If you like an eclectic feeling, choose another look for the accessories. This is what I call the 70/30 decorating rule: 70 per cent is your signature style; 30 per cent is your secondary look.BONUS TIP: Avoid clutter! Once you’ve got the style down, don’t let it disappear under clutter. Open concept spaces need closed storage where distracting visual elements can be stashed out of sight, allowing your style to shine.Divide and conquerHaving few to no walls can be challenging, not only for hanging artwork but also for placing furnishings.Here’s how to hang artwork and separate living areas without building actual walls:— Treat a floor-to-ceiling window like a wall to help build interesting, functional furniture arrangements. Back your sofa onto it, hang a piece of art in front (using picture chain and ceiling hooks) or stand a long, low bookshelf in front and top with lamps and decorative accessories.— I like to place plants on the long walls of a room to take away the bowling alley effect and to define areas where a divider wall may have been (similar to how decorative columns were used in the ’80s). Plants have the added bonus of not blocking too much light.— A pedestal, art easel or glass étagère allow you to define an area while also displaying art, collectibles, blown glass and pottery.Do you have a decor dilemma or want to give feedback? You can contact Karl on Facebook or Instagram at Karl Lohnes Designer.Karl has worked as a home decor expert and product designer for 25 years. He appears Thursdays during the 8 a.m. hour on Global News Morning Montreal.Related