Philly Loves An Open Floor Plan: 3 Ways to Maximize Your Space
Define Zones, Create Architectural Interest & Set the Mood
If there is one thing on a buyers list it is an open floor plan. It fosters family togetherness & makes entertaining a breeze. The open floor plan gained popularity in the 80’s. While most trends come & go; this particular trend has proven staying power. Whether you dwell in a condo, loft or single family residence there are ways to maximize the space so it doesn’t feel TOO open. Cozy is good; it doesn’t mean small, cramped or dark, just comfortable.
1. Define Zones
When your main floor is one large room it is helpful to create zones for different activities. Take a long hard look at your space. Determine how you live day to day & think of the best ways to move through the space. The main zones are a dining space, a casual dining space (think breakfast nook or bar) & the living area which often does double or triple duty as a T.V. room, play room or sitting & reading room. A common mistake with furniture placement is placing everything against a wall. In a narrow row home you may have no choice but to put your largest pieces (sofa & entertainment center) along a wall but try to think outside the box. If this is necessary place the accessorizing furniture around the main pieces while considering movement through the room to maximize comfort & the overall feel of the space. Some furniture to consider when creating zones are open bookshelves or etageres, room dividers, screens, console tables for behind the sofa & sofas or armchairs with a high back. A lot of these pieces will do double duty which is another thing to consider when you plan your arrangement & purchase the furniture. A screen can create a vestibule where there is none, create a formal dining zone or hide the entrance to a powder room. A console table can turn into a work space, an open bookshelf with a comfy armchair placed close by becomes a reading nook & an entertainment console with shelves can keep things like winter accessories or dog & kids toys organized.
2. Create Architectural Interest
Sometimes an open floor plan can feel a little “generic” or “boxy”. They don’t have Old World details like arches, plaster moldings, wainscoting, medallions around a light fixture or coffered ceilings. A great way to help define your zones is to customize a few architectural details. These can range from quite expensive to relatively inexpensive. They will draw the eye to the details without sacrificing the sense of expansiveness that we’ve come to love. Some of the furniture ideas above can be used to create the illusion of architectural details without taking on a big construction project or incurring large expenses. Open bookshelves, screens & room dividers certainly lend that feel. If you want to take on a larger customization project & don’t mind getting your hands dirty (or hiring someone to do it for you) a few strategically placed rustic beams can create an archway into one of your zones. If you don’t like rustic you can easily go more traditional. The idea is to create an archway to define the space. Detail work on the ceiling is another way to draw the eye up & away from the expansiveness. Often recessed lighting can be added right in to help set the mood while keeping an older detail fresh. Another interesting way to create a zone is to lift or sink the room a bit.
3. Set the Mood with Lighting
Lighting is the oft forgot about element that can set apart good (or bad design) from great design. Bright lighting designed for a kitchen or work zone can kill the mood of a party. Fast. While recessed lighting comes standard in most of the new developments we see around Philly you don’t want that to be your only light source. It is really nice to have dimmer switches; especially in rooms that you use in a variety of ways or that you will be entertaining in. Living rooms are the most lovely with table & floor lamps that complement the overhead lighting. Dining rooms work best with a chandelier that has a dimmer & possibly a few wall sconces or a strategically placed floor lamp near a bar or serving area. Task lighting in the kitchen is best at eye level. Installing some under cabinet lighting is never a bad idea for the areas where you do the most of your food prep. If you have a breakfast bar or a nook consider a pendant or globe light.
Pulling it All Together
Don’t think you have to do everything at once! Live in your home a bit to see what feels right. The space next to the kitchen may be best for one family as a living room & another as a dining room. It takes time to figure these things out. Take an inventory of your furniture before buying anything. Determine if you are using the furniture in the best possible way. If not, start rearranging! Once you think you have the furniture in the best possible place start making a list of what you need & what the best size would be. Keep it in your smartphone. That way if you find the perfect piece unexpectedly you will know right off the bat whether it will work or not (at least the size). For the larger more expensive pieces like lighting & architectural details you want to nail your furniture placement before making those big decisions. Move slowly. Decorating a home is a labor of love & a process taken over time. Unless you have money to burn. In that case, gather some inspiration & call an interior designer.
Finally, I thought this picture embodies all of the above. There is an interesting mix of lighting, an employment of a variety of architectural details & great definition of living zones. It is also full of industrial features & a color scheme that skews cold but in my opinion manages to feel cozy & warm.
Some More Reading You Might Enjoy:
Decorating with Folding Screens from the Wall Street Journal (my weekend inspiration)
Top Ten Interior Design Trends also from the Wall Street Journal