Designing Open Concept Spaces

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Many open concept designs require furniture placement to define the use of the room. The family may require anything from a TV room; sitting room or entertaining space; dining space; or play area for the younger children and a work space for parents or older children. Fitting this all in one space may seem excessive but, it can easily be accomplished with well-chosen and properly placed furniture and accessories. 

We must determine the various functions the space must accommodate. The next question is how many people must it accommodate and what ages are they? How many will be using competing spaces at the same time? Will young children be playing while older ones are trying to do their homework?

To create an effective floor plan, it’s critical to draw out the space. Include all windows and doors/doorways as this will affect your furniture placement. Next, we begin to allocate space to each designated function, the dining area, TV area, and study area ensuring we allow adequate traffic flow between spaces. This also dictates the size of the furniture you can purchase. Consider multiple floor plans; does the furniture still work? This is the time to consider creative use of space. Is there an area or piece of furniture that allows us to double the use of some space? Maybe a desk creatively hidden in a piece of accent furniture? Or storage for toys in a set of coffee and end tables?

Quite often we will have an existing ceiling mounted light fixture for the dining area. This defines the center of the table placement. However, we still have options whether we choose a square, round, oval, or rectangular table. Client preference weighs in heavily in the decision, however, space allowance is equally important. The client may love the idea of a round dining table for 8 but may only have room for a rectangular table due to the placement of the light in proximity to the wall. So we either move the light to accommodate the furniture selection or we select furniture to accommodate the light placement. One rule of design that should not be broken is to always keep a ceiling mounted light fixture centered over your dining table. Something about a light off to the side just doesn’t look right no matter which angle you look at it!

When you have a combination living room and dining room many people choose to visually separate the two areas by using a sofa or loveseat as a divider between the sitting area and the dining area. This visually cuts the space in half, making it appear smaller. Depending upon the placement of windows and walkways; it may be possible to create a more “open” seating plan facing the dining area. This suddenly becomes an entertainers’ dream arrangement! You can easily transition between appetizers in the sitting area to dinner at the dining table and have some guests enjoy after dinner coffee/dessert at both locations, and no one has to crank their neck uncomfortably to be part of the conversation! Everyone is a part of the action in an “open” plan.  The beauty of an open concept design is that you can easily do both! Use furniture placement to separate areas for everyday living and have your “entertainment furniture placement” for special occasions! 

Assuming the kitchen is also part of this open plan, as it is in so many homes, depending on the age of the children, the kitchen island or kitchen table may be a great use of space for after school homework. While parents prep dinner, kids are close by doing their homework and Mom\Dad are available to answer homework related questions. This only works when kids are younger and homework demands tend to be minimal. Once the homework demands increase a dedicated work area will be required. This can sometimes be in a child’s bedroom so they are away from distractions and can concentrate, or may need to be in a more controlled space where they cannot find their own distractions! It all depends on the child and the family! It’s our job to find out what works best for your situation and help you plan your space so its works best for you!

When selecting furniture, the best way to minimize clutter in a room is to have furniture pieces that provide hidden storage. Whether built in cabinetry with drawers or cupboard doors or stand-alone furniture pieces, storage is a must in any well planned space. I have a daughter who still has toys, books and games she uses on a regular basis. When we recently re-decorated, I made sure I selected furniture that provided lots of storage. She has books in a drawer of the end table. Larger more bulky pieces are in the storage coffee table with drawers that have a top that also folds out! Everything is close at hand but quickly and easily hidden when not being used.   

It takes some time to plan a space out for best use and in budget. In the end you are left with a multifunction space that grows with you are your family for years to come.