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Open plan living area ideas

By Rachel Wallace

With easy flow between cooking, eating and living zones, open plan living seems to be synonymous with modern Australian life.

Despite being hugely popular, open plan living areas can easily look vast and uninviting, or cramped and cluttered. In fact, when it comes to open plan living designs there’s a real knack to getting the proportions, layout, and floor plan right.

So, to help you bring your open plan living ideas to life, we’ve asked interiors expert Liz Hayward from Hayward & Co to share her tips and advice.

With easy flow between cooking, eating and living zones, open plan living seems to be synonymous with modern Australian life. Picture: Lisa Cohen

How do I get the open plan living layout right?

It can be tricky to strike the right balance when it comes to design and floor plans, so how do we keep open plan living areas from feeling too spacious, or too small and cluttered?

When designing open plan living areas for her clients, one of the most common requests is for the area to feel intimate enough to relax as a family, yet not feel cramped.

“It’s important to create zones within the open area to ensure the space doesn’t become too open and sizeable,” says Liz.

“Using proportional-sized rugs to create zones is the perfect way to achieve this. Additionally, it’s important not to enclose the area and work against the open plan design. Avoid furniture that is too high or that interrupts the line of sight across the room.”

Create zones within your open plan living area using an oversized rug to anchor furniture. Picture: Hayward & Co

Wondering what that means in practise when you’re choosing rugs and furniture? Liz recommends starting with an oversized rug to create a zoned area, ensuring there’s enough seating, and that it’s configured to encourage engagement and conversation.

Wondering how to create a cohesive design across your kitchen, living and dining areas?

“Creating a cohesive space can be achieved quite easily once you know how to do it. It’s just about incorporating similar elements across all the zones,” says Liz.

Read more:Open plan kitchen design

“This means using the same colour palette throughout, as well as similar textures and selecting furniture and accessories across all areas that complement each other. Cohesion starts with the design process by selecting the one flooring and one paint colour throughout the whole area.”

“Elements like feature walls aren’t a great idea in a cohesive open plan living area. Keep it simple and consistent throughout.”

Open plan living idea: Keep it simple with wall colour choices to help ensure the area feels spacious. Picture: Hayward & Co

How do I keep open plan living areas clutter free?

It’s hard to hide mess in open plan living areas. After all, you can’t just close the door on the room. So, aside from having a designated room of shame in the house – you know, the one that looks like a shed, laundry room, and post-Boxing day Myer sale all at the same time –  what can home owners do to keep open plan living areas looking spacious and tidy?

Liz says: “Storage in the planning and design phase is essential to maintaining a tidy area. Try and keep your everyday items out of sight and away in cupboards as much as you can.”

“While having decorator items on display makes a house feel like a home, always ensure that there is one clear surface in every space. If you have vases and items on the side cabinet, ensure that the dining table is kept clear. This will help the area look tidy and clutter-free.”

Keep your open plan living area looking stylish and clutter-free by factoring in storage options at the design stage. Picture: Hayward & Co

Open plan living mistakes

Mistakes are a part of life, but they can be painfully expensive when renovating. Liz shares the number one mistake she sees when it comes to open plan living, so hopefully you don’t make it!

“The number one mistake people make is not looking at the overall size of the area and the suitable proportions of the furniture. It’s crucial to consider the whole space, but also look at the individual zones of each area.”

Choose furniture sized proportionally to your open living area. Picture:

“If your space incorporates a living and dining area, a good rule is to split the areas to accommodate the family needs. This would normally mean approximately 50% to living, 30% to dining and 20% to open space.”


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