Wide Open Living Spaces
Comfort has no boundaries in modern living. Big, open, airy living spaces are ideal in an age where friends and family move freely between the couch and the kitchen.
Interior archways take the place of walls in this Long Island home, where an eyebrow-shape window and arching plank ceiling expands on the inviting feeling of an open gathering space.
Because the room is divided into two seating areas, its use is flexible: cozy for one or two, while equally suited to host a crowd.
Working with an Open Floor Plan
Open concept floor plans have many advantages, but present a few challenges too. Watch and learn how to tackle some of the most common hurdles.
Historic Open Floor Plans
Open plans have a rich tradition in American homes. In many historic farmhouses, for example, the front door opens directly into the living room.
Without a foyer, the space between seating areas directs traffic flow through the room and often beyond, as seen in this Sonoma County farmhouse where the living room is also open to the home's main stairwell.
Open Loft Living
Loft living offers an ideal for contemporary, open living spaces. With no dividing walls, some careful orchestration is necessary to harness a loft's vast floor space and carve it into more intimate areas.
Suspended ceilings and a mix of hanging light fixtures create subtle definition of spaces in this Minneapolis loft, for example, while the long window seat provides continuity from living to formal dining, breakfast, and kitchen areas.
Open Room with Wraparound Windows
Open living rooms are a natural choice in high-rise living, where space is a precious commodity, and where walls would block the panorama of window views.
The goal here is a living room that appears to float in front of wraparound windows. Without any dividing architecture, the orientation of furnishings is key. In this urban condo, the living area runs the length of the space as opposed to the dining table, which traverses it horizontally. The difference creates a sense of separation.
Multilevel Open Spaces
Open living spaces can encompass several elevations. The plan for this lofty living room, for instance, forges a connection between the home's front entry and main stairwell as well as an upper sleeping loft and dining area -- with each space occupying a different level.
Wide archways frame the room's connection to dining, while delicate grille work adds definition to the open stairwell and Juliet balcony.
Few lifestyles today require a walled-off, formal living room. Family rooms are the new entertaining spaces, often close to a table for sit-down meals and a beverage counter or kitchen island for casual dining.
In this living room, each function is zoned within the open space thanks to such architectural embellishments as the X-motif ceiling beams over the living area and the chandelier over the dining table. Repeating arcs seen in the living area's wall niches, and the curves of the table and countertop add continuity.
Make the most of an open living room with the perfect furniture arrangement. Watch and learn how it's done.
Create Distinct Zones with Furniture
Furniture is an easy way to create distinct zones within open living plans. Here a long sofa serves as a room divider, separating the living area from formal dining.
Each zone within the lofty space includes its own focal point for added definition: the stone mantel in the living area and the crystal chandelier over the dining table. The dramatic ceiling treatment peaks at a point directly above the division between living and dining, establishing order to the dual use of space below.
Separate Rooms with Furniture and Architectural Details
Sectional sofas are another great way to define the perimeter of living rooms within a wide, open space. Here living and dining areas occupy the same room, which is open to -- yet separated from -- the kitchen via a classical colonnade. Consistent use of dark wood cabinetry creates visual flow.
Create Open Living Spaces in an Old Home
Old homes with traditional floor plans can also accommodate open living, as seen in this century-old Maine house where removing a wall between the living and dining rooms brightened up both spaces.
Check with a professional to learn which walls are non-structural and therefore prospects for removal. Add columns where walls once stood, or consider slight variations in ceiling height for added architectural character.
Multiuse Furniture in Open Floor Plans
This multitasking living room feels large but is actually modest in scale. Where a sofa would have blocked off half of the space, a settee preserves the room's open feel and can be pulled up to the round table for seating in a pinch.
Details Define a Dining Room
The breezy, open layout of this lakeside cottage unifies the living room, dining room, and the home's entry beyond. In lieu of walls, four square columns and a gabled frieze define the corners of the dining area from surrounding spaces. Flooring also changes, from dark painted planks in the living room and foyer to a painted checkerboard pattern under dining.
Light-Filled Gathering Spaces
Open plans are a clever way to bring light into interior rooms. Living spaces in this British Columbia home radiate around a kitchen. Shared natural light from kitchen skylights and windows in the living room enhance the open, airy feel.
This open plan is also great for entertaining. Guests can feel a part of the action, while the cook enjoys almost 180-degree views of the gathering.
Forget half-wall partitions. There are so many more options to create visual boundaries within an open living plan that also enhance the room's function.
In this modern living space, a long upholstered bench forms one end of the living space. A slightly taller storage cabinet defines the room's opposite end, while the cabinet's top provides a serving surface for the dining room beyond.
Windows and Doors Enhance Openness
Glass doors and interior windows provide the ultimate in flexibility, allowing some areas to be closed off without sacrificing the modern, breezy benefits of an open living plan.
In this South Carolina home, French doors and clerestory windows expand the feel of living space in the great-room to casual lounging in a screened-in porch.
Open Up and Down
Sliding window walls expand the feel of this living room as well, creating open access to a den that can also be closed off for intimacy. The look and feel of the doors is echoed in the windows of a loft above, creating a plan that is as open vertically as it is horizontally.
One of the greatest benefits of open plans is the sense of tranquility gained from a room's airy proportions.
In this 1930s home, there's little need for a quiet office space. A built-in cabinet and desk in one corner seems a natural fit for a serenely appointed living room open to exterior or interior views on all four sides.
Inspiring Open Living
With wall-to-wall glass doors that open to a lattice-top terrace, this lovely summer house marries indoors and out to capture the true inspiration of open living plans: to embrace the all-encompassing light and freedom of movement in nature's wide open spaces.
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