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Design tips for open plan living rooms


Open plan living rooms tend to be the heart of a house where all the important things happen. Whether it’s entertaining, eating, or relaxing, visitors will gravitate to this area.

They’re also cosy, fun, and spacious, so it’s little wonder why so many people are knocking down their walls to make their kitchen and living room open plan. If you’re just getting your own new open plan living room, or are thinking about redecorating, then our handy design guide is here to help out!

Colour scheme

It’s tricky to decorate an open plan area in your house because you need to make your home feel connected, but certain design styles in the living room might not suit both your kitchen and your dining area. One way around this is to craft ‘zones’ by using different colours for different areas. These colours shouldn’t clash, however, so to begin with, pick out a colour palette that creates a harmonious scheme through the area, and then choose a base colour that represents each area. These base colours can be used to unify different areas, make sure they work well in both natural and artificial lighting.

Once you have a complementary base colour scheme establish for each area, don’t be afraid to start adding contrasting colours around in your furnishings or decorations. It will add personality to your living room and give the room some essential pop.


Lighting can have a big impact on the vibrancy of a room – natural light, especially, can make a room feel larger than it is. A great way to get natural light into an open plan living room is to get some glass sliding doors that lead directly to a garden, balcony, or patio area if you have one. If sliding doors aren’t possible, make an effort to ensure your windows are letting in as much light as possible. Using sheer treatments will let in more light, even when closed, which is better than heavy, dark curtains that close the space up.

Lighting can be a unifying factor and open plan spaces make that easy if that’s what you’re looking for. However, if you want well-defined zones in your space for dining, kitchen, living room etc., then you may prefer to light each area separately. You can do this by implementing different types of lighting when using different areas; perhaps mood lighting for the kitchen and task lighting for the living area, for instance. Alternatively, you could use a pendant light over your dining table for diners, but then have the option of switching to spot-lighting or another alternative when the occasion or mood calls for it.


Your furniture can act as borderlines for the zones in your living room. Sofas, for instance, tend to act like a wall to section off different areas in an open space. L-shaped sofas are particularly helpful in this, creating a more intimate seating arrangement while also defining a seating area. Additionally, rugs can give purpose and character to different areas of the room by adding colour, texture, and pattern to the dining areas. They also help to create a divide between different zones. It’s a small touch that can add a lot!

Other furnishings and decoration that could help in similar ways include soft furnishings, artwork, or plants. Try not to put any of them in the way of entrances, or they will act as uninviting barriers to the room, making a negative first impression.


Another great way to differentiate zones in your open plan living room is to add shelves. It doesn’t sound very dramatic, how you organise and fill your shelving can alter the mood in that area. For instance, shelving in the kitchen might be more pragmatic, with exposed pots and pans, while shelving in a living room might be more personal, with artistic arrangements or photos of family and friends. These create very different atmospheres. Shelves can also work in a similar way to sofas in the previous section. Open, free-standing shelving units are a great way to divide an open room into zones without literally walling off sections of the room.

If you are using your shelves for this purpose, try not to over-fill them. The more cluttered your shelves are, the more claustrophobic the room will feel. You can read our tips on stylish ways to declutter your home on our blog.


Lastly, remember that one of the benefits of having a kitchen separate from your living room is that many of the noisy appliances that operate in the kitchen are less invasive to other areas. Washing machines and dishwashers, for example, can make a racket. In an open plan living room, the lack of walls between the kitchen and seating area can leave you needing to schedule when you use your appliances so the noise doesn’t invade your personal space.

If possible, think about where else you can put your appliances. If space is an issue and you can only move one appliance, make sure it’s the washing machine or drier – these are the worst culprits! If moving any of them is out of the question, consider hiding your machines behind small doors that can absorb some of the sounds, reducing their impact.

Those are our top tips for open plan living room designs. Do you think we missed any big ones? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Let us know on our Facebook and Twitter accounts, where you can also stay up-to-date with our House and Home and Mortgage Guide blogs!

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Andrew Montlake

Written by Andrew Montlake

Andrew Montlake, better known as Monty, began his journey with an Hons degree in Economics & Politics before starting in the mortgage industry in February 1994. As a main founder of Coreco in 2009, he successfully grew the brand, marketing, and communications, and was made MD in 2019 focussing on the overall vision, strategy, and culture of the company. As Coreco’s media spokesperson, Andrew can often be seen or heard on TV and radio as well as regularly commenting in the national, local, and trade press. He is the author of this acclaimed Mortgage Blog and is well-known for his social media, podcasts, and public speaking. Andrew is now proud to serve as Chairman of the Association of Mortgage Intermediaries, (AMI) as a cheerleader for the Mortgage Industry as a whole and continues to work at the coal face, writing mortgage business and advising clients.

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