Open floor plans: How to make them work

Wrenda Goodwyn • special to the Fort Myers News-Press • March 3, 2018

On a recent Saturday morning, I had a call from someone who began the conversation with these words: "I need help. Now."

The desperate, soon-to-be-design client had just taken delivery of her furniture from her home in Michigan. It was piled up in her brand new “open concept home” and she did not know what to do.  Her comment was “I’ve never had a house without walls and I don’t know what to do.” 

As a Fort Myers interior decorator, I can tell you that my biggest request, after coming up with a color palette, is help with arranging furniture in an open space where rooms flow one into the other.

 European wide plank hardwood in this open floor plan gives the space a natural organic element and a timeless look. Photo courtesy of Tricia Pallak, the Wood Floor Company, Naples and Bonita Springs.

European wide plank hardwood in this open floor plan gives the space a natural organic element and a timeless look. Photo courtesy of Tricia Pallak, the Wood Floor Company, Naples and Bonita Springs.

The concept is a great one. It can be beautiful if arranged and accessorized well. It can also be a challenge.

The benefits: the open concept will make any space feel larger and it’s great for entertaining.

The challenges: Lack of privacy, less room for art and electrical outlets, the large open space does not hide clutter so you are always cleaning up.

Walk into a model home where the entry, family room, dining room, kitchen all flow into one large space and it looks beautiful. Trying to make it work in your own home with your existing furnishings can stress the savviest homeowner.

But not to worry.  Check a few of these tips and you will have a plan to make the open concept work in your home. And that’s important because it’s here to stay. In other parts of the country builders seems to be reverting back to more walls and rooms. But in Southwest Florida, that likely will not change any time soon. Open and spacious is just our style.

 Establish a comfortable conversation area in an open floor plan with a this square arm, slipcovered corner sectional, a rug and large accent light to anchor the space. Photo courtesy of Pottery Barn.

Establish a comfortable conversation area in an open floor plan with a this square arm, slipcovered corner sectional, a rug and large accent light to anchor the space. Photo courtesy of Pottery Barn.

Warm up the floors. If possible, consider hardwood flooring.  At least in the public/living areas of the home. You can establish room boundaries with area rugs. It gives the open spaces a timeless look and a backdrop for furnishings and artwork. 

Coffered ceilings and crown molding. They fill up some of the open space, establish living areas and add a design element. If you are unable to do this, install a large fan in the family/living room.

Keep the color palette neutral for the walls. Bring color into the space with accents on the ceilings and accessories.

Floor to ceiling drapes or fabric panels. Open spaces cry out for fabric. In addition to your sofa, chairs, rugs.

Add a few architectural details. Molding and paneling such as shiplap or wainscoting provide some separation for an entry or dining area or breakfast nook.

Lighten up. Avoid heavy, over-sized furniture in open spaces. They take over the room and defeat the goal of a light, flowing space.

Arrange furniture away from the walls. This enables you to create comfortable conversation areas in the space with a classic look.

Consistency pays off. Maintain a consistent look in furnishings, color palette and accessories. The last thing you want is a hodgepodge of styles in a space that you can see from each room.

When it comes to artwork, think BIG.  Wall space is at a premium in an open floor plan. Incorporate large pieces to give it an art gallery look. Perfect for an open concept plan.

 Glam it up and arrange a dining space with plants, rug and a beautiful Adeline crystal chandelier.  Photo courtesy of Pottery Barn.

Glam it up and arrange a dining space with plants, rug and a beautiful Adeline crystal chandelier.  Photo courtesy of Pottery Barn.

Glam it up. Establish specific areas of the space with a rug, lighting, or plants. This is especially effective in a dining area of a larger space.

Consider your other rooms.  With an open floor plan, the master bedroom is usually off the main space. Take this room into consideration when establishing a color palette and other décor elements if it can be seen from the main space.

Limit patterns. You want to keep your space calm and flowing. One room into the other. Neutral with accents and bold colors work best.

Fill the space with what you love. That is the most important tip!

 

 

 

Wrenda Goodwyn is a Southwest Florida interior decorator, A.S.I.D. associate and certified gold member of the Interior Redecorators Network. She has helped homeowners throughout Southwest Florida with timeless, affordable ways to create beautiful spaces and to solve decorating problems. Her article appears the first Saturday of each month. For more information visit her website at spectacularspaces.com. Call her at 949-1808 or e-mail wrenda@spectacularspaces.com. For more decorating tips, articles and photos, visit spectacularspaces.com/blog