In partnership withThe Home Depot

How to Create Defined Spaces in an Open-Plan Home

published May 22, 2020
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Credit: Melanie Rieders
This is the space Linda has asked us to help her with. Luckily, it includes a distinct alcove that will make a perfect "sleeping zone."

Open floor plans: We love ‘em, but they come with some challenges. Namely, the difficult task of setting up distinct zones when, well, you really just have one big open space to work with. But it can be done. Linda, who earlier this year bought a new alcove studio, asked us to help divvy up her light-filled space into separate zones for living, sleeping, and dining. To keep things affordable, and to match Linda’s personal style with some practical solutions, we turned to The Home Depot’s vast online collection of furnishings and decor.

To kick everything off, we asked Linda a few questions about her style. Here’s what she told us: 

  • My style is: mid-century modern; playful and bright, but not kooky or bohemian
  • My vibe is: warm and welcoming — I like to entertain and for my space to be cheerful
  • My colors are: bright whites and neutrals with pops of color
  • My problems are: storage, visual clutter
  • My favorite parts of my home: the bedroom nook where the corner windows meet and the inside corner “nookish” area of the living room facing the windows!

Even though it’s a small space, we found lots of ways to turn Linda’s studio into more “rooms” than just one. Let’s start with her living zone:

Living Zone

Anchoring a living room space seems pretty straightforward; all you really need to establish the zone is a sofa and a coffee table, right? There’s definitely some truth to that, but when you’re working with an open floor plan there’s so much more you can do.

Start by thinking about what kind of color story you want your living zone to tell, and then put it into place both horizontally and vertically. In Linda’s case, this meant choosing a pink gradient area rug for our horizontal element, and matching pink and blue wall art to anchor things vertically. Design pros know that the X- and Y-axes are the prime visual canvases of any room, so choosing complementary elements to dominate each is a surefire way to tie together a distinct zone, no matter how small your space is.

In terms of furniture layout, an accent chair (or two) facing the sofa is the best way to delineate the outer limits of your living space and create a cozy conversation area. Also don’t forget: When it comes to cordoning off living zones, plants are your friends. Flank your sofa with mid-height house plants and they’ll effectively act as horse blinders; once you’re seated they’ll cut down on peripheral visual clutter and help make your living space feel more intimate.

Sleeping Zone

With open layouts, there’s no such thing as an actual bedroom. So, think of that space as the “sleeping zone” instead. Linda’s studio is the perfect example. Architecturally, she’s lucky enough to have a dedicated alcove that separates her sleeping zone from her living zone. But even if you’re not as lucky as Linda, creating your sleeping zone in a lofty open space isn’t hard to do.

Here, it’s important to think about mood. In contrast with your living, dining, or cooking zones, a sleeping zone should be all about settling down for the night. For Linda’s space, this meant turning to nature for inspiration with a handwoven water hyacinth headboard, some Zen-like wall art to hang above the bed, and these serene green sheets. Another essential for open-space sleeping zones is a versatile folding screen to create some privacy or block out light.

Dining Zone

Creating a dining zone might be the most fun of all. This is a space where you can let your imagination run wild and experiment with some different shapes, colors, and textures that will set the zone apart from the rest of your space. But most importantly, focus on shapes.

For Linda’s studio, choosing a round dining table and similarly curvy dining room chairs set the furniture, and the space, apart from the rectilinear feel of the rest of her apartment. Emphasizing those curves on the vertical axis (aka the wall) with some ovoidal art further defines the zone. Also, don’t forget about lighting. If your dining zone has space for a pendant light to hang over the table, go for something with an interesting shape to take center stage. If a new light fixture isn’t an option, consider placing a bold table lamp or two on your buffet, bar, or shelves. When it’s time for dinner, cut the overhead lights and rely on accent lighting to create a whole new atmosphere.

Come back soon to see Linda’s transformation!