Open floor plans are filled with endless possibilities, but sometimes that’s a problem. On one hand, open concepts can feel atmospheric and create togetherness and flexibility in a home; on the other hand, they can feel endless, unstructured, and soulless. The trick is to balance openness with isolation by creating comfortable, private spaces while still maintaining a connection.
You may think there are only two possibilities: open floor plans or closed-off separate rooms. In reality, though, it’s not so black and white. By defining zones in your open floor plan, you can get the best of both worlds. Defined zones change the perception of a space, helping your open concept design flow better aesthetically and functionally.
These tricks for defining zones in an open floor plan will help visually emphasize the separation (and integration) between distinct areas and truly enhance your space. Because your dream home should include the best of both worlds.
1. Arrange your furniture
The arrangement of your furniture can be the most powerful way to visually define separate zones. It may seem like a given, but our brains automatically process grouped furniture in close proximity as a zone. Placing items near each other doesn’t always give that space its own personality, though, so it’s vital to combine the other tricks into your zoning plan as well.
2. Color code your zones
Another powerful way to define separate spaces in your home is through the use of color. You can add color to a space through paint, wallpaper, wall hangings, furniture, or accent pieces. The trick is to keep a palette that harmonizes well with all other spaces. Include overlapping colors, different shades of the same colors, or even the same palette with different shades accented. This cues our brains to separate the spaces by energy, even though the palettes are shifting only slightly.
3. Use geometry
To enhance the grouping of your furniture even more, try using geometry to play with new angles. Rather than keeping everything parallel or perpendicular, try 45 or 30 degrees angles. Just by slightly shifting the angle of your furniture group, your space can feel entirely new.
4. Add floor variants
An easy way to visually establish distinct spaces is through floor variants, whether that means using different materials, colors, finishes, or even adding throw rugs. Different flooring creates a visual division between spaces, even if they are connected, as well as some visual interest. Try adding an area rug that’s large enough to fill an entire virtual space (like your living room area), rather than just floating it between furnishings.
5. Introduce distinct lighting
While daylight is the best magnifier of interior spaces, you can use any type of lighting to define your zones. Place a lighting fixture over a sitting area (living room space, dining area, or kitchen island) to define a center point. This will subconsciously trick your mind into thinking it’s a separate room.
6. Create visual layers
Creating distinct layers in your open floor plan also helps visualize separate spaces. You can create layers through changes in floor level, dropped ceilings, or ceiling accents. Adding in a stepped or sunken level into your plan will define different zones, while maintaining the airy feel, with little extra work. Dropped ceiling panels, beams, glass gaps, medallions, and other ceiling accents similarly can establish a space without the extra work. Your eyes will automatically define the space beneath.
Look to these tips and tricks to keep your open-plan living area from feeling unstructured and soulless. Defining distinct zones helps balance out the feeling of togetherness and openness with the necessity for privacy and intimacy—no extra walls needed.