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How to incorporate open-plan living in your home

Traditionally and in more affluent households, entertainment was conducted in separate areas of the house, with the kitchen/dining areas being closed off from each other so distinguished guests didn't see meals being prepared or be surrounded by the noise, smells, hustle and bustle of the "behind-the-scenes" of their parties. As the population increased and the industrial revolution saw the lower classes moving to towns and cities, there was a need for more practicality. This saw rise to the boom in more affordable houses that are now found all over the UK today - Victorian, terraced houses became an emblem of modern Britain. They introduced better and safer lighting, water and sanitation for all, and while they were often much smaller and more built-up than earlier houses owned by the aristocracy, they often maintained separate reception rooms and kitchen.

Here is a mock floor plan, similar to the ones we use to create accurate models to plan and help clients visualise their show home interior design project. The reception rooms are walled off and kept separate from the kitchen - a design choice not seen very much with modern houses, where the reception rooms are focused less on entertaining guests and more on relaxation, and the kitchen/dining room is often merged together to create an open and sociable space for family and friends with lower building and maintenance costs.

Like all other trends, there came a revival in the early-to-mid 1900s right up until the 1980s, where consumerism was at its height and people were beginning to move out away from towns to the suburbs due to a changing economy and the prevalence and affordability of cars. In the cities, however, apartment blocks sprung up at a rapid rate, and the population was increasing faster than it ever had before. Small, tightly-packed apartments and rising house prices in the years since have seen people wanting to make the most of their home, with practicality and functionality far more desirable than decadence and cultural status as it was 200-300 years ago. In this blog post, we will give you some great tips on making the most of small spaces, utilising an open-plan home, and why it might be worth thinking about opening up a closed-up room. We hope you get inspired, just go easy with the hammer on those living room walls!

Let there be light!

The most important aspect of making any small space feel open and inviting is the use of light. Try not to block windows/doorways with big, solid pieces of furniture and avoid using too many dark colours in any given area. Artificial light is not something to be afraid of either - natural light is best but there's no disadvantage to using floor, table and ceiling lights to brighten up areas that need it. We would advise using simple, less ornate light fittings as they tend to take up less space and aren't a big distraction if hanging from a ceiling. You can also use lighting to "zone" certain areas from another, creating specific spaces to eat and relax without the use of walls or other large physical items. Zoning areas with lighting control systems such as separate dimming switches also allows you to adjust the intimacy and intensity of lighting to your liking, wherever you are in the house.

Contrast is key

Just like with lighting, you can use colour to zone off certain areas and give different parts of the house some character without using physical items that would take up much-needed space. We generally recommend sticking to light colours throughout as a base to maintain brightness and keep things inviting, however a vibrant and fun-coloured sofa or a contrasting piece of artwork can create a fantastic vibe for a living area, and an eclectic but small feature wall can cordon off the living area from the home office, for example. With the right lighting, these areas also give off a warm atmosphere; perfect for switching mentally from eating to relaxing without wasting space that might be needed for more functional items.

We usually design show homes with one or two accent colours and keep them consistent throughout, but with a small space, or one which we are trying to keep as light as possible where the walls and most items are kept white, we find being bold with the odd item can do wonders to liven things up without bringing the interior down too much.


It goes without saying that storage is incredibly important in a small, open-plan home. This is especially true in an apartment where most, if not all of the living space is in one room. Thankfully, many retailers provide fantastic items of furniture and small storage solutions for various areas of the house - not just bookcases and the like. Most homewares stores now offer fun and unique accessories that match up to your chosen colourway, too. We recommend using height to your advantage here. You can stick shelving units and storage bins up high on walls and opt for functional items that are higher than they are wide. Furniture can also be used as a divider with a purpose!

Fill up on foliage

We make use of artificial plants and flowers whenever we design a show home as they create a beautiful atmosphere whatever the size or style of the property. They are often fairly inexpensive and allow you to add colour and personality without impacting the visual style or minimalist aesthetic too much. Plants (even artificial ones) are known to be calming, too, which is perfect for open-plan living where you are likely to spend a lot of time in a small area.

We especially recommend using artificial plants and flowers to soften furniture. If you're after a Scandi/mid-century interior design style or are using lots of dark furniture, popping a nice vase on top or a planter on the floor nearby will draw the eye away from what might otherwise be an imposing, blocky piece of furniture.

We design and install show home properties for small and large-scale developers alike. We work with you to define your property goals, budget and preferences and handle everything including delivery of your interior, as well as collection and storage if necessary. If you would like help realising the potential of your property, get in touch on 01332 870066, or!


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