How to furnish an open plan living space

1 May 2022

Open plan living ideas

In tune with today’s family and home entertaining lifestyle – as well as smaller block sizes – most new homes are designed with open plan living as a key house design element. Many people that renovate older properties also knock down at least one wall to open up their living areas.

The big win with open plan living is that it’s social; it connects spaces for family togetherness; and it draws in more light, which can make a small space feel bigger.

But furnishing combined areas does require considerable preparation and thought in order to get the traffic flow between the areas right.

Think of furniture in the context of grouping – in the living room you’ll need a sofa, occasional chair, coffee table, entertainment unit and side table. Then think about the individual pieces, the space around them and the space needed to access the grouping. By thinking this way, it will make furnishing your open plan living space much easier.

Here we share our tips for furnishing three popular open plan house designs that feature in many Porter Davis’ house plans

Vermont 29

Square shape open plan living floorplan

With a square open plan living space, we typically start by dividing the entire space in half, then create two smaller areas from one half. This gives us three spaces: a kitchen, a dining area and a living area. If you’re renovating and following this general rule, you can decide which space you want to be bigger. In our floorplans, the kitchen and dining taking up one half, then the living space occupies the other half so there’s more room for the family and visitors to spread out

In this open plan layout, it’s important that it doesn’t feel cluttered and that you’re free to move about. To create clear zones without the clutter, we like to use a rug under the dining table as it grounds the table and formalises the room. A rug also works in the living space but consider your floor coverings first. If you have tiles, you might want to go with a large rug in the living space to soften it and provide a feel of comfort.  We also like to use feature pendants to create zones as it takes the styling “up” to keep the space clutter-free. In a square space, pendants work beautifully over the dining table.

The position of the sofa and chairs in the living space is crucial in a square open plan living layout. As the kitchen is located “behind” the living space, most of the traffic will flow between the two spaces. Use your furniture as borders so that the living space faces away from the walk way.

This layout lends itself to a larger kitchen island bench. If you’ve got the space, go with a 1000mm wide bench. It’ll become a place for breakfast, after school snacks, impromptu chats, and somewhere for guests to sit and chat while you prepare dinner.

To connect the spaces, use a combination of similar colours and textures. For example, match the dining table to the entertainment unit and the kitchen cupboards like in the Dunedin house design on display at Aston estate, Craigieburn.

We suggest positioning the TV on the wall facing the kitchen, as this provides more flexibility when choosing the position of the sofas and chairs in the open planning living space.

Like the square open plan design? Check out the Vermont, or  Dunedin and Drysdale house designs.

Living area, Classic Hamptons style

L-Shape open plan living floorplan

The great thing about an L-shaped open plan space is that the zones are already defined. It’s particularly good in a modern dining room as it formalises it in the absence of the old fashioned dining room. You also have the ability to dress up the dining table and surrounding space when it’s in a defined space rather than it floating in an open room of combined zones.

Try to leave 1200mm between the main thoroughfare (in front of the kitchen), but this isn’t as critical if the dining space is opposite your kitchen bench instead of the living space.

A perk of this open plan living design is that you will have more wall space for art and window treatments, which will add to the styling of your home.

An L-shape open plan living zone is a great opportunity for that seamless transition from indoors to outside. Ensure your furniture is positioned to allow a clear flow outside and introduce indoor plants to blend the indoors and outdoors.

Generally this layout has more space, so we suggest having an 8-seat dining table at a minimum. If you have the space, a 10-seat table would be even better!

Position your couch and occasional chairs with the view in mind – think of the TV first, then the view to the backyard.

You can connect nearby spaces with your open plan living layout. We use open voids, column features, wall cut outs with plantation shutters so you can open and close them for privacy. Bookshelves and in-built cabinetry can also provide a dabbled view between spaces without opening it up entirely.

Like the L-shaped open plan design? Check out the Waldorf Grange, or Vancouver house designs.

Open plan straight living with the Sage 20

Straight shape open plan living floorplan

When lining up space length ways, try to leave a 1200-1500mm gap between each zone. If space is tight, the absolute minimum should be 1000mm.

The TV is still an important household appliance, but it doesn’t have to be the hero of the space. If possible, position it opposite or adjacent to a window to reduce its dominance.

A great way to define the different spaces in this layout is with a rug. We love to see an oversized rug on the floor of the living area in this open plan layout. You can also use low furniture pieces or cabinets as dividers without totally isolating each zone.

Repeat colour and/or texture to create connection between the zones. For example, match the colour of your dining chairs to a chair or cushion in the living zone, or perhaps the bar stools to the kitchen bench. You can also use artwork to connect the different zones.

Go for the largest dining table your space will allow. Try to keep at least a 1000-1200mm clearance around the table so that there is plenty of space to walk past, especially when guests are seated (this applies to all open plan layouts).

The best sofa set up for this type of open plan space will depend on who is living in the house. But your focus should be to make sure you have enough seating to accommodate the family as well as the occasional visitor. Modular sofas always give the appearance of lots of seating and allow people to squeeze in a bit better. As an alternative why not try two sofas with fixed arms, especially if your interior design scheme is leaning more towards a classic look.

Like the straight open plan design? Check out the Porter Davis Sage 20 design from our PDX range.

Now that you have some basic pointers to furnish your open plan living area, it’s time to get sketching! Sketching is a simple but effective way to start planning how you will furnish a space, so keep sketching until you come up with an arrangement that works.

You’ll also find having a furniture layout in mind will help when it comes to making decisions on where to place your powerpoints, light switches, TV and data points at your World of Style appointment.

If you need more home décor ideas or inspiration, or you need help furnishing your open plan home, have a chat with ID Studio our expert interior design service at World of Style.

And for a daily dose of interior inspo, make sure you follow us on Instagram – @worldofstylebyporterdavis.