Time for some honesty. These pictures of my home aren’t the best I’ve ever taken, but I’m currently wallowing in a bit of blogger’s block, and I felt like I just needed to move forward and write a post in order to try to tackle the impasse. Work has been really busy recently, so I haven’t had much brain space for the blog, or time to potter at home, with the result that everything feels a bit neglected and unloved. Sometimes this is just the way life is, and I think I have to find a way to accept that things might not be as ‘perfect’ as I’d like them to be, and not let it stop me in my tracks. Feeling dissatisfied and grumpy isn’t really that appealing, as I’m sure you’d agree.
What I’ve been wanting to write about for a while is open-plan living, and what works and doesn’t work for us in a family home. Our ground floor space isn’t completely open-plan as there’s a corner where our hallway and my office is located, but the kitchen, dining and living spaces are all one single, open L-shaped space. When we moved in, the kitchen was a separate room, but we knocked down the wall between the kitchen and dining area, actively choosing to go for open-plan living. At the time, the twins were toddlers, and spent most of their time playing downstairs, so I really wanted to be able to be in the kitchen, and be able to see and interact with them at the same time. Since then, the ground floor space has been through a whole host of changes including incorporating a playroom, a craft zone and a new dining area. The best thing about our open-plan space has been its flexibility, but it hasn’t always been easy to make the space work, and so I wanted to share some of my tips.
ZONE THE SPACE
Think of the activities that will be taking place in the space, and try to divide it up into zones for each activity (some may overlap). We have the kitchen area, a dining zone, a craft table and reading nook and the living area. Use pieces of furniture to define these areas – a corner sofa like ours can be used to zone off the living space and make it feel a little more intimate or an island unit in the kitchen can act as a visual divide between the working area of the kitchen and a dining zone. We’ve also added a decorative screen to make the living area feel a little cosier and slightly more private. We previously used a set of open shelving to do the same job, but it was too bulky and made it harder to rearrange the space when we wanted to change it up, so we added built-in shelving to the living room wall, and replaced the big shelving unit with a screen.
UNIFY WITH FLOORING
Use the same flooring throughout an open-plan space to unify it. We needed something affordable and hardwearing so we opted for wood-effect laminate – vinyl is another good option for a hard-working family space as it’s low-maintenance and easy to keep clean. Use a rug to define a zone within the open-plan layout by grouping furniture around it. Rugs are also good for absorbing noise, one thing I do struggle with in our home. When the washing machine is on its spin cycle in the kitchen, it makes it a challenge to hear the television or to hold a conversation. We also chose not to have a door into the kitchen end of the space (it’s just open to the hallway) and if we’re entertaining downstairs I’m often conscious of disturbing the kids asleep upstairs.
SET THE MOOD
Have a number of lighting circuits so that you can set the mood for each area. We have spotlights in the kitchen for when we’re preparing food, and a pendant light over the dining table. I also like to use table lamps and a floorlamp in the living space to create a warmer, more snug feel. I’m a fan of festoon lights and these add another level of soft light when they’re on in the evenings.
The biggest thing that I’ve learnt about living in an open-plan space is to change it up when it feels like it’s not quite working. With young children whose needs are constantly changing, this happens quite frequently. Now that the twins are older, they do a lot of their play in their bedrooms upstairs, which means we don’t need as much storage downstairs for toys. We’ve turned that space into a reading nook (with the leather armchair) and a separate table is a handy spot for the kids to draw or do homework so I don’t have to clear the pens etc away every time we sit down at the dining table to eat. That table also extends so that we can entertain in that zone if we’re hosting a larger number of people than our kitchen table can accommodate. I like furniture that is multi-use such as our trunk, which can hide away lego and doubles up as a coffee table. Something on wheels would be even better so I could wheel it out of the way when we want to turn the living room into a disco!
Disclosure: This post was written in collaboration with Carpetright, but all the ideas and content are my own.