...because home doesn't happen overnight.

The way people live their lives influences the way homes are built and renovated.  In today’s busy world, homeowners and/or renters are often looking for an open floor plan where nearly all of the family’s daily activities can occur.  Most current floor plans include a kitchen that is no longer walled off at the back of the house but that is, instead, adjoined to a family or living room.  Our kitchen is open to the dining area, family room and sunroom.  {No, that’s not my house below.}

{image courtesy of Angus McRitchie via Canadian House & Home}

In the same way, older homes are being ‘modernized’ by removing walls to combine individual rooms into one wide open space.  While an open layout can be easy to live in, it can be difficult to decorate and style. {Believe me, I’ve tried and failed many times!}  So, this week I’d like to share some key points to keep in mind when approaching wide open spaces.  Don’t have an open concept home?  Well, don’t tune out just yet. Even though these ideas are directed towards open living spaces, they’re applicable to nearly all living situations.  In fact, treating a smaller home that contains individual rooms as an open space could actually make it feel larger and flow more smoothly.  Ready?  Here goes.


Obviously, if your kitchen and family room share a wall, you can’t tape off a vertical line between the 2 rooms and paint the kitchen one color and the family room a different color.  Well, I guess you could, but I wouldn’t suggest it.  Basically, you’ve got to look at the walls as if they’re a shell of the space.  Pick a paint color for the majority of, if not all, the walls.  Don’t know what color to choose? Start saving images of rooms that you’re drawn to.  Don’t think about why or how it would/wouldn’t work in your home.  If you like it, tear it out of that magazine or if it’s on the web, save it on your computer in a folder designated as inspiration images.  Give yourself ample time to do this…think months.  Once you’ve got a collection, go through all your images and purge any that aren’t giving you that feeling anymore.  It’s okay to change your mind!  Better now than later. Then select  a few images as your top picks.  Study them as a group.  Are they similar?  What do you like most about them?  What color are the walls painted?  Are the walls neutral with pops of color elsewhere?  Or are the rooms painted in rich, bold colors leaving the furniture mostly neutral?  What about the furniture and accessories?  Are they neutral or colorful?  Write down your observations in a notebook.  Eventually, you should see a pattern develop.  Follow that pattern and use it as your guide to picking a color scheme.  It may seem like a lot of work just to come up with a color scheme to live with but, I’m telling you, it will really help you focus. For fun, here are a few of my inspirational images…

{courtesy of Domino magazine via DecorPad}

{courtesy of Sarah Richardson via DecorPad}

{courtesy of Molly Fey and Michael Pertenio Photography via DecorPad}

Something of significance I’d like to mention here…just because your favorite color is {insert favorite color here} doesn’t mean you should paint your walls that color.  Case in point, I love green.  However, when I put together my inspiration folder, I found I was whole-heartedly drawn to grays and whites with just touches of green in the accessories.  So, my walls are mainly gray.  For my love of green, I tried painting a focal wall in a very lovely green hue {even though NONE of my inspiration pictures had green walls in them} and it was a total flop.  Pick a color scheme and stick with it!  Don’t think you can commit?  Then your best bet is to paint your walls a neutral color and let your fickle color-love shine through in easily replaceable pillows, artwork and accessories.

That’s my first piece of advice when in comes to decorating an open floor plan.  If you don’t live in a home with one open space, it would still help you to throw together an inspiration file, too.  Although you do have more flexibility in painting separate rooms different colors, I would urge you to pick a color scheme for your entire home.  Say you decide on tans and blues.  Maybe paint your kitchen a calm blue and paint your living room a light tan with peeks of that soothing blue in throws, pillows or painted furniture.  For an even subtler effect, pick 2 colors on the same graduated paint swatch for adjoining rooms.  Just make sure they’re separated by at least 1-2 spaces on the swatch or the difference may not be noticeable.

Once you decide on a color scheme {whew!  it’s tough, I know}, it’s all about location…the location of your furniture, that is.  We’ll discuss that tomorrow.  For now, let me know what some of your favorite color combos are or what color scheme you have going on in your own home.  Are you like me and get all woozy just looking at airy gray rooms?  Or do those gray rooms make you feel oppressed and bored?



I *heart* gray (grey???…lol) and plan on painting every room in our house gray. I haven’t decided on whether I’ll do one shade or several different shades yet though. Currently, my faves are your signature “bonsai” color and a few shades that freckleschick uses in her home. You guys are my inspiration!!!!


I’m really looking forward to checking out this series. My living room and dining room are all squashed together, all 32×17 feet of squashed. It’s like a bowling alley in there, and I am stumped as to what to do. I feel like I’ve already committed cardinal rule #1 – the dining area’s walls are a different color. Uhoh.


We have a Great Room in our house and we love the open concept. We went with the neutrals on the wall (beige) and brought in color in the wood tones of the furniture and the pops of color to give the room life. We have a sunroom also off of this Great Room space that we haven’t done anything with yet and I’m trying to find the right color to paint the little bit of walls we have in that area. Right now it’s all white and way to bright. I’m thinking a blue/green of some sort. It would play off of the blues I already have in the Great Room. But this time I want the color on the walls and the furniture and decor more neutral. I think it’s going to work really nice once we do the project that is. LOL! Can’t wait for your next post on this subject. Furniture placement is the harder part I think. ;-)

[…] eye to those gorgeous windows…yet a third focal point. Notice how Candace also stuck to a cohesive color scheme by painting all the walls in a light, creamy neutral and adding in pops of green and blue […]


I know it’s another topic, but what about lighting in an open floor plan. My kitchen, dining, and living space is basically one. My spouse and I disagree about how linked the lighting has to be. He wants to repeat the same fixture throughout (yak!), while I think they should work well together but can each be unique (particularly over the dining table).


Tiainspace – You’re reading my mind! For the rest of this week, I’ll be throwing out hints for decorating open floor plans. LIghting is on the list!

[…] down a cohesive color scheme and establishing a sensible furniture layout can be difficult, but this next trick can be quite […]

[…] how the window coverings look from different zones.  {This kind of goes back to selecting a cohesive color scheme.}  In spots that receive unwanted direct sunlight, come up with a way to temporarily block it out […]



Thank you so much! These posts have been so helpful. We are getting ready to move into our new home soon that has an open floor plan. I’ve been trying desperately to figure out how to make it all work. Green is also my favorite color, but I find myself drawn to shades of blue for walls. I’m going to stop holding back and succumb even if blue isn’t even on my scope of favorite colors.


We are in the process of trying to re-decorate our very open first floor and decide on a layout. I think layout is key! Thanks for the tips.


I am moving into a stark white townhouse, the main floor is open concept. I am purchasing medium gray furniture that has a art deco chair that is white with a gray, brown and black deisgn and matching ottoman. I am thinking of painting the living room a charcoal gray or at least an accent wall. My dilema is in the front doorway is a 1/2 batch ( all white) and the living room flows into the kitchen and dining are and into a family room. The floor is flooded with light from all the windows. What would be a color suggestion for the dining, kitchen and family room. Family room furnishings are black, kitchen appliances are stainless steel with a counter top of a blue gray coloring. Carpet in lr is silvery gray with linoleium flooring in kitchen dining and family room. help. I want my new home to feel warm and inviting.