How to design an open-plan space

Kelly Hoppen, interior designer, author and entrepreneur, provides expert advice (

What are the key design considerations I need to consider?

I love open-plan spaces as they create such scope for flowing design and the light is usually fantastic. These types of spaces do come with challenges, though. You must always clearly define which areas will be used for what. If there is no definition to the room at all, it is important to create a focal point. Use runners and lighting to zone your space or it will end up looking like a lot of furniture in one massive room.

How should I go about creating a scheme?

Planning is essential. Before you start anything, I advise consulting a floor plan of the area really carefully. Deciding on the function of each space and making sure that they flow logically is key. Finding your focal points is a great way to start.

interior designer kelly hoppenHow should I maximise the design of the space?

Open-plan spaces tend to have amazing light in them, so use that to your advantage. Natural light is the best type of light, and the more you have in a space, the bigger and brighter it will feel. It is also key to use a neutral colour palette as your base, which will keep the whole space harmonised and serene. Always look at your wall area and how you can achieve something different. The key to open plan design is to appreciate the space and not just fill it so it loses its identity.

Open plan living room with blue rug by Jennifer Manners

You can use rugs to help create different zones in an open plan room. This Maze II rug, in Blue/Ivory, in handwoven New Zealand wool, H180xW240cm, is £1,080 from Jennifer Manners

Clever lighting

julia kendell

‘It’s essential to consider lighting for an open-plan space more carefully in order to create a comfortable and warm environment in which to relax,’ says TV presenter and interior designer Julia Kendell (

‘The larger the space, the more thought needs to be given to zoning and creating smaller, intimate spaces. Think about the different moods you wish to create and how your eye will travel around the area. Accent interesting elements around the room, linked to one, dimmable circuit, and add in appropriate task lighting. Use fittings at different heights – floor-level, wall up or downlights, and ceiling lighting – to produce an interesting and well-balanced scheme.’

Creative colour planning

natalia miyar

One of the simplest ways to make an impact in an open-plan space is by being clever with colour. If the walls are decorated in neutral shades throughout the space, then use accent colours on your furniture, artwork and accessories to add interest.

‘A unifying colour scheme paired with vibrant artwork will add sophisticated depth to a room,’ says Natalia Miyar, design director at Helen Green Design. ‘Well-curated accessories will unite the space, giving a more cohesive feel and adding texture, while soft furnishings, such as rugs, will add warmth while giving the area individuality.’

Flexible flooring

jennifer manners

Using flooring to highlight zones within an open-plan space is one way to make it feel more homely. You can choose different floor surfaces for different purposes – such as tiles in the kitchen and wooden flooring in the living room – or make a statement with one coherent surface throughout the space.

‘In an open-plan space, use several geometric rugs to create different zones while still retaining a coherent narrative with the flooring itself,’ says interior designer Jennifer Manners ( ‘Scale is especially important here; the key to success is mixing larger-scale patterns with smaller-scale ones.’

Featured image: This scheme by Helen Green Design uses soft furnishings, lighting, furniture and accessories to create a sophisticated, unified open plan space, but with clear zones for different functions