How to Furnish an Open Plan Space

Incorporating open plan spaces into your home or office is one of the most effective ways to make interiors feel larger, while maximising the utility of the spaces in your home. Open plan spaces are versatile, in that they support mixed usage of a single space, and allow everyone to spend time together, even if they’re doing different things. Setting up an open plan space that will work for you and your family, however, does require planning.

Review your layout

Start by reviewing the layout of your open plan space. Three popular options are the long, the square, and the L-shaped layouts.

  • Long layout – As for all layouts, aim to leave a gap of at least 80 cm between each zone. You can use a large rug to outline a specific zone for any living room area in the rectangular layout. If you have kitchen and dining spaces, they’re best connected in some way; for example, with shared furniture pieces.
  • Square layout – A good way to maximise the square layout is to divide it in half and set up two small areas in the first half. For example, the kitchen and dining area is in one half, and the living space in the other half. One of the halves can be larger than the other.
  • L-shaped layout – In this type of layout, the various zones are already defined. You can approach this layout by having the dining area in the right-angle area and the kitchen and living rooms in the remaining two arms on either side of the dining area.

Purpose of the space

As you set out a furnishing plan for your space, consider the purpose of each zone. List each zone you’ll have, and outline the types of activities your household will be doing in each zone. Estimate how much space you’ll allocate for each zone, then consider the furniture and the size of the pieces that will go into each zone. At this point, you’ll also be thinking about any remodelling, redecorating, or reorganising work that will be required, and you’ll also take into account the position of doors, windows, power outlets, columns, and other features.

Organising options

As you start to imagine the furniture pieces that will go into each zone, don’t forget to visualise the space from the standpoint of organising options. The main organising options are linear, grid, axial, and central. In a linear organisation, your spaces are organised in a single line, and the size and shape of each zone can vary greatly so long as they relate to a straight line. For axial organisation, you’ll have two or more points of interest that define the organisation. Homes typically use a linear or axial organisation.

Integrate pathways

It’s vital to plan your pathways before you decide on actual furniture pieces and where they’ll go. Pathways are crucial to open spaces because they facilitate full usage of the space and allow people to move from zone to zone. Experts recommend allowing at least 90cm for the width of your paths.

Furniture groupings and borders

To ensure each zone is a self-contained space within itself, think about your furnishings as groupings. For example, in the living room, you’ll have a sofa, coffee table, end table, lounge, and chair. The grouping encompasses the furniture, the space around the furniture, and the pathway(s) required to access.

As you’re choosing your furnishings, also think about using statement pieces that can build borders and distinguish individual zones. Items such as sofas, console tables, buffets, and bookshelves can all create borders. Rugs are another way to create borders in each zone.

Public versus private areas

You can use furnishings and accessories to create semi-private spaces within zones. Other ways to create more distance or set off individual spaces within zones include lighting, raised floors, dropped ceilings, and beams. Even screens can be subtle ways to distinguish and separate spaces.

Using colour

Using a bold splash of colour in a feature item such as a sofa and using matching or complementary colours in other items in the same zone is a great way to distinguish individual zones in your open space. Use colours that are suitable for the function of the space.

Rugs and shelving

While the focus is often on key pieces such as tables and sofas, accessory pieces such as rugs and shelving can make a dramatic impact when it comes to giving your open space a coherent layout and distinguishing your zones. Use rugs to demarcate individual zones or spaces within zones, and keep in mind shelving can bring extra visual impact while allowing you to separate zones.


The smart use of lighting lets you set off certain spaces and minimise border areas such as pathways. For example, you can use a large chandelier over the dining room table and recessed lights to highlight a kitchen island area. A full-length lamp next to a chair in an otherwise darkened recreational area can be used to set off a reading space within the living-room zone.

Endless possibilities for beautiful open plan spaces

When it comes to creating a functional yet stylish open space, planning is key to avoid a space looking cluttered. By reviewing the layout of your space, considering the purpose of each zone, and integrating features such as pathways and lighting, you can create an open space that feels spacious and inviting, and one that successfully supports individual and communal activities.