Reader SOS – Designing an Open Concept Living Room
I’m back with another “DIY Playbook, Save our Space”. My plan for #DIYPlaybookSOS is to take a reader’s space and (virtually) offer design tips and tricks on how to improve it.
Here are some old design problems I’ve solved during this series…
- Adding Style to a Family Room
- Furniture Layout
- Paring Down Furniture
- Gallery Wall Around a TV
- Dining Room Questions
- Designing an Extra Room
- Upgrading a Kitchen on a Dime
- Off-Centered Fireplace & Painting Wood Trim
- How to Style Shelves & Pantry Makeover
- Wallpapering Built-Ins & Narrow Bedroom Layout
- Transforming an Outdated Staircase
- Patio Furniture Layout
I’m tackling a question from the sweetest reader, Debbie. She recently moved to North Carolina to be closer to her kids and moved into an adorable home. Here’s her question about her open concept living room.
Open Concept Living Room Help
Debbie’s New Floor Plan
We have all struggled with Debbie’s design challenge. How can we make an open space feel warm and inviting? The first step is to create zones…one for lounging and one for dining. For this space, I recommend changing the placement of the television by moving it to the opposite wall. Yep, we’re flipping the entire living room setup. Because this wall is so large and bare, it makes for the perfect spot to create an awesome entertainment center.
I would then use Debbie’s existing sofas (to save some cash!) and move them into an L-shape opening up into the dining and kitchen area. For additional seating, I suggest ottomans or poufs that can be moved around as needed. Since Debbie mentioned she has lots of kids, this would be great when everyone is over and wants to hang out. And as always, a large rug is always helpful when creating zones. But be sure to buy the right size (my guess is at least a 9×12 or larger in this room!).
This new layout also makes space for a larger dining table that will fit more of Debbie’s beautiful family. Because this space has many rectangular features, I’d select a round or oval table to soften things. This is a gorgeous one that I think would work well. And, since the kitchen island has limited knee space and is so close to the dining room table, I’d forgo bar stools here. This also helps keep the walkways clear for moving between spaces on either side of the kitchen island.
Across from the dining table, I would place a credenza. It could hold dining essentials and act as a console for the entryway. Above the credenza, I’d create a family gallery wall similar to the one in my mom’s bedroom.
Create a Focal Point
Another challenge frequently found in open space living is a surplus of large blank wall space. Filling that space can be difficult and expensive, especially if you’re looking to purchase large scale art. What the heck do you do with all of that space?!
For Debbie, it makes sense to add a built-in on the largest open wall in her space. This helps ground the living room area while also furthering the creation of zones.
Debbie mentioned loving the warmth that a fireplace adds to a living space, but that she is limited by the structural elements of her new home. With this in mind, I’d recommend inserting an electric fireplace into the built-in feature (kind of like the DIY built-in from my friend Jen at iHeart Organizing). The television could be mounted above and the open shelving would provide ample opportunity to add personal touches to the space.
This project isn’t cheap but would make a big impact on the entire room. If this isn’t in the cards financially, a large media console with partially open bookcases (like this one) would also look great here. The built-in and credenza with the gallery wall will take up a good chunk of that huuuuuge wall space and make the entire room feel cozier and more balanced.
Master Cohesion with Color
Now that we’ve got the furniture and layout down, it’s time for the fun part…the accessories!
The best way to make an open concept space feel cohesive is through the use of color and finishing touches. Finn would say for me that means incorporating white, black, gray, and more gray (although, I promise I’m doing more color in the new house!)! Debbie told me she loves color but is unsure of how to best incorporate that into a room. I know this is something a lot of you struggle with too.
I recommend starting with a neutral palette and then working in 2-3 accent colors through rugs, art, and other accessories. For this space, it makes sense to keep the existing sofas because they are in good condition and when paired with other neutrals and mild accent colors, the blue will read as a vibrant neutral.
I find that it’s helpful to select a rug early on in the design process and then move to curtains and pillows because it can be tricky to find a large scale and affordable rug option. I envision a Persian style rug for the living room area (like this one!) that will subtly introduce other accent colors to the space. From there, I would select neutral curtains and accent seating. When working with neutral colors, I think it’s important to be mindful of texture. For example, in Debbie’s space, it makes sense to select a linen curtain instead of cotton or velvet as the subtle texture will complement the smoother texture of the sofa.
Finally, add colorful pillows, decor, and art. I would subtly incorporate the same accent colors into the dining and kitchen space, as well, to ensure this large open concept room feels cohesive.
Shop The Look
Here are my product recs for Debbie. A subtle pop of color, lots of texture, and warmth for a cozy open concept living room.
Submit your Reader SOS
I always love hearing your design dilemmas. If you have a space you want me to tackle next, email [email protected] with the subject line “READER SOS”. Please include as many photos and information as possible. Can’t wait to read…
I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m married to Finn & mom to Rory and Ellis. Together we’re creating our dream home in Chicago, one DIY project at a time.