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7 ways to zone an open-plan space

Image of the open-plan kitchen of @beauhme

7 ways to zone an open-plan space

If you’re knocking down walls to make a space larger, there’s a risk that you’ll sacrifice cosiness and intimacy. In some cases, the room can become cavernous and devoid of personality. The solution is to zone the space, creating a series of smaller areas that work independently but also blend together. Read on for seven ways to zone an open-plan space effectively.

1. Introduce an island

A popular way to zone an open-plan space is to introduce an island, which creates a mid-height physical division between the kitchen and the living-dining areas without compromising light. If you don’t have space for an island, consider a peninsula instead (see below). As one end is fixed to a wall it’ll take up less floor space.

2. Focus on flooring

A great way of visually separating the kitchen from the dining-living areas is using different flooring materials. A tiled floor in the kitchen, for instance, contrasts with wooden flooring throughout the rest of the space.

If you have the same flooring throughout your open-plan space, you can use rugs to define zones (see below). For example, a rug underneath the dining table and another under the coffee table will visually separate where you dine from where you lounge. Play with the size, shape and texture of your rugs to help divide an expansive open floorplan into distinct areas.

3. Have fun with furniture

Use your existing furniture to divide your open-plan space: for example, position a sofa with its back to the kitchen to separate it from the living room (as in the apartment kitchen below). You’ll need to plan this carefully so that people can move from zone-to-zone without obstruction.

Room dividers are another way to zone a multi-functional living space while retaining a sense of flow. They have the added benefit of being more mobile than a sofa, so they’re easier to switch up your layout. Plus, they range in price so there are affordable options available. Also consider that open-back bookcases or shelving units can be used to create moveable walls in an existing open-plan space. Design note: don’t overload the shelves – leave enough space to allow light to flow through. 

4. Use several light sources

You can zone an open-plan space using multiple light sources and dedicated lighting in each area. The way you use each zone very much dictates what you’ll need. For example, in the kitchen you’ll need plenty of light in some areas, such as near the hob and worktops, so you can keep fingers clear of knives and flames.

On the flip side, the living area is for relaxing so you may want a softer light, plus targeted lighting for reading. Either way, think about how you’ll use the space as you explore your options. Don’t forget to invest in a dimmer switch so you can adjust the lighting levels. You can have a brightly lit room when preparing dinner but bask in a more intimate glow when it’s time to dine.

5. Plan for a partition

Divide up your space with a pocket door that slides back and disappears into a recessed compartment within the wall. This’ll mean that part of the room can be closed off when peace and quiet are needed – such as when taking calls if you’re working from home.

Glazing is another great way to divide a large space while still creating a strong link between adjacent rooms. A glass partition also allows natural light to flow (even when the doors are closed) and it doesn’t block sightlines. Alternatively, a half-wall is ideal if you’d prefer a partial division of your open-plan space. You’ll have a sense of separation but still be able to move around easily. You’ll also retain sight-lines and have additional wall space to play with.

6. Consider a split-level layout

Split-level layouts are great way to create a visual distinction between kitchen and living areas. A couple of steps to separate the two spaces is enough to create a broken-plan scheme; meanwhile a mezzanine floor makes better use of space if you have a high ceiling and a healthy budget!

7. Budget for banquette seating

Why not divide your open-plan space with banquette seating? You’ll retain the sense of openness (as beautifully demonstrated in the kitchen shown below) and gain extra storage underneath the seats.

Featured image: A lovely open-plan kitchen-living space belonging to the owners of Beauhme Interiors (@beauhme).

Want more? This is one of a whole series of posts taking a deep-dive into kitchen planning. If you’re working on your own kitchen project, have a browse here.