Open Living/Dining Room Open Living/Dining Room

In this article, we really get two rooms for the price of one, as we analyze an open floor-plan living/dining room using the Sheffield Guidelines to Interior Design.

The concept of the "open floor plan" was a response to the rigid architecture of the past, in which formality took precedence over function, and living rooms, dining rooms and kitchens - the public spaces of a home - each had its own quite separate quarters. Today, we often think of an open floor plan as being a great big space, such as in a Soho loft or in a barn converted to living quarters.

But as you can see here, you can still maintain a sense of formality without giving up the flexibility afforded by the open floor plan.

Looking at the first guideline, function, we see that this arrangement is highly practical. One of the panels in the glass wall in the dining area is a door that leads to the kitchen, making it easy to dash back inside for a little more Bearnaise sauce or seconds on the brisket. This also makes serving and clean-up easy, to have the entrance within easy reach.

The function of the dining room as an area for entertaining is also served by the ease of reaching the living room, so that guests can easily move from dining table to living area, without feeling they're making a trek across the tundra. And the dining area is conveniently located in the center of the apartment so that it's easy to use the table for a quick cup of coffee or as a family homework space after the dishes are cleared.

The mood - the second of the Sheffield guidelines - is somewhat formal here without being stilted. The view from the dining room windows is accentuated by the valance over the window, and the mirrored wall contributes to the formality as well. However, the stripes on the valence and the bare wooden floor offset the formality, as does the style of the furnishings in the living room. These chairs and sofa are clearly built for comfort, and their deep seats look inviting rather than imposing.

Harmony, the third guideline, is of utmost importance when you're pulling together an open living plan, because you want the rooms to feel a little bit separate from one another, but you also want them to harmonize. You wouldn't want a modern look in the living room and a Victorian look in the dining area, for example. Likewise, you wouldn't want to use contrasting color schemes in each room. Yet at the same time, you want to feel that when you're in the living area, you're really in a different space than when you're in the dining area.

This harmony is achieved beautifully here, primarily with the use of color and fabric. The same material is used in the living area as in the dining area valences, and the furnishings are in the same semi-formal style. The red in the upholstered furniture matches the red in the draperies, and the spare, clean lines in each room are similar. The furniture in both rooms is a blend of the very modern, such as the speakers in the living room and the mirrored wall in the dining area, and the older, such as the chest in the living room and the art deco dining table and chairs.

To make the most out of your space, you may want to consider the open floor plan - as long as you bring both rooms together by harmonizing the styles and colors, you could find that the sum of the whole is greater than the parts.

Reprinted with permission from the Sheffield School of Interior Design

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