Open plan is a bit of a buzz-phrase when it comes to interior design. We know that way we use our homes has evolved considerably, as we shifted from life confined within a series of four walls to more open and free-flowing spaces. The secret to these areas would lie in their multi-functional approach and encouraged connectivity, as families could complete homework whilst making dinner or entertain guests whilst serving them.
But the question is, how does your approach to interior design differ when designing a modern kitchen that's also part of your living space? Unlike traditional rooms, colors and shapes are present within zones but also play a part in the big picture of this space. Planning your space and considering how you want each zone (kitchen, dining, or lounge) to connect with one another is a great way to start but also considering your color palette for these spaces is key. You want to ensure that there is a strong sense of visual flow from one zone to the next, but the room doesn’t feel too rigid in its use of color or texture.
To uncover the secret to balance within an open-plan interior, we looked to the experts and found our favorite examples from the world’s best interior designers. They shared their trusted tones for open-plan living, from pared-back pastels to pretty caramel and pink shades. Each emphasizes the importance of color in creating and maintaining harmony in your open-plan interior.
1. YELLOW & WHITE
Your kitchen color scheme can be an effective tool to zone spaces within your open-plan living space. This example from Austin-based studio, Cuppett Kilpatrick shows a perfect pastel color scheme with their Castle Hill project. As the canary yellow reflects sunshine into the kitchen, the red sofa adds energy to the color palette. The yellow is brought into the white kitchen through accents which softens the transition from one zone to the next.
“In this renovation of a 1930s home, it was important to retain pleasing proportion and scale of 3 spaces. We increased connection by widening existing openings but used color to define distinction from mud entry to kitchen,” says Tim Cuppett, Founding Partner at Cuppett Kilpatrick Interiors.
2. PINK & GOLD
Australian interior designer Greg Natale demonstrates why you shouldn’t be afraid to lean into metallic accents and playful tones like pink when it comes to your open plan interior. By opting for this rose, teal and gold color palette across the kitchen, dining and living space, the room feels fun yet functional.
“While open-plan interiors are about increasing flow and maximizing the space, it’s essential to still delineate between functional areas. The best way to do this is by using rugs to create a visual border around furnishings. To define the dining and living spaces in the Lurline Bay project, the sofa is angled away from the dining table and chairs, which are anchored in place by the pendant lights and rug to create the feel of a designated, intimate dining room,” reveals Greg Natale.
He highlights the role that your rug plays in dividing your space and encouraging a flow throughout the open-plan interior. “Rugs should always be a well-considered addition to an interior, even more so in an open-plan home, as they zone a space by connecting all the furniture and accessories. It’s still important to look at the room as a whole. Keep in mind how each functional area flows from one to the next, and establish a cohesive look and consistent colour scheme so everything looks balanced and complete,” adds Natale. Our guide to the best rugs will help you here.
3. GO OFF-SCRIPT WITH RED, MINT & BLUE
If you’re looking to experiment with color in your open-plan interior, this bold project from Owl Design, a London-based interior design firm provides ample inspiration. The brightest tones of orange and red are used sparingly whilst the foundation is set with a soothing tone of mint that covers the kitchen cabinets and surrounding walls. This works well to integrate the kitchen into the open-plan interior and connect it to the rest of the room. The sophistication of black and royal blue balances the sculptural furniture and lighting that defines each zone.
“When we designed our ‘Adventures in Space project’ we knew it had to flow. One way we achieved this was by designing a bespoke floor to tie the spaces together, specifically in the open plan living, kitchen and dining area. The soft plaster walls and colour palette worked in harmony, and playful furniture and rugs zoned the areas,” say Sophie van Winden and Simone Gordon, founders of Owl Design. Follow suit by considering how your floor or rug choice can work to tie together the color scheme of your open-plan interior as a whole.
4. ENJOY THE CALM OF CARAMEL
Brown is seeing a resurgence as more interior designers come back to the warm neutral and looking at this open-plan kitchen living area from Marea Clark Interiors makes it easy to see why. The San-Francisco based interior designer uses the caramel like tone to build calm and connection into her scheme.
“Before the kitchen was very dark and disjointed, and black and red! The client wanted something light and bright, so we did a natural wood stain on the cabinetry, light wood counter stools clear sculptural pendants The soft palette flows to the family room, and nothing is too heavy,” says Marea Clark . The key to using a more refined color palette lies in keeping tonal hues alive, so opting for lighter tones of vanilla or sand for the blinds, pillows and side tables keeps the scheme visually interesting.
5. PERFECT THE PARED-BACK LOOK WITH ALL WHITE
White’s ability to reflect light and create visual calm makes it an easy addition to open-plan interior schemes. This apartment designed by Santillane Design uses a pared-back palette of whites and ecru tones that balance the dark edges of the floor to ceiling windows that run alongside it.
“The idea is to open up volumes, open up spaces, smooth things out. For the white kitchen, we were in a very black & white space, where the windows were black, the walls were white, so the idea was to work more on a monochrome of whites with different materials: waxed concrete on the floor, an imitation marble, a worktop with a mix of woods because there was also wood in the circulation, white lacquered fronts like the walls, so the idea was to integrate and make this volume connected to the living room almost like a single room,” says Santillane de Chanaleilles.
The designer hints at a key point to consider when designing your color scheme, texture and your choice of materials will also impact your color scheme. A variety of materials and textures even all in ‘white’ will feel anything but monotonous. “The treatment of the island is also often to hide a little, to separate spaces and create separation in the kitchen, to have kitchens that are open but still organized and have more uses, even use at the heart of the room with an island. The color white was chosen because the project was to let in as much light as possible, given the apartment's large bay windows and unobstructed view. It's a fairly contemporary project, simple and sober,” adds Santillane.
6. LEAN INTO BLACK & NEUTRAL TONES
Neutral tones that reference natural materials are another popular solution for open-plan interior schemes. Not only do they offer warmth and texture to your scheme, but they can also be easily coordinated with and are the perfect backdrop for colorful accents. Black on the other hand can be seen as too harsh a force for such an expansive space but London-based interior designer, Oksana Dolgopiatova shows us how black and neutral tones can work together to create a layered and relaxing open-plan interior.
“I wanted the kitchen to become part of the living space, not only functionally, but also aesthetically. The task was to create a bright interior without using bright colors. That's why I settled on the most neutral range of colors, according to the feelings of my clients. It was white, beige, gray, a little black, shades of wood and brass. How can you create a bright interior from such colors without using a bright palette? I decided to play with the proportions of these colors, their materials and textures, that is, I used unusual solutions for interiors in neutral shades. The volume of warm shades of wood and brass neutralizes the abundance of black, making the interior more cozy and earthy. White acts as a background for contrasting combinations, but at the same time reflecting diffused light. Black takes on the responsibility to easily highlight a detail somewhere, to declare its infinity somewhere, to hide something that is better viewed through a long period of contemplation,” says Ukrainian interior designer Oksana Dolgopiatova of Dolgopiatova Interior Design
7. ADD SOME ORANGE TO YOUR INTERIOR
Whilst a color palette should be cohesive, a little chaos is necessary too. If you are too formulaic with your open plan interior, areas can blend into each other too much making the space feel cluttered rather than curated. Avoid this by using color to define each zone and creating visual partitions as showcased in this eclectic kitchen living design from Parisian studio, Santillane Design. The tangerine tinted wall cements the living area whilst the deep browns of the kitchen add balance to the other side of the room.
“This kitchen is more bohemian chic, it's a project in a less contemporary style and a little more eclectic, so the idea was to bring in old, salvaged wood, that's wagon (train) plank salvaged and reworked into kitchen fronts, we did that with a joiner and mixed it with artisanal zellige to get a mix & match of materials. The super rough side and the shiny side of the zellige, there's a brick-red wall because the customer also liked this ethnic side, so it's a more eclectic kitchen, mixtures of rough wood and handmade earthenware, warm colors, we're in a rooftop building with a late 19th century rounded ceiling with large, rounded windows,” says French interior-architect Santillane de Chanaleilles.
The importance of materials and textures is emphasizing in this design and will also be a key ingredient in creating a successful open-plan interior. “The idea is to dissociate spaces through materials. For this project, we mixed and contrasted materials, bringing in matte, shiny and raw materials to create something warmer and cozier,” adds Santillane.
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Writer and design expert Faaizah Shah is the founder of The Interiors Consultancy. She has worked with designers such as Staffan Tollgard and design houses such as Sanderson to help them understand and communicate their narratives. She is known for crafting engaging stories and imaginative content, and understanding great decor from her years alongside some of the best creatives in the industry. She is also a contributor to Livingetc.
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