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Decorating an Open Concept Room

An open concept house is the only floor plan that makes sense for me even though an open concept room is much more difficult to decorate. The larger the room, the more difficult it is to make everything in the room work together and feel cohesive.

Anita Joyce open concept living room
photo by Anita Joyce

Here are my tips for decorating an open concept room:

  1. Unify with color
    The easiest way to unify a large room’s room design is to unify with color. Using a limited number of colors and a unified color palette in the room gives it order and a pulled together look. Having a lot of different colors in the room can make it feel disjointed.
  1. Use the proper scale of furniture
    If the room is large, be sure to avoid small furniture. If you use small furniture, you’ll need a lot to make the room feel full, which can cross the line into “cluttered.” A lot of small pieces in a room makes it feel more like a store display than a decorated room.
  1. Limit art on the walls
    A lot of small art work can have the same cluttering effect as a lot of small furniture. Use fewer, larger art pieces to give the room a cohesive look.
  1. Balance the room
    Be sure that your furniture is balanced in the room. In other words, don’t have big pieces on one side and small pieces on the other. Does it feel like the room has the same weight on all sides? Does the artwork feel balanced? How about the color? If you used green and blue for example, do you have green and blue throughout the space, or is green on one side and blue on the other? Even though each area may have a different function, you want it to work together as one.
  1. Photograph the room
    I always recommend that clients photograph their rooms. It’s amazing what you notice in a photo that you can ignore in real life. While this is helpful for an open concept space, it works for any room.
Anita Joyce sofa open concept living room
photo by Anita Joyce

Unify with color, use the right scale of furniture, limit artwork, balance the room, and then photograph it to see what is working and what isn’t. Using these tricks of the trade should help you create a beautiful space in your open concept home. Remember, think of it as a whole.


No Dogs or Food Allowed(Why I Prefer Open Concept Homes)

Before the days of open concept homes, people typically had a living room, den, kitchen and dining room. These rooms were separate and distinct; one room did not spill over into the other. Each room had a different function.

The den or family room was the place where families lived. This is where the TV and the ugly-but-comfortable sofa resided. My family had a family room, and this is where we kids entertained our friends. This was the room where good things happened. We were allowed to eat in here while we watched Wild Kingdom and The Carol Burnett Show. Our dog was allowed in there, but not on the sofa, unless my parents were gone, and then really everything was allowed.

On rare occasions I would be invited into the living room when we didn’t have visitors. This was never a good thing because the living room was where punishments were doled out and bad news was delivered.

The living room was an entirely different matter; it was for entertaining adults, not kids. I avoided the living room for many reasons. We weren’t allowed on the white sofa unless our jeans passed the “white glove” test. It was where boring adult conversations about politics and business took place, and children were only allowed to speak when spoken to. There was also a very strict “no dogs allowed” policy for the living room. For the record, we never let the dog in there when our parents were home.

The one bright spot was a candy dish filled with cashews and M&Ms that would mysteriously appear just before guests arrived. When the company left, the candy dish would be whisked away.  We then returned to a “no food” policy for the living room. And really, why would anyone want to spend time in any room where food isn’t allowed?

Crimes, Punishment and Bad News
On rare occasions I would be invited into the living room when we didn’t have visitors. This was never a good thing because the living room was where punishments were doled out and bad news was delivered. When I was called into the living room during the summer of ’76, I knew it wasn’t a good sign. I hesitated. I mentally catalogued every offensive thing I had done the previous week. Nothing egregious came to mind. Still I was leery.

No, this time it was simply bad news. We were moving . . . to Texas. It’s not that I had anything against Texas, but I was 15 and about to start high school in the fall. A move meant I would have to start all over. Once again I would be the skinny, freckle-faced, awkward teen.I really was stumped as to why I was being ushered into the inner sanctum. I mentally set up an escape plan through the back of the house in case things got ugly. My parents sat on the sofa together presenting a united front with their best “this is serious” parent faces. I don’t remember the words, but I do remember the sense of relief that flooded over me when I realized I wasn’t in trouble.

Given my experience with living rooms, I don’t have to explain why I prefer open concept homes. If I’m going to ruin my kids’ lives, I want to do it where I can cook and eat an egg sandwich at the same time.

We ended up moving to Texas, which required starting over at a new school. I joined the Junior Engineering and Technical Society, which in hindsight was not good for my social life, but my Dad, in a gracious move, gave me his motorcycle so I wouldn’t lose my street cred completely. #gangsterlife

On the Porch
article and photos by Anita Joyce

Anita Joyce has a city house in Houston, a country house near Shelby and a flair for French style. The former engineer is a wife and mother as well as a self-taught photographer, interior designer, blogger and online entrepreneur who founded in 2011. Today that site alone has 80,000 unique visitors per month.


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