Many homes today feature an open floor plan with the kitchen, casual dining area and living area in one big informal space.

An open floor plan can be ideal for entertaining, as well as for keeping an eye on little ones in the house, but you also want to make sure the open spaces feel cohesive and cozy, as opposed to cold and cavernous.

We asked Jessica Parker Wachtel, a senior designer at GTM Architects in Bethesda, Maryland, for her tips on how to design an open space so it feels welcoming no matter how many or how few people are in it.

Here are the tips she shared with us via email:

Use color to tie spaces together. Choose an accent color (or two) and incorporate it into each space. For example: blue accent pillows in the living room, artwork with blue accents in the dining area and blue ceramic vases on display in the kitchen.

Define “rooms” with area rugs. It can be hard to determine where one room stops and another begins. Area rugs help anchor a unique space within the open living area.

Continue materials throughout the space. Flooring and paint colors should continue throughout the open floor plan. But also think about accent materials — such as what metal finish you are using on your light fixtures and furniture pieces. Using a chrome light fixture in the dining room and a chrome accent table in the living room will help create a cohesive feel.


Add light fixtures. Decorative fixtures, such as pendants over the kitchen island, a chandelier over the dining table and sconces in the living room, will help draw your eye to each area, while also providing appropriate task lighting.

Use your furniture to define the traffic patterns between each area. Strategic placement of rugs, console tables and larger furniture items will help direct the flow from space to space.

Add a focal point. A statement range hood in the kitchen, a stone fireplace wall in the living room and a unique light fixture in the dining room will help draw your eye to each area and anchor each room.