5 Easy Ways to Section Off That Open-Concept Floor Plan You Hate So Much

published May 26, 2020
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Open-concept white kitchen
Credit: Artazum/Shutterstock

Open-concept kitchens and living rooms may be trending now, but they’re not exactly new: The idea started to enter the scene all the way back in the 1970s. And while there’s a lot to love about open concept life — more gathering space for big families, a sizable cook space, plus being able to use the kitchen but still watch TV or engage in conversation, to start — some people might find that after a while they just … kind of hate it. Don’t worry! You don’t have to move out to be able to find a more workable space.

Whether you’re looking for a little bit more privacy in the living room layout or you find yourself wanting your living or dining room to come fully equipped with four whole walls that isolate the space from the sounds and smells of the kitchen, we’ve gathered some concrete solutions to address this layout pain point. Read on for some specific things you can do — at a range of price points — to give your kitchen and living room the degrees of separation you’re looking for.

1. Rearrange your furniture to create separate zones.

If you currently have your sofa facing the kitchen and your furniture organized to emphasize the “one-large-space”-ness of the open floor plan, try rearranging your furniture. Place your sofa, coffee table, and any side chairs so that they form their own zone, away from and not facing the kitchen. The two areas are used differently and don’t look out onto each other, so you’ve now created furniture arrangements that support this. Add a console table behind your sofa and use it as a display space to further differentiate the living room from the kitchen. The same trick works in the dining area, too, where a well placed console table can provide a bit of a focal barrier.

2. Make color, texture, and other finishes work for you.

You may not have to move your furniture or even buy anything new. Consider the power of color and how painting one half of a room a different color can already make a big difference in separating the two spaces. Throw in a rug and other materials and textures consistently throughout one part of the space — like a wool blanket and matching throw pillows or artwork — and you’ll soon realize that you’ve created a living area that is unmistakably not part of the kitchen.

3. Add a kitchen island.

One of the easiest and most straightforward ways to create a feeling of separation between two spaces is to create a physical barrier, even if it doesn’t reach up high enough to touch the ceiling. One of the benefits of these combined kitchen-living spaces is that they are large in size, meaning that if you don’t have an island yet, you can usually sneak in a mobile one in. Bonus: Extra countertop and storage space, which is a boon for a small kitchen.

Credit: Melanie Rieders

4. Add a room divider.

If a kitchen island isn’t going to cut it in terms of visual separation between the two rooms, consider a room divider. Whether it’s just a simple series of vertical louvers, a decorative folding screen, or a set of tall bookcases, a room divider can play a critical role in differentiating spaces. The shelf above expertly divides a living space from a craft area.

5. Build in another wall

As the most invasive (and expensive) of the options on the table, constructing a wall is the final straw in completely undoing an open floor plan. You’ll want to position it carefully so that you retain comfortable proportions for both rooms — a tiny kitchen with a huge living room or dining room is probably not the right balance you want for a functional place to cook. You’ll also want to think about whether to add a door or just keep an open door opening, where the opening goes, and how large it is. If you’re renting, you’ll need to get approval first; if you own, you might need a building permit depending on the extent of the work. Check with your local municipality before digging out your toolbox.

Note that it’s totally possible to build a temporary wall — it will still take plenty of sweat equity and DIY know-how, but won’t permanently alter the layout of your home — so it’s removable if you change your mind, or if you decide to sell your home down the line.

This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: So You Hate Your Open-Concept Floor Plan? Here Are 5 Easy Ways to Fix It