Open-plan living room ideas to create a multi-functional, family space

It's easy to create an open-plan living room to make more of your homes footprint

Open-plan living has become a signature style choice for the modern home, helping make our homes feel more sociable and inclusive. From a home office within an open-plan living room idea to a kitchen-diner that acts as a valuable family room – the layout of our homes needs to be more fluid than ever.

'We know by now that our homes need to be ready to transform into whatever we need, be that a home gym, classroom or office – often with just a moment’s notice' says Rebecca Snowden, interior style advisor at Furniture And Choice. 'Creating these dedicated spaces in our home doesn’t have to mean sacrificing style.'

'Whether it’s a big project like adding some sliding doors or a divider wall, or simply laying out your furniture in an intelligent way, there are plenty of ways to create self-contained spaces in the home in a way that works for you.'

Open-plan living room ideas

The perfect open-plan living room idea should be well designed and considered, to be able to utilise the combined space to maximise its full potential. Clever decorating and styling ideas will keep the spaces looking separate but seamless.

Whether you're house hunting in search of more space or renovating your existing home to create it see our top tips for making the most of an open-plan space, including the best sofa for the space, without breaking the bank.

1. Use paint to define different zones

living room with white sofa and colourful cushions

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Jo Henderson)

Open-plan needn't be devoid of different personalities for different purposes. Opening up a living room and dining area is great to create a more generous space, ideal for busy family life. But it does blur the lines when it comes to lifestyle choices. Simple paint effects on architectural details, such as widened doorframes and arches, helps to gently signify different zones within the open space.

Creating zones within the larger space helps to give a sense of purpose for a living room end to that of a dining area or a kids playroom. This unimposing way of dividing the living space doesn't defeat the object of making it open – it merely gives more structure to how you use the space.

2. Reflect a style throughout

living room with wooden table and white walls

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Create a seamless flow from one living area into the next by way of a cohesive decorating scheme throughout. In this stylish open-plan living room a beautifully blank canvas of brilliant white makes the room feel airy and bright. Symmetry on the shelving in this modern living room idea helps to mirror the decorating scheme – almost tricking the eye into thinking it's the same space?!

Simple accessories are enough to thread two separate rooms together, and are easy enough to chance to suit changing styles and tastes.

3. Create an open structure with glass doors

living room with animal skin rug and wooden flooring

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Veronica Rodriguez)

While this living room isn't open-plan in technical terms, replacing traditional doors with a unique glass door frame helps the open layout onto the space beyond. The stylish black living room leads out through glass doors immediately into a vast open-plan kitchen and dining area.

A feat in interior design, using glass in place of hard materials makes the walls disappear - while allowing you to shut off the living room for more intimate use, as and when some 'me time' is needed.

4. Leave a partition wall standing

living room with grey and orange armchairs

(Image credit: Future PLC/Rachael Smith)

While you may desire the feeling of openness, you might not want to create one vast space that is devoid of structure. If this is the case consider leaving a section of wall still in place, to divide one end of the room to the other.

Having an element of division allows you to retain a living room layout – not losing a wall to place furniture against or hang wall art for instance. This smart living room space uses the diving wall to situate an open fire solution, meaning both living areas either side of the wall benefit.

5. Add personality with block painted zones

living room with teal blue walls and grey sofa

(Image credit: Dulux)

While lounging, eating and working may all take place in one large open-plan area, it doesn't mean you can't zone each area with a different colour. Signify a change of purpose with a splash of colour, with a thoughtful living room paint idea to transform with accent walls. Create a feature wall behind the sofa, perhaps using a cocooning dark shade such as Dulux 'Cobalt Night' (left).

Paint a block of colour to zone a home office space, within the open-plan layout – working with an engaging colour such as Dulux 'Night Seas'. Using a light neutral on the remaining walls, one such as versatile colour of the year 'Brave Ground' to harmonise and create a seamless flow with accessories and furniture pieces.

6. Stick to a harmonious decorating scheme

living room with sofa armchairs and wooden flooring

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Rowland Roques O'Neil)

Create an effortlessly sophisticated and inviting open-plan living room by choosing a neutral colour scheme, using the same paint shade and flooring throughout. This soft approach helps to make the space feel more grounded, and adaptable for all uses. Echo tonal accent pieces, such as lilac-grey and charcoal, to add soft colour contrasts without making the space feel overwhelmed.

7. Choose a sliding door

living room with grey armchair and teapoy

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Rachael Smith)

'Sliding doors work well for larger spaces and can really make a difference in a room' explains Rebecca Snowden, interior style advisor at Furniture And Choice (opens in new tab). 'While they require more work to incorporate into a space, including sliding doors into your interior design will enable you to separate an open space with style and versatility.'

'As an example, incorporating a sliding door into your kitchen/dining/living area will provide you with the flexibility to close off one space when you need to. Perhaps for home working, but then seamlessly transform it back into a vibrant space for dining and entertaining when needed.'

8. Create distinct areas with different textures

open plan attic living room with rough walls

(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Eltes)

This barn has been converted into one long open-plan living space. It is light and airy and has a dark blue and green colour scheme running throughout this rustic  living room idea. However, different textures and materials have been used to create a distinct divide between the dining area and living space.

The area surrounding the wood-burning stove, features plush crushed velvet sofas in turquoise and mustard with an aged rug underfoot. In contrast, the dining area is tied together by the natural wood of the table and the wooden bar stools lined up by the kitchen breakfast bar at the far end of the open-plan space.

9. Thread colourful accessories to unite zones

living room with colourful cushions footstool and fireplace

(Image credit: Future PLC)

While a grown-up only end of an open-plan living room is good to keep separate from the family space at the other end it can feel disconnected when it comes to the decorating scheme. An easy and effective idea for making an open-plan area feel more connected throughout is to thread a colour palette through, from one end to the other.

In this smart grey living room idea pops of vibrant colour are welcomed at different levels, via rugs to add colour to floors and on statement furniture pieces for a more impactful approach.

10. Go green indoors

living room with green sofa

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Dominic Blackmore)

Conjure the illusion of an amazing garden landscape idea with a trompe-l'oiel feature wall. Living room wallpaper ideas or a wall mural depicting a lush green forest or meadow can help to welcome the greenery of the garden into your living room, adding to the illusion of extra space.

Give the space a further botanical feel with luxe green velvet upholstery and an array of houseplants.

11. Define areas with platforms and partitions

white wall with wooden logs and calender

(Image credit: Future PLC/ David Giles)

When planning how to design a living room, partially divide an open-plan space with a central column. Within that partition wall add handy alcoves to provide extra storage. This also helps to add a decorative touch to the living room decor.  If you have the layout try raising the floor level in an awkward nook and add storage beneath it.

This idea is especially handy if you are limited by existing structural foundations that you can't alter, or at least not without huge extension costs.

12. Open up a period property

living room with fire stove and wooden table

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Don't let the age of your property deter you from making modern alterations. Formal front rooms in older properties can often feel dark and enclosed, so knocking through to form an open-plan living room is a popular choice. Removing a wall between rooms offers greater flexibility for the space and enhances the light in townhouses and terraces particularly.

Before undertaking any work make sure to consult a structural engineer and research any permissions required.

13. Be smart with colour and shapes

living room with L shaped sofa and wooden tea table

(Image credit: Future PLC/ David Brittain)

Use bold prints and patterns to zone spaces. Use graphic mid-century shapes and strong lines to define areas of an open-plan space. Try varying the living room flooring idea to help further the separation of the spaces. Pick a carpet for the main living area and laminate for adjoining kitchen or hallway spaces. Patterned rugs can add to the look and add more clear zonal definition.

Go for a walnut finish on a partition wall to add a classic mid-Century vibe.

14. Make rooms work on another level

living room with grey sofa and wooden flooring

(Image credit: Future PLC/Laura Ashley)

Not all homes have horizontal ceilings and single-level floors. Highlight these features by building clever storage and outside-of-the-box zones. Play with the levels. Be savvy with heigh ceilings and create a mezzanine to act as extra living space – such as a home office or guest bedroom. Using a tonal colour palette throughout will help tie the areas together.

15. Get in the zone

living room with grey sofa and wooden flooring

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Colin Poole)

Open-plan living is a great choice as the social aspect is perfect for family interaction. Design allocated zones for lounging, dining and working to keep the room organised. Use soft textures and calm colours to create a welcoming, relaxed vibe while a long-pile rug and pouf are comfortable for little ones. Arrange your room around a large window or French doors to make the most of the natural light.

16. Let the light in

living room with sofa footstool and white walls

(Image credit: Future PLC/ David Still)

Think about natural light sources to ensure the room stays bright. Making the most of natural light is a great way to keep a room feeling vibrant and lively and can even help a space feel larger than it actually is. Here, a run of sliding doors leads directly on to a patio area, providing a seamless connection to the outdoors.

17. Get smart with furniture

living room with dark grey wall and fireplace

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Lisa Cohen)

Section off the living area of an open-plan space with careful placement of furniture. The benefit of a large, open-plan space is that everyone can spend time together without being on top of each other. Not only that, but as there's direct access to the garden, children can happily head outside to get some fresh air.

Aside from its spacious layout, this blue living room ideas' winning features are the dramatic walls and beautiful fireplace, which contrast perfectly.

18. Look to the sky

open plan living room with armchair and wooden flooring

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Claire Lloyd Davies)

The beauty of open-plan living room is the sense of space, keeping the mood as light and airy as possible aids this effect. A skylight is the ideal solution for single-floor spaces. Spotlights have a clean, modern feel that add to the ambience.

Here, an elegant fusion of old and new gives a timeless feel to a living room. A painted yellow chair brings a splash of bright colour to this minimal space. A pale wood floor reflects light from the opening to the garden and the hits of strong yellow and bright and cheery touches.

19. Connect with the garden

living room with sofa and wooden flooring

(Image credit: Future PLC/ James Merrell)

Optimise your open-plan living room by designing it to flow seamlessly out to an adjacent outdoor space. Consider wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling patio doors - they will extend your room and optimise light. Make the transition from inside to out seamless by colour-matching internal flooring with external garden decking ideas.

Choose a decorating palette that complements the garden and position all your furniture to take in the views so it's easy to supervise little ones when they are outside.

20. Choose an L-shaped sofa

living room with L shaped sofa

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Use a corner sofa to define the seating area in a multi-functional open-plan living space, and add a sense of intimacy to a large room. Create a comfy haven and nestle a rug and coffee table into the gap made in front of the sofa to give a friendly, more cosy feel.

To further enhance the warm mood and create a cosy feel, paint the wall in this area a darker shade than used in the rest of the room. The moody colour behind the sofa helps to enhance it and make it even more inviting.

21. Make it family-friendly

living room with leather sofa and patterned cushions

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Colin Poole)

Living rooms are meant to be lived in, so make sure your space is somewhere that everyone in the family will enjoy. This cosy open-plan living room combines modern and traditional furniture to create a welcoming, family-friendly space.

The solid wood dining table is complemented by modern white chairs, which tie in with the white of the large sideboard. The fireplace introduces a rustic, tactile edge for a country living room idea. While a large wall-hung mirror helps to open out what is a very busy, multifunctional space.

22. Consider furniture placement

living room with armchairs

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Nicholas Yarsley)

As one of the most social spaces in the house, your living room needs to look good, work hard and function well. Before you begin any work, take a little time to work out how the space functions for you. Is it a relaxing haven, and entertaining space of family central? A sophisticated neutral palette helps create a comfortable feel in this kitchen living area.

The trick is to pay attention to balancing the colour scheme and keeping everything in proportion.  An open-plan layout is a fundamental part of modern family schemes and this one incorporates all aspects of living.

23. Join two rooms with cohesive colour

living room with armchairs and fireplace

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Catherine Gratwicke)

Where two rooms are linked but not entirely open, create flow by painting both the same shade. A neutral colour scheme allows the freedom to ring the changes using accessories, giving each room its own personality without the risk of jarring. Turn an open plan space into a functional family living room with clear zones for relaxing and dining.

Soft taupe walls in a matt finish unites the two rooms and forms an elegant base for this traditional neutral decorating scheme. The space has been cleverly divided up with two textural rugs and the positioning of the furniture.

24. Keep the scheme light and airy

living room with sofa and faux fur rug

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Colin Poole)

Open-plan living works especially well in a small living room idea, as by breaking walls, you can make even the tiniest room appear much larger. If you love entertaining, we recommend positioning your dining table and chairs by the window with the most light. Choose furniture that can double up as say a desk, or a bookcase as seen here. And keep colour to a minimum, only highlighting one key piece of furniture.

25. Keep it tonal

living room with floral sofa and checkered cushions

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

Let the outdoors become part of your home with a natural palette. Large windows enhance the light in this open-plan living room. Neutral-toned blinds and curtains with a restful hare motif frame the windows, and pick out the stone-coloured cabinets from the beige and cream kitchen. In the foreground an uplifting soft blue sofa creates a year-round summery feel in this welcoming room.

How do you style an open-plan living room?

The way you style an open-pan living room helps to determine how you use the space for maximum potential. Think carefully about how to arrange living room furniture. 'Use furniture to separate multi-functional spaces' advises interior style advisor Rebecca Snowden. 'Nothing adds personality to the home like the furniture you choose, and beyond adding to the style, furniture can be positioned in such a way to stylishly divide rooms into clear sections.'

'Start by taking measurements of your furniture, then mapping out on paper what you want each area of the space to be used for. Having this plan in place will help you to visualise the finished product and notice where you can use accessories and statement pieces to create clear “zones” within the room.'

'A bookshelf can be a good way to break up and separate a room in two, just fill the shelving with plenty of books and some trailing houseplants to create a cosy but stylishly-vintage reading nook' suggests Rebecca. ' This style is perfect if you’re living in a studio apartment or have an open floor plan, as you can add a bookshelf next to your bed to separate your sleeping area from the rest of your space.'

Feeling inspired by these open-plan living room ideas?

Tamara was Ideal Home's Digital Editor before joining the Woman & Home team in 2022. She has spent the last 15 years working with the style teams at Country Homes & Interiors and Ideal Home, both now at Future PLC. It’s with these award wining interiors teams that she's honed her skills and passion for shopping, styling and writing. Tamara is always ahead of the curve when it comes to interiors trends – and is great at seeking out designer dupes on the high street.