Design Tips for Open Concept Living

One thing is for sure, change is always going to happen.  And how we live in our homes is constantly changing. Today’s active adults want homes designed for open concept living.  Living in older homes with boxed in rooms, they want to do away with constrictive walls and create open airy and bright spaces.  However, despite the popularity of this style of floor plan, large rooms sometime lack the coziness that people crave in their homes. If you love the open concept and also want cozy and comfy you can have the best of both worlds with these simple design tips from Lori Melton, Cornerstone’s Design Consultant:

Area Rugs

One of the best ways to define spaces without walls is with area rugs. Area rugs unite all of the pieces sitting on top of them and help to reinforce the purpose of the space, whether it’s the great room with a conversation area, dining area, or sleeping area. An area rug creates the feeling that these items belong together and this space has a specific purpose. Also, the size of an area rug helps to define the perceived size of a space. The larger the rug, the larger the space feels. In open concept plans, the use of area rugs help to break up different spaces and make them feel cozier and intimate. And what’s great is that you can determine the size of each area with the size of the rug. If you want your living area to feel large, use a large rug; if you want the dining room to feel more intimate, use a smaller rug.

Upholstered Furniture

When it comes to making spaces feel cozy, there’s nothing better than soft and lush fabrics. No matter your style, whether it’s modern, traditional, or something in between, be sure to use plenty of upholstered pieces. Consider a large upholstered ottoman as an alternative to a coffee table and include soft accessories like pillows and throws to add texture. Try to avoid coarse materials and opt for those that are soft to the touch.

Conversation Areas

If you’ve ever tried to carry on a conversation with someone sitting 10 to 20 feet away from you, you know how awkward it can be. You have to raise your voice to be heard, and everyone else in the room can hear everything you say. It feels cavernous and lacks intimacy. That’s why in large rooms it’s best to create several small conversation areas instead of one large seating arrangement. Intimate seating areas are conducive to conversation and make spaces feel cozier. In an open concept space, there are many options, including creating several conversation areas within one defined space (such as a living area) or dividing them up to create several separate areas throughout the whole space. The more you have (within reason) the cozier the space will feel.


Arranging furniture in a considered way is a powerful tool in defining living areas, blocking off spaces, and creating conversation spots. Console tables and sofas tend to most commonly mark transitions from one space to another, but you can also use chairs, ottomans, bookshelves, desks and other pieces. Just remember that in open concept floor plans the backs of the majority of your furniture pieces will be visible, so take this into consideration when buying and placing.


Fireplaces are great for warming up a space, literally and figuratively. Open concept homes, in particular, can benefit greatly from fireplaces, whether wood-burning, gas, or even electric. While the main purpose of a fireplace is to provide heat, they actually serve a dual purpose. Fireplaces create focal points that all the other furniture in an area can be gathered around. People naturally gravitate towards them, and when that’s added to the light and warmth of the flame, it makes for a very cozy area.

Dim, Intimate Lighting

Interiors always look cozier in dim, intimate lighting. It’s a fact. It hides minor flaws, gives everything a warm glow, and is just generally flattering to everything (including people!). In open concept spaces, it’s definitely a good idea to install lights with dimmer switches. This includes living areas, sleeping areas, dining areas, and the kitchen. It’s particularly important to remember to put dimmer switches in the kitchen, an area people often don’t think about. If you’re entertaining in the evening and have guests in the living or dining area, you don’t want them to see harsh or bright lights in the kitchen. The ability to dim the lights in the kitchen means you can still take care of things without ruining the ambiance for your guests.

Wall Art

Empty walls are bleak, lack personality, and do nothing to make a space cozier. Much like area rugs, art can add color and personality, but it can also help to define areas. Even though with an open concept design there are fewer walls than traditional floor plans, you still need a little wall art. There’s no need to go overboard  but  using art thoughtfully will help to define areas and add warmth.

Natural Materials

Using natural materials is not only visually appealing but also creates comfort. Exposed brick, wood, sisal, rattan, and other organic materials helps to bring in a sense of nature and gives off an inherently comfortable vibe. You can use them in large doses or small, depending on your style. Consider a reclaimed wood table or bookcase, or even a small wicker basket to hold blankets and throws will do the trick.

Open concept homes may pose some decorating challenges, however, living in a bright, open and spacious new home while still feeling cozy is the best of all worlds! You can have it all and love it!

Cornerstone’s Design Consultant,