7 ways to make the most of your open plan living space

Open plan living spaces work best when each area's function is clearly defined. 

Open plan living spaces work best when each area's function is clearly defined. - Credit: Alamy/PA

In today’s property market, space is in short supply. From shoebox-sized studio flats in Victorian conversions to ‘snug’, purpose-built semis on suburban estates, people are increasingly finding themselves cooking in mixed-use spaces – ones which sometimes double as dining, living, or even bedrooms.

But however minimal your living space may be, several tried and tested tricks can help you make the most out of your kitchen area, without compromising the rest of your home…

1. Use furniture to divide spaces

Large items of furniture can provide effective buffer zones between areas that are for eating and areas that are for cooking. Sofas have long been a go-to room divider – providing a clear, functional barrier that doesn’t block the eye line. Defining the kitchen area by adding a dining table ensures you can cook and socialise at the same time.

A well-placed sofa is an easy way to zone a living space. 

A well-placed sofa is an easy way to zone a living space. - Credit: Alamy/PA

2. Put the kitchen in the corner

Corners are often neglected – partly because right angles can be hard to use – but kitchens are tailor-made to sit snugly in otherwise dead space. Arrange kitchen cupboards and surfaces around a corner to create a functional, out-of-the-way area where you can cook unimpeded, and leave the floor free for tables, TVs and chairs.

3. Have a clear centrepiece

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Mixed-use spaces can easily start to feel chaotic and lacking in boundaries, but a single, eye-catching centrepiece will help lend the room a sense of focus and order. A dining room table, a multi-piece settee, or a widescreen television are all easy to build a room around if granted a central location, drawing focus away from crowded kitchen surfaces or that large, humming fridge.

4. Embrace minimalism

Small spaces can easily feel cluttered, and kitchens are magnets for rarely used pieces of bric-a-brac and outmoded appliances. Do you really have space for that almost-empty spice rack, never-used pile of cookbooks, or the avocado slicer you received as a Secret Santa gift back in 2016? In your kitchen-cum-living-room-cum-whatever else you’re using it for, the answer is probably no.

Clearing out the clutter can help improve the appearance – and functionality – of your space. 

Clearing out the clutter can help improve the appearance – and functionality – of your space. - Credit: Alamy/PA

5. Use a light colour palette

It’s the oldest rule in the interior designer’s handbook – lighter shades make a room feel airy, bright and breezy, while darker colours will make it look smaller and more claustrophobic. Go for white, beige or pale greys to create the illusion of space.

6. Consider a kitchen island

They’re not cheap, but kitchen islands can divide a space beautifully, doubling as a dining table (if you don’t have one). They can also provide invaluable extra storage space beneath the worktop. Plus, in today’s modern, minimalist, IKEA-influenced world, kitchen islands are always on trend.

7. Use light to demarcate space

It’s not just furniture that can make different parts of a space feel different – accent lighting is a must for mixed-use rooms. Desk lamps and hanging lights can illuminate specific parts of a room, drawing focus or ensuring they feel separate and contrasting.