Go With The Flow
Home South Africa|July 2021
A clever layout and savvy furniture placement are essential for creating a successful open-plan living area.
Beatrice Moore-Nothnage

#1 Easy living

After the awkward staircase (see page 54) between the dining area and living room in Brian and Louise Tait’s Rondebosch home was removed during a total revamp in 2019, the two spaces felt too large. With assistance from architectural designer Jenny Collins of Red Cat Design and interior designer Zarah Riley of Zarah Riley Interiors and Design, the couple opted to install a double-sided fireplace between the living area and dining room – not only a great way to subtly separate the two spaces, but also a striking feature. “The connection between the living area, dining room and kitchen and how the family interact with each other in these spaces was important,” says Jenny. “There needed to be plenty of cosy spots in which to relax with a book or doze in the afternoon sun as well as spaces ideal for hosting braais and dinner parties.”

CREATE ZONES

The kitchen is neatly tucked away in the ‘short arm’ of the L-shaped design, so it’s not in full view of the lounge – ideal if you need to hide a mess when guests arrive unexpectedly.

A series of beams running below the ceiling support the upper level and subtly define the various living areas on the ground floor.

Furniture and lighting were used to create zones, giving each area a clear purpose.

FURNITURE PLACEMENT

A corner couch helps to clearly demarcate the living area within this large open-plan space. This creates a cosy zone, while still maintaining an easy flow in the space as a whole. On a practical note, the couch can seat a number of guests and it also provides the perfect configuration, allowing the whole family to kick back and read a book while warming their toes by the fire.

The floor-to-ceiling bookshelf creates an intimate and striking focal point; it also provides this nook with a clear purpose and offers a practical and attractive storage solution for the family’s extensive book collection.

EXPERT ADVICE

Architectural designer Jenny Collins of Red Cat Design shares her top tips for well-designed open-plan living spaces:

First get the architectural elements right before having fun with the interior design. An L-shaped open-plan living space works really well with either the kitchen or your living room in the short arm, whichever configuration suits your lifestyle better.

Nothing beats natural light to make a living area feel welcoming. It creates a connection with the outdoors and also serves to anchor the space.

What’s a living room without a comfy couch? Choose one with a shape that fits the space well and doesn’t obstruct the flow to other areas. It should define the living room, but not box it off. Corner couches work really well and encourage afternoon naps or family movie marathons.

A beautiful rug adds another layer of definition to the space and the texture underfoot adds another tactile dimension to your experience.

Storage can be difficult in open-plan areas but it’s vital because cluttered spaces aren’t welcoming and you can’t just close a door when there’s a mess. Consider furniture that offers storage such as a trunk that can double as a coffee table or an ottoman with plenty of storage space inside. Baskets are great for kids’ toys, blankets and firewood and they also add texture and detail to the room.

Jenny’s no-nos

My ultimate bugbear is a guest loo situated just off an open-plan space. It’s not comfortable for anyone. If your space is limited, try to position the loo in a small lobby or short passage for privacy.

The various zones in an open-plan space need to be wide enough to create good flow. For example, you don’t want to have to walk between your couch and coffee table to get to the dining area; it’s preferable to create a ‘passage’ alongside these spaces.

Size is important: too big and you don’t feel comfy, too small and you feel cramped.

CONTACT Red Cat Design redcatdesign.co.za

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