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Decorating combined living spaces

I often receive decor enquiries from homeowners that are unhappy with their combined living spaces but have no idea where to start to make the spaces flow and work together.


In a townhouse or apartment, a combined living and dining space is very common. Architectural designers and property developers work together to create a space that is visually large but small on floorspace, and combined living areas are an easy way to do this.

An open plan apartment, kitchen, dining and living space are all incorporated into one large space. To define the living space, dramatic wallpaper on the main wall, and built in cabinets, create a modern living area. Lack of space does not allow for a full dining table and chairs, instead a breakfast fitted along the wall and modern bar stools provide a place to sit and have coffee or meals.





Decorating combined living spaces is easy if you follow a few guide lines:

Visual flow
While you want to section or define particular areas, you want to do this without losing the illusion of space, or visual flow. The eye should be able to flow from one area to the next without interruption. Colours should be complementary and chosen from the same family (a single swatch card) to decorate a large open space. Alternatively, if you want to create a dynamic impact, contrasting colours can be added to feature walls or with accessories.

Define spaces
Create groups of furniture in particular areas defines without breaking up the flow. A table, sofa, or sideboard placed across the open-plan space sets up a spatial and visual break to differentiate activity zones without destroying the sensation of roominess. Well-placed rugs are ideal to delineate a space – perhaps in front of a fireplace to anchor a seating arrangement or under a dining table to mark out the eating area.

A large, contrasting solid-colour rug has the same effect as actual walls. Create vertical separation with a pair of table lamps on a console or a large bouquet of fresh flowers, or a panel screen.

Window treatments should work together as a whole. There is no reason why you cannot put blinds in a kitchen and curtains in a lounge or dining area, but do keep the colours neutral or complementary.

Let lighting shine
Use lighting to define and draw attention to an area. Table lamps and floor lamps are portable light sources and flexible design tools that create warm pools of light around the room wherever you want them.

Design with rhythm
Choose furniture that looks good from all angles and harmonises with the total theme. Accessorize with pieces that are connected in some way. For instance, if you have Chinese urns on a coffee table, you may display a Chinese vase filled with fresh flowers in the kitchen area. Alternatively, choose colours from one area to unify with another area. For instance, red pendant lights over a kitchen countertop can be complemented with a red throw over the back of the sofa placed in the living room.

images michelle workman - lux design - lnm - kristin drohan