Using Color in an Open Floor Plan

Open floor plan living has been very popular for a decade and will probably continue to be so for the foreseeable future!  Open plan living presents a variety of advantages as well as challenges.  One of the challenges I am consulted about most often is choosing the color scheme for an open floor plan.

Choosing the right color scheme is a powerful tool for transforming an open, cavernous space into a sensational environment, and creating the feeling of cohesiveness in a disjointed space.

Let Architecture be your Guide

You don’t need to limit a contiguous space to one paint color. Even open spaces have angles and corners where you can naturally start and stop different colors, so be creative. Bold hues and patterns used judiciously will make your large room feel more comfortable.  Look for corners and transition areas at these points for a natural stop and start place to add or change wall color or treatments, such as wallpaper.

Choose One Wall

Pick a self-contained wall to paint and accent color; walls that sit between two corners or areas that change depth such as niches, are a natural place for adding accents – especially bolder colors.

Use a Monochromatic Scheme

No one wants a boring room, but too much color in a contiguous space can be confusing and stressful.  Using a monochromatic scheme is an ideal choice.  But don’t think that a monochromatic scheme means using only light neutrals.  Any color can work successfully in a monochromatic, contiguous space if you stick to some basic guidelines:

·         Pick a color that a has several shades you like

·         Use lighter shades on the largest areas and gradually darken shades to smaller, more contained areas (like niches or smaller accent walls). 

·         AS the purpose of the spaces transitions, so should the color.  You accomplish this by changing the value of the color (the amount of white or black in the color) from space to space. 

Use a Three-color Scheme

At the most basic, using one shade of a color on all the walls, one shade on all the trim and a third shade on the ceilings will pull a large open space together without limiting you.

Keep Accents All in the Family

In a large open area where the walls are neutral or white, color is essential to help ground the space and keep it from feeling too sterile. Add color with accessories.

Keeping your accents colors and accessories all in the same color family will create a feeling of cohesiveness.  Create a professional, sophisticated look by mixing accent tones (deeper or brighter shades) and lots of texture, but keep everything related by staying within the same color family!

Add Molding and Detail

Delineate your space with molding, chair rail, wainscoting, crown and other architectural details to add punch and emphasis.  Keep it coordinated by using the same paint color on all moldings and architectural details.  Bump up the emphasis by using glossier finishes for the molding and detail paint.

If your space has a bulkhead or soffit, treat this portion differently than the rest of the ceiling and walls, and continue this treatment throughout. Use paint or wallpaper, or be innovative. In this home, the designer used stained bamboo plywood on the bulkhead and wrapped it around the entire space like a ribbon.


Break Up Endless Walls

Separate a long wall with bookcases, shelving, or large format artwork.  If ceilings are especially tall, be sure to pick bookcase, shelving and artwork that is sufficiently proportioned to fill the space.  If bookcase or case goods are solid wood, cover the back with colorful paper or a coordinating paint color to add oomph!

Use Rugs to Define Space

Area rugs of all kinds ground a space and can add amazing texture even in neutral colors.  Patterned rugs can be very successful in a large, contiguous space.  Be sure not to overwhelm a space with too much pattern, however.  Consider the pattern size and colors of your accents and upholstery when choosing a rug and vice versa.

Use Furnishings to Define Space

 Resist the urge to stand furniture up against the walls!  An open plan room cries out for floating furniture.  Use furniture pieces to create “invisible” walls and boundaries that define spaces by purpose.  If you are using pale shades on the walls, consider deeper tones on the largest pieces of furniture.  Treat your furnishings like all other surfaces in the room when choosing shades and values of color.