Dining area with a wooden table and a custom made bench seat

Designing, creating, and living in a modern open plan space is not just about removing walls and reducing the number of closed-off areas; it’s about using considered design to create free-flowing spaces in your home that match the lifestyle and personality of you and your family. 

In South East Queensland homes, an open plan living layout helps to make the most of the strong natural light and to utilise airflow throughout the home. It’s a design that suits South East Queensland’s tropical environment. Open space also provides flexibility and a multi-functional room for you to enhance your living zone.

We will take a look at some open design ideas to suit your preferences and lifestyle. We will then look at how style, design, decoration and furnishing can give your space a more livable quality.

Designing open plan living for your lifestyle

What do members of your family need from open-plan living spaces? The design of the open plan layout should work for your whole family. For example, consider a dining space that is connected to the kitchen. In sub-tropical homes, an open plan living layout often makes the most out of natural light and airflow throughout your home, and by opening up this space, you invite more social connection with family and friends.

Open plan living changes how we behave in spaces. The dining room and kitchen are obvious examples. Let’s look at something more complex.

How do you incorporate a study room or office space into a modern open-plan living space?

Modern open-plan living space gives you an opportunity to use spaces more effectively and for more purposes. When considering an office space, you might want something more isolated so that you can concentrate on your work, so you might design this space around your bedroom (or another similar area) that you can separate from the main living areas of your home.

Alternatively, you might consider office space that is close to your bedroom as an intrusion of your professional life on your personal space. If you don’t want your office or study close to your personal space (bedrooms), then you might consider study nooks or office nooks in a livable area of the home. This again changes your open plan living, and how you use your office, since you have less room dedicated to it, but you have more space in your living area for office work. 

When you have your office space in living areas, it also impacts how other family members use the open-plan living space. 

Here are some things to consider about incorporating different rooms into open-plan living;

Dining area

When considering a dining area as part of your open plan living space, you are making it a more social environment (and far more casual than traditional, separate dining rooms). 

If you choose to create a separate dining area, you are creating a more formal and exclusive environment, where meals are shared and there are fewer distractions. It makes meals a more intimate experience.

Entertainment area

Most homes add entertainment areas to an open-plan living layout for two reasons. The first is that it is usually the busiest room in your home. The second is that it is one of the largest spaces and the focal point for the design of your home.

When you have the entertainment area as part of the open living area you are promoting multitasking, particularly if you include the kitchen or study area. The entertainment area becomes a multi-functional space. If you add an outdoor entertaining area to the open plan layout, then you create a more livable area for your home. Adding an outdoor entertaining area also helps to increase natural light, which is good to energize the rooms.

As entertainment devices and appliances get increasingly sophisticated, there is a trend for people to create media rooms in their homes separate from the rest of the house. This trend started as open plan living became more popular. A separate media room reduces the disturbance to other people in the house.

Study, office and libraries

Putting a study, office, or library open plan layout makes it more of a social space, and you can downsize the area dedicated to the workspace. For example, with a study nook attached to the entertainment area, you can use that same space for office work. However, putting workspaces in your living space makes it difficult to separate your work or study life from other parts of your life. If you separate the study, office, or library space then you are creating a focus space for working, allowing you to concentrate on your work or study tasks when you’re in a dedicated area of your home. 


Although people want bedrooms to be private, there is an opportunity to add some open plan design features. For example, including a study space, open wardrobe, ensuite or private balcony in the space can greatly increase the shared experience of a bedroom. An outdoor space will bring more natural light into the room, and give the bedroom more space.

A bedroom separate from an open plan is cosier, more intimate, and more functional for its purpose.

These are just a few of the main rooms that you should be considering when looking at open plan space ideas. 

The truth is you can think about living space for almost any room in the house design because open plan space changes the dynamic and functionality of every room. For example, if you have your dining room attached to the kitchen in an open plan, then you may want to consider not including a breakfast bar and instead use that space for the stove.

Bruin Builders has the expertise to help you design your open spaces to be as functional as possible for your lifestyle.

How to style open plan living

The key to effective open plan living ideas is to use style to help create and define spaces. For example, you might want to use rugs or floor coverings to help define your living space, or use bookshelves, indoor plants, or other standalone items to define separate areas of a larger, continuous space. 

How to design open plan living space

When designing an open-planned living space you want to consider what materials you want to use. Do you want windows and glass to close off space but give it an open feel? Do you want screens so you can make your living zones more versatile?

The design should also be consistent across each section of your living space. You want to be comfortable in your space, so avoid jarring transitions throughout the open areas. 

Another consideration would be having different floor levels in your space to add emphasis. 

For example, earlier we discussed how dining areas attached to the kitchen space make for a more casual dining experience. However, if you put the dining room on a higher level than the rest of the space then it does increase its intimacy and formal feel.

How to decorate open plan living

Open plan living space does not have to be large, it’s about using space in multiple ways. When decorating this space it’s best to take advantage of the natural light with bright colours. You can use different colours to create a feature wall, which can add depth to a room.

When decorating it’s best to use a similar style across each part of the room, but with enough difference to identify it as a separate space. One of the best ways of doing this is to change one particular feature in each section but keep the rest consistent. For example, change painting, wall art or plants for each section, or change the rugs or floor coverings to help create contrast between spaces.

How to furnish open-plan living

Furniture should be used to fill the entire space, so you do not have any negative space in your open plan living environment. When you have negative space, it defeats the purpose of multi-functional spaces. This does not mean you should have all your furniture against the walls in an open-plan design. Instead, you should use furniture to create walkways around your space and to isolate certain areas.

You should use low furniture so that it divides space, but doesn’t impact light and ventilation. Also, it stops the furniture from being a visual barrier when you are trying to create a friendly, social and open feel in your room.

This is just an introduction to how open space changes the role of different areas of your home, and some of the things you need to do in the space to make it more functional, and appealing.  Talk with your builder about how to make the best of open space, what materials should be used and what structural designs need to be considered to make the space truly multi-functional.

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