Open floor plans are currently the most sophisticated style of living. Informal, relaxed and spacious, it is a format that lends itself to both family life and adult entertaining spaces.
Open-plan rooms aren’t without their downsides, however. Possible pitfalls in decoration are numerous. Large spaces often house both the living and dining areas, but how do you unite these spaces while also making sure everyone sings for themselves?
As with all living room ideas, the most important thing, according to designer Marie Flanigan, is to really think about your family’s needs so that the space “best serves your household”.
Designer Scott Sanders says he loves large spaces with multiple functions because “it’s a great way to break up the space and create an immersive visual narrative.”
Meanwhile, according to designer Bo Massey, “it’s important that all the furniture and finishes are coordinated to create a cohesive space. And if you are working with a rather small footprint, make sure to scale down the furniture as much as possible without sacrificing comfort.”
In a living-dining room combo, the two areas should coordinate, says designer Philip Gorrivan, “but there should be some sort of transition between them to make the space feel energetic and welcoming.”
Read on for more advice from the pros on how to create the perfect living room dining room combo.
Decorating tips for living room-dining room combinations
1. Keep furniture low
While empty, living room-dining room combos tend to look pretty huge. But once you’ve added your living room furniture, dining table, and some chairs, you realize the importance of getting the size right.
Although this penthouse apartment is somewhat limited in terms of total floor space, designer Nina Magon felt it was important to provide her clients with living and dining areas that feel unique yet cohesive.
“We used low, modern furniture in each room to allow for a harmonious flow from one to the next,” explains Nina. High-backed furniture would have felt cumbersome and cut lines of sight. “Both areas feel aligned and separate, but not cut off from each other. The open layout lends itself to both lounging with family and entertaining.”
2. Place tall storage spaces on the sides as subtle dividers
The living and dining areas take up a large space in this city apartment designed by Philip Gorrivan. Because the rooms are so close together, they share both a living room color palette and a rug.
However, a console table and a tall cabinet between these two zones help to separate them visually. “When it comes to city living, it’s crucial that space is used properly,” says Gorrivan. “This space is divided for different purposes while maintaining a clear flow – both for freedom of movement and ease of life.”
By placing these storage elements at the side of the room, they don’t disrupt the visual axes, but they help create a subtle distinction between the two zones.
In order for the living and dining area to retain its own boundaries, it is crucial that the furnishings clearly separate the zones. “Each area should be easy to define and the furniture shouldn’t flow into one another as this can appear crowded,” says designer Thomas Jayne.
For example, in this neutral living room, there are several visual cues that help separate the two functions. The living area is indicated with the help of the section, the windows and the lamp; and the dining area, next to the sideboard and another lamp. In such a case, Jayne suggests, “You should relate the furniture, but also make sure that it has its own identity.”
4. Commit to a palette
According to designer Scott Sanders, maintaining a consistent color palette throughout the white living and dining area is key to “a cohesive, sophisticated design. In my own apartment, white upholstery matches the architecture, while touches of orange combine with vintage Mexican tile floors, and naturally woven rugs add warmth. Working within this color scheme paved the way for vibrant art and accents throughout.”
In fact, the whole room is filled with colorful treasures that Sanders and his partner have collected over the years. But by keeping the main palette white, the space doesn’t feel crowded. “These items speak to us and give our home a special and personal feel.”
5. Separate the areas with carpets
In this home, a towering great room contains both the dining and living areas. Designer Marie Flanigan focused on creating a multifunctional space that feels open and cozy at the same time. The best living room rug ideas are so much more than just what you walk on, they can dictate how well the space performs.
“We needed to divide the space, and the best way to delineate different areas is to add rugs, which anchor and define a space,” says Flanigan. “You’ll find that these rugs are very similar in size, allowing for symmetry between the living and dining areas while also creating a natural path through the space.”
6. Create a soothing space for day and night
Informal areas help this sprawling great space feel more approachable. “This is where family spends most of their time together, and the space is just as suitable for large cocktail parties as it is for small family gatherings,” notes designer Heather Hilliard.
The only color comes from the leaves of the interior tree, a nod to the expanse of green seen through the Crittal-style doors.
“To unify the spaces, we kept the color palette consistent. If you must have a lot of large furniture in a room, soothing neutral colors work well and don’t clutter the space.”
7. Separate the areas with a half-wall
Designer Nina Magon has doubled the drama in this contemporary residence, where the living and dining rooms are open to one another. By placing half a wall between the two areas but leaving what could have been a door unfilled, there is distinction between the two but still a sense of airiness and space.
Choosing colourful, sculptural pieces for both spaces makes the home feel luxurious and cohesive. “We wanted them to have the same bold aesthetic to complement each other,” says Magon. “We chose unique, eye-catching pieces for both areas that flow well together.”
8. Sink the dining area into a corner
Designer Marie Flanigan wanted to offer her clients a multifunctional large space that could serve as an entertaining area or a cozy family room for visiting with her children and grandchildren.
“By incorporating a breakfast nook between the kitchen and living room, homeowners have a lot of flexibility in how it functions within the space,” explains Flanigan. “The table and bench can serve as a dining area, extra seating during a party, or as a serving station. But most importantly, it’s not cut off from the comfortable seating area, which is the most popular spot in the house.”
9. Make the most of architectural details
Thanks to the columns, the living and dining rooms in this residence can act as both standalone areas and a larger entertaining space. “We wanted each space to be separate from one another, but you can also enjoy family and guests no matter what area you’re in,” says designer Nina Magon.
Even if you’re not lucky enough to have pillars, you can still use the space’s properties to your advantage. Perhaps there is paneling on the wall separating the two, or a connection in the floor type. Be creative with what you have.
How far apart should the living room and dining room be in an open space?
When a room contains different zones, it is important that there is enough room for each area to breathe. “Be careful of the spacing between the groupings,” says designer Bo Massey. “We try to maintain a minimum distance of 36 inches between areas to allow physical passage and avoid visual crowding.”
It is possible to keep the pieces related to each other despite this spatial distance. “The repetition of colors and materials allows the furniture and lighting to flow into each other, creating a sense of unity as opposed to dissonance,” says Bo.