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Make the most of your open-plan living space with clever colour zoning

Give your open-plan living space a new lease of life with these ingenious decorating ideas.


“I love my open-plan apartment but at the moment all the living spaces look a bit flat and samey. How can I use colour to give them some character?”

Open-plan homes are one of the hallmarks of modern living. And it’s easy to see why. Open-plan living spaces are sociable, light and airy, and make the most of every last inch of available space.

However, without careful decorating, they can feel a bit cavernous and chaotic or – worse – lacking in soul.

Here are some easy and affordable ways to whip your open-plan living space into shape using nothing but a lick of paint and a spot of creative thinking.


1. Divide and conquer

The key to making an open-plan living space work is skilful zoning. In other words, you need to decide which functions different areas of the space need to perform and then decorate them accordingly.

You might, for example, want to create different areas for eating, cooking, relaxing, entertaining and working, each with their own specific requirements and atmosphere.

You can use furniture and rugs to help mark out these different spaces, but the most effective – and affordable – way to instil order in an open-plan space is to block out areas using various colours.

Which paints?

Hot Paprika 4
Easter Morn 1


2. Set the tone

The easiest way to create a harmonious open-plan scheme is to pick one or two colours and use different tones of these colours throughout the entire scheme.

For example, you might paint the kitchen walls in pale grey, moving to a darker, more dramatic shade of green for the dining area and a softer, more relaxing green for the living area.

Using the same accent colours across all areas is another smart way to tie the scheme together – so make sure you match your cushions to your kitchen utensils.

Which paints? Jade Cluster 2
Blue Diamond 3


3. Creative clashing

If you like to be a bit more daring with your decorating, take two starkly contrasting shades and use them to create a definite divide between your different living zones.

When painting with very vibrant tones, it’s often a good idea to set them off against a neutral backdrop.

So you could, for example, paint the majority of your walls in a crisp white, then use an invigorating orange on your kitchen walls and blue on the wall behind a desk to mark out your home office space.

Which paints?

Hawaiian Blue 1
Golden Bark 6
Quartz Flint 3


4. Think outside the box

If your home has obvious architectural divides between spaces, these can help you decide where to switch between paint colours. A living area might tuck snugly into a corner, for example, or a kitchen may be separated from the rest of the space by a row of built-in units.

However, there’s no reason whatsoever that you shouldn’t create your own features using paint alone. You could paint the area immediately around a work of art, create a diagonal flash of colour in the corner of a wall, or even paint a wide stripe running around the walls and ceiling in the middle of a long open-plan room.

Which paints? Lime Zest 2
Grecian Spa 3

Top tip

Divide an open-plan space using a dual-sided bookcase, painting one side to match the scheme on one side of the room, and the other to match the scheme on the opposite side.

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