Learn how to style your open-concept space.
Learn how to decorate your open-concept space with these helpful tips and tricks.
The 1,100-square-foot main floor of this Vancouver family home boasting a modern beach house look has a lot going for it, namely all the light. The large open-concept space consisting of a kitchen, living area and dining room is flooded with natural light thanks to five skylights and plenty of windows. “It’s so bright, even in the grey West Coast winter,” says one of the homeowners. But such a spacious undefined layout doesn’t come without its challenges – when a great room is too great for its own good, how does one make it cozy and livable? The homeowners worked closely with architect Jonathan Katz of J+R Katz Design & Architecture and designer Melanie Finkleman of Hazel + Brown Design Company to come up with a design that accomplishes just that. Here are eight ways they made this open floor plan shine.
1 Paint everything one shade: Sticking with one paint colour throughout an open-concept space prevents a disjointed appearance. On the main floor, designer Melanie Finkleman selected the same crisp white for the walls, ceiling, trim and cabinetry. The result is a bright envelope that emphasizes the home’s light-filled modernity.
2 Use uniform materials: It’s not only paint colour that will provide a cohesive look. Design elements like flooring, cabinetry, trim and fabric should also coordinate. In this house, the driftwood-look oak floors run throughout the space, and the grey Caesarstone countertops in the kitchen complement the concrete-topped coffee table in the living area.
3 Keep it casual: Open-concept living marries well with a laid-back lifestyle. This family-friendly home has nothing too precious or breakable and boasts plenty of hard-wearing choices, such as hardwood floors and leather chairs.
4 Define separate areas: Large open spaces can feel cavernous if specific zones aren’t demarcated according to their function. Here, the furniture arrangement defines the living area, while the Caesarstone-topped island delineates the kitchen.
5 Decorate with texture: In an expansive monochromatic room, texture is key. “The ceiling-height brick fireplace and the geometry of the built-in shelving unit add visual interest without distracting from the minimal aesthetic,” says Melanie.
6 Keep the aesthetic consistent: “Since the kitchen is visible from every angle, we used simple materials – matte grey Caesarstone for the countertops and grey back-painted glass for the backsplash – so it would seamlessly integrate with the rest of the space,” says Melanie. Such a neutral backdrop means the look is consistent when viewed from any area on the main floor. “It’s calming because your eye doesn’t bounce around too much.”
7 Choose simple window treatments: Barely-there white roller shades control light and offer privacy. “They block out the southern glare while maintaining the airy feel of the space,” says Melanie.
8 Include ample closed storage: No matter how much we all strive to live minimally, having some stuff is inevitable. “We were realistic about wanting to hide visual clutter in the kitchen since it’s so connected to the living area,” says Melanie. Plenty of closed cabinetry means everyday dishes, small appliances and various odds and ends are out of sight, giving the entire space a tidy appearance and allowing the pops of colour in the living area to shine.
How to survive a kitchen reno with a young family
How to survive a kitchen renovation with a young family and hectic schedules.
Two busy parents plus two young boys can add up to one hectic family home. When you subtract the kitchen, the outcome can be downright chaotic. Here's how Style at Home art director Karen Paddon survived her two-month kitchen reno.
Kitchen reno survival tips
1 If possible, schedule your reno for the summer months. We did ours in the winter, but having access to the barbecue and being able to spend most of our time outdoors would have been much more convenient.
2 If you can afford it, move out during the renovation or at least during the ruckus of the initial demo. We planned a family getaway for the weekend that the floors were being ripped up to escape the noise and dust.
3 Create a makeshift kitchen. We turned the upstairs playroom into a cooking space by taking up our old microwave, toaster and George Foreman grill, as well as a mini fridge from the garage. The tub in the adjacent bathroom was handy for washing dishes.
4 Shop small. To keep our temporary kitchen functional, we did a few grocery runs a week. That way, I cut down on the trips between two flights of stairs to the basement fridge.
5 Make a clean break. We isolated ourselves from the areas being worked on. We moved everything we needed (most importantly, the kids' toys) upstairs. My husband and I didn't go near the kitchen much, so the kids didn't seem to want to either.
6 Simplify. Without an oven, our menu options were limited, but we made it work. We ate a lot of sandwiches, salads and microwaved rice and peas. I tried to keep things healthy with veggie platters and cut fruit.
7 Stay in the loop. The more familiar you are with the reno timeline, the better you're able to anticipate the especially disruptive projects and plan outings during those hours.
8 Double and triple up. I think people try to tackle one reno at a time, but redoing the kitchen floor quickly snowballed into redoing the floors on the whole main level -- we wanted the same finish throughout. And once we got to the laundry room, we decided to renovate it, too.
9 Take this opportunity to visit with family and friends. A few times a week, we ate a meal at the grandparents'. And I don't think I turned down a single dinner party invitation in those two months!
10 Plan well. We survived it, but living through a kitchen reno was not easy. Above all else, I'd recommend having a game plan in place to keep the timeline as short as possible and to ensure all the boxes are ticked so there aren't any redos down the line. We chose a timeless aesthetic, so I won't have to touch the kitchen for another 10 years, at least!
Tour this lovely cottage on Lake Simcoe!
A designer lends her expertise to help a couple resolve a colourful debate over the scheme for their family cottage.
"He wanted dark tones and a woodsy Aspen vibe. I wanted everything white with clean lines." The “he” referred to is the husband, the “I” speaking is the wife, and in terms of their decor preferences for this new-build 4,900-square-foot cottage overlooking Lake Simcoe in Innisfil, Ont., they were clearly at odds. But the Toronto-based couple, who has a seven-year-old daughter, a five-year-old son and a Samoyed puppy, did agree on one thing: The design had to be practical. And after many reassurances on the wife’s part that her vision could be inviting and relaxing, she says, “My husband eventually gave me free rein. I wanted a gorgeous unfussy space that was easy to maintain.”
To get the look, she turned to Lidia van Zyl, a designer based in Barrie, Ont., who’s well known for decorating waterfront properties in the area. “When I was hired in 2014, the cottage was in its planning stage,” says Lidia. “This allowed us to pore over the plans and confirm almost every detail before the walls went up.” The walls themselves played a crucial role in setting the tone for the space. “Honouring the husband’s preference for a traditional look, I incorporated shiplap into the mix,” says Lidia. The wooden boards, which were most often used in the construction of homes, were applied horizontally in the kitchen, powder room, foyer and master bedroom. “Shiplap, even when painted white, provides a rustic contrast to drywall and has an informal feel that really adds to the casual cottage vibe,” says the designer.
While the scheme may be all white, it’s anything but stark. “The key to decorating with white is to use different shades of it,” says Lidia. “If you look closely, you’ll see the walls are a crisp white, while the beams are coated with a warmer shade.” Wide-plank pale hickory flooring completes the airy backdrop, which Lidia chose to punctuate with bold hits of black. “I love contrast, so I added black accessories to almost every room,” she says. Lidia extended this theme to the furniture as well and, with the kids and puppy in mind, paid specific attention to practicality. “The grey sofas in the living room are covered with indoor-outdoor fabric, so they’re stain resistant and easy to clean,” she says. “And some of the pieces, such as the living room coffee table and foyer console, are crafted from steel, so they’re pretty much damage-proof.” She also introduced a few well-placed antiques throughout the cottage to create interesting tension between old and new.
The 18-month process of building and decorating netted a year-round family retreat that Lidia describes as “refined but rustic.” And even though the wife had total control, she did make an effort to include her husband – sort of. She says: “He really wanted dark floors, but even he conceded the light ones looked better. So I let him think he helped with that decision in a roundabout way. Now we’re all happy!”
Accessories like the rope-hung mirrors and the lantern-style pendant lights make this practical space feel decorated. “I don’t like to take risks when decorating,” says one of the homeowners, “but I did want to mix things up in the kitchen so it didn’t read as plain.”
Designer Lidia van Zyl played the natural tones of wood and stone against sleek black accents to create character in the living room. The tall armoire holds things like games, books and blankets, while the bare floor, a practical option, is easy to clean. A trio of metal sculptures above the reclaimed wood mantel is a departure from the expected mirror or artwork.
In the foyer, the staircase’s natural wood handrail and treads were a purposeful choice. “If we had painted them black, it would have drawn the eye up the stairs as opposed to straight through the cottage to the lake,” says Lidia.
A mix of neutral tones creates subtle depth in the dining area. “The table and chairs appear white at first glance, but they’re actually a soft shade of grey,” says Lidia. the chandelier, painted white to downplay its ornate shape, illuminates everything from meals to crafts.
“This cottage always makes me smile,” says one of the homeowners. “It’s an amazing feeling to open the front door to beautiful surroundings.” the stone skirting – a concession to the aspen look the husband wanted – ties in nicely with the herringbone brick walkway.
The artful arrangement of dark-hued antiques in an all-white area of the living room makes a graphic statement. the antlers are a family heirloom.
“I love a white kitchen because I don’t like distractions when I’m cooking,” says one of the homeowners, “and I can also see what needs to be cleaned.” low-maintenance Caesarstone countertops and a glossy tiled backsplash on the range wall make cleanup even easier. the massive island is outfitted with cupboards that hold cottage necessities, such as candles, batteries and a tool kit.
While the silhouette of the chandelier in the master bedroom is traditional, its wooden beads give it an earthy appeal that suits a cottage. the wicker basket, sisal rug and rustic artwork (it’s made of wood and says “I Love Us”) echo that earthiness, which is tempered by the black furniture.
Hooks and baskets are enough to keep the mud room in order since the basement has ample storage. The built-in bench always comes in handy.
Like the rest of the cottage, the powder room is energized with hits of black. “I love the graphic mosaic-look floor here,” says Lidia. “It’s actually 24-by-24-inch tiles, and they have just the right amount of pattern for a small space.” Vintage racquets used as informal artwork perfectly fit the laid- back vibe of this family retreat.
Real estate: Move or improve?
Is it time to move or simply improve your home? Consider these factors before packing up those boxes.