How to Segment your Open Plan Space

How to create living zones

Darren Palmer has a broad portfolio, having studied fine art & graphic design, originally working in advertising and owning his own graphic design company. After succumbing to his true passion, Darren now operates his own interior design studio and has been a judge on numerous seasons of The Block.

We love open plan living. The connection it provides between indoor areas and outdoor vistas, along with sense of space it offers, have made the open plan layout hugely popular with Australian home owners and renters alike.

The purpose of the open plan layout in smaller spaces is to unite various rooms of the home and create the illusion of a larger floor area, something which can be achieved by continuing the same flooring from room to room. But with larger open plan areas, you have the opposite issue – you need to demarcate each zone. Here’s how:


A simple way to do this in a lounge room is with a rug. A large rug that sits underneath all of your furniture, even the side tables should you have the space, will immediately create an area that is obviously the living space – even if there are no other defining features.

Likewise, a reading area can be cordoned off from the larger space by positioning a standing lamp adjacent to a reading chair and sitting everything on a 1.5m or 2m diameter round rug. This creates a perfect reading spot, one that both looks and feels separate to the rest of the space.


In areas where rugs are likely to become easily marked – the dining room for example – another way to anchor the space is with a centrally located pendant. Bigger sizes are often the most dramatic, and so playing with scale will allow you to make a nice design statement at the same time as segmenting your space.

Similarly, arranging downlights in a pattern around each area not only creates a visual boundary on the ceiling, but also allows you to light each area separately, further emphasising each distinct zone. Spotlights or track lighting can also be used to highlight specific objects, a piece of artwork or coffee table for example, to enforce a sense of presence.

Wall Features

Artwork itself can be the ideal way to break up a wall and separate the room. A long common wall with one prominent piece of artwork behind the dining table and another in the living room will give a clear indication that those rooms are separate, both in terms of function and design.

Joinery can have the same effect. A wall unit in a living room can be turned into a dramatic central element, housing the fireplace, a bookshelf and the TV, to give that particular section its own individual sense of character.

Ultimately, getting imaginative with your open plan space is what will enable you to make the most of it, so look for opportunities to create a big and distinct impact in each area you’re working with.