Updated: Nov 16, 2019
It is quiet.
Walking into the open space looks like a sunbathed blank canvas. The spirit rejoices with an overwhelming feeling that anything is possible. Inhale and exhale.
You make a nice cup of coffee (a.k.a. morning drink) and pour it into your favourite mug. It feels warm and cosy as you walk towards the best seat of the house, the corner, and place it on the tabel next to the computer. By your side, the material you have been working on. A last look at yesterday’s notes to make sure that the today's planning is up to date and…. suddenly…. your co-workers (a.k.a. dear family members) stumble in, interrupting the, until then, perfect working mood. You love them deeply, honestly, but look forward to seeing them leave so that you can concentrate on your tasks. Interesting enough, there is reciprocity, they want to give you that space and see you succeed. Nonetheless, as much as they love you back, honestly, they wish to live in a home where your work is not taking over the entire place. Open spaces, in both commercial and residential contexts, provide numerous advantages as well as serious disadvantages. Shared environments require multidimensional tolerance and respect. A win-win situation is achievable based on good communication and scheduling, but balance is tricky… very, very trick.
My client is starting a new business. She works at home and has two small children. The family has done considerable renovations in the apartment. They installed a new floor and updated the kitchen and bathrooms. The home office has a transparent partition looking into the living area, the space seems bigger and allows parents to keep an eye on the kids. Overall the basics are covered, and the space is functional. Unfortunately, the open space lacks the spark. It is missing the personal touch that illustrates the rich and colorful heritage of this family. With its big windows, and open kitchen, the possibilities are palpable. Nonetheless, it’s potential remains unseen. By identifying uses, rethinking the layout and investing in some items, a promise of inspiration may turn into conviction!
Understanding a Multifunctional Space
We have: the kitchen, a dining table for six, a TV stand, a sofa, a home office and a balcony.
Though I’ll get to it later, the first thing I noticed was the sofa. Not because it is red, but because it looks like it has been grounded, ousted to a corner with zero appeal. Clearly, it is one of the keys to this puzzle, but first, we need to consider the functionality of the kitchen. In terms of hierarchy, the kitchen rules in this apartment. Once we understand how this zone can be improved, we'll figure out the others.
The L-shape open kitchen has been recently updated and presents neutral colours. There is no island. Instead, the dining area has been placed in the centre. The current dining table is rectangular and too big for the space. The first suggestion is to consider a circular table that allows a better flow and more flexibility when additional seating is required. I would add a hanging lamp with dimmer control to have proper lighting for cooking and entertaining.
Turning around and looking at the living room… well, it does not exist. Yes, on one corner we have the sofa, and yes, on the opposite corner the TV stand, but it is empty as it has become a passing-through zone without the possibility to enjoy it or just rest. There is a wonderful balcony and a great view, but at the moment the only benefit is the natural light. The area is delimited by walls and windows, except there is no "living" area and a single chair with wheels is not going to cut it for this family of four. This must be fixed. In small spaces, furniture must be easy to move and rotate, hence, the second suggestion is to rearrange the living room by implementing a layout that creates a symbiosis with the kitchen and integrate the two zones. In order to do this, the living room seating area should be placed where the TV stands today. This change generates a living room layout that profits from the proximity to the kitchen and the view.
By doing so, the wall behind the sofa and dining area can be treated as a big surface, decorated with pictures and art pieces. With this new layout my client may choose to keep the sofa, update it, or buy a new one. I would incorporate additional seating options and small yet practical coffee tables.
And now we go back to the beginning of the story and focus on the home office. Differing to most cases, this apartment has a clearly defined working space. However, it lacks privacy. Given that the TV was moved to rearrange the seating area, we now need to place it some elsewhere. The third suggestion is to take advantage of the transparent partition between the office and the living room by incorporating a modern bookshelf and a TV bench. By doing so, the home office benefits from the display and becomes more private without losing the interaction with the living room. The proposed shelving is a combination of shelves, open cabinet and doors for display and additional storage.
For different reasons a growing number of professionals are choosing to work from home. As living environments become smaller and more complex the more relevant it is to clearly identify transitions, circulations and layouts. As long as they are defined, open spaces can be inspirational and flexible. The trouble lies in the assumption that one size - fits all. So, let’s give some love to the centre of our home, to the place where we look at each other and exchange ideas.
Hope these suggestions unleash the potential of this living room and encourage my client to keep up her great work!