Tips for Creating an Open Floor Plan

This week, Sarah Susanka, author of the very helpful "Not So Big House" series of books, shares tips for opening up floor plans.

I was excited to sit down with architect and author of the trend setting “Not So Big House” series of books, Sarah Susanka, F.A.I.A.. I was especially interested in talking about one of her latest books, written with co-author Marc Vassallo, entitled “Not So Big Remodeling: Tailoring Your Home for the Way You Really Live.” You can see more from that sit-down here. She was also kind enough to share a few tips to consider when remodeling your home. This week we highlight tips to create open living spaces. For more about her latest book as well as her other books go to notsobighouse.com.


1. Two Become One – Make two smaller rooms feel more spacious by opening a shared wall to create a framed opening. A framed opening visually links one space to another and is most effective when it provides a wide connection between spaces while still maintaining the differentiation of one room from another.

2. Columns Instead of Walls – Create a more open floor plan, especially where the kitchen connects to adjacent living spaces, by removing a wall and replacing it with a new support beam and columns. Columns allow for differentiation of places with minimal view obstruction while providing the structural support of a load-bearing wall.

3. Let There Be Light – One of the best ways to increase the apparent size of a home without adding on is to bring more daylight into the interior. Increase the size of existing windows or place them adjacent to perpendicular walls and ceilings, allowing those surfaces to act as giant daylight reflectors. In addition, create openings between rooms to allow more of the available daylight to be seen from room to room.

4. Look to the Ceiling – Unify a remodeled space by creating a spatial theme with varied ceiling heights. Use lowered ceilings over subordinate spaces such as hallways, alcoves and smaller rooms, and higher ceilings over the more important rooms.

5. Use the Floor – Differentiate activity areas in an open space with a change in floor material or level. Changing materials creates a subtle boundary, while the addition of a step or two between rooms can be an excellent way to make a clear and pronounced differentiation.

6. Connect with the Outdoors – There is a terrific opportunity to expand the perceived boundaries of a home to the edge of its property line, or beyond, if there is access to a longer view. No matter what climate a house is in, it will feel several times larger if the location of the doors and windows draws in the surrounding views and allows easy movement to outside.

7. Bring the Inside Out – Create another room from which to enjoy the outdoors by sheltering an exterior sitting space from the elements with a widened overhang or new segment of roof. The addition of a screened porch can also serve as an excellent connector between inside and out. During the summer months it may be the most heavily used living space of all.

8. Increase the Apparent Size – Differentiate surfaces with a beltline or headband – a continuous line of trim that divides the upper part of the room from the lower part, such as a chair rail, wainscoting or molding that ties together the tops of all windows and doors. By making the area below the line darker in color than the area above, our eyes are led to believe that the ceiling height is taller than it really is, which makes the whole space seem bigger.

9. Create Visual Vitality – Make a living space come alive by accentuating a focal wall with a saturated paint color. Alternatively, a spot light can be used to highlight a feature, such as a painting or piece of art work, to create a focal point for the room.


Want more? Check out Sarah's kitchen remodeling tips.