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  • Writer's pictureWendy Elizabeth

Wide Open Spaces (inside)

I once worked with a woman who lived in a renovated, industrial loft. It was everything I dreamed that a loft should be –  huge, tall windows, lots of cozy seating areas, and bookshelves lining an old brick wall.

Her favorite thing to do was to have cooking competitions. She would ask us all to bring a version of one dish, and we would vote, and then eat. The winner could choose a plant or a book off her many shelves, but, obviously, the best prize was serious bragging rights until the next year! Sometimes, she would ask an Australian and a New Zealander to cook the same thing, to see which was better! (She was Scottish, which just made it more fun). One of us would use the kitchen in the loft next door, running back and forth to check on our secret recipes, sipping glasses of wine and listening to half-spoken conversations.

Her home was a wonderful lesson in decorating. She embraced what she had, and she loved it. The style suited who she was, exactly. Sections were not divided by paint or partitions, it was left open; a massive room that she allowed to be just what it was, an open space that cared more about friends than function.

I think that sometimes, newer homes are developed by an impatient need to please, rather than an architectural plan. We want the openness, with high ceilings and large spaces, but we want it to feel comfortable as well. What happens, is that builders respond to this with a composite of what they think we want, which often leaves us with a lot of space and a lot of design dilemmas.

Because I have come across this quite often, I thought I would offer some ideas that may help.

  1. Accept the space. Work with it, rather than against it. 

  2. If you have an open plan area, treat it that way. Divide living spaces with furniture arrangements, rather than vertical paint lines. This leaves the space visually open, but still creates comfortable areas to live in. 

  3. Bounce color and scale around the entire space to create a balanced look. Your eye should move around the room, not stay focused on one particular item.  

  4. If your kitchen is part of the space, don’t forget about it, include it in your decorating plan. Maybe a cabinet color can be repeated on the other side, or a color from a painting can be put in the kitchen? They need to feel connected. 

  5. Consider your lighting when you have a tall ceiling. Can you change a lightbulb that high up without installing scaffolding? What are the other options available? A large, hanging glass sphere may look pretty or, even, a skylight? Maybe table and floor lamps would be better? Don’t just settle for something that may not suit you.

  6. Avoid having one area very formal, and the other too casual. This, almost always looks disconnected. Blend them together.

  7. Painting the ceiling the same color as the wall will make it less obvious, whereas different colors will emphasise the height.

  8. Artwork should be of a decent size (no floating, tiny pieces on an empty wall). Consider an abstract collage of photographs, a triptych or a wall of words…

 Thanks to for the photograph.

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