The design concept of ‘rooms without walls’

Contemporary, open concept homes are springing up in neighbourhoods faster than ever before. Great rooms have taken on new meaning as floor plans become increasingly ‘wall-less’ blending several areas into one. Windows on south exposure and view sides of lots are mammoth in size and can take the place of an entire wall.

These homes are impressive, an architects dream – a designers nightmare! How do you decorate a house with no walls? Where do you place furniture and how do you add colour to a log home or a space with concrete walls? All these questions spin in my head when I encounter a ‘wall less home’.

The challenge is to think in a different mode than you may be used to. Walls are normally considered one of the main design elements and in some layouts walls are sacrificed for other materials. This is where you need to break out of your comfortable place of putting colour on painted walls and creatively challenge yourself to use other elements.

A wall of windows is a natural blank canvas which can have many looks; drapes or blinds provide a fabric backdrop which becomes a landscape portrait when they are open – what kind of walls can do that? Using fabrics to frame or dress a window can create intimacy or formality depending on colour and pattern. We can fool the eye by making the draperies taller than the windows or manipulate the actual outline of the windows with shaped curtains.

While we don’t have many loft spaces in Red Deer, I run into them every so often with clients and they are a rewarding challenge. Exposed brick and concrete walls and often exposed plumbing and heating ducts become part of the décor by default making arranging art and decorative items a challenge. It is preferable to leave the brick or concrete walls without adding paint to take advantage of their natural beauty. A full brick wall is often all the decoration you need and concrete can be beautiful with simple embellishments.

If you are designing an open space, consider using false walls and ceilings to help make the room more intimate. Bookshelf or wine racks make stylish and useful storage/faux walls which can help to visually divide spaces. If you are building a home use the fireplace to the fullest potential by covering it with stone from floor to ceiling, this will create a focal point in the room and give architectural weight to the space. Folding screens and fabric or drapery divisions are other amazing methods of dividing a room.

False ceilings and bulkheads provide a creative solution for high impersonal ceilings. A bulkhead over a bathtub or shower will lower the space visually and keep you feeling cozy and secure while you bathe. Pot racks over islands can help define a kitchen space if you have vaulted ceilings. When you are in a restaurant or coffee shop, look up and see what they have used for ceiling adornment. I have seen effective uses of custom free hanging bulkheads over featured areas which draw the eye away from the vast height.

Lighting can be hung at various levels throughout the home to define space and create intimate groupings – this also helps to lessen the vastness of an open concept.

So go ahead and defy the norm, create a space without walls and enjoy the stunning beauty.

Kim Meckler is an interior designer in Red Deer with Carpet Colour Centre.

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