An open family room layout with zones marked

Zones and Open Layouts

Zones are the starting place for layout design. They are areas where a particular activity or set of activities happen. We’ve talked before about zones in kitchens. Today, we’ll look at how we created several zones in an open-concept family room.

Common family room or living room zones can include:

  • a conversation area
  • seating that you can watch tv from
  • a desk or workspace
  • a reading nook
  • a place for games

Any activity that is going to happen in the room needs its own zone. This includes the pathways through the room (circulation) and between zones.

Open layouts create the biggest challenges for zones. Using furniture placements and rugs to help define the different zones can work well, but takes a lot of thought. The best zones don’t look divided, they flow.

Case Study: an open concept family room

My clients were moving into a new home. They had a large collection of antiques and art, and their home was the centre of large, multi-generational family gatherings. They needed a functional layout for their new, open concept family room.

Design Analysis

Client Needs

  • a fireplace
  • a mantle made from a long, sentimental wood pier they already owned
  • seating for six by the fire place
  • a tv area with comfortable viewing for two adults and one large dog
  • an area for grandchildren to play with toys and board games
  • use existing furniture and antiques

Structural Factors

  • wall next to the stairs open to the upper level of the house, meaning that sound could easily travel. The tv had to be placed away from this wall
  • the mantle (pier beam) fit along only one wall
  • the bathroom needed to be easily accessible from all zones.

The Solution:

Zones were very important in creating this space. We had to consider how the different activities in the room would relate to each other. We also had to plan for how noise would carry to other areas of the house.

5 zones

  1. Adult socializing and board games (fireplace)
  2. Main Circulation
  3. Secondary Circulation and open play
  4. TV area
  5. Quiet zone (open to upper level)

The details of the layout zones

Our first step was to remove an awkward corner wood stove. This allowed us to set up the adult zone around a gas fireplace on the wall where the mantle fit.

The length of the beam created a large focal point, and the other zones all worked around it.

A floor plan for a large open area room that has three separate zones

This is the fourth and final layout.

Next I got to work measuring and photographing the rugs and furnishings, and working on several layouts.

After the first layout, we realized that the tv needed to be on the wall opposite the fireplace. This left the corner by the stairs as the quiet/play zone, and the centre as the circulation zones.

With the general layout decided, the next 3 layouts fine-tuned the furniture arrangements in each zone. We settled on the above design, which met all of their wants and requirements.

Good design looks effortless

When you walk into a well-laid out room, the layout usually doesn’t take centre stage. It seems obvious that the bathroom and stairs should be easy to get to, that there’s seating around the fireplace and so on.

And from our perspective, this is the right response. We want people to walk into this client’s room and feel comfortable and happy. We want socializing to take centre stage, and the beautiful pieces they’ve collected to shine.

Of course, looking effortless is both wonderful and frustrating for the designer! It looks easy, obvious even, because it works so well. But a really good layout comes down to practice and education.

To create this layout I thought about things like sight lines, how things line up, and what they look like from the different angles.

I considered how people could use the different zones at the same time without bothering each other, and whether there was enough circulation.

And of course, I had to listen to the clients and let go of ideas I thought were good when those ideas didn’t suit the clients needs or wants.

This was the forth layout, and when they put it together in real life, they, and their multi generational family, were thrilled.

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How to use zones; a furniture layout with zones circled and noted

 

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