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Good Design You Can Live With

Good Design You Can Live With

Living spaces demand careful consideration and excellent connection to the rest of the house, says Alice and Caleb Pearson, of Pearson + Projects.

By: Alice & Caleb Pearson

10 July 2024

An inviting and well-designed living space will create a place where people want to be. Whether that’s to sell, rent or live in yourself, a good design will make your property desirable as this is the area where its occupants will live.

With most homes now having open plan living areas, living spaces include your lounge, family or rumpus rooms, and dining areas, which often flow into kitchens. And while size and scale matter, size isn’t everything ... a well-designed layout will provide a more functional space than just making it bigger.

The Layout

Start by taking stock of what’s in your living spaces, how they work, what works and what doesn’t. Where are the doors and thoroughfares, connections to other spaces, natural lighting? This all helps provide a clear picture of what you are working with. Often there is a problem you want to solve with a renovation: adding connections, improving layout, or better lighting, for example. If you can be clear on these, then you can plan a renovation to fix them.


We have renovated several older homes with traditional floor layouts where the living, dining and kitchen spaces are in separate rooms. We always take the opportunity to open these spaces so there is greater connection where practical and possible.

If we can remove a wall, we will do this to blend and provide connection between living spaces. Adding in a door from a living space to the outdoors adds connection to outside (and possibly a future outdoor living space) while bringing natural light in.

Please note, have a professional confirm the building and consenting requirements for these projects.

Creating Space

Open-plan living is common and remains popular. However, large open spaces are not quite the sole focus in houses they once were. There is a subtle move to more considered living spaces with cosy or intimate areas, especially with flexibility in how they can be used. If there is an opportunity to allow for this, consider it in your planning.

This is not a return to adding walls to separate rooms, rather subtle ways to create spaces within living areas. A built-in window seat might create a space for kids to read or that morning coffee; a small or half height partition or nook may allow for a home office without feeling like it’s “in” the lounge; a large cavity slider or barn door can provide flexibility to open or separate a room.

The thoroughfare to the kitchen and outdoors was considered with the furniture placement and we went with venetian blinds for privacy for the main window.

Colour Scheme

Living areas are not a one-size-fits-all for interior design and colours, but a popular and safe place to start is to pick neutral tones. Living areas are the largest rooms in a house and commonly a junction where several spaces connect. Our goal is to select a colour scheme that will make a whole house feel cohesive and work in with any existing textures or features.

Surface areas in living spaces in a neutral colour will provide the balance needed and set the tone for adjoining spaces.

If there are existing colours you have selected or won’t be changing, such as kitchen cabinetry, existing flooring or joinery, you can find a neutral colour to connect with these without clashing. Neutrals are also a good option as they make a space feel larger and allow flexibility to add colour and features with furniture. Your flooring selection will be the most dominant tone and texture you need to scheme your wall finishes with, so decide on these together.

The Focal Point

While not a must, having a focal point in a living space adds an extra layer of thought and design. A fireplace is a common one, which can be designed to be a focus in a lounge. But it could be a window or door with an outlook, an existing element of an older house you have retained as a nod to the heritage, or a feature wallpaper.

Lighting, Power

Living spaces are used at all hours of the day, so having practical and flexible lighting is important. There will be times when full light is needed and times when the TV or fire is on to wind down. Consider having areas of rooms on separate switching or dimmers and add the required power and data outlets where the TV or home office is located.

Our “Original Reno Redo” had a large project scope due to removing a wall to open it up to both the kitchen and dining space. Active Floor Sanding restored the original timber floors and we painted the tiles of the fireplace Resene Quarter Alabaster.
We built open shelving within the nook beside the fireplace to create a TV unit that was compact and didn’t impact the flow to the outdoors. And there was no expense spared in finding the perfect curved couch for the staging!
The blush pink kitchen set the tone for the colour scheming, opting for Resene Elderflower on the walls to enhance the warm tones of both the kitchen and timber floors.