Small Space Open Floor Plan Challenge

Do you have a small space open floor plan challenge? A while ago I wrote about the Tyranny of the Open Floor Plan and I do still think that open floor plans aren’t the best choice for larger homes. But for smaller spaces they can work really well. But the key is to create a flow and floor plan that works well and solves all the inherent challenges to both small spaces and open spaces.

As I was thinking about this topic I realized that I’ve done a few small space open floor plan projects.

My award-winning Back Bay Penthouse project is a great example. This is an 858 sq. ft. condo that is basically two spaces – the bedroom on the right and the open floor plan kitchen, dining and living area. I don’t have good before photos but here’s the floor plan.

Linda Merrill Back Bay penthouse 1 floorplan

The original kitchen was actually walled in – we opened up the space by removing the walls and raising the kitchen up to create an open space that still maintained a sense of separation from the living area. This kitchen was doubly tricky because it included the access point to the roof deck (you can see the sky light in the corner) and also the under counter washer/dryer.

Linda Merrill Back Bay penthouse 2 small space ope floor plan to kitchen

Lots of modular seating and clean lines was key to maintaining a modern and masculine style for this bachelor client.

Linda Merrill Back Bay penthouse 3 small space open floor plan living room


My Duxbury Garden Home project is in a luxury over 55 community of attached homes. Luxury maybe – but also quite bland. The before photo below was taken with my back to the windows behind the dining area.

Linda Merrill Garden home 1 small space open floor plan before

And then from the same vantage point we have the stylish and comfortable entertaining space for my antiques and art loving clients.

 Linda Merrill Garden Home 2 small space open floor plan living room wide
Photographed by Michael J. Lee

And the dining area. The challenge was creating a good flow between the two spaces and the adjoining entries to the kitchen and the sunroom.

 Linda Merrill Garden home 3 dining room small space open floor plan
Photographed by Michael J. Lee

My Colorful Modern Coastal project is located in The Pinehills in Plymouth MA. This photo was taken the day after my clients moved in. To my left was the front hall. Another small space open floor plan challenge was upon me!

Linda Merrill modern coastal 1 small space open floor plan before

An overhead view shows the final floor plan. The challenge in this space was getting a dining table and chairs to work in the space – which did mean the removal of the electronic mini-grand piano. Sometimes tough choices have to be made in order to achieve a more cohesive and functional space. My clients planned on entertaining and having a nice table and chairs was an important addition.


One of the tricky areas to deal with was once we centered the sofa on the tv and placed it an appropriate distance for comfortable viewing it left the pathway on the right fairly narrow. This skinny sideboard from Fairfield Chair – which offered lots of storage and a good surface for laying out snacks and drinks for entertaining – was the perfect size at 15″ D for this space.

 Linda Merrill Modern coastal 3 small space open floor plan
Photographed by Linda Merrill


And I am currently working on this eclectic condo renovation just outside of Boston. You can see in the “before” image below that the living/dining area are quite small and the tiny kitchen is behind a big wall. The whole unit is a little over 700 sq. ft.

Linda Merrill eclectic condo 1 small space before

An overhead view.


And my renderings of the plan which is currently under construction! We removed all the kitchen walls opening up the space completely.


A big challenge of small space open floor plan projects is the lack of storage – which became a huge deal in this still tiny kitchen – at approximately 8FT x 8FT. Thankfully there are high ceilings so we can built the wall cabinets up. We stole some space from the dining area to create a peninsula with back to back cabinets where the dining room side has a modern contemporary feel in cherry to give the feeling of a buffet/sideboard. The kitchen side are traditional inset cabinets painted a gorgeous Sherwin Williams Terrain green. Paneled appliances (if we could have paneled the ovens we would!) maintain the furniture look of this kitchen.


We are still a few months out from completion but I can’t wait to show the final images!

And technically – my current dollhouse beach house build – Summer’s End –  is also a small space open floor plan – a very very small space!

062023 Summers End beach house dollhouse straight on 1st floor

And here are a few more ideas for a small space open floor plan challenge:

The high ceilings below create a sense of spaciousness but the floor space is really quite small:

Linda Merrill a_cozy_cottage_with_dining_area_and_living small space open floor plan
Designed by Linda Merrill with AI

A more modern industrial space:

Linda Merrill small_apartment_with_open_floorplan small space open floor plan
Designed by Linda Merrill with AI

And a sleek contemporary space that uses glamorous finishes and fixtures to create a sense of opulence in a small foot print.

Linda Merrill small_condo_open_floor_plan_in_white_and_natural_tone small space open floor plan
Designed by Linda Merrill with AI


Designing a small space with an open floor plan requires careful consideration to make the most of every square foot while ensuring flow and functionality. Here are nine tips to help you create an effective small space open floor plan design:

  • Multi-functional furniture: Choose furniture pieces that serve multiple purposes, such as a sofa bed or a coffee table with storage compartments. This maximizes utility while minimizing clutter.
  • Visual continuity: Use consistent flooring and paint colors throughout the space to create a sense of continuity and make the area feel larger. Avoid abrupt transitions between different sections of the room.
  • Zone the space: Define different areas within the open floor plan for specific functions, such as living, dining, and sleeping areas. You can use rugs, lighting, or furniture arrangement to delineate these zones without the need for walls.
  • Utilize vertical space: Take advantage of vertical space by incorporating tall shelves or cabinets. This not only provides additional storage but also draws the eye upward, making the room feel taller and more spacious.
  • Lighting design: Proper lighting can significantly impact the perception of space. Use a combination of ambient, task, and accent lighting to create depth and highlight different areas of the room. Consider incorporating natural light through windows or skylights to enhance the openness.
  • Furniture placement: Arrange furniture strategically to optimize traffic flow and make the room feel more spacious. Avoid blocking pathways and aim for an open layout that encourages movement and interaction.
  • Minimize clutter: Keep the space clutter-free by implementing smart storage solutions and decluttering regularly. Choose furniture with built-in storage options and utilize vertical storage solutions to maximize space.
  • Scale appropriately: Select furniture and decor items that are proportionate to the size of the room. Oversized pieces can overwhelm a small space, while undersized items can make it feel sparse. Aim for a balanced look that complements the dimensions of the room.
  • Create visual interest: Incorporate elements of visual interest, such as artwork, mirrors, or statement pieces, to draw the eye and add personality to the space. However, be mindful not to overcrowd the room with too many decorative elements, as this can make it feel cluttered.

By following these tips, you can design a small space open floor plan that feels spacious, functional, and visually appealing.

Pin for future reference:

Small space open floor plan pin

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11 thoughts on “Small Space Open Floor Plan Challenge”

  1. I love this idea and your consideration of all of the details on the space shows how you don’t leave anything up to chance! Everything you mentioned was valuable and I appreciate your images to demonstrate every point. Well done Linda!

  2. Oh Linda, this is GREAT. I love the use of the nook in the small sleek space…and the challenge itself is such an exercise in smart design! “Small” and “open” are a real challenge to put together…but you’ve done it. Thank you for sharing.

  3. I can’t wait to see your final reveal on the eclectic condo design. Love your renderings and your ideas for the space! My husband and I raised 3 kids in a 1500 square foot home. We have what I call a chapel ceiling (because it’s not grand enough to be considered cathedral) and the tv room and kitchen are open to each other so our home does not feel cramped. We live large in this small space and I’d do it all over again if I had to – no regrets. Your client is lucky to have your design talents Linda! The condo will be as beautiful as your plans.

  4. Totally agree – open plan is a useful tool for small spaces, but a well thought out layout is critical. These tips are on point! And high ceilings definitely help create a feeling of spaciousness!


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