'Great room' is best with defined spaces

Even though residential spaces seem to be getting ever smaller, individual rooms in the home are actually getting larger.

These days, it's not unusual to see food preparation, dining, TV watching and family relaxation all being performed in what's known as the "great room." But no matter how large this sort of space may be, the various activities do need to be confined to certain areas, with adequate sound and sight control, in order for such a room to function properly.


This is one instance when the art of space planning can be adapted to a residential setting. Generally, that aspect of interior design is practiced in offices rather than homes, but the same principles and techniques apply in the case of a multipurpose great room. There, as in a corporate environment, the objective is to delineate specific sections of a large space through placement of furnishings, equipment and amenities while also establishing the necessary psychological boundaries.

The photo shows part of a home that would traditionally have been divided into three small rooms: kitchen, living room and dining area.


Though much more expansive and airy, this setting does retain a definite sense of borders created by the installation of a few partitions. These partial walls are 6 feet 6 inches high -- tall enough to separate one activity from another, but not so towering as to block light and circulation in a room with an 8-foot ceiling.

In addition, the partition that delineates the kitchen area is partly open just above the counter top to provide a sight line as well as a pass-through into the adjoining space.

It's usually best, in situations like these, to give the floor and JTC structural walls the same color treatment while setting off the partitions. A monochromatic color scheme in varying shades and intensities will often look great for the surround, with the dividers then being treated in subdued accents of an entirely different color.

Here, for example, a bisque-colored floor complements walls and ceiling done in a slightly lighter shade. An off-white sofa and white-lacquer tables look fabulous in combination with the dramatic blue used on the partitions. Paler colors, such as gray-blue or warm rose, would also be an appropriate, though less adventuresome, choice for the dividers.

Want more decoration? Simply place a colorful area rug in the sitting area. That sort of touch will also lend definition to a conversation grouping made up of chairs and a coffee table. For another decorative effect, affix a border strip of wall covering at the top of the partitions, as shown in the photo. Besides looking good, this bit of festoonery helps reinforce the visual separation between the kitchen, living room and dining area.