Big space or small, it takes thought and careful planning to successfully combine living and dining areas that are viewed together. The trick is to unify the space while maintaining the identity and particular beauty of each area. Whether you have a loft space, a great room or two separate rooms joined by an archway, you can decorate living and dining areas to work together in harmony.
Discard the notion that all the hard furniture in a combined living-dining area must match. Stylish rooms enjoy a mix of wood tones, as well as metals. Within the space, dark wood living room coffee and end tables can mesh well with lighter wood in a dining table, and the iron in chairs or stools. Many self-decorators feel more comfortable if they keep the lines of the furniture similar when mixing wood tones and metals. For example, if your furniture style is contemporary, a sleek stainless steel and glass dining set coordinates with a track-arm sofa that has chrome legs, and a wood living room cocktail table with straight or tapered legs. French curves in a formal dining set seem more at home with scrolled-back wrought-iron bar stools, a camelback sofa with cabriole legs, and traditional mahogany antique tables in the living room.
The dining and living areas do not have to use precisely the same color scheme, but should have some colors in common. One approach is to keep a neutral background throughout the space, but add pops of color. For unity, repeat one of the colors in both spaces but vary the rest. Another way to apply color is to select one palette, but choose one dominant color for the dining area and another for the living area. Yet another method involves using the same hues slightly shaded or tinted differently between the two spaces. For example, in a palette of yellow, green and blue use a light blue in one area and navy in the other.
Find coordinating fabric patterns that work with the color palette of your choice. Gather catalog photos or actual swatches from furniture or fabric stores for upholstered seating, throw pillows and window treatments. Choose contemporary or traditional solids, stripes, small or large overall prints, random prints, florals, plaids, checks, geometrics or textural weaves, depending on the look desired. Practice grouping the fabrics together to find your preferred mix for the dining and living spaces. A different fabric from your mix can dominate each area. You will need fewer patterns for a contemporary look and more for country or traditional styles.
Physical textures appear in art, accessories, rugs and other furnishings in your home. Repeat your favorite textures throughout the living and dining spaces to further tie them together. Metal lamps, ceiling fixtures and furniture have smooth, brushed or bumpy textures you can repeat. Caning, rope-twist detail and distressing are textures that commonly appear in wood furniture. Wall art -- different in subject matter -- can repeat the texture of thickly painted brush strokes. Area rugs may repeat the same type of pile, and window treatments the same type of weave, while different in color or pattern.