Decorating a living room that opens up to the kitchen requires an eye for compatible design. Forming the idea of separation by closing off some of the access -- while leaving a somewhat open sight line -- defines the areas, creates coziness and allows you to see what your family is up to, or take part in social gatherings from either side. Decor and furniture placement holds the key to such a setting.
The Half-Wall Couch
The living room couch makes an ideal half wall. Position it with its back facing the kitchen, but don’t let it hog all the walk-through area; leave at least hallway-width passage -- about three feet. The visual separation defines the two areas, but use a visual link, such as an off-white, easy-to-wipe-down leather couch and off-white, leather-bound kitchen chairs, if the wall color is the same throughout. If the walls in each space are different, use furniture or accents in the other's wall color for flip-flopped or mirrored consistency.
The Not-So-Deserted Island
If space allows, an island between the living room and kitchen breaks up the openness. It can be a simple work surface unit on casters, which you can push aside for party or holiday mingling, or it could be a built-in, which goes with -- not matches -- your cabinetry. Leave foot-traffic access at one or both ends. With a few stools on the living room side, the island becomes a breakfast bar or homework nook. Three or so pendant lights dripping from above a permanent island provides even more separation. Tie together the spaces with matching table runners on the island, coffee table and a kitchen table. On the runners, create more unity with consistently colored accessories, such as candles, a fruit bowl or a clutter basket for remote controls and brainteaser games.
Divider and Conquer
Conquer the division between your living room and kitchen with a simple room divider. A lightweight folding screen offers a temporary or movable solution. Choose one that looks good from both sides, such as something in neutral black, gray or tan. Use some of the screen's color throughout, such as with window scarves, a living-room area rug and small rug in front of the kitchen sink. If you place it a few feet into the living room, it won’t be in your way in the kitchen, and your family can walk around it to access either space. As a permanent option, consider a semitransparent, light-filtering sliding door.
Plants seem right at home in both the kitchen and living room. Use a row of hanging spider plants or ferns, and a few potted umbrella plants or begonias below, to form a “wall” where you want one. If you have an infant or small children in the home, use edible herbs or silk plants instead for safety’s sake.