There are lots of tips out there about how to decorate when you have an adjoining small living room and kitchen combo. Both living areas and kitchens are considered to be part of the “heart of the home”. Nevertheless, they have two distinct functions, so creating a sense of separation is important. But, it is equally important that the two spaces are tied together. You want to create a certain separation without a jarring change of style.
I was thinking about this issue a great deal when creating my post on kitchen storage. New construction often creates one large living room/kitchen combo space. These “open concept” living spaces can be wonderful, but they can also be tricky to decorate. What you do in the kitchen carries over to the living area and vice-versa. What is visible in one area is visible in the other.
With a careful use of color, even accessories meant for storage can create a common thread with the living room colors and vice-versa. So, this post is about using accent colors to create decorative cohesion between a small living room and kitchen combo.
In this post, I’m using shades of blue or blue/green to create a sense of what can be done within a color family. Naturally, the range of the blue palate is immense. Also, I would never suggest you incorporate all of these ideas in a single room. The goal is to get your own creative juices flowing.
Full disclosure before we begin: I am not a designer. I don’t even play one on TV. What I am passing on is based on what I’ve seen walking through so many homes over the years as well as talking with designers and home stagers.
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Paint – the ultimate color statement…
Nothing beats paint for making a statement. It isn’t expensive and makes a great DIY weekend project.
The color shown here is from Sherwin Williams and is called “Revel Blue”. It is a rich color and should be used with care. Covering all of your walls in a deep tone like this one would probably be a mistake in a small space. I would use a color like this as an accent color in a special nook or to create a focal point on one wall. If you want to DIY, remember to prime your walls. Also, for a rich color like this, you would definitely need two coats!
For those looking for a more a calming accent, here is another color by Sherwin Williams called “Tame Teal”. It’s a blue-green hue that is very popular right now. It has a cool, somewhat calming feel even though it adds a strong pop of color.
A word for those who feel color challenged…
For those who are contemplating painting their new downsized digs, and feel more than a bit lost, I am going to suggest that you might want to invest in a color fan deck. I like Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams. This may seem a bit pricey, but in reality, it is a great reference to have.
As one designer once said, a fan deck really helps you sort out and better understand the colors you are working with. For example, say you have fallen in love with a very strong shade of green. The fan deck shows related colors, so you can find a shade that softens the look and doesn’t overwhelm the room. It also allows you to view a wide variety of colors shades in your own home, at different hours and changing light conditions. A very different experience than what you see in the paint store.
Backsplashes – an ideal for accent colors…
This is another relatively inexpensive fix. Some can do this themselves as a DIY project. Full disclosure: I have never tried this myself. So, I can’t testify as to how easy or hard it actually is. However, a backsplash can really change the look of your kitchen and help tie it in with your living room decor if you are decorating a living room/kitchen combo.
This green and blue hand-painted linear glass mosaic pattern could be a stunning addition to any kitchen. I really love the variations in tone and the and width. This type of backsplash really packs a dramatic punch. Furthermore, even though it is high on drama, this look still has the flexibility to mix with many different hues and styles. This is just one of nearly innumerable possibilities. When you add these kinds of touches to a downsized home, you create an elegance that makes your smaller home seem large in style.
Canisters – they aren’t just for coffee beans and flour…
Although we all love products like the very practical Oxo canisters, there is a place for some truly stylish options that make a statement. This is an example of form and function working together. These traditional turquoise ceramic canisters pack a color punch. They are a great option for those looking for a cozy farmhouse feel for their home.
In contrast, here is a completely different look. This porcelain canister set with bamboo air-tight lids could not be more different from the vintage look of the turquoise canisters above. These have a look all their own. Very modern, slick and understated.
Your bowls plates and cups generally find their way into every portion of your living space. This is particularly true if you are in a small space where your kitchen and primary living areas are adjoined.
This 16-piece dinnerware set from Royal Dalton 1815 is an excellent example of dinnerware that can integrate into the general decor. It enhances and helps define the color scheme in both rooms without being overbearing.
Living area storage cube with fabric storage bins…
Although storage is mainly associated with the kitchen and closets, you can never have enough storage in a small space. These storage cubes with fabric bins allow you to stash more stuff away in style. The storage cubes come in various shapes, sizes, and colors, but they are all designed to accommodate the bins. The nine cube rectangle can fit easily behind a sofa or under a window. The cube shown is the 3-2-1 version which is a bit more interesting. The fabric covered bins are collapsible for easy storage and they come in an amazing variety of colors and prints. Bins like these allow you to tuck away items in an organized way while stretching your closet space.
To be honest, I am not certain as to how sturdy some of these bins are. There have been mixed reviews on this issue. However, they are quite inexpensive and are easily replaced. Nevertheless, I would advise that you not put heavy items in them or yank them too hard by the handles. Truthfully, I kind of like the fact that they are inexpensive. After all, if you find you want a change of pace or a new look, you don’t have to break the bank to get it.
Throw pillows on a more neutral sofa, sectional, or chair are a great way to introduce a punch of color to a room. You can buy one set of pillows and exchange the decorative throw pillowcase covers very inexpensively. It’s a similar situation to the fabric bins in the previous section. Want to try something new? Just do it! You don’t even need to think twice. The old pillowcases fold flat, so you can resurrect them any time you want. What could be easier for those who want to rotate their look on a seasonal basis?
Now, for those who would like to add another accent, color, you could pick up on the rose/red colors from the throw pillows above and add a real punch of extra contrast with something like these handmade flower accent pillowcases.
Throw blankets are great to have around on cold winter nights. Having a throw blanket that integrates with some of the accents in your living area is an added bonus. Once again, this is an inexpensive and fun way to add accents to a room. If you like to mix things up and change your look, you can rotate a throw blanket along with your pillowcases. It’s simple and easy. I really like this cotton knit throw blanket in “pistachio”. It can add interest and color to any living area or bedroom.
When decorating a small living room and kitchen combo, you often have an open floor plan that includes a high eating countertop. It’s also (usually) the entry point for the kitchen area. Colorful bar stools for counter seating can often add a nice accent to a room. These vintage-inspired counter stools in mint green could be just the right touch if you are going for a more distressed farmhouse look. I personally happen to like that aesthetic, although it won’t work for those going for a totally modern look.
Rugs provide a unique opportunity to make a statement. They can be large or small, brightly colored or retiring. Careful placement and use of an area rug can introduce new colors or enhance an existing theme. Size matters here as well. Ask yourself whether you want to cover the entire room or just make a statement in a specific corner or nook. Area rugs can help define “rooms” in an open floor plan such as dining areas versus living areas.
This Safavieh rug from their Montauk collection makes a calm and quiet statement. It’s made of high-quality cotton and is hand woven. It has a light an airy feel to it which I really find relaxing.
Mohawk Home makes some very interesting printed rugs. The rug pictured at the right, Aurora Radiance Abstract Floral Printed Area Rug has a long name. But don’t hold that against it. It introduces a very interesting palate and does so very well. The way this rug is constructed is very unique. It is made entirely of recycled material. You can rest assured that if you purchase one of these printed rugs, you are doing the environment a favor. It’s a great concept. I have never had one of these rugs personally, but they tend to receive excellent reviews.
Create a space that is all your own…
Obviously, no one is putting all of these possible accent elements into decorating their small living-dining room combo. That would be more than a bit overwhelming. But carefully selecting the right items can help you create a style that is uniquely yours. Another one of my goals here was to show that a tight budget needn’t get in your way. Almost all of these elements listed on this page are really affordable, and in general, don’t take up tons of valuable space. For more ideas, feel free to take a look at my Pinterest Board, Color Me an Accent.
Don’t forget that the space you create must be livable…
Creating a great living space also goes beyond making great color matches and finding pieces that look great. Don’t ever forget about comfort. If you can’t be comfortable in your own home space, all the style in the world isn’t going to make you happy with it.
When I was growing up (in the dark ages of the 1970s) I had a couple of friends whose parents had their “formal” living room furniture covered in cheap plastic. The idea was that covering it would protect the furnishings from wear and tear. Well, yes, I’ll go along with that. After all, the plastic made sitting on the furniture so uncomfortable, no one was ever going to use it!
By contrast, my family lived in every room of our home. The “formal” living room had toys in it for me when I was little. There was a very elegant sofa that no one hesitated about putting their feet up on. So to me, a room shrouded in plastic never really made any sense. Today, most of the population is past the point of keeping a “formal” living area tucked away like a shrine. Living space has become too expensive for that.
There is a lesson to be learned here. Think about what you need in your personal space. What do you like doing when you are home. Do you entertain a lot? Do you read a lot or is binge-watching Netflix on your DVR your idea of heaven? You should be able to come home at night and feel comforted by what you have surrounded yourself with. Great style helps, but it also has to be livable! No matter how small your living space, it should be your oasis.
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