How to Design a Multi-Use Room in an Open-Concept Space by Creating "Zones"

Hello, friends!


I've been spending an awful lot of time up in our loft since shutting down our Airbnb in June. It's been SO lovely since this room is the sunniest space in our house, AND, it has my all-time favorite detail of any room in existence...CEILING FANS.


I know, I know...not all that exciting, but for some reason, I'm a huge sucker for ceiling fans. Maybe it's because growing up, my older brothers' room had one, but not mine, and I always wanted one too. It wasn't until my 23rd birthday after I'd been living back at my parents for a few years when I finally did get one. However, I got married and moved out a year later, so alas, the shining season of living with a ceiling fan in my bedroom was short-lived...anyhow, our attic is the one space in our house with ceiling fans, so I take advantage whenever I can!



All that to say, I've been spending a lot of time up here (as opposed to sitting in my very dark office), and yesterday, I was struck by how incredibly functional this space is. There's nothing particularly special about the room itself—it's just a big, 800sqft box with an a-frame ceiling line. BUT, because we wanted it to function as a sort of complete home-away-from-home for our guests, we were super intentional about the pieces we put in here and how we set them up.


We needed the space to be a bedroom, living area, and dining area alike, so we had to figure out how to create "zones" with our furniture that would help accomplish that goal! Here's how we did it...


In this single room, we have eight different "zones" that each serve a specific function. It's essentially a "tiny house", minus the bathroom and full kitchen. What I also love about this area is that it's a great example of how you can do A LOT with just furniture. I'll talk about this later in the post, but sometimes you may think you need to add walls or move walls or do some major overhaul when really what you need is to be a little more intentional with your space planning.


Take a look at the floorplan below to see how I've broken out the zones, and then we'll talk through the function of each zone and how we pulled it off:



Our Loft Layout by "Zone"

Zone 1: Dining Area


First up is a dining area. Our loft has the original pine subfloor, which was painted a light bluish-grey by a previous owner. Its definitely not super level (ooooh the character of an old house!), but it gives the space a vintage studio feel, which I really love. Since the flooring throughout the space is unified, the easiest way to designate "zones" was by using area rugs. Of course, I didn't do a rug in EVERY zone—that would have been way too many rugs—but at least for the larger gathering spots, that did the trick nicely.


For the dining area, I found a simple wood-top-metal-frame table & bench set and centered that on a square 7ft x 7ft area rug. The rug grounds the dining area, and also makes the uneven floor a little more forgiving so that the furniture doesn't wobble. Additionally, we hung a plug-in pendant light above the dining table, making it feel a little more "permanent" and giving the space some vertical interest. Notice how I hid the pendant cord behind the window curtains.




Zone 2: Cozy Corner


Beside the dining area, I created a small grouping with a comfy upholstered chair, a large piece of art, and a potted plant on a stand. Maybe this is a little small to be considered it's own zone, but in a space like this, every area counts, so hear me out: If you think of this loft as a "home" in and of itself, someone could sit over here after dinner reading a book while their partner sat on the couch working at their laptop. It provides an alternative landing place, utilizes a corner that would've gone unused, and creates a nice visual beyond the dining area. I say it qualifies as its own zone!





Zone 3: The Kitchenette


Just beside the dining area, we utilized a former bedroom dresser as the base for our kitchenette. We had thought at one point about putting in an actual kitchenette with plumbing, a stovetop, etc., but we nixed the idea because it would have been expensive, and we like that this space currently gives us a lot of options so we're not tied to one thing long term.


Instead, we created a perfectly functional kitchenette out of all stand-alone pieces! Atop the dresser/sideboard, we have a microwave, coffee maker, and set of dishes, along with a hot water pot and coffee/tea fixings (not all these are pictured, but they are there now, I promise!).


Beside the dresser, we placed a mini-fridge and tall trash bin. I was especially excited about this fridge because it actually looks like a miniature refrigerator, unlike the mini-fridge I had way back in my college dorm room!





Zone 4: Reading Nook


This is my favorite of the zones... In the dormer space, we created the coziest little coffee/reading nook! Using an extra-shaggy rug, we made this into an area you'd want to curl up on the floor or prop your feet up on the little table with a cup of coffee. Another thing I love about this little space is that it feels like a separate room, or a little mini play-house for kids (I've always had a thing for miniature anything!). It has walls on three sides, and because we've grounded it with the rug and oriented it toward the window, it feels very private when you land in there.






Zone 5: The Bedroom


The bedroom finds itself smack in the middle of our loft space. Because our attic is an a-frame, finding a wall to put the headboard against wasn't an easy thing to do since the ceilings meet the wall just two feet above the floor.


However! There's one strange bit of wall that juts out into the room (I'm pretty confident it's where our plumbing stack runs up to the roof), and it gave me the PERFECT place to anchor the headboard without it feeling like it was floating out in the middle of the room. Thank you, plumbing stack!!


The bed is also nicely oriented so that you can view the TV while laying in bed, and, when you wake up, you have a lovely sunny view of Madison Ave. out the window in the reading nook!






Zone 6: Closet Space


While the attic does have a closet, you have to crouch to get inside because the ceilings are slanted. Because of this, it wouldn't be functional for storing clothing or anything that gets regular use. We wanted to add a functional and beautiful place for guests to hang their clothes, coats, and other garments.

I'd been loving the concept of open closet storage for a while, so I bopped around the internet until I found the perfect clothing rack for the space. I also made sure to create a comfortable walkway—at least three feet—behind the sofa so that accessing clothing wouldn't feel cramped. I also like that this piece brings a little hight variation into the space. Other than the hanging lamp and curtians, it's the tallest item in the space. Remember: in design, it's important to consider your vertical planes as much as your horizontal!






Zone 7: Office Space


In the back corner of the loft, we created a workspace with a desk, chair, and task lamp. We anticipated that the space would be used by business travelers at times, so we wanted a spot for them to work that wasn't the dining area. I also imagined individuals taking little stay-cation/writing/creative retreats in the loft, and thought this would be the perfect spot to jot down some thoughts, poems, or plans.


Placing a vintage piece of art on the wall above, we created a nice visual vignette that felt grounded, cozy, and separate.





Zone 8: Living Area


Lastly, we have our living area! Again, we used a large area rug to anchor this "zone", and centered up our seating area with the large window on the north side of the room. Here, we placed a vintage sofa and set of chairs, a side table, and a live-edge coffee table. Additionally, we used a simple low-profile modern style credenza as our entertainment center and placed our TV and speakers on top. I floated this fairly far from the wall so it wouldn't feel too far away from the couch; this also keeps people from walking too close to the ceiling and bumping their heads (I've done it one too many times!).


I like that the sofa creates a natural barrier to the closet and office areas. When dealing with a large open area like this, think about how you can use functional furniture pieces to suggest natural boundaries between different zones.






Some Notes on Mixing Rugs...


Because I used three large area rugs in this space, I needed to think about how they would play with one another. I didn't want to do all solids, but I still wanted to maintain a lighter, natural-toned color palette. I decided to go with three natural-tone rugs, each in a slightly different pattern. You've probably heard me say it before, but when mixing patterns, you want to use coordinating or complementary color palettes and vary the scale of your patterns so they don't fight with each other.


In our case, we went with similar tones in each rug and varied our pattern sizes: our largest rug has a very subtle, almost texture-like pattern, the dining rug has a mid-sized pattern, and the nook rug has a larger, more pronounced pattern. This combination allowed the rugs to have a nice conversation with each other, but not overtake the rest of the room. I'm very happy with the way the rugs played out!





The Wrap Up


I love a lot of variety in my environment, and creating zones is a great way to give yourself lots of options within a single space: work from the table for a few hours, hop over to the reading nook, then plop on the couch—it's great for creativity!


Zones are also helpful if you have multiple people utilizing a space who may need to accomplish different tasks at the same time. If this room were just one large seating area, it might be difficult for more than one or two people to use the space without disrupting each other. Zones help you make sense of your space, designate how to use each area, and make the space more functional for everyone!


SO. How have you utilized zones in your own space? OR, do you have a room where you might try implementing this concept? I'd love to hear all about it, so share in the comments below!




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