Helping Gwen to unify her open floor plan with her favorite paint colors

unifying an open floor plan with paint

Reader Gwen loves to fill her house with color and has no hesitation using it everywhere in her bright and cheery midcentury modest home. As much as she loves painting all her walls happy colors, Gwen feels that something is a bit off, which is why she is asking for our help with her painting problem.

Gwen writes:

living room and denI recently purchased a mid-century modest home, 1150 sq ft, 2 bedrooms, 1 bath plus a bonus bed/den/office room.  The previous owner inherited the home when his mother passed and he painted the entire house a creamy white to prepare it for sale.  I, on the other hand love color and have some colorful art that inspires me.  My question is this: Is it okay to paint each room a different color?  If so, how do I pull it all together so that the house looks cohesive?  The floor plan is very open, so rooms can be seen from other rooms, the hallway, etc.  I have painted a few of the rooms, but don’t really like how it is coming together. (colors used are Sherwin Williams Pinky Beige in the kitchen, Bold Brick in the dinette, Aleutian in the living room, and Parakeet on the small LR wall section)  And, I still have some very white walls to consider!  Thank you for your help!


Gwen, I salute your use of cheery and bright colors throughout your house! In my opinion, it is perfectly okay to paint every room in your house a different color — it is a matter of personal taste — however if you do paint every room a different color and it starts to feel a bit choppy, there are a few things you can do to help remedy the situation.

living room blueAbove: Gwen’s living room.

Repeat your chosen colors

What I initially noticed when looking through the photos Gwen submitted — that she has many furnishings and decor that are either a dark reddish color, green or blue. Her wall color choices thus far are great since they repeat the colors already in her furnishings, which helps the wall colors make sense with the flow of the house. I find it very interesting that the parts of the house that are not easily changed (the green kitchen appliances, the mauve kitchen tile and the blue bathroom tile) all seem to coordinate with your furniture and decor — great job!

colorful living roomAbove: Gwen’s living room as it is.

Make long walls all the same color

Since Gwen’s living room, kitchen, dining room and den are all very open to each other, I might suggest a few tweaks to help the rooms flow a bit better. First, since there is one long wall that stretches from the living room into the dining room (only broken up with the white built-in shelving), I would make that wall all one color — which would allow the eye to travel the whole length of the room without being interrupted. I would also repaint the lone green wall the same color as the dining room, to help reduce the broken up feeling of the room’s walls. Painting long walls all the same color is something that I have personally done in my own midcentury ranch, which, like Gwen’s house, also has an open floor plan.

colorful living room editedAbove: Gwen’s living room after painting the entire long wall blue and the bump out wall red. (Note: Gwen says the dining room wall is Brick red as shown in the photo on the right. For some reason in the shot above, the camera and lighting is making it look like a coral color.)

Green and Mauve retro KitchenGwens’ awesome original kitchen already has green appliances and mauve tiles (I think those might be the same mauve tiles I have in my master bathroom) that coordinate with the color scheme, but I might reinforce the green kitchen appliances by painting the kitchen walls a green that is similar to the color of the appliances — perhaps just a shade or two lighter. Then, to repeat the color again in your house (to help the green feel more cohesive) I might paint the walls of your den the same green.


Original-green and mauve Kitchen-paintedAbove: Gwen could leave her kitchen walls pink, or paint them a shade of green to match her retro appliances.

LR,-Hall,-Den-paintedAbove: Repeating the green from the kitchen in Gwen’s den would help make the open areas of the house feel more cohesive.

blue-retro-BathAs far as the hallways and bedrooms go — I would paint the hall the same light green as the den, since it is easily seen from the open parts of the house. The bedrooms are separate enough (because they are separated by the hallway and doors) that you could paint them any color that you would like and it wouldn’t disrupt the flow of the house. Your retro blue tiled bathroom already coordinates with the rest of the house so any visitors who make a pit stop wouldn’t feel like they were visiting someone else’s bathroom at all. If you really wanted to, you could also paint the walls in the bathroom the same light green to add further repetition — though I don’t think it is absolutely necessary.

Gwen, I hope I have helped you figure out how to improve the flow of color throughout your house!

Readers — do you have any other suggestions to help Gwen’s house feel more unified?


  1. wendy says:

    My .02: I would change the brick red color to a very pale butter-white. I have an open plan and the living room is painted aqua and a custom light green, hallway is the same aqua except 25% lighter. Between those is the dining room. Painting it yet another color was too choppy and jarring.

    I ended up using Sherwin Williams Summer White, which has a golden yellow undertone, and pulling in the aqua and green with vintage art and accessories. I have the same vintage curtain panels in both rooms, which are off white with a large aqua/blue/olive leaf design.


    I am terrible at photoshop, and couldn’t get the yellow pale or soft enough, and the “curtains” are a little intense, but the linked photo gives an idea of what I’m suggesting. I’d also paint the shelving unit and white cabinet the same pale butter color:


  2. Corraun says:

    I can’t tell if the blue color painted on the living room wall that extends into the dining room area is the same color or if it looks a different shade because of the camera lighting. The living room wall looks a cool pastel blue and the dining room wall looks a brighter blue. If it is different you want to stay in the same color family (even if you change saturation) so it is a subtle transition on the eye. Also, from the photos of the kitchen where I think the green on the wall has been photo-shopped in for the after effect I would again say you want to stay in the same color family. The appliances have an avacado green sheen but the walls are more of a mint green. If you aren’t planning on replacing the kitchen linoleum (which is a totally different shade of green than the appliances), then you will want to paint or wall paper the walls something that will blend the the different color tones together. Hope that helps. The house itself and the furnishings are awesome!

  3. Gwen says:

    Thank you again – this is soooo fun!. I am going to try the furniture re-arrangement when I have a helper (my son) this weekend. If it works I will post pics.

  4. Kay Ray says:

    Peeking out from “lurkdom” here…

    I so LOVE all the color you have going on, and your house is super cute & stylish 🙂 In fact, you’ve given me some ideas for injecting more color into my own space.

    I was wondering about your furniture placement…sometimes it’s hard to tell in pix just how things flow — what if you moved the sectional so the back of one side divided the living/dining area, thus leaving nothing under your windows, sorta reversing what you have now. Could you perhaps also slide it down the wall towards the dining end enough so you could put that comfy looking green chair kinda coming out of the corner over by the windows? That would make all the seating oriented towards the TV and also the outdoor view, as well as give more definition between the seating area and the rest of the space as a whole. You could still create a reading nook by the shelves if you wanted by adding a small chair there…or not.

    Of course that might not work, like I said, it’s hard to tell from pictures. Either way your home is lovely and I am impressed with how you’ve tied it all together!


      1. Kay Ray says:

        Thanks Pam — and I just have to say, tho I’m sure you’ve heard it thousands of times before, your site has TOTALLY changed the way I view my home in so many positive ways 🙂 THANK YOU!!!!!

  5. Brian T says:

    I like the “alcove effect” of the original picture — it’s like the romantic style of garden design where you include winding paths so there is something to discover around various corners. In the original coloring, the dining area looks more like a destination. You see the nice blue living area, but then you get to say “Ooh, what’s down there? I see a little jewel box I want to explore.” With the long wall all painted blue, suddenly the room divider can start to look like an unwanted intrusion; it becomes a bug, not a feature. If “unifying the space” is the goal, how about painting the dining area a deeper version of the blue in the living area? Repeat the blue of that gorgeous ceramic lamp. That way, the overall vista is less choppy but you still get the sense that the dining area is a special space to be discovered, instead of just an annex sliced off from the living room. I love the idea of lots of different-colored walls (my basement TV room has one each of chartreuse, tangerine and sunflower, plus the white staircase wall), but you can’t really have “lots of different colors” and “unified” at the same time. You CAN, however, have lots of RELATED colors for fun, and still be unified. (And the deeper tone for the dining area really pays off when you have candlelight.)

  6. Dawn says:

    I would also paint the floor to ceiling white cabinet in the kitchen the same green that you choose for the soffits. Looking good!

    1. lynda says:

      At first, like Dawn, I thought the white cabinet should be painted green. However, it faces into the dining area and the dining area has the other white built-in shelf. Maybe they both need painted. Maybe they are like the wood in the kitchen and if so, they should be refinished to the original wood. Questions, questions!

      1. Dawn says:

        I think the room divider can stay white or be painted to match another wall color but it doesn’t necessarily need to be the same color as the end cabinet. I thin it would be difficult to match the wood finish of the kitchen cabinets due to the age/patina of them. I love hearing everyone’s ideas.

        1. vintigchik says:

          Personally, I prefer a wood look for room dividers. Just feels warmer and less intrusive. Like it’s easier on the eyes or something…

  7. Although I am not as daring or bold with my wall colours, I can offer my two cents in terms of design. If it’s an open space plan then you need to consider the sightlines (what you see as you are in the room) in a space and almost treat them as one great big room. It’s a lot like clothing, if you are wearing a dress it can be any colour or pattern that you like, but if you are wearing pants and a top then they need to “go” together. The more items you add in the need for a connection between the pieces grows. So, can you put pink and red and yellow in the same “outfit”? Sure you can, but you need to have a common thread tie them all together (repeating the colours, similar colour saturation level, etc). And keep in mind the more colours you add in the more jumbled or visually jarring it can get.

    I love Kate’s suggestions and would add that reviewing the wall to furniture colours would also be beneficial. It may be my monitor/the photos but it seems that the living room has quite a bit of furniture with competing colours (forest green, lime, which don’t really tie in together or to the wall colour). Swapping them out or re-upholstering them so they are either more neutral or in the wall’s blue and/or rust tones, would also help balance things out.

    Anyways, that’s my two cents 🙂

  8. lynda says:

    I like the first picture colors too. I think she just needs to repeat the colors in the accessories in the room. The white shelves could use some green, blue and red vases or bowls. The glass cabinet could also have bold colors on the shelves. I think some of the items in the room do not contribute to the mid century look or the color palate so the colors do not flow. To me the dining chairs sitting in the living room belong back in the dining room so the dining space looks more substantial. Hard to know what to do in the kitchen. I think the space may look nicer painted green and something green needs to be on the counter. I think the bath looks nice. She could add green towels to repeat the color green. Sometimes just taking all the accessories out of the room and adding them back slowly will help you decide what looks best. Decorating can sometimes take years. I think she is on the right track and the house is very attractive.

    1. Gwen says:

      Thank you all so much! I am astounded how simply continuing the blue into the dining area makes the change that I have been looking for. And I totally agree with the suggestion to paint the short wall brick red. Since I submitted the photos I have painted the den Sherwin Williams Parakeet which I totally love! (Photo recently submitted).
      1. The suggestion to remove accessories and add them back is a great one. I have been trying to use items brought from my previous home – some work and some don’t.
      2. Yes, the dining room chairs are out of place. I am looking for that perfect mid century chair to fill the living room space, then the chairs will go back into the dining area. They are terribly uncomfortable too!
      3. I have a glass cabinet with bold colored glass that was my grandmother’s. It is in the den and just out of the photo shot. As I have four cats, the glass must stay enclosed. I have been looking for colorful items made of melamine to place on the shelves.
      4. I need new towels, so green they will be!
      5. Just confirmation that I am on the right track makes me want to start painting again!

    2. pam kueber says:

      I think I read recently that, “when you think you are done decorating: Go back and take out some stuff.” I thought that sounded about right! There’s a similar adage for wearing jewelry, isn’t there? And even for writing e.g.: “So sorry for the long letter; if I had had more time, I would have made it shorter.”!

  9. db says:

    I really like the before pic. It may be because the brick red is washed out by the photo, giving it the same color satureation as the blue and green.

      1. vintigchik says:

        I have a similar problem in my house. I have different colors everywhere, but I like them. It is so difficult to decide on colors though.

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