Intimacy in the Open

Conversation spaces

Conversation spaces can be the cherry on top of your open floor plan.

Once upon a time, “Where do we put the TV?,” was the first question in home design. Today’s homeowner, however, is embracing a new trend and affirming that the best stories are shared face to face.

‘Conversation space,’ is one of the newest and fastest-growing trends in home design currently and, if you type the phrase into Google or Pinterest, a wide array of photos will pop up that vary in scope, size, design and style. The photos can be so disparate that they may leave you wondering, just what is a conversation space?

“It’s like ‘Knights of the Round Table,’” says Liz Casas, an interior designer at Dexter Furniture in Raleigh. “When people are seated intimately, face-to-face, it encourages discussions. It’s about finding the right table or ottoman that can serve as the center, instead of a TV, so that conversation flows more naturally.”

Stefanie Bell, vice president of sales and marketing and new homes director for the Jim Allen Group, agrees.

“It’s a cozy, smaller space within a large, open space,” she adds. “Conversation spaces can be any areas in the home that offer a cozy, inviting setting.”

In essence, conversation spaces are the perfect complement to enduringly popular open floor plans.Conversations spaces

Meg Chenery, owner of Meg Chenery Interior Design, sees the trend every day in the Raleigh market.

“Families are enjoying more relaxed spaces that are big on everyday comfort and lounging,” Chenery says. “Open floor plans allow for distinct seating areas or conversation spaces that would normally be in different rooms. These types of floor plans tend to have an open kitchen as well. Open kitchens are perfect spots for gathering and entertaining and can multi-task as an excellent area for homework.”

So pervasive is this concept that Bell says it’s become a consideration for new home construction.

“Local builders and architects are creating these spaces in new floor plans,” she says.

Grace Bonney of the lifestyle blog Design*Sponge said recently that, unlike many home trends that wax and wane over the years, she thinks open floor plans are here to stay.

“I see this as something much bigger than a trend,” Bonney wrote in an April post. “This feels like a major change that is set to dominate the way we see homes for a long time.”

If open floor plans are here to stay, then a continued desire to create smaller, functional spaces within the larger setting is likely not going away any time soon either.

“In today’s world, fueled by technology and social media, more home buyers are seeking less formality for cozy, intimate settings,” Bell says.

Chenery adds that conversation spaces are great tools for growing families.

“These open conversation areas can create multipurpose zones for reading, games and socializing,” she says.

Though peaceful games and quiet homework nooks may seem like fantasies for growing families who are running from place to place and yelling from downstairs to upstairs, designers are optimistic.

With an “if you build it, they will come (and be calm and converse) kind of attitude,” Chenery offers her expert design advice as to how you can create your own conversation space:

“An easy way to tackle any wide-open room is to create a balanced look with your larger furniture pieces. Pairing sofas with chairs and complementing them with a large dining table with matching chairs will bring symmetry and order to your space. Using neutrals and a natural palette helps to bring a light and airy vibe to an expansive space. Bringing in color with pillows, artwork, rugs and accessories allow you to add a pop of color and bring your personality into the space.”


More Tips and Tricks from Meg Chenery Interior Design:

Think Outside the Couch: Consider using four chairs instead, to allow for better flow and the option to add more seats. 

Converse While You CookBreakfast bars allow for more people to gather as the sauces simmer. Keep comfort in mind when choosing your barstools! 

Don’t Forget FireWhether portable or permanent, fire pits and fireplaces can’t be beat for southern roaring repartee. 

One Piece, Many JobsStools, benches and ottomans are great for doubling seating.

Pull It Together: Pick the perfect rug to define and unify the space.

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