Sunday, March 11, 2012

5 Tips for Choosing Flooring For An Open Plan House

This is one of a few posts about flooring I'll be doing over the next few months. I think great floors are the backbone of an interior.  Whether it's wood, stone, concrete, tile, carpet, whatever....flooring definitely makes a big impact in a space.  

Jetson Green

I find myself repeating the same things to clients over and over again....sort of a set of rules about what type of flooring to use in certain spaces.  Obviously it depends greatly on style of the home, functionality, and budget, but there are some things I feel pretty strongly about.  


Try to use as much of one material as possible in open areas.  Where there are cased openings, it is okay to switch materials, but if the openings are big, like 8' across, the space will still read as one big open room.  It's best not to transition if you can help it at all.

This would've been better as all one material instead of wood and tile.

These spaces are just chopped up with the various floor materials.

Continuous flooring is good for open plan houses like this one.


Tile is used a lot in warmer climates like we have here in Houston. If you need the durability of porcelain tile in your kitchen, because of dogs, children, heavy use, etc., don't spread it into the family room.   I really dislike porcelain tile in a living space.  I see it a lot around here. I think it looks cheap and cold, like you can hose it down after the dog runs through.  I don't think a living space should feel that way. 

tile floor in family room

tile in family room

Many times a kitchen is open to the family room so that stopping the tile at the kitchen can be awkward.  

tile and wood butting up together in an open space

If you really need tile in the kitchen and have an open plan space like the one above, use a natural stone tile throughout of some kind.  It will give you the warmth and high quality look in your family room space and the wearability you need for the kitchen.  You will have to reseal it once a year, but the natural variation and quality appearance it provides will bring much more value to your home.

Same slate floor used throughout in this remodel - much better than wood and tile butting together at the family room/kitchen transition.  This client now has a beautiful rug in the family room to help soften the seating area.

Better a natural stone tile in a kitchen/family room combination than a porcelain one.  Slate, travertine, limestone, even an antiqued marble tile would work.


I do like porcelain tile in many situations in kitchens, laundry rooms, bathrooms, etc.  It's durability is the best. One rule I have about porcelain tile is that it should LOOK like porcelain tile and not be a "stone" look imitation.  Those faux stone tiles don't fool anyone.  When choosing a porcelain tile, I look for something that has an interesting pattern like a strie or something that looks like concrete.  Your materials should not apologize for being what they are.  I like using tiles with rectified edges to get a very small grout joint.

Simple basketweave patterned tile for a modern, spa-like bathroom remodel
Daltile product, Kimono Silk above

Daltile, Cityview, a concrete look porcelain tile


You've decided to use natural stone for your entry, family room, and kitchen because the spaces all flow together.  How far should you go with it into adjacent spaces? 

Don't take it into the study.  Use wood in there.

I can't imagine doing stone tile in a study like this one.  I think wood is so appropriate for this type of room. 

 Dining room could go either way, it totally depends on the floor plan and how enclosed it is.  Only wood or carpet in the master bedroom, no tile.


You've decided to go with wood flooring in your entry, living/family room, dining, and study.  What about the kitchen?  If it is really open to the family room,  just all one big room, I would put wood throughout.  If it has a smaller framed opening between the kitchen and family room and a logical place to stop and start the flooring, you could change to a more durable material for the floors, porcelain or natural stone tile.  In that case I would definitely choose a material that is the same color tone as the wood, so that it is not a high contrast transition.  It won't draw your eye to the change.  Also, try to get installers to do it without the raised transition strip, so that the materials butt together seamlessly for a smoother transition. 

bad transition - high contrast and the strip

more high contrast and the strip in an open area....better to have one type of flooring throughout or at least flooring of the same color and value

It's amazing how seamless just going with two different materials of the same color and value can appear!

Flooring is always a big portion of a construction budget and it can add a lot of value to your home. Every situation is different and usually in a remodel, homeowners are trying to keep some of the flooring somewhere to save money or trouble. Using these guidelines can help put your home improvement dollars in the appropriate places.  Whether a remodel or new home construction, I'm all about getting the floors right.

Design consultations are available via e-mail on an hourly basis.  Contact me if you need help figuring out where your flooring should transition!


Taylor Greenwalt said...

Carla, great examples of what not to do and great info. The after pictures are wonderful.

Splendid Sass said...

Totally agree with you, Carla! Chop, chop, chop, is all you see and it is SO out there! Love the word myself, especially the real hardwood that doesn't require a lot of upkeep because of th finish.
Have a great Sunday.

Kim @ Savvy Southern Style said...

We use to have several different types of flooring on our first floor and changed it over to all hardwood except the master bedroom. Now I wish I had done that room, too. May add it later.

Jessie said...

All wonderful tips, Carla! Very informative and I totally agree with what you said! By the way, the herringbone is the first picture is gorgeous!

Have a lovely Sunday!


Tatiana Doria said...

I totally agree!
Great post!

Charlotte said...

So true! Wood flooring throughout the home always adds such wonderful warmth.
Great post!


Anonymous said...

Hmmm, how does an e-mail design consultation work? I am not planning on redoing any floors, but some time in the next year I think I may need some design help with things like wall color and fabric suggestions.

Unknown said...

For design via e-mail, once you send me the room/rooms and description of what kind of advice or design work you want, I'll e-mail you an estimate and the list of things we need from you like photos and measurements. For example, if you want help with selecting flooring for various rooms in your home and where to transition materials, a floor plan of your house from your builder is very helpful. Once we get that information and your payment via credit card, we're ready to go with your project. Depending on the type of design work you want, we will complete in 2-3 weeks.

Thanks for you question. My e-mail is below.

Barbara@HausDesign said...

Carla, what a fantastic post with great tips. Our last house - in Munich - was rented and had tile all throughout the first floor. It was so cold and although practical for wear and tear with the kids and our dog, it was also so LOUD. Every noise resonated throughout the house...not cozy or relaxing. I put down area rugs but it just isn't the same. Our new house is mostly wood floors and I am soooo happy about that. :)

Anonymous said...

Cool beans. Thank you

Anon 6:36 am

Kim@Chattafabulous said...

Such a smart post, and your images illustrate your point perfectly!

Interior Design Musings said...

Great post. Totally agree about the contrast in color, not good. I will say, I did a tile in a master bathroom recently that look like crema marfil. It was so convincing, I had to ask to bring it down off the shelf for me to touch it! I think they are working hard to make these kinds of products better.

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