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How to Remodel an Open-Concept Living and Dining Room

Design & Photo by Bre Bertolini

How to Remodel an Open-Concept
Living and Dining Room

One Room Challenge guest participant Bre Bertolini takes us through
her latest renovation with an open-plan living and dining space.

Who doesn’t love an open concept? We’re talking about a singular space that eschews the traditional barriers between rooms, has multiple uses and gives family members and guests the ability to interact from one area to the next. This type of room has become synonymous with both modernity and convenience.

We were lucky enough to get an inside scoop on how to create such a room, courtesy of One Room ChallengeTM participant Bre Bertolini. For those of you not familiar, One Room ChallengeTM is a biannual event that invites 20 top design influencers to transform a space and document the process. Bertolini is a graphic designer and lover of all things DIY and design, who participated in the challenge and remodeled two rooms: an open-concept living and dining room, done in a modern-casual style.

Let’s dive in, see how a pro like Bertolini tackles an open-concept remodel project and learn a few things we can apply to our own living space in the process.

Take the First Step

For all that is so wonderful about an open-concept space, designing one is not without its challenges. After all, when you don’t have walls to rely on, the responsibility for defining the space falls entirely on you. It can be daunting to know how to best break up the space. So where do you begin?

“I like to start out by envisioning the space in my head and pulling inspiration from Pinterest and Instagram,” says Bertolini. “Once I have a basic idea of what I want, I create a mood board. This helps me bring that vision to life and really see how each piece fits together.”

Design & Photo by Bre Bertolini

Create a Flow

Bertolini admits that an existing layout can be tricky to work with, but often times that just creates a fun challenge as you try and figure out how to work with the space. You might have to make compromises, but that can lead to something one-of-a-kind. It can help to focus on one area and build out from there. “Sometimes I have a clear idea of what type of furniture or lighting I want, and I’ll build the room around that,” she says.

Design & Photo by Bre Bertolini

Design & Photo by Bre Bertolini

From the start, Bertolini also makes sure that she’s thinking in terms of designing the rooms to complement each other. “I want to make sure they flow together and play off of one another.” One way she achieved this on the project was to use the same paint colors on the walls to create a seamless transition. Other approaches include creating distinct groupings, like arranging furniture into individualized seating areas, and creating focal points with things like furniture and architectural elements. Bertolini turned a leather sectional, a textured rug and giant entertainment center with barn-style doors into focal points. She also called attention to the lighting.

Light It Right

While lighting your open-concept space is undoubtedly one of the most exciting aspects, it can also pose challenges. In the space Bertolini designed, she found that the family room’s high sloped ceiling put some limits on her options. “Not every hanging pendant looks great on a sloped ceiling, and some don’t come with a long enough length,” she says. The good news is that most lighting fixtures can work on sloped ceilings. Sometimes you need to use several layers of lighting options (recessed lighting, track lighting, pendants, etc.) to make it work. Other times, you just need to make sure to use the right adapter for the job.

Design & Photo by Bre Bertolini

Notably, Bertolini selected the Varaluz Gymnast Pendant for her dining room. A hand-forged steel pendant with a circular column and candelabra lights, the Gymnast features a stunning, high-contrast profile. It also has a black finish, for which Bertolini has an important tip when incorporating in your home: “If you’re going to go dark with lighting and other accents, I suggest keeping your walls white or a lighter color,” she says. “This way it creates a nice balance and allows the lighting fixture to really pop.”

Go Au Naturel

One of the highlights of Bertolini’s dining area is its natural light. “I knew we’d only need the ceiling light to be on at night, since we get great natural light throughout the day,” she says. Natural light is great because it increases the apparent size of your home. You can let more natural light in by increasing the size of existing windows and/or placing them adjacent to perpendicular walls and ceilings. This allows those surfaces to act as giant daylight reflectors.

Design & Photo by Bre Bertolini

Enjoy Your Space

Ultimately, the best part of creating your very own open-concept space is making the most of it. “It’s incredibly rewarding when a project is complete and everyone can just hang out around the table and enjoy each other’s company,” says Bertolini.