glass partition open concept

Open Concept to Semi-Open Concept Home: 17 Ways To Add Separation to an Open Floor Plan

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When we first started creating plans for our custom build over a year ago, I was pro open floor plan all the way. And then once we sold our home and moved into a small rental, all I could think was, “Please, everyone, get away from me!”

Okay, so maybe I’m being a tad dramatic, but living in a small space with two rambunctious toddlers has shown me that I crave some separation. Not in the way where we are all walled up and can’t communicate, interact, or even see each other. But in a way where we could be in the same vicinity and not have to see each other all the time. Enter: the semi-open concept.

According to Mymove.com, “A partially {or semi} open floor plan is basically having a couple of spaces that are open, rather than a whole open floor plan. For instance, a kitchen and sitting area might open into each other, and then the living room could still be its own separate space. Alternately, all rooms could be connected, but there are partial barriers between spaces.”

Many home design experts say the pendulum of the popular open concept home is swinging to the other side. But of course it is. That is the way things go! Fashion is my job and I know that what goes around comes around. What’s in one day could be out tomorrow. You know the drill.

It’s impossible and unrealistic to keep up with all the trends, whether it’s in your home or in your closet. So the most important thing to do is what works for YOU, otherwise, every 5-10 years you will be renovating your house to keep up with whatever the latest thing is.

Our custom build is already underway, but I’ve been mulling over the idea of whether we should add a few interior (nonstructural) walls while our retaining wall cures. And now I’m sharing all the ideas I’ve come across for turning an open concept into a semi-concept home!

If you’re in the same boat as me and want to do something more substantial than put up a folding room divider, hang curtains, or define an area with a rug, then here are 17 ways you can define and add separation to an open floor plan that I’ve found after my weeks of searching!

Related: Our European Exterior Custom Build Update

1. Different Ceiling Heights

If you are currently building or renovating and this decision is still an option, then having different ceiling heights is one of the best ways to define spaces. I have seen some awesome barndominium-style homes, but they can come across as one big warehouse (unless that’s what you’re going for, of course).

But if you can create different ceiling heights, such as a vault over the living room and a sloped flat everywhere else, then that’s the first step to defining your spaces.

2. Arched Opening for Kitchen or Dining Room

Okay, so if you’re ceiling is already in place and you don’t have the option to knock it out and start over, you still have many other options! If you have floor space, it’s not too time-consuming or extensive to add an arched opening leading into your dining room or kitchen. This is a great way to define the space and add some privacy, without completely closing yourself off from guests.

3. Use Beams as Pillars

Though beams aren’t as substantial to block views and sounds as well as a wall can, they add just enough separation to make it feel like a defined space while still allowing light to flow through. And the extra benefit is that beams add architectural interest, instantly adding more character to your home!

4. Half Glass Partitions

One of the best aspects of an open-concept layout is the abundance of light that flows throughout the home. If you want to add separation to a room without blocking out light, then a half-glass partition is for you.

Since it’s thin and vertical, it doesn’t take up much space and a well-thought-out design adds interest. The only downside is that you would probably want this to get custom-made for the best look possible and glass fabrication can get costly!

5. Columns

Columns are a great way to define a space without blocking a room off completely as a wall would. One column on its own would look a little bare, so it’s usually best done as multiples.

If you have the skill yourself or the ability to hire this project out, use these columns as an opportunity to add some architectural interest. Add custom millwork, wrap them in shiplap, top them off with trim, or accentuate them with sconces to really make them pop.

6. Arched Hallways

Maybe because it’s rich in European style or because the architectural details are so swoon-worthy, but I can’t get enough of a well-arched hallway. Incorporating this detail would be great for long spaces that need a little bit of definition, whether it’s a dining hall or a long foyer.

7. Cased Openings with Beams

The beauty about beams is that they can fit a variety of home decor styles, whether you lean towards a farmhouse, European, or even coastal aesthetic. Beams add instant warmth and character to your home and the best part is, they’re great at dividing spaces.

Even though they don’t block people or noise, casing an opening with a beam sends a signal to your brain that you’re entering a new, separate space.

8. Using Interior Windows Inside

Whereas a glass partition may only partition off half of an area, if you’re looking for something with more coverage, why not try using windows in the interior of your house?

With plenty of sunlight to stream through, using windows inside will make you feel connected yet help dampen sound.

9. Wood Slat Wall

A wood slat wall may be one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to add separation to a room. Especially if you have some DIY skills!

Though this style leans more toward a modern, mid-century, or bohemian aesthetic, there are some ways you could make it work if you don’t resonate with one of those styles, such as finding rustic or reclaimed wood to create your slat wall. Plus, who says it has to be vertical? Get creative and create a herringbone wall if you can. The options are endless!

10. Pony Wall

Generally, a plain drywall pony wall does not do much for the overall aesthetic of your home. But when used correctly, it has the potential to make a space appear larger and create a better flow.

And if well-planned, you could incorporate storage or bookcases into the half wall and with the right millwork or columns, it could look like a piece of art and match the period style of your home.

Related: How to Design a Beautiful Small French Country Kitchen

11. Half Wall With Cut-Out

In this current home trend season where pony/half walls are usually the first things to be demoed in any home renovation show, I’ve come to realize they’re really not all that bad. Sure, adding (or leaving) a wall does kind of take away the whole point of an open-concept layout, but adding a strategic cut-out can still add a sense of togetherness while maintaining definition.

Just keep in mind that when I say “add a pony wall”, I’m not saying to add this:

Removing Pony Walls - Melissa Lynch

The cap is nice, but it’s not doing much for the style of the home. Look at the two examples above of ways you can add molding, shiplap, columns, pillars, and even decor to make them stand out and become feature pieces.

12. Sidelight

A sidelight is a narrow window or pane of glass you usually place next to the exterior front door in order to let in more light. But why not add this to the interior of your home?

Though it doesn’t add as much coverage as a wide glass partition would, it defines the opening of a room and gives the illusion that you are entering a new space, without taking up too much space or taking away any sunlight.

13. Create Different Ceiling Interests

Maybe it’s too late to change the roof pitch and structure of your home, but it may not be too late to add some unique ceiling interest! (Well, of course, nothing is too late but it all depends on how much you want to spend.)

Some things can be done after a build or move, such as a tray ceiling, beam ceiling, shiplap ceiling, and even lowering the entrance of a room slightly to encase it with trim to define the new area.

Following semi-open concept rules, you don’t want to create ceiling interest in the whole house. Pick and choose, because the point is to create barriers in just some of your spaces.

14. Stone Walls

Stone pillars or columns, however you want to describe them, are similar to beams but a lot more substantial. Though this project would require more space for foot traffic to navigate around and more skill (you don’t want these crumbling down after all), they would certainly make a statement and in my opinion, add a timeless architectural piece to your home.

If stone pillars are good enough for the colosseum, then they’re good enough for you!

15. Glass Wall

Maybe a glass partition isn’t enough and you want to go for the full glass wall. And why not just stop at a wall? Get the full room complete with a door!

Though typically this style lends more towards an industrial aesthetic, you can customize the metal used and pick brass instead of the trendy black for a look that could match a vintage aesthetic.

Having a glass wall with a door is a great way to go somewhere to block out noise while still keeping an eye out for what’s happening around you.

16. Sculptural Cut Out

The sculptural cutout is the pony wall that just got a little bit cooler. Creating a pass-through means you won’t feel completely cut off from others, but it allows for some privacy as well.

And if your home style is Mediterranean, European, or even Scandinavian, then a sculptural cutout will fit right in.

17. Built-In Shelves

Functional yet beautiful, that’s the beauty of creating a built-in bookcase. Though you could easily purchase something making this project DIY-friendly, the best ones look like they were made for the space.

So get out your power tools or hire out, but to make the best impact, customize a bookcase that not only fits the space nicely without taking up too much floor space but reaches the ceiling too. Then enjoy decorating these with your favorite items but beware, since these shelves are most likely in a central part of your home you don’t want them to look too cluttered!

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At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you have an open concept, semi-concept, or closed concept home. All that matters is that it works for your family and you love it. And if you’re not currently loving it, then use these ideas to get you started on creating a place that feels like home.

Just remember that not all room dividers are universal. Some fit certain home styles better than others. For example, if you have a vintage aesthetic, then it probably wouldn’t really make sense to outfit your home with a steel and glass partition or choose Scandinvaian-style wood slat walls. Consult with an architect, designer, or builder to help you make your vision come to life!

Up Next: 15 French Country Kitchen Decor Pieces That Will Add Rustic Elegance

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Carolyn Arentson
Carolyn is the founder and creator behind My Chic Obsession. When she's not dreaming up new content, you can find her watching a funny tv show with her husband, raising her two boys, or planning her next trip to Paris.