Q: My living room and kitchen are connected to one another by a large counter-height opening that allows food and drinks to be passed easily from one area into the other. I need some help in figuring out how to create a visual distinction between the two spaces without making them look totally unrelated. Right now, both rooms are painted a boring white. What suggestions do you have for a redo?
A: You're on the right track. It is indeed important to signify a difference in the two rooms' functions, but because of the large opening you shouldn't make them appear completely separate from one another. The color scheme and the general styling of your living room and kitchen must therefore be similar but not identical.
I have chosen this photo to serve as an example, not necessarily as a style you should copy. It shows an informal, family living space rich in American design legacy. This combination of Native American, Spanish, Mexican and Anglo frontier motifs is now quite popular -- and not only in the Southwest where it originated.
The walls, like your own, are painted white, though with a stucco-type texture that lends some visual interest. To be consistent with the Southwestern style, the flooring would be made of either wood planking, tile or stone.
The kitchen, readily seen through the spacious pass-through, has been done in the same overall style. The wooden beams and cabinets and the ceramic tile countertops give the room a definite Southwestern flavor. But the wall treatment is not the same as in the living room. The kitchen features a textured and patterned wallpaper, bordered at the top of the cabinets by a geometric strip in a stylized Indian motif.
As a general rule, adjacent spaces like these -- and your own -- ought to look the same at the top and the bottom. The materials and colors for the flooring and ceiling, in other words, should be very closely related, if not identical. That provides the needed continuity in decor. Other colors in the two spaces should be compatible, but can vary in intensity and apportionment from one room to the other.
In this model, the white walls of the living room are echoed but not duplicated in the kitchen. The objective is to create a resemblance, not a mirror image, between the two spaces. The necessary division can be achieved by using a contrasting color or an altogether different pattern on the living room side of the pass-through wall.
Here, the Indian motif of the kitchen border strip is given a much bTC larger and bolder treatment in the wallpaper applied to the surface around the pass-through. Both designs are from the Ancient Echoes collection of Sunworthy Wallcoverings.
An adroit selection of patterns and colors enabled the designer of this space to do two things at once: Build a visual bridge between the living room and kitchen while making clear that they are two distinct spaces.