How to design small houses with open floor plans

Updated April 17, 2017

Creating an open floor plan for a small home involves the combination of the main living spaces of the home into one flowing plan that is flexible, airy and adaptable to your personal needs. Whether you are planning to build a new home or remodelling your current residence, you can modify the home's floor plan to create a revised layout showing the kitchen, dining and living rooms as one large space to be shared and utilised without the barriers of walls and doors. Small homes are characterised as dwellings in the range of 1000 square feet.

Measure out a piece of trace paper that fits neatly over the floor plan of your home. Tape both pieces down together on a flat work surface. This will allow you to work freely and be creative within the original structure of your house. Redesigning your home into an open plan will involve removing interior walls, but the exterior need not be changed.

Trace the entire outline of your home onto the trace paper using a dark line for the exterior walls. Do not draw in the interior walls as these will be eliminated in favour of the open plan. Trace in all exterior windows and doors as they appear on the plan. If this is a remodel, note the location of electrical sockets and heating vents.

Write in pencil on the plan the areas you will require in your home exactly where you want them to appear in the real world. An open floor plan has few or no walls to achieve a distinctive flow between living spaces. For example, if you want your kitchen to face the backyard, show this on the plan. Next, write in the dining area beside the kitchen, then living room and so forth until all areas you need in your home are written on the plan. Moving plumbing for kitchen and bathroom will be expensive, so keep the existing areas for these rooms to save money. You can modify the kitchen layout to achieve the open plan without moving the entire kitchen.

Draw pencil lines to rough out any walls you will require in any room. For example, a free floating wall to hang your television could be placed strategically to have a closet for coats on the other side in the entry or storage for the kitchen. Pay attention to detail and your daily routines to design your home in a way that makes sense for you and your family. Small houses can be comfortable when designed efficiently with plenty of storage solutions.

Design elements to maximise your floor space. For instance, include built-in floor to ceiling shelving in all rooms for storage that will help you keep yourself and your family organised. These units can be placed on the periphery of your home or on free floating walls. Also, if you feel that a full wall will make a certain area too claustrophobic, consider a half-height wall to separate two spaces. This will not disrupt the flow of your home, but will still provide some division.


Focus on opening up living spaces only but be creative with your storage solutions and decor. Retain walls and doors for private spaces such as bedrooms by grouping them in an area of the house away from the more public spaces.


If you are breaking down walls in your existing home to renovate it into an open plan, consult a professional contractor or architect to make sure you are not destroying any loadbearing walls or making changes that will compromise the structural integrity of your home.

Things You'll Need

  • Tracing paper (suitable size for your floor plan)
  • Floor plan of your home with dimensions
  • Masking tape
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About the Author

Rosalind Mohammed began writing in 2002. She contributes to various websites, specializing in writing about art and design-related topics. She holds a Bachelor of Environmental Design from the Ontario College of Art and Design and an honors Bachelor of Arts in English and fine art history from the University of Toronto.