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Open-plan living spaces are an increasingly common and popular sight these days, for both rental properties and new homes alike.

The charm and convenience of nearly wall-free spaces has a lot to offer for aesthetics and convenience, but it tends to leave…a lot to be desired when it comes to organization and definition.

In most open-plan homes, rooms just lead right into one another without the benefit of home shelving or even walls to help distinguish spaces from one another. There’s a balance to be struck here—obviously too many installations would prevent the home from actually being ‘open plan’, but too much open space and you won’t have any way to easily organize each room.


A solution that many people living in open-plan homes turn to is the use of larger shelves or cabinets to help divide rooms without being nearly as intrusive or permanent as actual walls. These serve the double duty of both acting as a way to delineate space better and adding a little storage space, organization, and decorative opportunity to each room.


Bookcases are one of the most commonly used shelves for this purpose. It’s easy to see why—their height and design make for perfect space dividers, while the shelves are ideal for storing things you normally might have kept on wall shelves but now can’t due to, well, the lack of walls. Family photos, souvenirs from trips, maybe actual books—there’s a lot of options for decorating or organizing with them, and it can go a long way towards making your space feel more effectively used.


Some people, however, find bookcases to be a little too cramped and solid for use in open spaces, and they want something that ‘flows’ a little better. In this case, you just need a little imagination! Storage options like accent tables and living room wood shelves like storage cubes and standing shelf towers are a good way to create boundaries while keeping the space around you a little more open and visible.


The trick with these is to place them at the edges of anything you already have in the room, such as furniture. It can get a little overpowering if you overthink their specific placement—don’t worry too much about shelf A being exactly six feet apart from shelf B or anything. Instead, just use it to ‘frame’ things like coffee tables and living room furniture that may already be in the room to help clean up the lines around the room and reinforce the design of the space. This will also help provide extra storage space or even table space where there was none before—a short shelf can easily become a new end table for drinks and TV remotes that doesn’t offer the same bulk as a full-sized table.

Really, the trick is to frame it however works best for your house. No matter what kind of shelving you wind up using to divide an open plan room, if you can get around more comfortably and you have room to store your stuff, then your job is done!

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