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Combined living-dining rooms first became popular in the first half of the 20th century – open-plan design layouts replaced the stuffy and formal mazes of reception rooms found in traditional Victorian houses.

So while they are a fairly contemporary idea, they can also feel like a bit of a dated concept already: modern 21st century living, particularly in small-yet-stylish flats, often sees the kitchen incorporated into the living area without the need for a dining table, with a raised kitchen island and sofas around a coffee table providing an open, social space for cooking and eating.

Still, while the kitchen may be the heart of any home, a big open-plan living-dining room can be the warm social centre: perfect for eating, relaxing, entertaining, and working, with space for the whole family and plenty of friends. However, both halves are still separate spaces, and it can unfortunately be all too easy to let them bleed into one and lose their definition just because they happen to be in the same room.

There are plenty of ways to decorate a living-dining room so it feels a little more like two distinct places, with a space for mealtimes and a space for relaxing, or a more secluded spot to work at the table while the kids watch TV. Here are some of our favourite tips to strike the right balance.

Flawless flooring

If there's one thing that really ties a room together, it's the floor-coverings – be they rugs, carpets, laminates or tiles. If a living-dining room has consistent flooring throughout, you might struggle to make them feel like different spaces.

A great way to provide some contrast is to start with a base of a warm laminate floor style, and then use rugs to separate the two different areas. Arrange sofas and chairs around a large square rug in the living area, and use a similar styled rectangular rug – with a noticeably different pattern – under the dining table.

Living room with a large wooden table and colourful rug, with grey sofa in background

If you don't want to lose the soft carpets in your cosy living space, then consider separating the dining area with laminate flooring or tiles. The two different flooring styles side by side will create a noticeable contrast, with the added bonus that food spillages during dinner can be easily cleaned up.

Large living and dining space in light colours with a patterned rug

Feature walls

Standout feature walls are a perfect way to inject a large dose of personality, colour and style into a room, so one in each area could help to create two distinct styles for one room.

To avoid overdoing things with a cluttered look, each wall's features will have to be a little more subtle than usual. Also, although they will need to be in contrasting styles to really distinguish both areas, be careful not to select styles that clash!

In the living area, select warm tones for your feature wall to create a cosy feeling – decorate with a frame cluster of family photos and mementos for a very homey touch. In the dining area, on the other hand, opt for a cooler palette. Perhaps use different shades of the same colour, or paint the living room area and then opt for dining room wallpaper with a pattern to make both ends of the space stand out in their own right.

Mid-century modern wood and grey sofa with art framed on walls

Decorate with a different theme in the dining area: food and nature are obvious choices, though you could also consider a giant chalkboard for a quirky way to leave notes and reminders for the family, or even display the menu during a dinner party!

Wooden dining table with large grey legs and a chalkboard on the wall

Make the right furniture choices

If you have a tendency to get stuck in one style when it comes to your furniture choices, then it will do your living-dining room no favours if you are really trying to make the spaces feel separate.

Break out of your comfort zone and choose a contrasting style for your different room sections. A sleek and minimalist styling in the living room, to accompany your TV and various gadgets, doesn't necessarily have to be at odds with a more traditional-styled corner of the room for a simple and honest space for eating and socialising.

Dining and living space with wooden tables, grey sofa with patterned pillows and wooden chairs with bright seats.

Tie the two looks together with similar tones – a modern dark wood-styled TV cabinet, and a rustic dark table won't be at odds, creating two distinct areas of a unified room. Alternatively, go all out and choose styles as different as possible – just be wary of clashing colours!

Partitioning potential

Depending on your room's layout, a partition is the easiest way to divide your living-dining room into separate spaces.

Wooden shelves with plants

A full partition will obviously separate both areas in to two different rooms, which will defy the point of that big, open-plan space! But there are plenty of other methods of dividing the space up a bit while still keeping the room intact – a screen, pillars, or carefully selected shelving can subtly break up the room into separate spaces.

Different halves of the same whole

It may seem like a challenge to merge two design styles together in a way that both ties the room together while letting the different sections feel separate, but it's a great excuse to really let your personality loose on a room! No matter how much you love a particular style or aesthetic, there are always other options that you may have considered and almost gone for in a particular room – this is a chance to have them both on display in the same space!

White living and dining space with grey sofa, yellow armchair and bright colours.

Show off your professional side with a functional and minimalist dining area that doubles as a work space, and your fun side with a cosy and warm living room. Alternatively, let your rustic side run wild with a country cottage-styled dining area for cheerful and traditional family meals while satisfying your contemporary tastes in a modern tech-heavy entertainment centre. As long as both sides are tied together by some common threads, you will have a beautiful living-dining room with the best of both worlds, no matter which ones you choose for yourself.