Whether you’re watching TV, reading a book, playing a video game, or doing any other activity, as long as you aren’t sleeping, you’re spending most of your time in the living room. Additionally, this is the only room that most of your guests will ever get to see. As a result, we need to pay special attention to this room and make sure that it represents us.
With this in mind, this chapter will focus on how you can organize your living room to be captivating and relaxing at the same time.
Creating a Focal Point
Looking back at the second chapter of this guide, you’ll find that we talked about several different design concepts that you should incorporate into designing your rooms. One of these concepts was emphasis, which stated that, in every room, there should be a central piece which attracts people’s attention the second they set foot into the room in question. This central piece could range from a fireplace to a painting to a bookcase brimming with books, as long as it was vibrant and appealing. Afterwards, you were supposed to design around the central piece, bringing the rest of the room together. Nowhere is this more relevant or more pertinent than in your living room.
So, how do you create a focal point?
You can start by trying to find any focal points that lend themselves naturally to the space, and all you have to do is to make them shine for all to see. For instance, a group of windows that overlook a magnificent landscape are prime candidates for becoming your room’s focal point. In that case, you’ll want to position the furniture both inside and outside the living room to benefit from this focal point. Alternatively, if you have a fire place, it is another prime candidate for the spot of focal point. Besides those options, you can search for any architectural detail that stands out, such as an exposed brick wall. Even the ceiling or the fixtures dangling from it have the potential to make gorgeous focal points.
Conversely, in the event that you are unable to find a focal point in the living room whatsoever, you can just create one of your own. A perfect example is featured walls. You see, walls give you the opportunity to inject plenty of color, pattern, and visual appeal into your living room. And doing it is a cinch: you can paint the wall, create a gallery wall riddled with pictures, or install wallpaper.
Assuming that you’ve set your mind on creating a feature wall, the first question you have to answer is which wall you are going to use. In this regard, there are numerous ways you can answer that question; however, your best choice is usually to go with the wall that can easily grab the attention of the rest of the room, which can be the wall behind the sofa in your living room. Whatever you do, make sure to steer away from walls that have windows and doors in them, seeing as windows and doors can distract the viewer from the overall effect you’re going for. Also, keep away from small walls because accentuating them just makes the room feel crowded and crammed. On the other hand, if you have a wall that already contains a unique feature, like a mantelpiece, you can capitalize on that feature and produce a remarkable wall.
Other objects you can use as your focal point include oversized furniture, whose size alone is enough of a guarantee that people’s attention will be grabbed; a large mirror, which can form a lovely focal point when placed within a beautiful artistic grouping; and the ceiling, which has the power to make your room bold. As a matter of fact, by painting your ceiling in a bold color, you can create a striking focal point that can captivate the room when everything else fails. For a stronger effect, you can pair the ceiling with a pronounced chandelier that will only accentuate its prominence. The caveat to all this is that once you settle on the ceiling as your focal point, you should make sure to keep the rest of the room as subdued as possible: avoid using too many colors or patterns. After all, you don’t want other elements to compete with your ceiling.
Speaking of chandeliers, you should always think of how you can make your focal point, whether it is a ceiling or something else, stand out even more with the use of lighting. A few ideas you might want to try out to this end are a picture light, a track light, and a wall washer fixture that is affixed onto a painting or wall display.
One more idea that you should consider, especially if you’re the kind of family that huddles around the TV periodically, is to make your media center your focal point as well. This media center could be housed in a built-in bookcase for example, and it would serve your purposes just fine.
Now, seeing as we’ve thoroughly talked about everything focal point related, we are only left with discussing the one thing that you should never do: have two focal points in the same room. This creates a subtle competition between both focal points which results in a sense of discomfort by the person using the room. Should you find yourself in the position that two points in your room are begging to be chosen as focal points, a spectacular view and an astonishing fireplace let’s say, you have to choose one of these options as the primary, dominant focal point and the other as the secondary focal point.
Visual and Physical Comfort
Living rooms play different roles in different households: they can be the hub that brings the family together on a daily basis or they can be used on occasion when a guest drops by. Regardless, the need to have a comfortable, functional space that is easy on the eyes remains unchanged. Moreover, we have previously discussed how the concept of unity applies to your entire home in the sense that there shouldn’t be a large dissonance between the style of any two rooms. Hence, your living room’s style can very well play a role in dictating how you end up shaping the rest of your house.
Seeing as your living room should embody the fusion between comfort, beauty, and practicality, the furniture in there should boast of the same qualities. This can be accomplished through the use of pieces that accent a specific aesthetic as well as floor coverings that emanate a sense of comfort. Additionally, due to the fact that a lot of people will be going and coming through your living room, you should splurge a bit and buy durable furniture that will live for a considerable time without needing consistent maintenance.
Realizing that the furniture and its arrangement can play a pivotal role in the ambience of a room, you should put some effort in finding the perfect layout for your living room. For instance, by keeping the furniture close together, you can create an intimate setting that can encourage conversation without the need for any individual to strain themselves to be heard. In case you think that this might be difficult to accomplish given how spacious your living room is, you can just separate the room into several smaller conversation circles, each maintaining the same level of intimacy.
A normal corollary to keeping the furniture close together is to keep it off the walls. This is worth mentioning because a lot of home owners make the mistake of pushing their furniture up against the nearest wall every chance they get, and this just serves to alienate everybody using the room from one another. Assuming that the backs of your furniture are done, you can display them to the world proudly.
Another important way that the furniture’s arrangement can contribute to the overall feeling of comfort in the room is how the arrangement affects traffic flow within the room. You need to give people plenty of room to maneuver around the room and allow them to traverse with ease from one end to another if need be. Otherwise, the room will feel cramped, and the people inside will feel like a jack-in-the-box waiting to pop out of their confinement the first chance they get.
Just as we scrutinized the details that matter with regards to arranging your furniture, we’ll do the same for picking out the furniture itself.
- Sofa and chairs - Some of the more expensive constituents of your living room, you should make sure that they fit in with their surroundings. The first thing to do is to make sure that they are neither too big nor too small. You can achieve this by measuring the space in which you’ll place them and drawing up a floor plan. A sketch of the room can aid you in placing both the sofa and the chairs in various spots and see how they suit the space. Just remember what we said in the last section about leaving adequate space for people to move around.
- Coffee table - The best place for a coffee table is smack in the middle of a conversation area, where it can do the most good. When buying one, try to go for something that is a bit lower than the rest of the seats enveloping it. Its length is, ideally, anywhere from a half to two thirds that of the sofa. A viable alternative to a coffee table is the use of smaller tables or benches as long as they aren’t too small that they are no longer convenient. Regardless of what you use in the middle, what matters is that the people sitting on the chairs and sofa can reach it without having to get up and that you leave enough clearance for people to move their legs freely: between 14 and 18 inches should be just fine.
- Side tables - You wouldn’t guess it, but side tables are more crucial than they look. The amount you’ll need is contingent upon the number of seats you have in the room. Just like the coffee table, the main tenet to be observed here is that everybody sitting should have a table within reach; no one should have to get up to reach a table. An approximate way for figuring out how many you could use is to consider placing a table on either side of the sofa as well as between every two chairs. Just don’t go overboard and accidentally overcrowd the room, and don’t forget that you also have the coffee table to help with the heavy lifting. As for the height of the table, try to make it equal in height to the arm of the chair or sofa adjacent to the table.
- Storage space - If you’re looking for a place to store your books, then shelves are the solution for you. Conversely, storing board games and seasonal items might be something more suited to cabinets. Additionally, you can increase the amount of available storage space by purchasing an ottoman or coffee table with storage space underneath it.
- Wall-mounted shelves - Open shelves help make the room retain a sense of spaciousness. Moreover, you can get the shelves in a color that complements the rest of your living room plus your TV unit.
- Convertible furniture - These come in handy in compact rooms. For instance, you can get a pull-out sofa if you’re the kind of person who gets plenty of guests for sleepovers; check out the Corner Suite Vento and the Clei Desk (which is a desk that transforms into a bed). Conversely, if you’re the studious kind who is either short on desk space or a place to store their books, then you’d be well served by buying a shelf that can serve as a desk at the same time, like the Booken. Sometimes you don’t need a piece of furniture that can perform two functions; what you’d rather have is something that you can use and store once you’re done with it. A set of folding TV tables is a perfect example of this, where you can store them when not in use and bring them out during any parties or dinners.
Out of everything that can speak about your personality, the decorations you use will always have the loudest voice. Hence, you should aim for something that is indicative of who you are, yet still meshes with the general style of the house. For instance, an antiquated piece would feel very out of place in a house that’s completely modern.
To begin with, you can set up some of your favorite art pieces. Moreover, you can put them in a group together to maximize their impact. The thing to look out for though is to avoid hanging your pictures too high for them to be admired by anyone in the living room. Instead, you should try to put them at a level where they can relate to the rest of the room.
Rugs have an amazing power when it comes to defining the space they are in. Yet, putting a rug that’s too small for the space it’s in is a mistake which is surprisingly common. So, the next time you’re installing a rug in a space, make sure that it can take all the surrounding furniture and still spare some room.
Despite being a relic from the past, using a soothing shade along with draperies that go from the floor to the ceiling can add a sense of subtle elegance to your living room. Over and above, the drapes will provide you with a sense of privacy whenever you so please, giving it a utilitarian function in addition to its aesthetic one. Besides, living rooms are the best place to create a luxurious, opulent aesthetic in the first place. There are a few exceptions, however, where opulence can detract from the overall effect rather than add to it. A perfect example is when you want to design your home in a minimalist fashion because then the luxury of the drapes will contrast sharply with the rest of the house. In this case, you’re better off installing roman shades or blinds made of bamboo.
Finally, your use of colors can have a great influence on the end result and its feel: Natural colors, such as sky blue and leaf green, are soothing, whereas red can be an enticing color. As for yellow, it is known for being uplifting. Furthermore, the ability to use different shades of the same color gives you plenty of room to play and vary the tones in the room. Plus, playing with colors provides you with the perfect opportunity to showcase your personality.
Throughout this chapter, we’ve seen everything it takes to make your living room embody the ideal space for you and your family. In the next chapter, we’ll take a look at the bedroom, which is the most important room in the house: You may spend most of your waking time in the living room, but you spend most of your time at home sleeping in your bedroom to begin with.
For a full list of chapters, click here.