Put all of your effort into planning the space and making sure that it’s laid out perfectly for optimum use, so that you can enjoy it in total comfort once you’ve hung up your paintbrushes; House and Home Ireland’s best selling interiors magazine guides you through the planning process.
Before you begin…Your living room and how you use it relates to your lifestyle and who lives in your home. To make it work effectively, it is vital to consider what you do there and who uses it.
Draw up a plan with to-scale shapes showing where the various pieces of furniture and technology are to go.
- Is it in a house or an apartment?
- What activities take place in the living room?
- Do you use it for storage space?
- Do you entertain regularly?
- Have you got small children?
- Are there elderly people living in your home?
- How is your home heated?
- How much natural light is in the room?
It’s unanimous: neutral is a winner all the way when it comes to background colour in your living room. The perfect backdrop for gorgeous possessions, it is easily updated.
- Choose upholstery in cool tones, from white to deep graphite, and furniture in wood, metal or rattan. Apply this palette to smaller items and consider sisal, jute or neutral-coloured wool rugs.
- Colours should be inexpensive and easy to change. Cheap ready made curtains are perfect for changing a room by adding new colour and if you want to give they a more luxurious feel just get them lined. Spray-painted doors transform a simple storage piece into a colour statement.
- Wall texture radically affects colour – matt paint or wool-felt walling will deepen a shade, whereas eggshell or sparkly papers will lighten it.
- Colours need not match exactly; it is more crucial to get the tonal balance right.
- If you love colour then put it on the walls. Off-pastels are soothing and bright blocks are stimulating and deep, while sombre tones are sophisticated yet warm.
Living Furniture & Soft Furnishings
It can be expensive to furnish your living room, as it is filled with pieces that are worth investing in. Your best bet is to go with a scheme that will endure and can be updated with accessories. Buy the best that you can afford, as the major pieces need to last at least a decade.
- Look at what you have to begin with. Your sofa can be reupholstered or a battered piece of furniture can be given a new, distressed paint finish.
- Refine your needs by asking yourself pertinent questions: if you entertain more frequently would two small sofas work better than one large one? Would a daybed be more suitable for the room than an armchair?
- The main sofa should have coil-sprung seats and duck-feather-filled cushions, but you could go for foam upholstery on an occasional armchair. There is nothing wrong with veneered wood furniture, but check the quality because some cheap veneers are very fragile.
- Dual-purpose furniture, such as a coffee table with drawers or a dining-cum-work table helps a living room to work harder.
- Luxurious upholstery that also wears well includes wool mixes, linen and chenille. Save silk, satin or suede for occasional chairs. Cover cushions or a small chair in a fabric you adore – it will look almost as good as an entire sofa upholstered in the fabric, but is much less expensive.
Living Window Treatments
Good looking but hard working is what you need to aim for with your window treatments. A good curtain or blind will filter sunlight and protect against the cold, while also highlighting a lovely view or showing off a beautiful fabric.
- Take account of the shape and size of the windows, the light flow and the view. Decide whether blinds or curtains would work better.
- In general, blinds fit well in a contemporary setting, yet they can be equally appropriate in a traditional room, especially if they are made from heavy linen, damask or a pretty floral.
- Bear in mind that the cost of fabric can really add up. Interior designers recommend using a cheaper fabric and getting curtains well made, rather than vice versa.
- Contrast linings, from plain colours to tiny floral prints, give a decorative boost to plain curtains as well as looking pretty from outside.
- Curtains need not be permanent. Use a plain pole fitted with curtain clips as the basis for a regularly changing display, ranging from bright sari lengths to an antique linen tablecloth.
Living Storage & Display
Efficient storage is crucial to giving your living room a tranquil and tidy look. Think about what really needs to be stored there; it may be possible to relocate certain items, and if space is tight you should have regular clearouts.
- Built in storage has the advantage of being tailor-made to suit your possessions and can match the style of the room.
- Closed storage options include a whole wall of paneling with individual doors that open to reveal cupboards; small alcoves inset into the wall, which hold everything from a television to a flower vase; or shallow cupboards, wall-mounted or built into an alcove, with frosted glass, MDF or Perspex doors.
- The advantage of freestanding storage is that it comes with you when you move. Don’t just think of bookshelves: other options include mix and match units offering shelves and cupboards, traditional commodes or storage ottomans, sideboards or even plain chests.
- However you store your stereo or television, make sure any trailing wires are concealed.
- Stamp your personality on the room by displaying your favourite things there, but try to avoid clutter. Books add a comfortable, lived-in air. Spend some time arranging shelves neatly, as otherwise books will quickly look messy.
- Contemporary style has its roots in the minimalism of the late 90s. Use shiny surfaces of gleaming glass, smooth stone and glossy lacquer. Add comfort with luxurious upholstery such as wools, from flannel to boucle, and alcantara, leathers and vinyls.
- The modern country look makes use of rustic textiles and a faded colour palette. Nothing should seem new; your rooms should look as if they have evolved naturally. A mixture of textiles is a key part of the rustic look – team faded chintz with ticking, for example.
- For the retro look raid car-boot sales and junk shops, even your parents’ home. Less is more: one retro chair and a lamp can be all you need to give a funky new twist to a living room. Use 1950s and 1960s fabrics as one-off cushion covers or stretched across a canvas for retro wall art.
- If you mix old and new you can achieve an extremely personal look. ‘Old’ does not have to mean antique – instead, it may be junk or second hand. ‘New’ need not be a costly designer acquisition; it can be a high-street bargain.