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Leah is a contributing writer where she covers interior design. She has years of experience writing for sites like Grooming and Glamour.
What To Do With Living Room Space
The words “living room only” can bring up some unpleasant memories from our childhood. In the most dreaded “adults only” room of our parents or grandparents and their friends, you’ll often find plastic-covered couches, subtle accent pieces, white rugs, and lots of decor. Very few accommodations offer so much comfort (or fun for that matter!) for everyone. Perhaps that’s why a recent study found that the living room is usually one of the most wasted spaces in the home, with most people reporting that they spend less time in a cluttered space than any other room.
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. We spoke to a group of interior design experts to get tips on how to design a living room in the area of your home you’ll actually want to spend time with.
A trademark design feature of formal living rooms from generations past was matching furniture, Ella Hall at Stich Room points out. You know the look – a whole room of sofas, chairs and coffee tables, like bought as a set. “Don’t stick to the rule that everything has to match,” he advises. “Combine styles, textures and colors to create variety.”
To update a traditional living room, you don’t have to go out and buy all new furniture. Hall suggests starting with what you already have and reusing old pieces with new clothes. If you’re starting from scratch, this can also be a money-saving strategy because you can get great items that need a little love for cheap.
Art can change the tone of any living space. Hall suggests using your regular living room as a place for “inspirational art that changes over time.” Also, if your furniture is on the traditional side, a slightly more contemporary image can add a youthful touch.
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Another design feature of many old-school formal living rooms is, well, distressed. “It’s as if our parents had very comfortable couches with very few clothes!” Refer to Katie Stacks, IIDA, (Partner, Design Director, LEED Green Associate) at Anderson Design Studio. Hard but beautiful couches, uncomfortable pillows, and hard couches are just a few that come to mind. “Right now we don’t have a formal space that asks us if it’s a good place to sit or enter a room,” says Lauren O’Donnell, interior designer at Build.com.
In the common living room of our parents, we often see clothes from head to toe. Mixing up materials, such as adding some woven or leather seats, is a great way to avoid a static look, suggests O’Donnell.
Don’t stick to the rule that everything has to be mixed. Combine styles, textures and colors to create variety.
The old formal living room seems to still have a primary function: entertaining guests in a formal setting. However, in 2020 we are more innocent than previous generations, and performance matters. “The living space is an important part of the home but it certainly has a different purpose today because it’s a more used and active space,” O’Donnell said. “You want a living room in your home that’s set up for entertaining guests, a lounge and even a dining room that’s casual, but comfortable enough to call home.
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When designing a formal living space, it can be tempting to go with eye-catching furniture. However, O’Donnell advises against ordering a zebra print sofa and instead, save the scalamandri for the throw pillows. “I always say stick to neutral combinations rather than patterns for furniture pieces and then accessorize your chairs and sofas with patterned pillows or use patterned rugs and textured throws,” she says.
The point of a formal living room is to bring friends and family together to socialize. It only makes sense that your furniture encourages interaction. Stix suggests incorporating seating that encourages conversation, such as two sofas facing each other, or four chairs with a center table or ottoman.
The pile shows that the living room with our parents has always been at the front of the house, completely separate from the other rooms. “If possible, look for accommodation in an active area,” he advises. “If the great room is close to the kitchen, where everyone seems to congregate, it allows conversation to flow and the home to feel more connected.”
We only use high-quality and reliable sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts in our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, reliable and trustworthy. The living room is a hard-working, multi-purpose space, and we’re working on it even more. Especially in a small living room, this can result in something that looks cramped and stuffy.
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Philippa Prinsloo, partner and head of home design at John Lewis & Partners, explains how the lifestyle has brought about the decline: “There’s a real move towards working easily, so you might want to work in the living room; So the emphasis is on staying in and having fun rather than going out; And if you have a family, it might be a space for your adults, but if you have a room at night it’s for your adults during the day. Maybe turn it into a bedroom for people who are around for a while.
We need clever thinking to make the most of a small living room, allowing for multiple functions without compromising on style. The composition of the furniture should be the first consideration. Investing in a sofa with nice narrow arms instead of a big chesterfield, for example, can save a surprising amount, while short side panels won’t take up an entire wall.
You don’t have to eat on your lap with a compact dining table or a wide dining table that can be extended for entertaining, while a sofa bed with integrated storage gives you space to hide the bed when your guests are away.
With the small body of the room, the furniture should also be bright: a coffee table or a sofa with a design that is raised on the legs instead of filling the floor will reveal more of the floor, giving the impression of a large and airy room.
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Wall-mounted lamps instead of floor lamps follow the same pattern. Clean lines – for example, a sleek metal chandelier or a sleek pendant light – make a statement while keeping it simple and understated.
A John Lewis & Partners study of how homeowners use their living room found that 19 percent are active in the space, rising to 30 percent with children. Accordingly, demand has also increased for soft, low office-style work desks and chairs.
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The workplace is now “more a part of our home, rather than a separate place we go to, so we want it to feel like an extension of our home”, says Prinsloo. “It means a table that stands out in its spacious beauty, not something that looks out of place in the corner of the room.”
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It is also advisable to ask yourself if you need a desk, if it is only used to organize life and not a nine to five job. A folding sofa could be the answer, or a laptop side table, which can be placed next to the sofa but cantilever around it while you work.
Lightweight pieces of furniture that are easy to move are great space savers if they can do more than one job. A dining chair can double as a smart desk chair, for example – and do you really need a nesting coffee table that can be used for drinks and shared drinks when friends come over?
Use lighting to clearly define each “zone” in the room, which helps to understand their different purposes.
“It can really help create that variety and provide a focal point, like a beautiful floor lamp, that can draw attention to a dining table, for example,” says Prinsloo.
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“Protection is very important,” he continued. “Do you have enough space to store things you don’t do now, but may do later?”
Room for everything: All storage is important in a small space, so use it wisely.
Whether it’s toys, exercise equipment or cocktail accessories, instead having a dedicated place to store everything will bring peace of mind.
“Room to Move” is a new range of furniture, accessories and decor from John Lewis & Partners to suit all modern styles.
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