The living room is one of the major areas in a house that sets the whole aura of the home. Typically the first area seen as people enter the main door, the living room is the first to consider when it comes to decorating. At the same time, it is one of the most versatile areas in the home. For most people, it is where guests are entertained. For some – especially in smaller houses and apartments – it’s more of a multi-functional area where the family also gather, read, watch TV, play video games, rest and relax, or work from home.
The way you’re going to decorate your living room largely depends on its function, so plan ahead regarding the purposes it would serve for you to streamline your choices. Besides function, here are the other factors to consider when decorating a living room to make it pretty, livable, presentable and functional.
1. Stock, style, and color
Take a look at your existing living room furniture and décor, especially the pieces you would like to keep. For the pieces that are already outdated, damaged, or the wrong size, or simply not of your liking anymore, you have different options: either repurpose them, repair and repaint, change location, give away, sell or discard. Focus only on the things you want to be placed in the living room, and then plan on the new things you want to add to complete the look.
Now, considering your existing pieces, decide on the design style you want to adopt for your home. Is it traditional, coastal, contemporary, minimalist, rustic, vintage, Victorian or Scandinavian? If you’re not familiar with different styles, spend time reading magazines, articles, and blogs about interior design styles to find the style best for you. Sometimes you’d find out your existing pieces would fit a certain style, sometimes they won’t – but it can be helped by adding accessories and complementary furnishings. And you don’t have to try so hard to make your living room fit in one single style. Don’t be afraid to mix and match, but make sure your big purchases (for example, couches, coffee table, and entertainment center) reinforce the style you want to achieve.
Along with deciding the style, choosing a color palette that will set the tone for your living room should be thought about first. Of course, the colors you choose must also reflect your style. Choose hues that you would love seeing every day, or if you have an important piece of art decoration, pick colors based on the main colors of that art. Paint your chosen colors on the wall and add your accent colors through the accessories you will add.
2. Furniture arrangement
A lot of people push a couch against one wall, a couple of chairs against another wall and they call it the living room. But the furniture arrangement should be more than that. There other things to consider, such as:
- Focal point – In a living room, there must be a focal point where furnishings are arranged around. In some homes, it’s already an existing feature, like a fireplace or a window, yet for some, it’s something you add to the room like a television or wall art. Other furniture pieces like entertainment consoles, bookshelves or credenza can also serve as a focal point.
- Conversation areas – Make sure your couches and chairs are arranged in a way people can comfortably talk without straining their back or necks or having to shout. It’s pretty easy to do with a focal point as a guide. If your living room is exceptionally huge, then it’s better to create a few different conversation areas by having chairs grouped.
- Traffic flow – Consider major and minor traffic areas in your living room. Be sure to leave enough room for people to easily walk around your furniture to get from one area to another. In placing furniture with traffic flow in mind, ask yourself if you will be able to easily move in and out and around the room when this piece goes here and that piece goes there.
- Balance – Scaling is important in arranging furniture. Furniture must be evenly distributed to avoid having one side visually heavier than the other, but it doesn’t mean you have to be symmetrical. Also, remember to choose furniture according to the size of the room. Large-scale furnishings suit a huge living room and vice versa.
- Coziness – The goal of the living room is to make cozy furniture grouping/s to promote easy conversation and achieve a unified look. Consider moving furniture away from the walls to make a more intimate seating area/s. Having all furniture stuck against the walls is a common decorating mistake people make in living rooms. If you have space and as long as the backs of the furnishings are finished, there’s no reason to keep them hidden along the wall. You may even angle the furniture if it suits the architecture of the area and/or the traffic flow.
- Distances – Sometimes, planning of furniture arrangement in paper or computer would not exactly reflect in your actual space. Sometimes, the spaces in the room seem larger or smaller than they actually are. So, to make your adjustments easier after you have put your plan in place, take note of this standard planning measurements.
- Clearance for door opening – 36”
- Major traffic patterns – 36”
- Minor walkways – 24”
- Space across furniture in a group – 48-96”
- Space between seating and center coffee table – 14-18”
- Space between seating and TV – 3 times the size of the TV screen
3. Furniture choices
When it comes to choosing living room furniture, your number one consideration should be the size. After streamlining your choices based on size, go on choosing based on the design, style, and color you prefer. Here are the most essential pieces in the living room:
- Sofa and chairs – Since the living room should be all about seating, sofa and chairs are what makes the living room a living room. Before you buy them, especially the major sofa, measure your available space – or better yet, draw a floor plan ahead of time with the measurements of the whole living room. Sketch out the room and try putting the couch and chairs in a few different arrangements to see what will work best. Consider traffic flow and your space needed for moving in, out and around. Choose from the many different types of sofa and chairs, and choose those that suit your taste and planned interior style. Make use of some chairs as accent pieces that will help pull your color palette together.
- Coffee tables – Coffee tables are often found in the center of conversation areas, which are the surrounding sofa and chairs. In choosing the right coffee table, pick one with a length of about ½ to 2/3 of the sofa’s length. The height must be slightly lower than the seating height of the surrounding sofa and chairs. And when you sit on the chairs or sofa, you must be able to put down or pick up your drink without having to get up from your seat. Coffee tables can also work as storage as others come with drawers and shelving under the tabletop.
- Side tables – They might seem like an accessory, but side tables are very important. When you have guests filling up your living room, you must provide a surface where they can be able to set down a drink without needing to get up and walk over to the kitchen or a table. These are also great for placing lamps, home phones, and other decoration. Side tables must be around the same height as the arm of the sofa or chair they are adjacent to. And have them as a set – try having at least two side tables and place one in between chairs, on a corner, or on either end of a couch.
- Area rug – This is technically not furniture, but area rugs have an important role in finishing up a living room. Using area rugs are perfect for defining seating areas, plus they add comfort to the feet and to the look of the whole room. Avoid making the mistake of choosing a rug too small for the room – remember that all furniture, at least their front feet, should sit on the area rug. Choosing a rug too small can make the room look disorganized. But it doesn’t have to occupy your whole floor. Ideally, area rugs must leave around 10-20” of bare floor between its edges to the walls of the room.
Lighting in living rooms doesn’t need to be as utilitarian as lighting in other rooms like kitchens and bedrooms. Lighting in the living room, of course, must serve as a light source, yet also a decorative accessory. Perhaps you do know that the most fabulous chandeliers and sconces in homes are often found in living rooms. It is important to consider having a variety of lighting to make your space look great, as proper lighting can highlight your living room design better. A well-decorated living room has a combination of the three major lighting types: ambient (general), task and accent.
- Ambient lighting, or general lighting, is concentrated in the center of the living room. Any type of light fixture that can light up the whole room by itself can work as ambient lighting. Chandeliers often fill this job for the living area, as they can blend and complement the whole room design, plus it also double-duties as decoration. Living rooms that are primarily used for entertainment would be complete even with single ambient lighting only.
- Task lighting typically includes side table lamps, which are helpful for reading, crocheting, paying bills or any tasks that are done on a living room. These can include built-in lights that direct where the light should flow.
- Accent lighting, or decorative lighting, are added mostly for decoration and for filling additional lighting needs. It includes sconces, lanterns, surface lights, spotlights, pendants, as well as floor lamps and side table lamps.
No living room is ever complete without accessories. Once the furniture pieces are in place, it’s time to think about what accessories to get and where to place them. Of course, you must have window treatments like curtains or blinds, artwork or photographs on the wall, some sconces, and a television (if your living room is a viewing room as well). The accessories you will add depends on your design style, room’s color palette, and personal preferences. The usual spots where accessories are placed are the wall above the sofa, over the mantle, on top of coffee tables and side tables, on either side of the window and on any vacant walls. However, you should avoid filling every inch of walls and space available to prevent overcrowding and visual clutter.