The living room is becoming the lost room of the house! So many times I get the desperate call to come in and design them and as the conversation proceeds the prospective client says “We just don’t go in there and we don’t know what to do with it.”
The main reason for this happening is that life is getting lived in the kitchen. We not only cook and eat in here but we watch TV, kids play, do homework (and watch TV). Kitchens even have seating areas so we even entertain friends over a cup of coffee. Why would we need to go anywhere else? Our lounges have become forgotten spaces with a few bits of unloved furniture stuffed in them.
It’s time to readdress how and why we use our living rooms! We are no longer living in an age when the formal living room is required. You remember, the spaces “for the adults only”, where your parents used to pop doilies down on the coffee table to entertain Great Aunt Petunia when she rolled in from a different era.
So what does it need to be about?
These spaces need to be about comfort and become a place to unwind. We live in a hectic world where we hardly ever switch off. Family life too can be none stop: there is always a something to wash up, pick up or fix when you are raising a family. This is why your comfort is the key to creating a living room that becomes somewhere you want to go.
Many of my clients and prospects tell me they are desperate to find a space in the house that is predominately theirs.
When are you going to use it?
The kitchen is the space where you spend your day, so living rooms are about where you go to relax in the evening. I also find that they are predominately used in the autumn and winters, as people will spend their summer evening in the garden. By knowing when you are more likely to use the space you will then know how you want to design it. For me I confess, it’s having a glass of wine after the kids have gone to bed and watching some TV.
Who’s it for?
Think about making it an adult space that is welcoming for being a family in. Most family homes have spaces everywhere for the children to hang. This often means their stuff hangs there to. Toy basket in the kitchen anyone? A comfortable lounge offers the ability to walk in at the end of the day, switch off from the tasks and mess of life and just relax. That’s hard to do if there is a pile of computer games spread across the floor. Make yourself the focus of this room but keep it welcoming for all, after all a family movie is far more fun snuggled up in a living room than in a kitchen.
Let’s face it, this is primarily what features in most living rooms so let’s make sure the rooms works comfortably for it. Be mindful when arranging your seating that your sight lines to the TV mean you can sit without being twisted around or having your head tilted to high or too low. Either situation can lead to long term tension in your neck. Always question how big your TV needs to be. If your TV is the size of house, not only will it dominate the room but you might not be able to sit far enough back to have your eyes be comfortable which can cause damage to your sight.
Without considering fairly major re-development, people are often limited to where they can place the TV: it’s normally wherever the TV/Cable points have been installed. Once you know where that is then you can position your seating layout with the TV as the focus.
A Roaring Fire
The crackle and warmth from a roaring fire is a comforting thing. It is one of the five elements which every room should have according to Feng Shui and also one of the natural elements we feel more relaxed around, talked about in Biophilic design. Fires are great as a focal point of the room. You can warm the single room up without also running the heating through the rest of your house. The question is can you have one? This is not entirely dependant on you having a working chimney. If you don’t then there are some amazing gas fire that can be installed on and outside wall (so they can be flued directly out). The other highlight of a gas fire is that you can easily switch them on and off.
Picking your Seating
I talked a bit out this in the previous blog Comfort In Design. What’s That About? But just a few pointers to bear in mind. Layout is the key to getting this room working really well for you and that will dictate the size and shape of furniture that will fit best. I know most people rush to buy a three seater sofa as they dream of lying out on it, however if you room can’t take that size of couch then go for a two seater sofa which has slimmer arms, often you find there is as much seat width on these as on the three seater with huge arms.
Picking a sofa or chair is like trying on Cinderella’s slipper, it has to be a perfect fit to win you Prince Charming. Go to the show rooms and spend some time sitting in them. Only then will you know that you can ease into your upholstery and spend an evening going “box set mad” for Game of Thrones.
Layer your textures
To create a feeling of cosy you need to layer the 5 different textures which are Matt, Light Sheen, Reflective, Soft and Textured. Light reflects or sinks into these in different ways and it brings a depth to a room. As you head into the evening the Matt, Soft and textured finish become warm and inviting, which mean this becomes an appetising room to escape to.
I have written about this in more detail in the article Layering Your Textures for a Cosy Room.
Layering your Light
Let your lighting be soft and calm. You want to let the worries of the day slip away while sitting here so you don’t need to light the room like you are about to do open heart surgery. Dimmer switches and table lamps are your friends.
Smell is a very provocative thing and the right aromas can help you chill out in the evening. I however do worry about the risk of fire from them and also if they use perfume instead of essential oils they are producing VOCs which is an air pollutant. Consider reed diffusers or an Electronic Essential oil diffuser as an alternative. They work by you adding a few drops of oil to water and then the machine warms it up and the vapour is released.
Layer your Accessories
The great thing about having a room you have made more adult focused is that you can bring out the stuff you like to see and use but not have them get damaged by a riotous game of hide and seek. This room is YOUR room to have that stuff in. To add extra comfort and interest to the sofa layer on the cushions and throws. This also helps in getting all the different textures in. Go to town and actually have the coffee table books out on the coffee table. Tell your design story as an individual not just a parent.
By understanding what steps it takes to help you go from “hectic life” to “chilled out” you can design a room that helps you get there. Perhaps we should rename the “living room” the “relaxing room” and make it part of the house again.