Giving your living room a new look? Find out how to get the best colour scheme, introduce pattern and pick the right furniture
1 Assess and adjust the daylight
Before you even think about colour schemes, consider the room’s daylight – does it get any warm sunshine, even in winter? If it’s south- or west-facing, it will, and these rooms suit most colour schemes, although their intensity will be heightened by the strength of the light, which may need tempering by window dressings (think shutters). East- and north-facing rooms receive much cooler light, and benefit from warm, pale shades on everything from walls to ceilings and shutters to floors. That doesn’t mean you can’t use cool colours – but warm them up with bold accent shades.
2 Get the design right
A room’s proportions, the time of day you’re usually it and the mood you want to create should be considered, too. You can make a small room feel bigger with plains; a large room will feel more intimate with pattern. Make the space relaxed and welcoming by choosing honey tones (if you like a neutral scheme) or shades with a hint of yellow in them; to go more formal, choose cooler colours, such as pastels or inky tones. Use lighting to create atmosphere and zones, particularly in a large space, adding table lights and dimmer switches for an intimate feel. Whatever you go for, use one main colour in abundance and two to three accents for contrast.
3 Up the interest factor with pattern and texture
Room lacking period features or maybe it’s boxy? Create character by hanging wallpaper with a bold pattern on a feature wall and choose a toning paint colour for the other walls. Make ceilings seem higher by wallpapering between the skirting and a picture or dado rail only, painting the wall and ceiling above in a lighter shade or brilliant white. Plain windows can be similarly given texture (and you can hide ugly frames/views/neighbours) with shutters - find out about our Colour Match Service. Shutters will also make small windows look wider and taller, and because they’re streamlined rather than bulky, will make the whole room feel bigger. Pattern on cushions and upholstery can pep up a plain scheme; larger or graphic motifs are best for spacious or contemporary rooms, and stripes look more formal than florals. Choose the main or background colour carefully – this will affect the light levels and atmosphere of the room.
4 Love that layout
A good layout should centre around a focal point: a fireplace, a coffee table or, in a family room inevitably, a TV, so plan on paper first how this will work. Don’t try to cram in too much furniture, choosing pieces in sizes and shapes to match the room’s proportions. In a large room, pull larger pieces of furniture, such as sofas, away from the walls to create zones; in a small room, save space by choosing dual-purpose furniture, such as a footstool with a lift-up lid and storage beneath or a coffee table with drawers.
5 Choose the best seating to lounge on
The seating – from sofas to armchairs – will have the biggest effect on your room’s finished look, so think carefully not only about its shape and style, but also its colour and how it goes with the other furniture in the room. Remember that high-backed pieces are better for dividing larger spaces, while low-slung furniture will help a room feel bigger and lighter and won’t restrict views into the garden, for example. Do you want a classic British feel? Go for a Chesterfield. A vintage look? Think 1950s retro style sofa. A contemporary finish? Choose boxy, modular furniture. Three piece suite? Those days are long gone – eclectic, mismatched but complementary furniture is what to go for now.
6 Where’s the telly?
The TV is often the focal point of the living room, so sorting the storage for it – and all the bits that go with it – is a priority. First question is: do you want to hide your TV away or leave it on show? Formal rooms tend to look best with it hidden, while a table top or wall-hung TV will suit more relaxed family spaces. Serious about your TV? Go for purpose-made storage, such as a freestanding piece with doors (that looks like a smart armoire when the doors are shut) or modular units that can be configured to cover a whole wall. Get the TV’s size just right, too – oversized TVs won’t give you good viewing and will dominate the room.
7 Create a sociable scene with tables
A low coffee table with seating around is a must-have for creating a sociable atmosphere, but in a small room, side tables will do instead. Room for both? Even better. Choose wood or painted pieces for a country feel; glass, metal and high-gloss lacquer are perfect for contemporary spaces. Incorporate an element of storage to keep the room neat, and don’t forget to add table lamps to create warm pools of light at night.
8 Co-ordinate the lighting
Single pendant hanging from the ceiling? No, no, no… The best dressed living rooms are lit by a dimmable pendant shade that’s complemented by table lamps, maybe a wall light or two and possibly even a spot for a reading area or for highlighting an attractive feature, such as a picture or fabulous plant. For pendants, look for ones that cast a soft light downwards. Consider the height of your table lamps, too – shades need to sit at about head height (when you are seated) so that the light they cast hits you below shoulder level and not in the eyes. Bear in mind, too, that tall lamps, especially in pairs, look more formal than mismatched, smaller lamps.
Pic: California Shutters
9 Dress the windows to impress
Of all the rooms in your house, the living room needs the most impressive window dressings. We’ve already mentioned shutters and we stick by our choice – they’re so easy to redecorate around, enhance the proportions of windows, give privacy while letting in light, are easy to clean, insulate the room from draughts, come in a ton of different styles, finishes and colours… we could go on (and on). Want to soften the finish? Team them with chunky poles and curtains.
10 Finish off with accessories
Large mirror over the fireplace to reflect the light? Good idea. Selection of chinaware, houseplants, books and photos to make it feel homely? On the right track. Artwork hung neither too high nor too low? Worth experimenting with. Cushions and throws to up the comfort factor? Can’t go wrong. Our advice? A living room needs to be practical and smart – but comfortable and welcoming, too, so devote just as much time to finishing touches as you would to bigger buys.
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