How to design the perfect living room

Lucy Searle 13/05/2015 09:05:00 DIY and How-to Guides

Pic: Dunelm Mill

Get the colour scheme right

Stuck on which colour to pick for your living room? Here’s what to consider to get you started:

  • It’s the room you’ll spend most of your time in as a family – especially if it’s an open-plan space that’s combined with the kitchen and dining room, so choose calming colours over bright, bold ones.
  • During the week, you’re likely to only be in the room when it’s dark, so consider carefully how your chosen colour will look in both daylight and artificial light.
  • It’s likely to be the room that’s busiest, and most prone to mess and chaos, in the whole house (teenagers’ rooms excluded), and it will get A LOT of wear and tear, so a busy, patterned wallpaper might just be a step too far – consider instead wipeable, easy-to-coat-over paint colours, and add pattern and texture in accessories, or to a feature wall.
  • Which way does your living room face and how much natural light does it get? North- and east-facing rooms get a cooler light than south- or west-facing ones, so benefit from warmer shades, such as this earthy yellow.
  • Avoid fashion fads and go with a classic colour scheme you love and won’t tire of quickly – that way, you won’t feel the urge to redecorate again any time soon.

Find the best flooring

Living rooms are about comfort, but they have to be practical, too. If yours is the main thoroughfare to the garden from the hallway or if you have French doors opening on to a patio, a carpet is not going to fare well long-term. A better option will be wooden floors, which you can soften with easy-to-clean rugs (and don’t forget, a rug can be used to create a welcoming ‘living zone’ in an open-plan space, too). If, however, your living room is a no-TV-dinners, pet- and child-free haven away from the garden, knock yourself out with a deeply welcoming carpet.

As for colours, the darker the flooring, whether wood or carpet, the more formal the room will feel; lighter shades will make the room look more relaxed and feel larger, although they will show the dirt quicker, too. Best option? Work out how much action your floor will get before you choose and, if in doubt, go for a mid-shade that will both hide dirt and bounce light around the room.

Dress the windows

What do your window dressings need to achieve? Perhaps you want them to add colour to the room? Maybe they need to be as unobtrusive as possible to let in lots of light? Or, do they have a role to play in providing privacy from nosy passers-by? If your room is an open-plan kitchen diner and living space, they’ll need to be easy to clean, too. Maybe you need to co-ordinate dressings for windows and French doors? We’re obviously biased, but we think shutters are the best choice. Ours can be colour matched to your preferred shade; they come in full-height, tier-on-tier and café-style to give you exactly the look you want to suit your scheme, whether contemporary or traditional; they let in lots of light while providing privacy and they’re wipeable. Want to up the comfort factor or add pattern at the windows? You could always hang curtains, too.

Design the best lighting scheme

Good lighting in a living room has to be versatile. That means if you’ve relied just on the overhead pendant so far, you’re going to have to up your game. Table lamps are a must-have for creating welcoming pools of light in the evening – and they’ll help create a ‘living zone’ in an open-plan space, too. Picture or alcove lights will highlight your favourite artwork, books or knick knacks; uplighters will make a low ceiling look taller than it is; and accent lights can be directed to show off the room’s architecture – or even an impressive pot plant. As for the pendant light, swap it for something with a sense of occasion, whether a large central shade or a pretty chandelier with proportions to match those of the room.

Pic: House of Fraser

Find furniture that fits

Use our handy tips to choose the right furniture for your living room first time round:

1 Does your room have low ceilings? Choose low-slung furniture – whether sofas or coffee tables - to make the room’s proportions feel more generous. High ceilings? Taller furniture give the room a cosier appeal.

2 Very large or open-plan living space (lucky you)? Pull the furniture away from the wall a little and group it on a big rug around a central coffee table to create a ‘living zone’. Room very small? Choose furniture with proportions to match and don’t try to squeeze too much in.

3 Thinking three piece suite? Don’t – it’s all about eclectic pieces that complement but don’t match.

4 Choose upholstery in neutral colours and don’t have too many different tones of wood in one space – that way, you can add interest with throws, rugs and cushions, but the overall effect will be cohesive, calm and collected.

5 Got a family/pets/rowdy friends? Make sure if it’s upholstered, it’s got a cover that can be removed and washed or, worst comes to worst, sponged.

Accessorise to make it welcoming

You can’t have a sofa without a few cushions and a throw on it, can you? We can’t… they’re wonderful for snuggling up to on cold nights – and they’re a quick and easy way to add pattern and texture. A patterned lampshade or two can change the look of a scheme instantly (coloured lampshades will throw out a tinted light at night, too), as can a group of pretty accessories or picture frames. A large mirror will bounce light around the room, and wall-hung pictures will give plain walls character – just don’t hang them too high, even in rooms with tall ceilings. Start with the throws and cushions, choosing colours and textures that complement your main scheme - rather than contrast wildly - for a restful feel. Then, pick up the tones in the rest of your accessories. Job done.  

Want our help to choose shutters? Contact us or call 0800 195 0 196.

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