Your living room will probably be the space in your home that you and your family spend most of your time. Although it is not always seen as important as the kitchen or as personal as the bedroom, it should blend seamlessly into your home and your lifestyle.
The perfect living room is one that suits the way that you live, whether you want a space for entertaining, a quiet and isolated room to withdraw to, or a multifunctional space that can be adapted to whatever the situation needs.
How do you use your living room?
How you want to use the room will dictate what its focal point will be. The living room is usually where the TV is placed, but often you don’t want it to be the central focus, unless that is what the room is primarily for. Quite often, living rooms double as a home cinema space, so if that’s what you’re looking for, make a feature of the TV.
Alternatively, you could make the fireplace a focal point with a mirror or artwork over the mantelpiece. This is especially effective in a room where you don’t really have any technology. If your living room is for relaxing and reading, or listening to music, then having a focal point like a fireplace will add to the calming feel.
If you have great views from the windows in your living room, then turning these into the focus of the room is a brilliant solution. Again, this is a great idea for rooms specified for relaxing, and not sitting in front of a TV. This is a good option if your living room is in an open plan extension, and you have built vast windows to flood the space with light.
Finally, if you are going to invest in beautiful furniture in your new living room design, there is no reason that this can’t become the focus of the room. Lay the furniture out in a way that promotes interaction between family members. Designate a well lit corner for your perfect armchair, then when people enter the room, they will notice the furniture over anything else.
Should a living room be open-plan?
Once you have defined what you want your living room to be functionally, as well as having decided its focal point, you can then decide if the room should be isolated or connected to other rooms.
This requires a certain amount of self-analysis, so think about how you are you going to live in the room, and to what extent you want a separate sanctuary to escape from household life. You may wish to isolate the room for other people. For example, the separate room may be a space where teenagers can watch TV and play computer games with their friends while the adults remain reasonably undisturbed in the kitchen or dining room.
On the other hand, you may want a more open-plan space where the kitchen, dining and living areas overlap. This layout often allows for more family interaction and can have the benefit of making the entire space seem larger.
Often, the solution is a combination of both, where rooms have been linked by knocking them through, but still have a defined living space. Double doors, folding doors or even large sliding doors can provide the option to link or close off areas.
Designing a living room layout
Once you have identified the functional needs and focus of the room, you can think about how the space will be laid out. How will people move in, out and within the space? This will help you decide where it’s best to place the furniture.
If the room doubles up as the main route through to the garden, or is a space in which people will travel between the kitchen and dining room, you can use open shelving or storage units as screens to provide partial separation.
Or, why not consider zoning the room (using the position of the furniture) to define a circulation route that does not run through the seating or TV area? For example, in an open-plan space, you may choose to use furniture to delineate the living room area. Sofas, especially if they are L-shaped, can be used effectively to mark out the boundaries of a living room.
Where you position furniture will also depend on your choice of focal point. If a large window looking out onto the garden is the main focal point, the seating should be placed to take in the view, thus creating a comfortable space to relax in.
Remember to consider storage solutions in your design. Bench or banquette seating along one wall of your living room can incorporate storage for DVDs and home entertainment gadgets, while providing additional seating. If you are going for a contemporary design in a Victorian or Edwardian house, a stone-topped plinth about 45cm above the floor level across the whole of the fireplace wall, with storage beneath for logs and kindling, can act as the hearth for a contemporary recessed fireplace.
Living room lighting
A living room can have many different functions, so the key to good lighting is variety and variability. With artificial lighting, for example, it is often useful to have several different sources of light. Controlling many of these on a dimmer switch or lighting system will enable you to set the appropriate task or mood lighting in the different zones.
Using a 5A ring circuit (which will require 5A pin sockets, designed for small round pins) can allow you to operate several table lamps and floorstanding lamps around the room from the light switch or dimmer, which can be effective and efficient.
Lights can be very stylish design features. A pendant light can look striking in a traditionally symmetrical room with a chimney breast, while a long-stemmed arching floorstanding lamp can be a visual feature and have flexibility of position.