Follow our four simple steps to turn your living area into the heart of your home
WORDS ROSANNE PEACH
IT’S THE PLACE where you recline, perch, sprawl or snuggle: where you celebrate, catch up and cosy up. The living room plays host and witness to our lives as they unfold each day, and in creating or reviving this space. It’s important that you start with that very concept: how you live. Consider everything from children to pets, how you entertain and the shared time you value most. “The more time you spend in the space, the more relaxed you’ll want it to be,” advises Jon Holland of Space (spacefurniture.com.au).
STEP 1 Create zones
How to organise your living area
When it comes to creating intimacy, mood and acoustics, a little zoning know-how makes a big difference. The bones of the room should guide your furniture and decorating choices, so draw up a plan and start plotting different layouts around focal points, such as a view, the fireplace, artwork or the entertainment system. With contemporary open-plan spaces often opening out onto kitchen and garden areas, you may need to be creative with layouts, using furniture groupings and positioning lights to create zones within the space. “Aim for more task lightning,” suggests interior designer Fiona Austin of Austin Design Associates (austindesign.com.au). ” A floor light, a reading light and a light over the dining table helps delineate space. It’s nice to have softer, directed lightning, just where you need it.”
Remember to tailor your space to the people and tasks that matter most. A shared conversational or entertainment area is crucial, if you have kids, they might need a section that is soft underfoot and close to storage, and a private spot near a light or view in which to read could also be important.
Position furniture around a focal point, such as a fireplace, rather than the TV.
Tricks of the trade
There’s no going past a rug to delineate a living area in a snap. “Many people have rugs that are too small,” warns Fiona. “Ideally, it should extend at least halfway underneath the couch or chair legs.”
Positioning furniture is key. A comfy pair of lounges or a sofa and chairs grouped around a rug or low table will invite people to relax, while a centrally positioned sofa in an open-plan room can act as a natural room divider. Place a narrow console table behind it to help define where one zone ends and another begins.
It takes more than a sofa to create a living space: add side tables, ottomans or a coffee table to mark the area and create access points. In smaller rooms, opt for a couple of small occasional tables instead of a large coffee table; it will save you forever clambering around it and allow room for a soft rug that can double as a play area for young children.
Use lighting wisely. A feature pendant fitting centred above a lounge grouping will focus the attention on that area, while a floor lamp paired with a statement chair and a small side table, set off to the side, will create a reading corner. >
A rug underfoot anchors a living zone and is instantly inviting.
A floor lamp over the seating area creates ambiance and back lightning for avid readers.
STEP 2 Choose furniture
How to pick the perfect pieces for your room
When it comes to sofas, “err on the side of big – as big as you can fit, taking into account thoroughfares and negative space,” says interior designer Christopher Elliot (christopherelliottdesign.com.au). “Sofas generally look better in longer proportions.” When shopping, be aware that a sofa will look different in a vast store than in your living room. One trick is to map out the floor space you want to fill at home with sheets of newspaper, and play around with them until you get the proportions you’re happy with. Measure the area and take the dimensions to the store with you as a guide to avoid mistakes.
There’s something about a standout chair that just draws you in. Indulge in something cosy, vibrant or with raw natural charm to offset the shape and size of your sofa.
A group of small tables and stools will ensure the zone is as functional as it fabulous. “The easiest way to make a guest feel comfortable is to let them sit without fuss, so that means a coffee table and side tables, and somewhere to put their drink,” says decorator Robyn McKendry of Magnolia Interiors (magnoliainteriors.com.au).
Tricks of the trade
“Don’t be afraid to spend 15-20 minutes sitting on a sofa in a shop, however strange it might feel,” says Jon Holland of Space. “You may appreciate a firmer sofa after sitting on it for a longer period of time.”
Work out how many seats you’ll need. “I prefer three-seater sofas with three seat cushions so no-one ends up sitting in the gap,” says Robyn.
If your existing sofa still has plenty of life but just looks tired, reinvent it, suggests Robyn. “If it’s a quality piece in the first place you can very easily revamp the style of the arms, change the legs and the cushions, or put on or remove a skirt,” she says.
The TV is usually the focus for many living rooms, but it doesn’t need to dominate the space. Built-in joinery is by far the best solution, concealing home entertainment equipment. “You can offset the TV amongst shelving with things such as books and ornaments around it, so the TV is not the focal point,” suggests Christopher.
“Lightning is a great way of editing a room,” says Christopher. “You get to pick out the things you want to highlight and also the things you want to disappear into the shadows.” >
A feature chair should reflect your style and complement your sofa.
Integrate your TV into joinery for a chic and neat look.
Stools and side tables ensure your area can comfortably accommodate guests.
STEP 3 Find your finishes
How to select colours, fabrics and textures that complement your home’s style
KICK OFF THE decorating process with a mood board made up of images you really connect with, be they travel, fashion, art or interior snaps or samples. Tease out a colour theme and remember that this is an invigorating, social room that can take stronger hues. “Cushions are a wonderful way to add colour and can be changed from summer to winter,” says Fiona Austin of Austin Design Associates. “Layer with an over-dyed Afghan or pattenwork belim rug for beautiful texture.”
Window fabrics are also a great place to contrast heavier upholstery fabrics. “If you are too heavily invested in one texture, it can make the space feel predictable,” says interior designer Christopher Elliot. Try filmy shoers for a romantic feel, or a blind that filters the light and would suit a contemporary lock.
Bospoke joinery is ideal for displaying your favourite mementoes.
Tricks of the trade
Go for textured fabrics over plain to hide the dirt, particularly if using solid colours, Commercial grade fabrics. such as Mokum ‘Ficus’, (mokumtextiles.com) are very family friendly.
Think tactile, “It’s nice to sit on the sofa and feel an embroidered detail or weave. It’s a really subtle point of interest,” says Robyn McKendry of Magnolia interiors.
“If you have kids, opt for leather on the sofa so you can wipe it down,” says Fiona.
If your room is particularly sunny, consider an outdoor fabric, suggests Fiona. “It’s great for scatter cushions, window seats or to cover chairs that are going to get a lot of sun. A semi-aniline leather won’t fade either, whereas cotton or linen will.” >
Experiment with colour and pattern by updating cushions.
Wallpaper adds tactile appeal with minimal effort.
STEP 4 Add personality
How to use meaningful pieces to create a characterful and inviting space
CREATE A PLACE for artwork, collectables and mementoes from the outset to ensure they hang together beautifully and create an easy path for the eye to travel. Great artwork doesn’t have to be ‘decorated’ into your scheme – it should stand on its own – but if you’re drawn to it, the chances are the colours will be ones you’ll naturally use in accessories and this will help to pull your whole scheme together. A large piece will also help create scale and in turn, intimacy within your room.
Tricks of the trade
When arranging your treasures, try to combine pieces that are linked in shape, theme, material, or colour. When filling shelves, always look to create symmetry and remember that odd numbers work best in clusters.
Add something living to your room. Anything green- especially if cut from your garden – will lift the space and connect indoors with out.
“Allow your room to grow,” says Robyn McKendry of Magnolia interiors. “Create a base and add over time so you love everything rather than compromise in a hurry.”
“Pieces that have a story make a room great,” says Robyn. “Include pieces with history and things you’ve collected on your travels.”
Everyone loves a surprise! Throw in an unusual or quirky piece to cause a smile or create a talking point, such as a one-of-a-kind ornament or lamp base.
Let your artwork inspire colour accent for a cohesive look.
For great interior decorating ideas go to Collected Interior www.collectedinteriors.com.au
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