How to plan and decorate your living room

Warm living room

It can sometimes seem a bit daunting when planning to decorate your living room. All living rooms are different so you really have the chance to mark your stamp. But how to plan and decorate your living room? Maybe you are struggling to interior design a small room and are scared of cramming too much in. Maybe you want to decorate your open plan plan living room but have too much space to play with. Everybody else’s living room presentations might seem so much better when really all you need are a few pointers.

The living room is probably the main room in the home (although some might argue that it is the kitchen) so that puts on a bit of pressure when you want to upgrade the interior design. Usually, your kitchen, if fitted, will come with expertise help, whereas you are often on your own when planning the living room design. The living room needs to be versatile, as it is used for quite few different reasons, such as formal entertaining, playing with the kids, reading, relaxing and more.

The main thing to consider is how your household intends to use the room. Many people will use the room on a regular basis. This will normally be based on the number of people in the household.

What furniture should I put in the living room?

Make sure you have sufficient seating

Leather sofa beneath artwork

The number one item to put in a living room is the sofa. This defines what the room is used for (just like a bed defines a bedroom or a cooker defines a kitchen) and should be a significant purchase compared to other items, so it needs to be chosen with care and, if possible, as an investment.

The sofa dominates the room and should be a considered choice. Despite this, the first action point on planning your living room is not actually to buy the sofa but to plan what the layout might be. It is quite easy to go out and buy a sofa on an impulse without proper consideration of where it will go relative to the other pieces, or even if it will fit at all. Sofa cushions or throw pillows can be purchased on impulse, but not a sofa.

Depending on the number of people in the house the sofa might need to be quite large, but this will also depend on the size and shape of the room as well as the look you want to achieve. You will also require a few comfortable chairs, but they do not need to be part of the “3-piece suit” identikit showroom look. It is best to buy pieces that match rather than mirror each other.

As well as considering how many people might use the sofa and its shape and size, think about whether it might need to double up as a spare bed and whether you will go for one with reusable covers or not. The colour will come last but at this point its worth at least thinking about whether you would prefer a bold bright colour (which comes with some commitment) and also whether to keep the fabric plain and accessorize with patterned cushions.

Consider what media equipment you require

Cosy in front of the tv

Depending on your interest and frequency in watching television, or listening to music these pieces of equipment might or might not dominate the room after the sofa. If you place a television in the room then your plan should account for viewing capability from a seated position on the sofa as well as where viewing might be effected by direct sunlight.

Consider whether your family requires a large or small television. This will depend on the size of the room, but also in your frequency in using it. If there is a fireplace already in the room then this might be the focal point rather than the television. A fireplace might also create an issue in where else to put the television. In this situation you might consider purchasing a projector to enable viewing on the wall above the fireplace.

Make sure you know the room dimensions and measurements so that you can plan these pieces of furniture accurately, together with any other pieces you might have. Using just a piece of paper will do, but you should really account for more accurate measurements in order to fully understand any space constraints between the furniture there might be.

There might be other focal points in the room such as a painting, a large table, or a picture window overlooking a garden. You should add all of this into your plan.

How should I organise the furniture?

Importance of measuring up for your living room interior design.

You should aim to have 50cm between each piece of furniture in order to ensure the best possible traffic flow. The size of the room will dictate the layout and number of pieces. If the room is small you can opt for bean bags and foldaway chairs to provide more versatility. Remember that you will always need to bring out extra chairs when unexpected visitor numbers arrive or for when you are entertaining in a larger capacity than normal.

Consider the position of windows and whether your furniture will fit around them, as well as whether radiators might get in the way. If you live in an apartment are there any other apartments overlooking the room, where you might find your neighbours watching you watch the television?

You should also remember to plan for where room and furniture doors open out to so that nothing bangs into anything.

Zone areas are useful tricks to break up large spaces

Depending on the size of the room you can consider zone areas, especially if the space is open plan. In this situation you can organise the seating furniture around a rug so that it is properly defined. Consider an L-shape sectional to help you section off the seating area. You can also use open shelving to separate off other areas, such as dining or a play area.

You can also use lighting to create zones.

Create the illusion of space in your living room

In a smaller room you could purchase a single larger item, rather than lots of smaller pieces in order to give the illusion of space. For example, you could still have a large sofa, with a couple of small chairs nearby.

Use natural light to the maximum

Think about where the light comes from and whether there is any view through the windows such as to a garden. Will anything fade in the sunlight? Will you be blinded by the sun whilst sitting on the sofa?

You should consider the direction of natural light when deciding where to hang your artwork.

Be creative with the layout

Avoid pushing all the furniture up against the walls if possible so that it might look like a village hall. Use your plan to consider what the main flows in the room might be. In some cases you might be able to pull some pieces of furniture out from the wall and angle them specifically, in order to create more interest and balance the layout a bit.

Think about how you might hang your artwork. Your ceiling might be high, you might be tall or you might spend most of your time seated in the room. Ideally artwork should be hung at eye level, but otherwise about ¾ of the way up the wall.

How do I avoid clutter?

Separate space between your furniture pieces

It is inevitable that clutter will build up in the main room of the house if it is not addressed properly. You are going to need some storage ideas.

Make best use of all your ancillary furniture purchases, such as hidden shelves under coffee tables or footstools containing storage inside. For more attractive items, such as books and other nick nacks, you could think about installing some open shelving, whether free standing units or fixed to the wall such as wall-mounted box shelving. In fact, vertical shelving is a great space saving device as the more you can lift off the floor the better illusion of space you create.

Another trick you can employ is to look around bedroom furniture, especially the vintage stuff. A vintage teak tallboy or bedroom cabinet can look amazing repurposed into a modern living room, as well as creating a great storage space.

For cheaper options you could look at storage baskets, vintage wicker hampers or even antique gramophone boxes.

Alternatively, you could choose minimal furniture and hide everything away in a decluttering-the-mind kind of way. The choice is yours.

The key is to have just the right storage nearby to occupy the laptop adaptor or remote control for when it is not required, so that you know exactly where it is when you need it again.

Remember that whilst zen can be great, it is possible to give a little and have some organised clutter in your living space, such as a few decorative boxes on your coffee table, or a couple of carefully placed glossy magazines beside a reading lamp.

What is best way to light the living room?

What is the best way to light a room

The living room is a multifunctional space, so the lighting needs to be adaptive. You will need a general lighting source for when it is dark and the household is not yet settled in the room. A ceiling pendant is usually the answer to this, although spots can also provide the same function.

Then you require softer lighting such as wall and table lamps. Lamps are best placed beside a comfy chair to allow folks to use separately from the rest of the room, such as for reading a book or scrolling a mobile phone news feed.

Decorative lighting (such as an impressive chandelier or a fabulous standard lamp) is used to impress.

Accent lighting can be useful too, eg a picture light to draw attention to a specific piece of art

Consider installing two separate electrical circuits – one for main lighting and another for the softer lighting, as well as dimmer switches. You will need 5A ring circuit to connect up all the lamps and wall lights (using 5A pin sockets designed with small round pins). Otherwise a few Philips Hue smart light bulbs can be great alternative, if not a better option for some.

What about the living room floor?

Lighter floors in a smaller room lift everything and give the illusion of space, but are not so practical. However, darker floors show up the bits. If you are likely to spend your time hoovering (such as pet owners), consider patterned flooring.

Wooden floors add warmth but go for hard woods to avoid scratches and indentations. Natural floors eg sisal add to the mood but require maintenance. Hard wearing floors (laminate or hard wood) can be overlayed with a rug to keep it cosy and define the zones. Consider oversized rugs and always buy bigger than you think you will need.

Underlay helps insulate both heat and noise. If you are in an apartment this can be useful – both ways

Why is colour so scary in interior design?

Changing the colour of your walls can be rather intimidating, even if it is all you have to do. Should you go for bold and bright, neutral or moody, or just romantic? It is, afterall quite an effort to get the paintbrush out, do the job and tidy up afterwards, or else it can be quite expensive. Here are some thoughts on what the best color schemes to use are right now.

Muted colour base is always a great option, and generally timeless. Grey or neutral are great tones, but make sure you choose a warm grey.

Don’t be scared of darker colours for smaller spaces. Light reflects more effectively against dark colours and this can really allow for small dark rooms to light up dramatically when the sun shines in, or you put a lamp on. It also gives the perception of depth.

Monochromatic is in for 2020. Consider Purple (for a pop of colour), teal, aubergine, inky blue, cobalt or gunmetal grey, but make sure you add some rich accent tones to it. Paler tones like creams or pale greys can lack a bit of personality right now.

For a statement wall, consider bold and upholstered or tiled, rather than just painted accent walls.

How do I give my living room personality?

Mix up styles to provide interest and variety

Time is the biggest contributor to giving a room personality, as you will inevitably start to fill it with characterful additions, such as trinkets, ornaments, pictures and plants.

Start layering ASAP

I have always found books provide a real warmth to any room, and nick nacks (so long as there are not too many!) will tell a story of who you are and where you have been, so long as they are organised well. Alas, they can also be dust collectors.

Add specially selected books for warmth and atmosphere – either on an open shelf, or strategically placed atop a table or beside a lamp. They are a reminder of the different stages in your life, plus an expression of your personality as well as interesting talking points for visitors.

This layering effect will certainly help to enrich your space over time. However here are some tricks you can employ immediately, in order to get the ball rolling. Whatever you do though, avoid buying up an entire shop of stuff all at once just to fill the room. You will end up always feeling like you are sitting in somebody else’s house.

Follow the rule of 3s

Plants really do instantly enhance and warm the room, as well as providing some character. Monsteras are my personal favourites and are happy to be forgotten about for long periods. In fact, oversized plants can really help provide some drama to the space. However, you can always go for smaller, tabletop versions, although these are best organised in groups of three. Other items that work well in groups of three are candles and vases. In fact three small vases with some simple, colourful flowers will look wonderful beside a lamp.

Candles can be a cheap and quick way of adding some interest, either in attractive holders or within a lantern. Oversized lanterns can be an impressive look.

Mix it all up

Prop up interesting mirrors or artwork on mantelpiece or table rather than nailing to the wall. Just be careful they are not going to tip over if somebody runs up the stairs or slams a door.

Mix up styles (old with new, cheap with expensive, patterned with plain) but do put a cap on the number of mismatches. Different textures and colours provide depth and interest. Vintage is always a great choice, just don’t overdo it. Mix up your most precious purchase with a cute charity shop find. If anything, the cheaper item will simply underline the importance of the fabulous expensive purchase you made. Make sure you maintain some degree of consistency, such as doubling up on the same lamps or side tables, depending on your personality. Consider buying the same tables but in different sizes in order to add both variety and consistency.

Break up large spaces

Break up large areas with smaller items, such as pictures on a wall or an interesting tray on a large coffee table. The large wall will help to frame your curated pictures and the tray will help to organise specific items.

Wood (walnut is my favourite) and leather adds warmth, metal and plastics add statement. Consider mixing them up to suit your personality. Remember different wood furniture does not need to come from the same range. In my own space I have a walnut dresser, open shelf unit and coffee table, all sourced in different styles and periods. Sometimes patina can be better than perfection.

In the end, so long as you use moderation, and avoid seeking perfection you will succeed in adding your stamp onto the room.

What are the salient points of planning your living room interior design?

  1. The key is to plan, plan and plan more before you start spending any money. It is so tempting to buy the odd piece here and there but that just locks you in to a colour scheme you might not really want.
  2. It is all about the sofa. Think about who will use it, what size and shape it needs to be and what its function might be. Then think about the colour and any pattern. Then you can get excited about adding throws and cushions!
  3. Storage space is so important when planning out your interior design ideas. You need to avoid clutter at all costs!
  4. Light is also very important and is the first step towards giving your living room some personality and atmosphere.
  5. How to decide on the right colour scheme of your living room is also an essential question. The main thing is not to be intimidated and play it too safe. If you can experiment a little over a small space, but sooner or later you need to take the plunge. Don't be scared, it is only paint, or wallpaper, or tiles, or upholstery...
  6. Personality is the final vital part of designing your living room look. You can achieve this by layering, the rule of threes, mixing up the styles and breaking up large spaces.
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