It’s called the living room because it’s one of the most-used rooms in your home. Make it a room you also love the look of with these simple design tips from The Block NZ co-host and Your Home and Garden magazine editor Shelley Ferguson
Be your own detective
Homework time: start to notice the things you’re drawn to – in nature, in your wardrobe, in images. Is there a common theme? A colour that often appears? Are you drawn to modern shapes or painterly patterns? Identify what you love and use it as a starting point to choose your interior style, and don’t be afraid to be a bit promiscuous! Choose a few styles that reflect what you love, where you’ve traveled, who you are. As long as there is a common element such as colour, material or texture tying the pieces together, the look will work.
Cover your bases
Consider if you need to change the flooring and paint in your living room first. If they look wrong, chances are nothing else will look right. Investing in the foundations first mean you’ll have a clearer plan of what furniture, lighting, art and accessories will work going forward rather than wasting money on small changes.
If you have a decent-sized living room, try positioning your lounge furniture away from the wall. Changing the configuration of furniture can really alter how you interact in the room. Group furniture in zones to create areas for your favourite activities, like chatting, reading or watching movies. The space will feel more cozy, lived-in and personal. Use rugs to define each zone, making sure they’re not too small (having the feet of your furniture on a big rug really helps to ground it).
Light, privacy and the style of your windows are the deciding factors here. If the room is flooded with bright light, go for UV roller blinds; if you need privacy a combination of blinds and curtains can work well; if you have beautiful architectural features choose window treatments that show them off. If privacy isn’t an issue, sheers create a dreamy look. If you want your window coverings to be passive in the background, choose a colour that’s tonal with your walls. Alternatively, curtains can be the standout feature of the room! I like my curtains to puddle two inches on the ground and be mounted as close as possible to the ceiling to make the space soar.
Sofa, so good
We see so many pictures of perfect houses, it can cause us to make impractical buying decisions (retail regret is for reals). Yes, I’ve been lusting over a navy velvet couch, but I have two little boys who would use it as a wrestling pit. Choose pieces you love, but don’t have to be too precious about - successful living spaces combine form with function. Sofas are a high-use piece, so invest in a good quality one. Think about what design suits you and your family (are you sitters or slouchers?), and how big your room is. If you’re not confident with colour, it can be safer to keep big-ticket items like sofas in neutrals so they won’t date. I love teaming a sofa with two occasional chairs to avoid furniture dominating the room, and raised legs are good for small spaces.
Creating a storage plan can really help when redesigning your living space. List all the things you need to store, and tailor a storage option for each. Built-in storage is expensive but worth it to make use of vertical or awkward spaces, shelving is ideal for items you want to display, and flexible storage like ottomans can be moved around and used for stashing odds and ends. If you have a small space, multi-functional furniture is your friend.
There’s no way I’m going to suggest you don’t watch telly, but it doesn’t need to dominate the room. Decorate around the television with framed photos and prints so when turned off it will blend into your arty arrangement, build a bookshelf around it, keep it in a cabinet, or commission custom-made sliding doors to take the look of your room from family to fancy in seconds. Keep tech equipment hidden away in recesses or within furniture, and consider wiring in or getting Bluetooth music systems sorted so the TV isn’t the main focus.
Layer your light
Ever been at a party and felt the mood change as the lights are dimmed? Lighting is crucial to create the right mood in a living space. Have several light sources like table and floor lamps at different heights and brightnesses rather than just bright overhead lighting, and install dimmers.
Living spaces are a great place to show off a statement piece of art. Choose one that makes you feel something; that connects with you in some way. Use it as inspiration to draw colours from to include in the rest of the room. Make sure the scale is right for the space and don’t hang it too high – galleries and museums hang at 57 inches, the average human eye level. Smaller secondary art pieces, photos, wall hangings or wall-mounted accessories on other walls add interest and help create an eclectic look.
Don’t underestimate the power of changing out your cushions! Have fun with cushions in bright colours, eye-catching patterns and prints, and different shapes in sizes. It’s like buying new shoes.