Friday, 24 June 2011

What do you call the Living Room?

As we gracefully make our way around the home as part of the ‘beautifying your home both inside and out’ series, our next area of focus is the living room. The living room, as you can tell from its name, is probably one of the most important spaces in your home (some of you might argue that it’s actually the kitchen, but we won’t express that point of view until we cover it in a future article). In simple terms, the living room is where you and your family and friends spend the greatest amount of time - in fact, it’s second in the trusted estate agent ‘where do you spend your time at home’ league table after the bedroom (although I do sincerely hope that your friends sleep in their own beds rather than yours).

In the olden days (before FaceTweet), the living room/sitting room/lounge/drawing room/parlour/front room (delete as appropriate - your preferred name will provide an insight into your societal ranking, i.e. class...) had the straightforward purpose of communicating to visitors your status, wealth and (impeccable) taste - as a result, many of these rooms were hardly ever used, just in case anything got worn or broken. As society has changed over the years and we have evolved to communicate our status through cars, watches and Jimmy Choo shoes, the function of the living room has changed and, strangely enough, it is now a place to enjoy a book, read a newspaper, listen to relaxing music, watch TV or to entertain. Or, if you are lucky enough to have kids, to kill people and crash cars on your WiiStation 360.

When designing your living room, don’t get too preoccupied with what other people will think (no pressure, but if you get it right they are sure to like it anyway...) - this is your room and where you are going to spend a lot of time so make sure it reflects your personal style and preferences. In order to create your ideal living space, I always advise clients to tear images that they like out of magazines for inspiration; whether it is images of complete rooms or specific pieces of furniture, over time you will see a theme that emerges and this can be your point of reference when designing the room. It is important to try to adhere to this theme wherever possible and keep the ‘big picture’ in mind when designing the room (as this will really help in driving consistency and ensuring you create a space that incorporates furnishings that work together rather than against each other). Once you have a theme that you love it should make the process of choosing paint colours, sofas, fabrics, chairs and curtains much easier.

Within the living space the sofa is probably going to be the largest, most impactful and most used piece of furniture. As a consequence, I think it is absolutely crucial that careful consideration is given when choosing a sofa and you explore a range of options at different price points (so you can see how different they can be, both in terms of appearance and comfort) - a sofa can also represent a significant investment and something you have in the room for a relatively long period of time so it’s worth investing the time up front. Here are my top tips for choosing your perfect sofa...



  • STYLE: Stating the obvious as usual, but choose a style that complements your home and the overarching theme that you have chosen. If you have found it difficult to pin down your personal sofa style, either get some advice or go with something relatively neutral. From a design perspective, a sofa that reaches right down to the floor visually fills a larger room better than a sofa with defined legs and thinner arms, which may be better suited to a smaller room
  • SIZE: Size matters - how much of your room do you want your sofa to occupy? Do you actually want it to be the focal point of the entire space and dominate your living room? If so, you may want to go for a large L-shaped sofa... it’s brilliant for entertaining, but also practical for kids, watching TV, having a little doze, etc., etc. But always remember the consequences of buying a sofa that is too small - I pretty sure you will get fed up with it very quickly, particularly when you are tired and need comfort and space
  • FUNCTION: Decide on the job you want your sofa to do... It is important to consider your lifestyle and to understand honestly what you typically spend most of your time doing in the living room. This will have an impact on the spatial planning of your living room and the orientation of your sofa - it will also have a huge impact on whether you use the sofa (if you get it wrong) and, as a consequence, whether you use the space to its full potential 
  • MATERIAL: Aesthetic is important, but functionality is key when it comes to choosing a material for your sofa. I would love an off white sofa in my own home as they can look absolutely stunning, but they are so dangerous if, like me, you have a puppy that eats about three sofas a day and a cat with a superiority complex. Be careful when picking the material to upholster your sofa, particularly if you have pets, children or if it is going to be exposed to direct sunlight. For instance, leather is aesthetically pleasing but can be scratched and punctured easily (it also bleaches in the sun). Fabric on the other hand can be prone to staining and pilling. If you have an existing sofa that you love it may be worth considering re-upholstery, as it is a relatively inexpensive way of giving a new lease of life to a very comfortable old sofa. If you are buying a new sofa it is worth investing the extra few hundred quid to get it covered with a protective coating that will add to its lifetime - most of the higher end sofa retailers offer this as an option...
  • COST: It is also worth bearing in mind that you get what you pay for with a sofa. Expensive sofas made from hardwood, with dowelled joints and steel coil springs will last for many years, whereas cheaper models made from staples and lower cost materials cannot be expected to last long. Like a bed, a sofa is a worthwhile investment...
As usual my parting summary of where we have got to with this series...so far we have increased the value of your home (front doors), made the world a happier place (hallways), determined what to ask someone if you need to find out where they sit on the societal class ladder (preferred name for living room) and had a nice little sit down on your fabulous sofa...next week, who knows...

Below are a few images of sofas that I love...


(Image from Poliform)
(Image from B&B Italia)
(Image from Poliform)

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