Living Room Design for Comfort and Style

Warm and inviting, the living room matches the overall architecture and design cues of this home, with natural wood and a stone surround.

Many smaller homes and apartments will have a combined living/family room living space. Informal styles are typically more practical if you do not have a separate living room, lounge or sitting room since the practical aspects of the interior design must take precedence.

If you are lucky enough to have both a family or ‘great’ room and a separate living room then you probably will want to shift design emphasis in the living room to a more formal interior design style, since it likely won’t see everyday use.

Designing a Comfortable Living Room

Modern or traditional, comfort is important regardless; the living room is meant to be a place to entertain so having plenty of comfortable seating is critical in designing your living room. Choose sitting chairs and sofa that match the style you want to achieve but which are also comfortable.

Living room design tends toward more formal styles, but modern and contemporary styles are the trend, with sleek lines and bold color combinations often creating the most striking contrast. Look at plenty of photos, visit showrooms and talk to your interior designer about your ideas as you plan and select the design elements, furnishings and accents you want to pull together.

Taking your time to select furniture or even starting simple and adding pieces over time are both good ways to be sure you end up with a living room that is both comfortable and matches your design taste and goals. Rush to purchase an entire room full of furniture at once and you may find it doesn’t fit your living room’s style in the long term.

Traditional/Formal Living Room Styles

A formal or traditional style living room makes it a special place to greet and entertain guests.

Often, people use the term ‘theme’ to describe a room. For instance, you might opt to design a ‘period’ room, meant to emulate the look of a certain period or culture, such as French provincial, English Victorian or Elizabethan.

Don’t over-emphasize the use of theme though; you can mix furniture, colors, fabrics and other design elements as long as these elements fit together cohesively to create a formal living room décor.

Rich fabrics, ornate trim such as crown molding and paneling will often be used to give the living room design a formal look. Draperies or interior shutters are more often found in the formal living room than blinds or shades. Patterns such as floral prints, flourishes, etc. often add to these traditional formal design aesthetics.

Modern/Contemporary Living Rooms

Modern and contemporary living rooms typically rely on clean lines and contrasting colors combinations. The look should be uncluttered. Bold geometry is characteristic of the modern living room, with rectangular and circular shapes being the norm.
Modern designs appeal to many people because they feel more relaxed and open.

The contemporary living room will more likely have windows left bare or use window coverings such as Venetian-style blinds or cellular shades that are less obtrusive than draperies; open the blinds or shades to let in light and open the view. When raised, a blind or window shade is almost unnoticeable.

Living Room Furniture Selection

Traditional living or sitting rooms lend themselves to formal drapes, which natually frame picture windows.

Sofas should not be so tall or deep that people cannot sit comfortably; if you’ve ever sat on a sofa that forces you to sit up because you can’t recline you know what I mean. Throw pillows can help guests get more comfortable but if you have too many they may also just get in the way. Ottomans are always popular in the living room since you can either pull them up to rest your legs or place them strategically to provide extra seating when needed.

Tables should be at the right height to reach from your seating so that guests can easily set drinks down without having to get up and down. I’m not a fan of crowding tables with so many accessories and other objects that people do not feel comfortable actually using them, but this will be a matter of both personal taste as well as how often and how many people you typically entertain in your living room.

Lighting is a big part of living room design. Note the soffit accent lighting in this room design.

Light Up Your Living Room

If budget and time allow, use ceiling light fixtures to give your living room optimal ambient lighting and also to highlight design features such as a fireplace mantel or larger artwork.

The use of lighting cannot be emphasized enough in setting the tone and mood in a living room. Install dimmers or automated lighting controls so that you can easily change the mood as desired. Lighting makes the difference between an interior design that feels comfortable and one that lacks depth.

Remember that color and texture only stand out when properly lit; a living room without attention to lighting often feels flat or dark, especially if you select rich colors and fabrics that absorb light. Lighter colors such as pastels or a more neutral color scheme will tend to work better in a living room if you can not install additional ceiling fixtures.

Many urban apartments and smaller modern homes combine the living and family room, making furniture selection and layout even more important.

Use floor and table lamps to add light and interesting accents to your design. These should be supplemental to natural light sources including glass sliding doors or French doors, windows and/or skylights. In a room where ceiling lights can not easily be retrofitted, rely on table and/or floor lamps to augment light levels as needed.

A well-lit interior can take on many looks if adequate lighting and light controls are installed so that light levels can be adjusted properly. A living room without adequate lighting will seem dark, while attention to ambient, task and accent lighting will give you a room design that is flexible enough to suit any occasion.

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