No matter how beautiful a living room designing looks, if it collects clutter and is hard to navigate, it isn’t well-designed. Messy rooms with no flow, form or clear purpose can reduce the amount of time you spend in them — and that’s a shame and a waste of space. By working on the design of your living room, you can actually create a space that’s visually appealing, functional and easy to maintain. What more could you ask for from a lounge, den or family room?
Form Follows Function
If you haven’t already defined a function for your living room, now’s the time to do it. Think about what leisure activity you and your family spend the most time doing in your living room — it doesn’t matter if it’s watching TV, reading or even daytime napping. The function of your room will help you decide which elements of the room to emphasize.
For example, if your primary leisure activity is playing video games, it makes sense to focus the room’s furniture and elements around your TV and gaming system. Invest in quality blackout curtains or blinds to block natural light that creates eye-straining glare on your television. Set up a comfortable easy chair or two around the TV and add a few shelves or bookcases near your gaming system for easy storage to keep your video game discs and accessories from getting cluttered.
Creating Emphasized Zones
If you have more than one hobby or leisure activity that you spend a lot of time doing, consider setting up different “zones” in the room for those activities. By separating the room based on the activities you do the most, it’s easy to visually scan the room and spot any out of place items, keeping the clutter and mess to a minimum.
For example, in addition to a video game corner in your living room, you might also have a space set up for doing your bills, take-home work and your children’s school work: group a small desk, chair and another shelf nearby to keep your paperwork neat and tidy. Add a lamp with some character to spice up the visual interest of the space and improve the lighting for those hard-on-the-eyes tasks.
Find Your Rhythm
Rhythm is the interior design principle of having a logical flow to the room. A room with good rhythm draws your eye from one spot in the room to the next without any pause or hesitation: it’s a sense of fluidity that makes a good living room look cohesive and inviting.
Even if you’ve separated your room into separate zones for different activities, you can create a good rhythm by maintaining a floor plan that allows one space to flow into the next. This doesn’t mean you need to push all of your furniture against the walls: quite the opposite. You can group your furniture for one zone around an area rug and use floor runners or wall art to link the spaces to each other.
Creating a good rhythm isn’t just about the layout: you can draw the eye by repeating shapes, patterns, and colors throughout your living room. Say you’ve got an amazing set of purple throw pillows on your couch. A purple rug in your video gaming area, violet sheer curtains to add texture on top of ultra-functional blinds and a framed piece of art with prominent pops of the color above your desk can pull the room together.
Balance it Out
Balance is crucial in creating a visually appealing living room that you’ll want to spend time in. For example, if your living room has a heavy wooden door with large windows opposite, consider adding heavy fabric drapery to balance out the visual weight of the door. If the windows are adjacent to that heavy door, you may opt for more sheer, lightweight curtains to keep the focus on the door.
But the act of balancing a room isn’t just about one or two elements: you have to strike a balance between all the decor elements and furniture in the room. Stand in your living room doorway and look around the room slowly. Does anything draw your eye too much or does it all flow easily? Does your eye linger more on one architectural feature? Do you get stuck on your oversized couch? If so, try re-arranging an element or two into another zone of the room to keep the balance.
Using an oversized couch as an example, which takes up a lot of visual space, you may opt to keep throw pillows to a minimum and build up your desk space with a larger desk chair and a jumbo-sized piece of art above it. If your eyes get stuck on your window blinds, consider adding a bookshelf across the room to mirror the horizontal lines and add weight to that area.
Unite The Room
It may seem counterintuitive to tell you that you need unity after asking you to divide your room into functional zones that accommodate your regular activities and to add interesting features to keep things from getting boring. But unity is a design principle that will help with rhythm and balance. This is where things like having a harmonious color scheme and a carefully edited selection of decor items come in handy.
When you carry certain design elements throughout a room, it flows better and just “feels” right — that inviting, cozy sense of everything being in its place and the space being uniquely yours relies heavily on the design principle of unity. Whether it’s choosing a decor style like French provincial or mid-century and carrying it through the room, or a neutral color scheme with bold swathes of a single color, unity is what brings the whole room together visually and makes it look as one.
Leave Some Space
Appropriate spacing is one of those more practical considerations when creating a functional living room. Traditional interior design guidelines have set spacing recommendations for furniture.
Your couch, for example, should be about 18 inches from your coffee table and the height difference between the seat and tabletop should be no greater than four inches. This is to allow for easy table usage, but also to provide enough leg room when sitting on the couch. Design pros also recommend putting at least two of the sofa’s feet on an area rug to keep the floor dressing from feeling like a random addition.
These guidelines are mostly to help with functionality — too much crowding between furniture can make you want to avoid spending time in a room. But it also helps create a visual balance — at least in theory. By utilizing negative or blank space in your decor choices and the organizational aspects of your living room, you’re less likely to cultivated a cluttered, hectic living room that spawns chaos and stress.
Know the Rules (And When to Break Them!)
Knowing basic design principles and rules is well and good, but some “rules” are meant to be broken. If a design guideline doesn’t jive with your life and makes your life more stressful, break it! If you love the look of a chaotic, eclectic design scheme that uses all the colors of the rainbow because they bring you joy, go for it! There’s nothing that says you need to adhere to every design standard and principle in order to have a beautiful and functional living room.
Remember: If you don’t actively want to spend your time in the space, it’s a waste of time, space, and money. So while it can be helpful to keep design principles in mind when redoing your living room, if space doesn’t “feel” right to you, don’t feel bad about tossing the rulebook out the window and doing what makes sense for you.