I’m not convinced that living rooms are the most used areas in the house but I could be wrong.
Above is the living room when we moved in 5 years ago. (Photo courtesy of the estate agent’s website)
In my house, the kitchen-diner being open-plan is the main hub, especially after the revamp. You can click this link to see my 4 tips in designing it. My living room on the other hand was the neglected neighbour. But there’s a valid reason for this. It’s so small, narrow and so dark. For 6 people, a squash and a squeeze is an understatement. It’s also where my “office” is so it’s a busy room with my work stuff hogging one corner.
I want to share how I revamped my small living room to make it work for us as a family. Here are the 4 things I have learned…
1. Consider the amount of natural light
Other than a doorway leading to the dining room and a doorway from the front room, this room doesn’t get ANY direct natural light at all. Add to that the fact that my house is north-east facing so we don’t huge amounts of light all year.
When we moved in, this room was painted in the palest blue hue. Being a dark room, it was dull and gloomy all year round. It really was. Painting it white wouldn’t have improved it a jot. So I embraced the darkness and went for a dark blue colour. I painted all four walls including the built in shelves.
This trick seemed to work as the borders, rather than a glaring dull wall staring at you in 4 corners, seemed to recede and disappear into the darkness. And in place of these walls, other things popped and grabbed my attention like artwork and accessories. They didn’t feel like they competed with the walls at all and as most would have expected, neither did it feel gloomy anymore.
If I had a living room flooded with natural light, I’d embrace the light and go bright on the walls – I mean bright like brilliant white or something on the cool white rather than warm white. Cool shades do better in my home than arm. I once painted my hallway warm pewter and with tungsten lights, that was almost as bad as magnolia. That’s a story for another post.
2. Art and Pattern
With my blue walls now set as a big dark backdrop, I decided to hang art in different sizes – opposite sides of the spectrum size. I’m not really into matchy-matchy items; it’s more like anything goes, with one limitation – reign in the colour palette to 4 maximum. Impossible to do with a painting like this but I kept to the maximum colour scheme rule of blues, oranges, mustards and pinks with accents of gold. I don’t think I couldn’t handle any more colour additions like purple or green cushions in this room!
I wallpapered the chimney breast and shelf edging with a William Morris Bird and Pomegranate wallpaper which had a blue background the same blue as the wall paint so the colour runs seamlessly across the four walls. This enabled me to have both art and pattern that don’t clash despite both being rather busy already in their own right.
3. Symmetrical front-facing shelving dsiplay
With everything already quite busy, I knew I needed some contrast to the action and energy – something more structured that gave a grounding feel to the room. I’ve always had a dilemma with arranging things on shelves. Somehow I never got it quite right. That was until I read and studied Meera’s blog on shelf displays. What a revelation.
Putting into practice what I’ve learned, instead of displaying frames at an angle I made them face front-on. The books were arranged in height order in a straight fashion. Some books with colour spines were displayed with the leaves facing outwards and the spines hidden. These helped with keeping the colour on the shelves to a minimum. It took a good few hours trying a few arrangements but I got there in the end and I’m really pleased with the result.
I learned that in interiors, having crests and troughs is essential. Some areas heighten interest and emotion. Other areas calm you down.
4. Evoke emotion
Talking of which, it must be called living room for a reason right, not a dead lifeless room! Ask yourself what feeling you want your living room to evoke. Perhaps a better question is how do you want to feel when you are in your living room? Calm? Rested? Quiet? For me the answer is cocooned, cosy, protected, safe, homely, loved.
I’m always surprised at the response I get from my living room photos on Instagram. Perhaps because I don’t expect them to do well. I dream of changing this sofa to either a mustard velvet one or a blush pink velvet. The side table and the coffee table were DIY jobs because I didn’t want to spend a lot of money yet on the furniture pieces I really wanted in here. This room is a work-in-progress. But at the moment, it delivers all of the emotions above so I am content.
Once day I plan to paint the cupboards and door frames in this room the same colour as the walls but at the moment I cannot face sanding all the gloss paint off.
One of the living rooms I absolutely love on Instagram is Pixie’s aka redfoxhome. If anyone can rock more than 4 colours in one space, its Pixie! I mean, the girl even wears colour…on her hair. Totally stunning! Go check her out and give her a follow.
So there you have it, 4 things I learnt and used in order to get my living room meeting my aesthetic and emotional needs! I hope these have given you ideas and some inspiration. Do share your thoughts on Instagram layered.home and I’d love it if you would follow me on there too! And please share on your stories or repost on Instagram, I’d be forever grateful!