A pro shares all the ingredients for successful living room design

Designer Toni Brandso from Material Creative suggests clever ideas for lovely living room design

Living room gallery wall

We’ll assume most living rooms need to be places for family to come together for a night of TV, as well as spaces for having friends over and a decent conversation. As with all rooms, you need to decide what the focal point will be. Often this is the fireplace (even if it’s no longer functioning), shelving that may or may not house the television, or the configuration of sofas. It pays to make your furniture selections first – an investment sofa in a hard-wearing, practical fabric, armchairs and any statement shelving – before thinking about paint. Compared to these items, paint is inexpensive and easy to change if you tire of the colour you’ve chosen.

Position the sofa, or sofas if you have two, near to one another so easy conversation can be had, and work out from there. Consider the addition of small stools and side tables that can be moved around when and where they’re needed depending on the occasion.

Employ a variety of lighting options, from eye-catching pendants to task lighting if you plan on doing lots of reading on the sofa, and ambient mood lighting courtesy of lamps.

This is where you’re likely to want to display any collections and objects that mean the most to you, so plan for either built-in shelving or freestanding statement shelving. And do remember to hang some art, as bare walls in a living space look sad.

Find the right sofa

A great living room starts with the right-sized sofa – it’s the centrepiece of the room and the anchor of your look. A general rule of thumb is that your sofa shouldn’t occupy the entire length of a wall; there should be at least half a metre of space on either side to give some breathing room.

If you want a modular sofa with a chaise, then the long chaise portion should not extend more than halfway across the room. Ensure your sofa doesn’t block off any architectural features, such as windows, fireplaces or built-in shelving.

Get the right-sized rug

A cleverly proportioned rug ties an entire room together. The general rule of thumb is to go larger than you might think, while leaving some floor exposed. A rug that’s too small will make your room look smaller than it is and can make furniture look disconnected. For a smaller living room, a two metre by three metre rug is perfect. Run the rug halfway under the sofa and chairs, allowing the front legs of the furniture to sit on it. For a larger room, a three metre by four metre rug makes a statement and anchors your living area and furniture. This size gives flexibility for your furniture arrangement to either sit on top of the rug or half-on, half-off it.

Get the lighting right

Lighting is all about layering and creating scenes.

The composition of lighting needs to be carefully planned for everyday living and it’s not a case of one-size-fits-all. I like to consider the body’s circadian rhythm and allow for low-level cosy lighting with little glare at night when your body is gearing up for bed.

In a living room with multiple uses you need to think about three types of lighting – low-level ambient or mood lighting, task lighting and accent lighting.

Find a place for everything 

Clutter adds stress and, while we love to see layers of complexity in design, it needs to have a sense of tidiness and order to it. Whether your room is big or small, storage is key to making it feel welcoming and relaxing. If you have space, built-in wall storage cabinets can accommodate books and magazines, your television and other clutter that doesn’t add to the ambience, such as kids’ toys. Bespoke cabinetry can create not only storage but also a focal wall in itself. For smaller spaces, try an ottoman with integrated storage, a television buffet unit that can house and hide a myriad of clutter, and string-type shelving that doesn’t add too much weight to a space.

Bring the space to life

After you’ve sorted the nitty gritty, it’s time to inject a little personality. Art allows you to add colour and texture, either with one anchoring piece or a collection of pieces. Your art could be a wall tapestry, print, painting, sculpture, dried floral arrangement – anything that adds texture and layers and pulls the room together. Add soft furnishings, such as cushions, textiles and sheer curtains, to soften the edges, create a relaxing environment and bring through your chosen colour palette. Hot tip: you can have too many cushions. If you need to remove cushions before you sit down, that’s too many cushions.

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