Your living room is probably second only to the bedroom as the space in your home where the most time is spent. Which is a little unfair, because sleeping isn’t really the same as living per se. You know--socializing, watching TV, and eating seems a lot more like living to me.
Because we spend so much time in these spaces, it’s important to find a style that makes sense for how it is used every day.
Den, family room, sitting room, and front room are all variations on what we commonly know today as the living room. In the U.S., geographic regions play a part in the nomenclature as does the fanciness factor of your home. You might be lucky enough to have a front room, a den, and an upstairs great room to tuck the kids away. But like I've said before, the flow influence is there, blurring the lines among the living spaces distinctions.
I couldn’t resist sharing a little bit of history on how our modern living room has evolved. The term living room showed up in decorating literature in the late 19th or early 20th century, but has roots tied to its predecessor, the room called a parlor. When parlors were en vogue, their purpose was to both impress and receive guests.
The décor was meant to be a showplace with mostly formal furnishings, and owners simply trusted a designer to make guests jealous during formal social gatherings such as weddings. Oh, by the way, there was one more important use for a parlor back in the day. The offsite morgue wasn’t invented yet, so the deceased hung out in their casket in the center of the parlor for viewings and family grieving.
Luckily, these days, we have a thriving funeral home industry and our living rooms tend to be dead body-free, comfortable, designed around our own tastes and likely a 60-inch smart TV. So, refer back to the five home style questions you need to ask yourself for finding your living room style.
- What are my priorities?
- What is my budget?
- How will my family use the room?
- How can I work with what I have? Or, What items must stay?
- How much time do I have to invest? Or, What is my devotion to the process?
After you've answered those, we need to discuss a few concerns encountered while decorating the living room: Floor Space, Scale, and Proportion.
This is likely one of the largest spaces in your home, which is good and bad. Bold prints and colors can work, and so can sectionals big enough to seat your daughter’s softball team, but space fills up quickly and many people have trouble calculating dimensions of floor space and the furniture it will hold.
Pottery Barn and Room Sketcher both offer very easy to use room planners. Plugging in the dimensions of the room or using their traditional dimesons will help so much to visualize the room and how furniture will fit. PB is especially fun because you can actually pull catalog pieces and drop them into your created room. Using these types of planners helps to avoid buying a couch that eats too much space or buying a settee that is dwarfed by 15-foot ceilings. IKEA also offers their version for creating storage solutions such as book cases and shelving.
Scale and Proportion
This is a tricky concept to master, I think, because it takes practice to visualize, and most people don’t care or have the time to learn how to “see it.” To understand scale and proportion, pictures are important for demonstration and this blog entry from Wide Plank Floors gives great visual clues. For the most part, think big space equals big furniture and little space equals smaller furniture, but there are times when those guidelines are broken, especially in the small space.
Extra tips for finding your living room style:
- Consider outdoor fabric on custom chairs and couches. The feel and texture has come a long way, and can be comfortable and very durable.
- Consider buying slipcovered sofas and couches. With dogs and kids, the option to have them laundered (maybe in your own machine depending on size) is so much better than trying to spot clean every day.
- Always remember that if you're active duty and PCS'ing regularly, the movers will struggle with boxing, wrapping, and even keeping sectional couch pieces together. You’ll probably have to assist with assembly in your new house.
- If you're having trouble with high ceilings making your furniture appear small, invest in a room-size heavily patterned rug. The design will draw the eye down from the soaring ceilings.
Just for fun, or is that only me? Read a couple of home listings because real estate agents brilliantly describe living spaces in numerous ways to make them sound extra special. But in the end, we all eat nachos, watch football, and take naps in our living rooms, or whatever you call them, so make it somewhere you want to hang out and live your life at home.