Decorating & Design - Design Lesson

Design lesson: Small space living rooms

Kimberley Seldon

Simple solutions for designing a small living room.

Ask most teenagers about the function of the living room and you're apt to see a bewildered shrug. Ask them about the duty of a family room on the other hand and watch how quickly confusion turns to confidence. "It's for hanging out and watching TV", they reply. True enough. However, for those who live in small spaces without a dedicated family room the living room must be used for, er …living.

Whether the occasion is an impromptu movie night, a restful moment with a good book, or a card game with the boys, the living room facilitates lingering and happy gatherings. In other words, it's not just a showplace; this is the true heart of the home, so avoid striving for perfect, pristine rooms, and create a setting where family and friends can spend quality time together.

To create comfort in a small living room choose simple patterns and combine them with solid fabrics. This provides the space with "breathing room"; reducing visual chaos. Robust or definite patterns can be distracting, shifting focus from a more deserving focal point and creating a confusing backdrop to works of art. Furniture that does double duty - a sofa that becomes a guest bed, a table that rises to dining height – stretches the living room's functionality.

1 Where space is really tight, choose sofas and chairs without arms.

2 If budget doesn't allow for a total makeover, is it possible to rearrange, reupholster or refinish what you already own? Try moving furniture around – a new position frequently brings a new perspective. If necessary, enlist the help of a stylish friend to provide you with an objective opinion.

3 A contrasting color scheme between the floor and walls creates drama and excitement. Although this does not enhance the apparent size of the room, it may be desired if the goal is to create a glamorous setting. Furthermore, the contrast brings handsome floors into focus; making them more of a feature.

4 If the living room has a fireplace, it's likely to be the focal point of the room. Emphasize its role by selecting a subtly contrasting color for walls. If the mantle is unattractive, minimize its impact by choosing a wall color that blends very closely with the mantle.

5 When choosing lamp shades, choose a color that blends with other colors in the room. A pure white lamp shade will disrupt a room's visual flow if walls and furnishings are darker in color.

6 By all means, honor family history in this important room by displaying items with personal meaning. Whether it's a child's first water colour, a selection of sea shells collected on vacation, or even a silly monkey sculpture that left you and your spouse laughing hysterically – these happy elements invite pleasant reflection and fill your home with joy.

For more small space insights, pick up Kimberley's book, "500 Ideas for Small Spaces" at an Indigo or Chapters location near you.

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  • Page 1: Small spaces: Living rooms

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