Create a living space to reflect your highest aesthetic values, taking inspiration from finely crafted modern furnishings. You can develop a living room that you will never want to leave—after all, it is meant to be “lived in.” Your room should offer physical comfort and visual joy, while reflecting the quality that comes only from the finest craftsmanship and modern design principles.
Before you begin furnishing the ideal living room, take some time to plan. Even if you are working with the most qualified interior designer, understanding a few simple principles will help you achieve a beautifully balanced room. Each coordinated component should work together to build a subtly sophisticated look and feel, for the perfect environment in which to live your life.
Use Design Principles
The fundamentals of design influence nearly everything that helps us live in the physical world, from architecture to interiors, furniture, textiles, and more. Keeping these principles in mind, even loosely, makes planning and furnishing a room easier, and makes the outcome more satisfying.
- Scale and Proportion
The size and dimensions of your room determine the scale you must work within. If your space is small, choose smaller sized furnishings. If your living room is expansive with high ceilings, you will need larger pieces to avoid having them appear small and insignificant. Remember to consider proportion as well as size, meaning how each piece relates to the other, and how it balances in relation to the length of a wall or the height of the ceiling.
The core element in furniture for most living rooms is typically a sofa. The Andersen Sectional Sofa, an example of modern Italian style from Minotti products, illustrates how a large, two-piece sectional sets the scale in a sizeable living room. Choosing from the coordinated line of a total collection, with added armchairs, a bench, or ottoman, makes the task of proportional furnishing much easier, as these principles are built into the design of each piece.
Achieve balance in your living room by arranging objects and furnishings according to their visual weight. This comes through placement of objects in a consistent pattern. Examples of symmetrical balance include placing a pair of sconces with one on each side of a fireplace, or a pair of armchairs facing one another across a coffee table. An interesting variation is radial balance, with objects radiating around a central focus, in a circular arrangement. Remember to vary high and low heights of objects to keep the eye moving around the room and avoid a monotonous repetition of form.
Introduce rhythm to a room by repeating patterns at intervals, just as you would in music. Rhythm attracts the eye to keep moving around a room, naturally seeking out the next occurrence of a repeated shape, texture, or color. Rhythm comes from elements like one accent color repeated in cushions, on a rug, and in a painting on the wall. It could come from repeating a pattern or motif that recurs in different context on a vase, or woven into the texture of upholstery fabric.
Harmony can be difficult to define, but you will know it when you see it—or rather, when you feel it. The successful blending of all elements in a room into a related, harmonious whole creates an environment that is at once functional, relaxing, and pleasing to the eye. It can be achieved with a neutral color palette that coordinates multiple shadings within one color range, often done using shades of beige and white, or gray and white, carried out in a variety of textures to add depth and dimension.
Decorate Your Living Room
Now that you’ve internalized some basic design principles, you can confidently interpret them to decorate the perfect living room. Begin by studying the space for dimensions, window placement, and natural light (or lack of light).
Study the patterns of natural light in your room, and then decide on the types, locations, and amounts of lighting needed. Artificial light is mostly used in the evening, but it may also be part of the mix throughout the day. Recessed ceiling spots or track lighting along molding, for example, can subtly add to the important balance of ambient light throughout the day and eliminate gloomy shadows.
Living room lighting is both functional and decorative. Overall or ambient light sets the mood of the room and softens hard edges. Task lighting concentrates light on task areas for reading or other close-up activities. Floor or table lamps serve the dual purpose of task lighting and color accent in the room.
Innovative lighting fixtures, like the Surface Mount 14s or hanging spheres from Bocci Lighting, bring highly dramatic accents to a room, setting the tone of a modern aesthetic and functioning as works of art in their own right.
Decide your color palette, choosing three main colors. One color should be dominant, for use on large backgrounds like carpeting, walls, and basic upholstery fabric. A secondary color is used for accessories or selected furniture pieces found throughout the room, and a third accent color should be used sparingly, to stand out and add excitement.
Before painting a wall or choosing large-scale furnishings, test swatches in the room to see how the color “reads” at different times of day. Light, whether natural or artificial, will change the look of most colors. Consider painting walls with a light, neutral background color that will show off the couch and other furnishings by contrast. Create interest by choosing one wall for a bold accent color, to set off furnishings and draw the eye.
- Focal Point
Decide on a focal point—the central visual attraction that forms the focus of the room. It can be a built-in feature like a fireplace, a picture window, or an added feature like a large console and bookcase with TV. Arrange most seating to face toward or around the focal point. Without a focus, the room will feel jumbled and haphazard.
Place larger furniture pieces first, such as a couch or sectional, and then balance with secondary pieces, such as a pair of side chairs, or, if your style is spare and uncluttered, with a bold accent piece like the softly rounded, inviting Bao Armchair from Walter Knoll products.
Finally, accessorize to give the room the benefit of your personality. Even in a spare, modern room, accents like best-loved paintings, sculptural pieces, and decorative items on some surfaces, or family photos in carefully selected frames, make a room truly livable, without adding clutter.