Creating a versatile space that works for all your family’s needs is key, writes interior designer Sara Cosgrove
The living room is often the heart of the home. Sure, we may have relocated ourselves to the central island in the kitchen, but besides our bedrooms, the living room is where we spend most of our downtime. Yet — or even understandably so — this much-used space can be the most daunting to renovate.
People often get it wrong. They fail to create a versatile space that can function on multiple levels. Successful design is about getting the correct layers and levels. Considering how you want to use the space throughout the day and year is key.
I always like to start with a focal point — whether it’s a fireplace, piece of art, view or television location — it all depends on your priorities. If you have a drop dead gorgeous view of the sea or surrounding countryside, then this should be your focal point. If you love art, and have a piece that will make your heart smile, then go with this. If the TV keeps you ticking over, then don’t be afraid to create something around it. Televisions such as Samsung’s Frame TV even enable you to double up — when the television is off, it displays pieces of art (samsung.com/ie). Getting the furniture layout right is often helped by deciding on the focal point.
Then come the layers. Start with flooring. If you have a timber floor, don’t be afraid to layer it with rugs. Carpet or underfloor heated tiles could also start the scheme.
Whether you go for large sofas or cosy armchairs will depend on how many people use the space from day to day, and if it will be used for working or playing.
A good sofa is worth the investment, as you will spend most of your home downtime on it. Try Arnotts furniture department, the Bespoke Sofa Company in Dun Laoghaire, or sofa.com, and if possible always try and sit or lie on what you are planning to buy. I sometimes take my clients to our upholsterers and go through the cushion arrangements together to get it just right.
Creating zones within your living room helps to get the arrangement spot on. If kids are involved, for example, work this into the plan and create a little zone for them where you can easily tidy the toys away out of sight at the end of the day. If you need to incorporate a desk, position it by a window rather than towards the TV, which can be distracting.
Practicality is also key. Ample side tables and a generous coffee table mean there is always a spot for your drink and somewhere to display a nice candle or books. Having a few footstools that can be commandeered for extra seating when the family call over is also useful.
Focus on creating symmetry, whether that is through furniture, lighting or styling. Symmetry is relaxing on the eye and makes a room feel balanced.
Storage is also important: shelving, chests or cabinets will ensure you can go from chaos to clutter-free in moments — handy when you have unexpected guests.
Something that is often overlooked when it comes to interiors is technology. This is playing an increasingly important role in the living room, whether it is having a music system such as Sonos, wireless charging (I love the one by mariewolt.com) or having a home assistant such as Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home. Positioning these in discreet but functional locations is important.
It may seem mundane but one of the most important elements is getting your TV position right. Too low or too high can affect your posture and create neck problems. Sofas and chairs should be placed correctly to get a direct view without being too close up.
Once you have your furniture and tech in place, it’s good to start thinking about the art and accessories that will bring the space together.
Choosing a piece of art (check out the Art Source fair at the RDS from November 9-11) can also act as a ballast for a scheme. For example, I have a painting with a blue backdrop that inspired me to paint my living room a grey-blue. Layering a focal piece with small prints and photography can give a lovely gallery-like effect. Similarly, mix modern accessories from places such as oreillyturpin.ie with older pieces from auctions, salvage (thestoreyard.ie) or inherited furniture. It’s all about adding the accents that make a house a home.