As winter approaches, you’re most likely going to start spending more time indoors again. This means it’s a prime time for cozying up your house and making sure every room is functioning to its full ability. Second to the kitchen, your living room is probably the most trafficked room in your home. It’s likely where you unwind after a long day, nap on the weekends, watch movies, and maybe even eat some of your meals.
When you spend a lot of time in a given room, though, it’s easy to overlook certain design details because you become so accustomed to your surroundings. So I asked a handful of designers to share the living room features that don’t always get the attention they deserve, and here’s what they had to say. Tweaking these things now could make a world of a difference in how your living room functions this cold weather season and well into the future; take a look at these rooms—and how they got it right—as your inspiration.
1. Window Treatments
Windows bring life and light to your space, but it’s easy to forget to be deliberate about their coverings, particularly if you moved into a place that already had blinds or something serviceable in place. “Window treatments can make or break the entire room, and I feel like they are often overlooked as a last-minute design element to deal with,” says designer Sara Barney of BANDD DESIGN. “I recommend going custom when it comes to window treatments rather than just buying some premade ones from a retail store. This is a small detail that has a huge impact on the living room.”
If you don’t have the budget for custom, a simple rod with affordable linen curtains will still make a major difference. “Curtains add texture and will soften your space,” says designer Ashley Moore of Moore House Interiors. “They’ll also give your room a tailored, sophisticated look, and your room will look put together and finished.”
Many think curtains are supposed to be mounted right where the window begins, but this can make a room look squat. “Hang your curtains above where your window begins—roughly 3 inches to 8 inches—depending on height,” says designer Gabrielle Santiago. “This helps a room appear larger.”
Whether you go custom or not, Santiago also advises measuring carefully so your curtains slightly hit the ground “enough to touch and not see light shine through but not so much that they droop.” Keep in mind that it’s often best to go longer and hem your drapes, particularly if you’re buying something off of the shelves. If you sew or know a good tailor, you can always add decorative trim or extra fabric to too short curtains as well.
2. Your Ceiling
“People often forget about ceilings as the ‘sixth wall’ in a living space,” says designer Lindsay Hendrix of HI LUXE Interior Design. “While most of the attention in design is focused on furniture, rugs, and accessories, I sometimes like to put the emphasis on the ceiling instead.”
The easiest way to do this is to simply paint your ceiling a different color from the walls, and this is the perfect place to go bold. “A rich navy or dark plum color can add that pop into a room without buying all new furniture or other home accessories,” she says. For an extra touch of sass if you have wainscoting, carry the same wall color used above your trim right onto the sixth wall, as seen in the living room above.
3. Upholstery Fabric
“Your seating in your living room, including your sofa, is frequently used in your home, so unless you like buying a new sofa and chairs every couple of years, you need to stop overlooking the quality of your fabric,” says Barney. “Performance fabrics are the way to go when it comes to upholstery: They are stain-resistant and won’t wear and tear, even in high traffic areas like the living room.”
Designer Lauren Reyes of LVR Studios suggests trying out fabric swatches in your home prior to any big purchases. “I often feel that a lot of people tend to choose what is trendy, but often that doesn’t exactly mesh well with their space’s existing finishes,” she says.
If you’re already stuck with something higher maintenance than you’d like, not to worry. Consider slipcovers in more durable materials or, even easier, tuck a decorative (and protective!) throw or textile into your sofa seat and/or drape one on your sofa or chair backs. Use this detail to add texture or an accent color into your design scheme. Reupholstery, though more expensive, is another option.
4. Rug Size
Floor coverings are an opportunity to add color, cushioning, and general visual interest to your living room. While most people are aware that rugs are a good design idea, it’s easy to get this little detail’s sizing wrong. Moore says she frequently sees rugs that are too small in the living room. Santiago agrees. “Your area rug should be large enough to go under your furniture,” she says. “For formal living rooms, I suggest a larger size rug so there’s equal distance around your furniture—2 inches to 3 inches—beyond the backs of chairs and sofas.”
For more relaxed living rooms, Santiago says furniture doesn’t need to perfectly fit on the rug, but ideally, area carpeting should make it at least halfway under your furniture (half on, half off). “This just aids in scale and helps the room feel more cultivated, balanced, and cozy,” Santiago says.
5. Layered Lighting
Designer Breegan Jane often sees people overlooking the total lighting scheme in their living rooms. “Lighting is one of the most important aspects of home decor but is also something people tend to overlook,” she says. “Switching up your lighting to match your home and desired ambiance is important.”
During the day, brighter light may be more desirable, and in the evening, when trying to wind down, many people prefer slightly dimmer light settings. Creating atmosphere is as simple as having options beyond standard overhead lighting; it’s a good idea to include table and floor lamps in addition to the recessed cans or pendants you might have. As far as dimming goes, you can install special switches. For an even easier solution, Jane advises her clients to use smart LED lighting. That way, you can control almost every aspect of your lighting from your phone, once you’ve paired a bulb to your device in app.
6. Stylish Storage Solutions
Storage doesn’t always have to be hidden or kept under wraps, even if you’re in an apartment or a smaller home. Sometimes getting a little bit creative with how you store something—and not just relying on bins, baskets, and hidden compartments—can actually add a fun decorative touch to your room’s setup.
For example, if your living room is the center of relaxation and hangouts in your home, you’re probably going to have a few throw blankets to cozy up in. “Rather than storing extra throw blankets away, show them off and layer them to add texture and color to your space,” suggests designer Beth Diana Smith, who works with HomeGoods as a style expert. “One fun way to style is by layering throws on a wooden ladder,” she says. “It will fill out the room and provide more storage.”
7. Your Layout
Okay, so it’s not exactly “little,” per se, but many designers think one detail people neglect in living rooms is their layout. A lot of times this is because people buy furniture without looking at the bigger picture, which involves considering scale. Edgar Blazona, founder of BenchMade Modern, says you need to consider what your room is actually being used for, how many people will be in the space at any given time, and how much seating is needed before you make any big purchases, especially a sofa.
“Sometimes people buy a sofa with too little seating for a family room where everyone congregates, which means the sofa isn’t actually serving its purpose,” he says. “The reverse also happens, where people buy something too clunky and oversized for more of a formal living room that they don’t typically hang out in.”
If your living room, as is, feels a little unbalanced and awkward, it could very well be the size and scale of your furniture. You might need to add or subtract smaller pieces to take the emphasis off of a bulky sofa, for instance. Ideally, you’d use blue painter’s tape to lay out the footprint of potential pieces before you buy them, but you can also use this strategy to make tweaks to the setup you already have. This can give you a sense of space without extra heavy lifting, and painter’s tape shouldn’t damage your floor’s finish either.
8. Mirror Placement
You already know that a decorative mirror is good for more than just selfies. But do you know where to put one to max out its potential? Turns out the proper placement of mirrors is a detail many struggle with, and some spots are better than others.
“Hang a big mirror on your wall opposite a window to bounce off the light or rest it against a mantel or shelf,” says designer Lilly Bunn, who also works with HomeGoods as a style expert. Better yet, do both! A mirror on a mantel, in particular, is a great way to add elegance and polish to your space. While you are at it, make sure that your mirrors aren’t placed too high to actually be somewhat functional. Otherwise, they can make your room look top-heavy and off-kilter, particularly if the frames are prominent and ornate.
Courtesy of Zoë Roscoe with www.apartmenttherapy.com