As its name implies, we live in our living rooms. They are our “sit-back-and-relax” zones at the end of a long day, our “family meetings” boardroom for those important conversations and our “entertaining” spaces for gatherings of extended family and friends.
Everyone wants a beautiful, calming living room that is optimally designed for relaxation, conversation and exploration. Here are some key design considerations for the all-important living space in the home.
Light and warmth
If you are designing a living room from scratch with a new build, make the most of the natural light. The easy breezy style of the Hamptons is enhanced by rooms flooded with light. A bright room is welcoming and has a magical way of making a space feel larger than it is. If you are fortunate enough to have a gorgeous view, or a Hamptons-style verandah, consider including glass doors — either French doors or bifolds — to strategically invite the outdoors into your living space.
The ceilings of a living room should be a wow factor in and of themselves. A pitched ceiling with VJ panelling ticks both the coastal and country boxes while an ornate coffered ceiling brings grandeur and sophistication to a space. A statement chandelier over your living room will never go astray, but ensure its dimensions are in proportion with the overall height and width of the room. Something too small or too high is sure to be lost, equally as a chandelier of enormous size would overcrowd a smaller living room.
A grand fireplace is the perfect eye-catching feature for a living room. It invites everyone to gather around on a chilly night and offers endless styling opportunities on its decadent mantle year-round. You may choose to highlight it with VJ panelling up to the ceiling or clad it in natural stone for a touch of rustic charm. You can choose from gas, wood or electric heating options or you may design your fireplace to be double sided, placed on an exterior wall, effectively doubling its usability with your outdoor lounging arrangements.
From the ground up
Styling a living room begins from the ground up. A rug is a must-have. Whether it be a layered jute with a cotton striped rug on top, or a poly transitional rug, your living room is sure to feel underdressed without one. Just as important, the size of the rug should be appropriate to the size of the room and the proportions of your main furniture. A 400cm x 300cm jute rug is usually a good choice to commence with, allowing for a layered effect with a cotton rug one size down. The main rug should be just wider than your sofa, with the front half positioned over the rug. The rest of your key furniture should all fit within the boundaries of the rug, such as your armchairs, with your coffee table centred, plus occasional stools and side tables.
Choosing cushions and throws is where the fun comes in and can be a highlight of your styling experience. We are overwhelmed with options in flashy retail stores, with new trends coming out every season and quality products diminishing just as fast. While there is a place for cheap and cheerful, that place is not a high-end Hamptons home. Soft furnishings should reflect the calibre of elegance that the rest of your home portrays. Invest in your cushions, choose quality over quantity and truly fall in love with the patterns and fabrics — then you’ll never spend another cent on cushions again!
To ensure a beautiful result, use my rule of three: bring together a stripe, a geometric and a floral. These patterns together bounce off each other without feeling cluttered. Your cushions should be in complementary colours, but without the pressure to exactly match the shade of your sofas. Blues and greens, blues and caramels, caramels and greens, blues and whites … there are myriad ways to coordinate a Hamptons palette.
Gone are the days of the perfect karate-chopped cushion, now it is far more fashionable to give your cushions a gentle pat in the centre for a more lived-in, homely appearance. Similarly, draping a throw blanket doesn’t have to be rocket science. Simply open it out, grab hold of the centre and let the four edges drop, then fling it onto your sofa and hold it in place with a cushion.
Sit back and relax
Next, we bring in the big guns. Your sofa is such a crucial choice, not only for styling but for comfortability. Make sure you are able to sit in a sofa before purchasing it; feel the depth, the seat support, the armrests and the texture of the upholstery. If possible, having a sofa built from scratch to your specific criteria is a worthy investment.
Those who have one swear by their slip-cover sofa. The beauty is only beat by the practicality of having replaceable, washable covers. Sofas are furniture items that become truly loved and lived on by each family member — including the furry ones — and the option to easily clean the covers is becoming an essential for Australian families. Slip covers also allow you to change up your look more regularly without replacing the whole sofa. With custom-made sofas, having a spare set made in an alternative colour allows for your sofa to transition with seasonal styles.
Contrast piping on the cover is a designer touch that can rarely be found in standard retail stock. Similarly, using a patterned or highly textured fabric that is unique to your tastes is why custom upholstery remains such a valuable service
The shape of your sofa should be carefully considered once you know which Hamptons substyle you are trying to emulate. For classic, country and even coastal styles, an English roll-arm sofa is ideal. With its distinguishable arm design, this traditional sofa also offers a deep seat, tight back and turned wood legs.
Moving on to individual seating, this is where your personal and Hamptons style can have a little fun together. Armchairs, sometimes called occasional chairs, are essential to the living room. There is no wrong or right when choosing a pair of armchairs, they can coordinate with your sofas or they could be a standalone feature of their own, perhaps incorporating a mixture of looks into your base style.
This article originally appeared in Hamptons Living #1