8 Common Styling Blunders You Don't Want To Make
A beautiful colour scheme and a few nice bits of furniture aren’t all that goes into an appealing living-room arrangement. There are other factors to consider too, such as balance, proportion and placement. Not sure what that means for you and your living room? We asked three design experts to reveal the eight most common styling errors that people make and how you can steer well clear of them.
We’ve accompanied this story with images of beautifully designed living rooms from the Houzz archives to fuel your decor ideas.
Gabrielle Reinhardt, interior designer at Berkeley Interiors, says:
1. Blunder: A too-small rug
A great rug can be the making of your living room – it grounds your furniture and, in an open-plan space, defines the living area.
The most common mistake people make when purchasing a rug is choosing one that’s too small for both the room and the furniture in it. A too-small rug sits separately from the furniture in the room, making the space look disjointed and feel uninviting.
Measure up your living room and the main pieces of furniture in it before you hit the shops. Ideally, the rug you choose should be big enough to allow the key pieces of furniture to sit on top of it.
If your living room is not big enough to allow everything to sit fully on your rug, choose a style that is slightly wider than your sofa and allows for the front legs of your sofa and any smaller furniture pieces (such as side tables and stools) to sit on it.
2. Blunder: The television is the focus of the room
The television is the ruin of most living rooms. Many homeowners will choose an oversize television that is too big for the room and then centre all the furniture around it, forgetting that the living room is for entertaining and conversation too.
I also often see living rooms with nothing in them but a television and a modular sofa or a sofa and a chaise. A bare set-up such as this makes the room feel cold and unwelcoming, and suggests that the living room has no purpose beyond watching television – which can be an instant conversation killer.
The television can be an integral part of your living room without being the focus of it. The key is to conceal it as much as possible and create a space that performs dual functions as a watching zone and relaxing/social space.
A built-in wall of cabinetry or a ready-made cabinet with shelves are two smart ways to detract attention from a television or conceal it altogether. Use the open sections of the cabinetry to house books, photos, ornaments and other interesting things that will draw the eye from the television and add personality to the room.
Also consider having a smaller television in your living room and keeping the oversize screen for a media room or spare room (if you’re lucky enough to have one), where it can be hidden behind closed doors.
3. Blunder: Squashing all the furniture against the wall
Pushing all your living room furniture up against the walls is another common styling mistake people make. I often see rooms where the sofa is against one wall, with a pair of armchairs against another, and the coffee table stranded in the middle of the room where nobody can reach it. The result is a dull room that feels a little like the waiting room in a doctor’s surgery.
Moving the furniture deeper into the room and setting up conversational zones will instantly make your living room feel cosier and more welcoming.
The arrangement that works best will depend on the shape and size of the room. You may decide to put the sofa against a wall, with a pair of armchairs opposite it and a coffee table in between them. Or, if your living room is spacious, you may choose to place the furniture near the middle of the room, with space around it to move about.
4. Blunder: A sofa that’s too big or small
Selecting a sofa that’s the wrong scale for your living room is the biggest blunder people make. It’s important to remember that a sofa will often appear to be quite different in size once it’s out of the showroom and in your home.
Colour can also have an impact on how big a piece appears; a dark sofa with a skirt that goes to the ground, for example, can look quite heavy or imposing in a very small living room.
Measure up your living room, the other furniture in the room, and the sofa you have your eye on before you buy.
Always start with a floor plan first to ensure that the scale and proportion of the piece works in the space and provides enough room to move around with ease.
Then consider the style of sofa. In a compact living room, consider a sofa on legs and with narrow arms to give the illusion of more space.
If you have a large room, you might consider a more substantial sofa, such as one with wide arms that sits close to the ground.
Tip: If you don’t have easy access to a floor plan of your living room, mark out the size of a potential sofa on the floor with painter’s tape or newspaper before you buy it to test the dimensions.
5. Blunder: Getting the orientation wrong
Today’s living rooms work hard and often perform multifunctions as spaces where we entertain, watch television, work and dine. The position and orientation of your furniture is key to its success.
While a symmetrical layout with a pair of sofas opposite each other and a coffee table in between them is a traditional living room set-up, it’s not your only option and might not be the best choice for your space. This set-up has a formal feel (not ideal if you favour laid-back entertaining) and, if your living room is small or awkwardly shaped, it can make the space feel cramped while creating a lot of ‘dead’ space in the room.
It’s often more important to create symmetry with the architecture – such as centering a sofa below a window or framing a doorway – rather than creating it with furniture layout.
Rather than automatically opting for a symmetrical furniture layout, think about what will work best in your living room. The layout you choose should allow doors to open, people to move comfortably around the space, a view of the television, room to chat and areas for storage.
If your living room is small or narrow, consider replacing a second sofa with an occasional chair or two. An upholstered armchair is less bulky than a second sofa, and can be a great way to add colour and character to your living room.
Embrace the idea of a non-symmetrical arrangement: consider moving the television unit to one side to make space for display items, shifting the sofa along to make room for a standard lamp, and popping a single occasional chair in the corner of the room.
6. Blunder: Bad lighting
Even with the best layout and flow, bad lighting can ruin the look and feel of your living room. Generally, the problem comes down to either too much or too little light, and not enough options to allow you to use the space for different functions.
Look to create a smart, layered lighting scheme in your living room consisting of different light sources, such as a ceiling pendant, table and floor lamps and up or downlights. Setting them on dimmers allows you to alter the lighting levels and mood to suit the occasion.
A layered lighting scheme also allows two people to use the space at the same time for different tasks without disturbing each other. For example, one person might be watching television with the lights dimmed, while another person is reading in the corner of the room with a floor light on.
There are three types of lighting you’ll want to include: ambient lighting (a gentle wash of light that allows you to move around safely); accent lighting (to highlight special features in the room, such as art); and task lighting (for reading and other tasks where you need to see clearly).
7. Blunder: Artwork hung too high
Artwork is often hung too high to be properly seen or appreciated.
Gallery style is the only hanging style that allows for artwork to be hung higher than eye height as it combines artworks of different sizes to create a wall of art.
Artwork should be hung at eye height, with the middle of the piece approximately 1,600 millimetres from the floor.
8. Blunder: A tiny coffee table
A coffee table that is too small for the living room and surrounding furniture is a common sight and leads to a couple of issues.
First, if your coffee table is not in proportion with the room, sofa and any armchairs, it looks wrong visually and the space won’t feel cohesive or comfortable.
A too-tiny coffee table can also prove a practical challenge. If the coffee table is too small for the sofa or chairs, it will often get positioned far away from them in an effort to create a sense of balance, which makes it hard to reach.
As a rule of thumb, your coffee table should be between half to one-third of the length of your sofa. Look to position it about 400 to 500 millimetres from the sofa and armchairs so you can reach it comfortably.
Source: Georgia Madden Senior writer, Houzz Australia