7 Key Elements for a Relaxing Living Room
Focus on getting these core details right for a living space that soothes the senses
Get the basic design details right and comfort will follow. Join us in deconstructing these well-put-together rooms to discover why they work.
Layers of lighting, rather than one overhead source, will alter the mood of almost any interior, bringing a relaxing sense of warmth and cosiness after dark.
Start by getting your overhead lighting in order, ensuring it’s dimmable. A good pendant light, especially with a striking shade, is nearly always a characterful addition to any living room.
An overhead light alone, though, tends to give a room a flat sort of feel. It will seem instantly more inviting with the introduction of lamps. A wall lamp, as seen in this inviting room by FARstudio, is a nice idea for reading or illuminating an attractive corner.
If your room is already decorated, there are plug-in lamps that can be fixed to walls with no chasing or replastering required.
Try also a small spherical lamp placed on the floor or a stool or shelf for a gentle glow, or highlight plants, artwork and displays with a flexible arm design.
Introduce at least three secondary light sources, dotting them around the the room. Think carefully, too, about your bulbs – warm white options are key for a gentle feel.
To create a room that’s fit for purpose – relaxation for the occupants as well as a comfy space for welcoming in others – seating is key.
One sofa, facing a wall or the TV, is unlikely to do the job. In large rooms, there may be space to position a sofa opposite two armchairs or another sofa with a table in between. In the average Victorian terrace, there’s often room for a pair of sofas perpendicular to one another. An armchair in another corner is good for visitors if you can fit one in.
In a small room, it can be tempting to scrimp on seating options. Instead, think about scaling down proportions. In this skinny living room, the petite space under the window is filled by a daybed made to look like a sofa with cushions. A window seat or bench could work just as well.
A television can provide relaxing escapism for many of us, but if it’s in the wrong location or dominates the space, it can have the opposite effect.
This room by Alfred House Interior Design gets the placement of the TV just right. It’s at the perfect height for comfortable viewing and, set against a dark background flush against the wall, doesn’t stand out as a feature.
The artwork also helps to distract the eye and provide visual balance when the remote is off-duty.
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Most of us, of course, will only be able to fantasise about having a view like this from our living room window. But if you do happen to have a picture-perfect scene outside – it could be fields, urban rooftops, garden trees – and if your layout and room shape allows it, do build your room around it.
There’s power in having something lovely to gaze at. It provides relaxation at various levels – visual peace and mental distraction from day-to-day responsibilities. But if, like most of us, you’re lacking a suitable tableau beyond the glass, try faking it.
Imagine this view is instead a striking piece of art, a print or a painting or a piece of interesting fabric hung up or framed. It doesn’t have to be expensive, only to draw and please the eye, and provide you with a focal point around which to position the furniture.
Warmth is something you’re aiming for and what better way to build that feeling than with collections of things you love to look at. Personal effects and cherished objects have the power to give a room character.
But where to put stuff? A slimline shelf or cabinet behind the sofa, as seen in this room designed by Bertolini Architects, is a classic way to make space on a minimum footprint. In fact, anything wall-hung will reduce floor clutter.
If you do have the room, a sideboard provides storage as well as a surface for display. Side tables and stools are great for threesomes (a plant, a book and a candle, for example) and coffee tables, also as seen here, look great topped with stacks of books and other decorative items.
Tidiness is key (just look at those crisply lined-up piles of books), as clutter can be stressful.
Equally, a more minimal approach still allows for characterful additions. If you’re displaying just a few objects, go big on texture or patina – think vintage curiosities, tactile wooden objects, candlesticks, framed postcards and so on.
In most situations, you’ll feel more at ease with your living room windows covered after dark. There can be something unsettling about not being able to see what’s outside, or knowing you’re very visible in your lit space to anyone with a view in. Plus a wall of hard, shiny blackness isn’t generally the most visually appealing vista.
These lavish, full-length curtains in a room by Rumi Bunya Design add colour, texture and cosiness. They’ll also be fantastic at draught-proofing.
Blinds will create a different feel and may be more suitable to your style and the shape and location of your windows. They’ll also give you a bit more floor and wall space because they’re more self-contained.
Plants – quite literally, of course – add life to a room, and you only need to google “biophilia” to find research on the relaxing power of nature. Plants also have the ability to purify the air. Put simply, adding greenery to your living room is almost certainly going to make you feel more comfortable when you’re in it.
This laid-back space, put together by Matthew Giles Architects, is a masterclass in foliage styling. A mix of plants at different levels adds interest, and combining different shapes – upright, large, small, hanging – and not sticking to just one leaf type creates a considered yet relaxed result.
What makes your living room feel relaxing to you – and what tips would you take from this list? Share your thoughts and photos in the Comments.