9 Living Room Features Pros Always Recommend
See the materials and details that designers suggest everyone should consider for their living space
With that in mind, we contacted more than 50 home design and renovation professionals and asked them which living room features they always recommend to homeowners. Here are the must-haves that came up again and again.
By far, the living room feature pros most often recommend is a connection to outdoor spaces. This helps to virtually and physically expand the living space and maximises natural light and views.
“Of all the spaces in a home, the living room is the one for which we strive the hardest to create continuity between the interior and exterior,” Coby Linton of Linton Architects says.
This approach can take many forms. At the top of the list would be sliding doors that completely open the indoors to the outdoors, as shown in this San Diego living room by Jackson Design & Remodeling.
But large windows that offer a view to an outdoor space also get the job done. “Large fixed windows can really open up your home to views and light,” designer Justin Cipriani of Cipriani Studios says.
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The next-most-recommended feature is performance fabric. This durable upholstery is stain-resistant and easy to clean, which also allows homeowners to feel a little more confident in choosing white and creamy colours for pieces such as sofas.
“In living rooms, especially for clients with families or pets, I always recommend performance fabrics where possible,” designer Natalie Meyer of CNC Home & Design says. “Whether on sofas, chairs or upholstered ottomans, a performance fabric will stand up to your family’s lifestyle and help protect against stains or spills, so you can actually enjoy and live in your space.”
This is an obvious one, but it’s worth emphasising: comfortable furniture is a must-have in a living room. That means using more soft fabrics, deep cushions and rounded edges rather than solid, hard-backed pieces and sharp corners.
“I always tell my clients that the most important living room feature is comfort,” designer Lindsey Machado of Designed With Grace & Joy says. “We will always make any space look beautiful, so it’s more important to me that they’re also happy with the way it feels. That not only includes actual materials – think plush rugs, soft [cushions] and throws, a nice-feeling sofa – but also ambience.”
Designer Krista McGrath of McGrath Interiors tells homeowners to get the best-quality seating they can afford. “They will spend hours sitting on their furniture,” she says, “so it should be very comfortable and hold up well.”
Designer Sabrina Lowe agrees. “The sofa is the one item in the living room that clients should put resources towards,” she says. “Most people who invest in a good couch have it for decades.”
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In addition to choosing comfortable furniture in durable fabrics, you should strive for plenty of seating options to accommodate family members and guests. Consider sofas, love seats, armchairs and ottomans.
Pros also recommend pieces that can be moved around, such as small chairs and footstools. Swivel chairs are another pro favourite. These allow the user to rotate to face a conversation area, a view or a nearby room such as the kitchen.
And think about how window seats or a fireplace hearth might add to your seating arrangement.
One element you’re almost guaranteed to find in a professionally designed and decorated living room is a rug. This helps to anchor the room and provides a jumping-off point for building a cohesive colour palette.
“It adds warmth and cosiness to a space and is a great way to tie furniture and décor together while also providing a way to add detail and texture to the space,” designer Anna Butler says.
Designer Allison Crawford always recommends an oversized bespoke or vintage rug. “When all four feet of a living room’s furniture can sit on the rug, the entire space is elevated,” she says. “It creates a sense of elegance and really pulls the room together.”
Many design and renovation pros feel a fireplace should be a standard feature in a living room. It gives the space ambience and provides a captivating focal point around which to arrange furniture.
“It allows for gathering and brings people together for conversation and creates memories,” John Annis of Galbraith Carnahan Architects says.
Pros can’t say enough about the importance of a layered lighting scheme in a living room. “We always recommend layers of lighting, such as a chandelier and then sconces,” Alexandra Ford of Cummings Architecture + Interiors says. “Living rooms can be used for so many activities – socially for entertaining, reading, watching a movie – you want to be able to vary the lighting based on the task.”
Layered lighting is the go-to living room feature for designer Virginia Betty of Betty + Co Design and Consulting. “It’s nice to have a combination of small [recessed] lights on dimmers, sconce lights on the wall, reading lamps and art lighting,” she says. “You can have it bright for cleaning time, task lighting for reading, and dim, cosy lighting for evening relaxing.”
To create flexibility with lighting, designer Wendy Black Rodgers recommends that homeowners install floor outlets so lamps can be positioned next to seating pieces without worrying about tripping over wires.
Built-in cabinets give homeowners customised storage and display space while creating a finished look. “One of our top living room features that we recommend is built-in shelving or custom woodwork – cabinetry, built-in units, room dividers,” designer Ivana Stojanovska of Arete Renovators says.
Alcove units like these by Pringle & Pringle work brilliantly, offering shelves for display and cupboards for less decorative items. Media units are also gaining popularity and are particularly useful when there’s no fireplace.
More: 23 Media Units That Create a Stylish Focal Point
Many family members and guests spend the bulk of their time at home in the kitchen or living room, so creating a connection between the two spaces makes sense. That’s why many pros recommend an open floor plan when it comes to living spaces.
Keep in mind that you can still have some delineation of space within the space. Furniture arrangement, as in this room by Granit Architects + Interiors, ceiling treatments and partial walls can give the feeling of separation between spaces while maintaining openness.
Which of these design tips have you used in your own home? Share your thoughts in the Comments.