Where Designers Would Spend and Save in a Living Room
It’s your main relaxation space, so what should you splurge or scrimp on in the living room?
However, if, like many of us, you’re on a budget, you’ll want to know where to put your hard-earned cash and where to be thrifty. We quizzed three interior design experts on what makes a living room sing without denting your bank balance too much – and where you really shouldn’t cut corners.
Professional advice from: Caroline Nicholls of Slightly Quirky; Sacha Berger of Honeybee Interiors; Natasha Burton of NB Interiors
More in this series: Where Designers Would Spend and Save in a Kitchen I Where Designers Would Spend and Save in a Bedroom
For most of us, a sofa is our key living room purchase, so not worth scrimping on, say the experts.
“A sturdy, well-made sofa will last you years and, when you do get bored with it, you can always re-cover it,” Natasha Burton says. “Cheap furniture is a false economy, as you’ll be replacing it before you know it.”
And don’t forget your sofa’s main purpose. “Most importantly, your sofa should be comfortable,” Caroline Nicholls says. “Plus, you’ll want it to be hardwearing and easy to clean, especially if you have kids and/or pets.”
More expensive sofas often have jointed hardwood frames, built to withstand heavy loads. Cheaper sofas may have plastic or softer pine frames. Pricier sofas will also have coil springs or serpentine (zig-zag) springs, for that ‘sitting on air’ feeling.
It really isn’t worth saving money if a too small, too big or awkwardly shaped sofa ruins those cosy evenings spent curled up.
This is a living room staple for many of us, but it’s somewhere you can easily save cash, Sacha Berger suggests.
“A cheaper coffee table can be styled well with books, plants and ornaments, and there are lots of reasonably priced good-looking ones out there,” she says.
Caroline agrees. “You can buy a cheaper coffee table and dress it really nicely. Plus, a coffee table often doesn’t get as much wear and tear as a sofa, dining table or rug.”
Planning to revamp a room – or more? It’s easy to find and hire interior designers through Houzz.
Flooring has one of the biggest impacts on your living room’s look, Caroline says, so it’s worth investing in getting it right. “Flooring is often a big expense, and can be a large area to cover, plus it can be inconvenient moving furniture, so you don’t want to be changing flooring frequently,” she says.
Whether you go for a classic wooden block parquet, as above, or carpet, “Choose flooring that’s good quality, easy to clean, won’t get damaged easily, and will stand the test of time,” Caroline says.
If you have original floorboards, the same rules apply: spend on having them sanded, repaired and varnished or oiled by a professional, if you can afford it, for a finish you truly love.
Once good rugs were investment buys that cost a fortune – and anything other than pure wool was regarded as synthetic and nasty.
Today, it’s far easier to find stylish designs that look more expensive than they are. “I’ve found some amazing cheap rugs,” Sacha says. “In my experience, there’s a real range of well-priced rugs out there and they come in really large sizes.”
Plus, as she points out, “Rugs are also often covered with sofas or coffee tables.” So maybe you don’t need that £2,000 handmade kilim after all…
More: 7 Key Elements for a Relaxing Living Room
It’s well worth investing in a lovely centrepiece pendant light, especially if you have a high ceiling, Sacha advises.
“Lights are real standout features in a living room. If lighting looks expensive, it makes you feel the other items in the room are as well,” she says. “And lighting is an area where I think you can tell – low-cost designs can really show.”
Spend money on the basics as well as the fittings – ask an electrician to build in wall lights to avoid trailing wires. And plan a living room scheme that creates soft pools of light for a more relaxing evening ambience.
These swiftly turn a plain scheme into a stylish, comfy retreat, but you don’t need to spend a fortune nowadays, Natasha suggests.
“Don’t be shy of hitting high street retailers for smaller soft furnishings such as cushions and throws,” she says. “Keeping it purse-friendly also means you can change things easily and cheaply – for example, if you refresh your colour scheme, or even by season.”
Living rooms are where we relax, but they’re also the places where we typically express our personality. “Spend on something you love rather than wasting money on something you can easily replace,” Caroline advises. “Buy an investment piece that has longevity.”
A unique piece can add colour and verve and stop things feeling ‘property developer’ bland. It could be a fantastic vintage chandelier (as here), a bright velvet armchair or an unusual antique.
It doesn’t have to be furniture, either. The golden stained glass in this living room is a period statement that gives the whole room a lift.
You don’t need to break the bank buying pricey limited editions or original paintings, according to Sacha.
“You’ll find lots of abstract prints online that don’t cost much and, once box-framed, these can look great,” she says. “There are also many places offering photographic prints, which come in a range of sizes. At a large scale, these can look like a real statement piece without costing too much.”
What have you spent and saved on in your living room? Share your thoughts and photos in the Comments.