Category Archives: Living Room Ideas

For many, the living room is the central hub of the house where the family spends most of their time together. Plan and decorate your living room, den, or lounge room using these posts to guide you.

Mid-Century Modern Endures

In design, the adage is that “everything old becomes new again.” Since the late 1990s, many designers and creative types have abandoned the “shabby-chic” ethos for 1950s-inspired mid-century modern. The clean lines and simple finishes of mid-century design are functional and beautiful, and now available at almost any price point.

Even though most design trends last a few years – see the aforementioned shabby-chic, 1920s Spanish, and art Nouveau – mid-century modern remains popular with designers and consumers alike.   You need only to flip through a home magazine or stroll through a mass retailer like West Elm or CB2, and it’s all variations on the Eames-chair-and-tulip-table theme.

mid-century
Photo from The New York Times

Why does mid-century remain so popular?  Its wide appeal makes sense, because it was designed specifically to be lived with, rather than show pieces – it is democratic and made in simple shapes with classic materials – so it seems timeless and goes with everything.  The pieces are beautifully functional and they lend themselves well to smaller spaces and urban environments like city lofts.  Its simplicity is universally understood and appreciated.  Mid-century modern is also uniquely American, so it’s easy to find – both the antique versions and reproductions at modern retailers.  

mid-century-1
Photo By Interior Designer Amy Lau

Designers caution that you should not use midcentury exclusively – filling a room entirely devoted to a theme looks too deliberate and not reflective of personal taste.  You’re not trying to recreate a ‘Mad Men’ set in your home, after all.  But melding mid-century modern basics with some personal, interesting pieces can create an elegant interior that’s uniquely yours.

Consider mixing a pair of clean-lined mid-century chairs in an otherwise traditional space, and add some mid-century accessories like drum lamps or a spiky-legged coffee table to tie it all together.  Or use mid-century seating against a rustic wood dining table for an interesting mix of modern and traditional.

Best Ways to Incorporate Antiques into Your Home

So you’ve found an amazing antique in a local shop or during your travels, and you had to have it.  Or even better, you were gifted or inherited a cherished piece of ceramic, an heirloom textile, or exquisite piece of artwork. Both the sentimental value and the quality of an antique is unmatched, but making them work with more modern décor can sometimes be a challenge. Below are some ways to show off those antique pieces in your home with the focus they deserve – and so they look like they’ve been there all along.

Think about how you will display your antique – using less formal display methods can give an old piece a modern look.  Propping artwork against a shelf or another piece of furniture, or resting it directly on the mantel can tone down the formality of the piece.

If you fell in love with, or were bequeathed, a large piece of artwork, properly display it by giving it a spot of prominence on a plain wall. Painting a bright color on the wall behind it will make the painting pop, and a bold, contemporary color on the wall keeps an antique painting from looking too formal or stuffy. Consider how you’re lighting the piece as well.

Bedroom transitional-bedroom

You can also use an antique piece of art to create a new color scheme in the room. Pull a color you like out of a painting, and incorporate that palette throughout the room to tie the old and new together.

vintage
Photo from CountryLiving-45 Ways to Creatively Display Your Collection

Perhaps your antique is not a painting, but an object, or a collection of objects like earthenware or ceramics. A collection of similar items can be beautiful to display and enjoy. Don’t hide them away at the back of a cabinet; group your antique glassware or pottery prominently on a shelf or sideboard, or consider an open cabinet whose inside is painted a color that lets your collection stand out.  Consider, if you have a single piece, starting a collection or adding to one – what makes a collection is special is that it’s eclectic and can be added to over time.

antique-sofa
Photo from Wall Street Journal-How to Turn an Antique Sofa Into a Statement Piece

Is your antique a piece of furniture?  A wonderful way to work an old, perhaps ornate piece of furniture into a modern home is to pair it with more contemporary pieces.  A primitive antique dining table, or a glossy mahogany one with turned legs, will look equally at home paired with modern seating – metal chairs or ones upholstered in a graphic print.  Flank an antique with newer pieces and it will become a cohesive part of your space.

Bold Decoration

Even the most expertly-decorated spaces can feel like they are missing something, especially when the palate is neutral and people are afraid to stray from the predictable.  But using bold color or pattern, even in small amounts, can really take a room to “wow” status, especially when that bold element is used somewhere unexpected.

bold-bedroom

Photo from Contemporist- Wall Decoration Inspiration

For instance, an attention-grabbing print on the walls can reinvent a featureless space. A modern graphic paper in a deep color delivers a powerful statement whether you use it on a single accent wall, or all four.  Try a boldly patterned wallpaper to highlight a feature like the fireplace wall, or use it behind shelving or build-ins.
If you don’t want to make the commitment to wallpaper, try using a bold paint color instead – if you decide it’s too much drama, paint is easily (and inexpensively) changed.  Try a deep jewel-toned hue like emerald green, cobalt blue, or fuschia on a wall to make the artwork or furniture pop, or to highlight architectural features in a room.

Presidio Heights Kitchen contemporary-kitchen

If color or pattern on the walls isn’t what you’re looking for, think about what’s underfoot to highlight the décor – go for bold floors! Colorful, patterned, stenciled, or boldly carpeted, floors can help you make a gorgeous statement and even become the star of the space.  Bold floors can add style and create ambience in even the most ordinary spaces, and it’s an unexpected way to use pattern.  If your hardwood is beat up and sad, consider painting the wood floors in a deep glossy hue like navy or chocolate, or painting a geometric pattern like stripes or chevron – this works especially well in small places like hallways or entryways, and provide a powerful first impression when someone enters your home.  If a painted or patterned tile floor is too permanent, consider a graphic print rug in a bright color, which can easily be swapped out.
Other quick, and less expensive ways to add bold style to a room include incorporating metallic decorative elements, like brass mirrors, side tables, and vases, or simply employing a bright color like coral or turquoise in your throw pillows, linens, and picture frames to give the space a punch.

Next Level Living Rooms

Because the living room is the place you go to unwind and watch TV, chat with family, and entertain company, that space has the sometimes difficult task of balancing style and functionality. So how can you make your living room welcoming and comfortable without sacrificing aesthetics and design? Here are some helpful tips for adding polish to your living space so it’s a place you’re happy to hang.

Large Mirrors

Modern Vibe

 

There’s a reason carnivals use funhouse mirrors – they are excellent at creating illusions.  In the case of your living room, the illusion is space: expand the look of the room with a massive mirror. A large mirror is almost like adding another window to the room, making it feel lighter and more spacious, and reflecting whatever you put in front of it.  Try positioning lamps or green plants in front of mirrors so they cast more light and reflect your greenery. Candles also look much more romantic in front of reflective glass.

Is Your Rug Big Enough?

In the living room, an attractive rug underfoot in a plush material is welcoming and cozy – and the bigger the rug, the better. Your furniture should all fit on the rug, but if it doesn’t, at the very least the front feet of each large piece should be on the rug. And if the existing rug in your living room is too small, don’t worry: you can add texture and keep the rug you love by layering it over a larger neutral carpet in a natural color or fiber.

Curate your Surfaces

where to buy fabric

Casual Elegance Collection courtesy of Curated Kravet.

It’s hard to decide what decorative elements to put on flat surfaces, beyond the ubiquitous stack of coffee table books.  A classic decorator’s trick is to use a mix of three elements — flat, vertical and organic —to create arrangements that are attractive without being too cluttered or fussy. Try using this trick to style your console or coffee table, or even your mantel.

For flat, think of laying books, a tray, or a favorite platter next to something taller/more vertical, like a vase, sculpture, or candle on a pedestal.  Add an organic element like a plant or flower arrangement, or a cool bunch of shells or piece of driftwood from a beach vacation.

Try a Dramatic Accent Wall

where to buy fabric

Park Avenue Parlor courtesy of Curated Kravet.

Painting a single wall in your living room charcoal, navy or black can bring the space into focus, without being overwhelming.  A true black can look too intense, but a deep charcoal gray or a blue-black, Like Benjamin Moore’s French Beret, reads black but isn’t quite so stark. One benefit of a dark accent wall is that if you hang your flat-screen TV in front of it, the TV virtually disappears when it’s not on. And if your black accent wall still seems too dark once you’ve taken the plunge and painted, try placing a lighter, bulkier piece of furniture in front of it to tone down the drama.

Refresh an Old Sofa

beckenstein fabrics custom upholstery work

A custom slipcover in the works.

Instead of splurging on an expensive new sofa, try giving your old couch a makeover instead.  Many manufacturers make slipcovers for their sofas, so if your couch still has good bones, check to see if any slipcovers are available.  And even if you aren’t that lucky, most local upholstery shops like ours can create a custom slipcover for less than the price of a new sofa. Or, for an inexpensive quick change, try swapping out your throw pillows and using a beautifully textured blanket or textile to drape over the back of your couch.

Modern Home Office Ideas

When it comes to a home office space, no single design idea will work for everyone –there is a wide range of different needs for a workspace, depending on the work being done there.  That doesn’t mean that you can’t create the perfect home office for you, though!  Here are some universally appealing suggestions to help you create a home office space that’s both functional and attractive.

Specific Task Areas

When envisioning a design for your home office, it’s important to take into consideration all of the activities you’ll complete in a given workday/week.  While a desk is an obvious starting point for most offices, to tackle paperwork or writing, those are likely not your only activities, so creating separate focus areas for tasks can be useful.

While your desk is the likely workhorse in an office space, don’t forget about incorporating a seating area for hosting and meeting with clients, and having a face-to-face discussion.  Additionally, if the office space hosts multiple users who need to share the office, you can help keep things organized and make the space work for everyone by giving each person an individual workstation.    

Home office seating

Courtesy of californiaclosets.com

Be Careful with Color

Since your office is a place where you need to be able to stay focused, it can be useful to set big punches of color — and the emotional responses they bring — aside. Instead, focus on choosing a largely neutral color palette that will allow you to put the bulk of your attention on the task at hand.  You can add small pops of color to keep the space visually interesting, with easily swapped-out elements like throw pillows or area rugs, but the more permanent parts of the design – furniture and wall color – should be calm and neutral.

Neutral color home office

Image courtesy of idekohome.com

Make your Office Personal

As much as we’ve emphasized that you need to be able to focus within your workspace, it’s also important to create an office where you’ll enjoy working and spending time. So while keeping the workspace décor neutral is key, so is accenting your office with things that highlight your personal taste and make you happy.  Those might be pieces of artwork, or items from favorite travels, for example.

An easy way to add personal elements and keep a cohesive scheme in the home office is to use your personal items as a jump-off point for accent colors in the room.  Draw out a bold color from a favorite painting on the wall and use that hue for pillows or a throw in the seating area, or mimic the pattern on a piece of displayed pottery in your window treatment or area rug.

Home office decor

A Place for Everything

Staying organized is a perpetual struggle in any office space, yet it’s crucial to efficiency. So for any workspace, and especially if you’re prone to becoming buried under your desk, it’s imperative to work lots of storage solutions into the design.  Ideally, if you have the space for them, built-in cabinetry helps store large items and hides clutter; you can repurpose a sideboard into file and supplies storage.  Bookcases and open shelves are also a great way to keep things organized and provide display space for both functional and decorative elements.

home office organization

Bearing in mind just a few important themes – organization, a neutral palette to encourage focus, task areas, and making the space personal – you can carve out a functional workspace in your home that you won’t want to leave.

Modern Ways to Use Wallpaper

The mention of wallpaper can conjure images of a dusty grandmother’s parlor, or dated patterns that smother a room – but many designers know that modern wallpapers can add elegance and texture to a space, and there’s no rule they have to be used on all four walls.

Living Room Wallpaper Design

Courtesy of  daleeramo.com

In a room that lacks architectural interest, hanging a bold wallpaper on one wall can create visual interest and layer pattern or texture into an otherwise boring space.  Savvy designers have been using rich fabric or fabric-like papers like grasscloth or damask on the wall behind clients’ beds for years, to add luxury and color to sleeping quarters.  Modern wallpapers in of-the-moment prints like chevron, arabesque, toile, and Greek key all provide a canvas to layer pattern in a space.

Hand-painted wallpapers with botanical scenes, birds, and vines also add whimsy and romance to places like a dining room or child’s bedroom.  Botanical papers are particularly stunning in Parisian-inspired boudoirs as well.

Living Room Wallpaper Design

Courtesy of rezanouranian.com

Bold geometric or patterned patterns, and wallpapers with very rich colors don’t just have to be used on walls, either.  Clever designers have used them in the recesses behind wet bars or china cabinets for example, or as panels to cover wardrobe doors.  Textured papers printed to look like tiles or plaster scrollwork can take a space from plain to knockout with less commitment and expense than the real thing.

Textured Wallpaper Design

Courtesy of clarke-clarke.com

Some contemporary wallpapers add metallic elements to their patterns and textures as well, which can bring light and shimmer into dim spaces.

With so many choices available, at a wide range of price points, wallpaper is definitely enjoying a renaissance in interior design, and can add depth and polish to a space without ever evoking grandma’s parlor.

eames chair in living room setting

The Eames Lounge Chair: Love or Hate?

While there is definitely some disagreement about the (attractiveness?) of the Eames Chair, there is no denying that it has become an icon of modern design. The Eames Chair has become a staple in homes everywhere (both modern and traditional) and it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a house without one. So why is this chair’s use so controversial?

 

There is no denying the comfort of the Eames Lounge Chair. First designed in 1956 by Charles and Ray Eames for the Herman Miller furniture company, the goal was to match the feeling associated with the snugness of a well-fitted baseball mitt, and it certainly has achieved that goal. The shell is made out of a molded plywood – the first piece of popular furniture made with this material – which gives it a natural finish that resembles a baseball mitt. It is then cushioned to wrap around your body and when completed with an ottoman, can almost be good enough to replace your bed!

These chairs were inspired by director Bill Wilder who created his own lounge chair to keep him comfortable during his long hours on set.  They carry a mid-century modern feel with a touch of 50’s vintage. No matter the home or office design, the Eames Chair can be modified to fit with different shades of wood and custom upholstery.

Vitra Eames Chair

Courtesy of Vitra Designs

The Eames  Longe Chair’s popularity has even landed it roles on the big screen, having been featured in many modern television shows and movies, including Mad Men, a favorite among interior designers. These chairs are so iconic that they were added to the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection when Herman Miller donated an original 1956 rosewood chair and ottoman.

Eames Chair in Living Room

Courtesy of Design You Trust

Yet what makes this chair’s use so controversial? It is undoubtedly a well-known and popular piece, but along with praise comes  criticism. Reading through online discussions some feel the piece may be too popular. Some believe the Eames Chair has become an overused status symbol. People place them in rooms for the sake of having an Eames Chair rather than by design. A notable discussion I stumbled upon was on the popular forum Reddit.com, and it was a particularly heated debate.

“I hate those chairs, people who buy them should just replace them with a giant sign that says ‘I HAVE MONEY’, would be more to the point.”

“I think they’re a great piece of design, BUT you see a lot of rooms where they clearly don’t fit the aesthetic and are just a showoff piece. I think the one in this room ties in nicely enough with the other elements though.”

“I like it it too, but the piece is so ubiquitous and well known that to me people don’t really care about it looking good as much as they care about using it as a transparent display of wealth, it’s tacky, uninspired and very nouveau riche.”

Eames Chair

Courtesy of Fresh Home

 

Is the Eames Longe Chair pricey? Yet, but its appeal and quality are what have added to its value. It’s nearly a perfect match of both form and function. It becomes a statement piece in every room, but one that someone can lie in and comfortably use throughout its lifetime. If you have ever sat in one, you will know why they are found in homes all over the world. As Charles Eames asked, “Who ever said that pleasure wasn’t functional?”