Designing the perfect living room space can be an immensely rewarding and challenging task. A well-designed living room is one of the most important spaces in your home, serving as a hub for socializing, relaxation, and entertainment. In living room remodels, it is important to create a space that is not only aesthetically pleasing but also functional and comfortable. In this article, we will discuss key factors to consider when designing the perfect living room space.
Covid-19 lockdowns forced families to spend more time in their homes. Studies like the one conducted by the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity show that homes became the “everything space”, and our living rooms and kitchens became multi-function central hubs. There has been a dramatic increase in the amount of seated furniture and electronic media equipment in our homes since March 2020. A survey by academics at the University of Plymouth showed that families spend more time together, feel more connected and have achieved a better work-life balance. Many parents continued to work from home offices as restrictions eased in 2022.
Kitchen and living room remodels have become essential to many families, to improve the functionality and enjoyment of these important central hub spaces. There’s no magic formula, but by giving careful consideration to key elements, you can design a plan that works for you.
Evaluate what you have to work with
Each living room has its own unique character. Begin by considering the area or areas you want to highlight, like a fireplace, the cabinetry of the entertainment wall, with its big screen television and theatre system, a bar perhaps, a beautiful Palladian window, French door access to the deck or dining room, or the space’s multi-purpose features. Think about the shape of the room and the height of the ceiling.
Does the floor plan work for you, or will it need some revisions? If the living room is too small, can it be opened up or extended? What furniture do you want to place in the space? Will one small sofa work or do you need multiple seating areas?
Establish your living room’s purpose
The room’s function will determine the ideal floor plan and the way the space is decorated. If the room will be a hub where the family gathers around the home theatre system, and the hearth in winter, a large fireplace, large sectional couch and media wall units, with plenty of storage may provide a cozy retreat. Will it be a dual-purpose space?
Is the living room going to double as a play area for young children? If so, you will want to include some curved-edge kid-friendly furniture, storage bins for toys, and a comfortable area with a large couch they can use to watch TV.
If a portion of the living room will be used for entertaining, a high-backed sofa, bar and big-screen TV will offer a comfortable place to chat over drinks, watch a game or new movie release.
Map out the flow and choose your furniture pieces
As you play around with floor plan ideas, consider how the pieces work together, as you try different options for seating and other furniture. Visualize the flow of people moving through the space, as they sit, hold conversations, and get up for another drink or more food from the dining area. Make sure the entrances will remain open. Consider the natural light sources, so they provide illumination and not glare.
It’s important that your floor plan sketches are close to scale, and that you have the measurements of the pieces you’re trying to place. After you’ve evaluated the architecture and space you have to work with, the function and flow, it’s time to settle on your key pieces of furniture.
Re-design/renovation or remodel?
A redesign of your living room space usually doesn’t involve a contractor. You would probably work with an interior designer to create your new vision for the space, and the goal would be to take the existing space and give it a facelift. Redesigns focus on what will fit in the existing room, rather than rebuilding the space. Your redesign may include fresh wallpaper and paint, some reupholstery, new flooring and custom drapes, and light fixtures.
In this article we’re exploring a remodel that goes beyond a cosmetic refresh, with some floor plan or structural changes. If you have a room adjoining your living room or an entry area, it may be possible to remove an interior non-load-bearing wall, to expand your living room space. Your licensed remodelling contractor will be able to verify that the wall is not load-bearing, or a sturdy beam is needed to take up the weight, and can secure the necessary permits.
Cozy and intimate, or open space?
Living rooms traditionally were compact and tight, and often were closed off from the rest of the house with sliding doors, to save energy when not in use to entertain guests. The large open living spaces of the mid-40s through the 50s, and trend-setting designers like Frank Lloyd Wright changed all of that.
An open floor plan is a space where at least two rooms, that ordinarily would have separate but related functions, have been joined to create a larger space. Classic examples of individual rooms that are separate but related are kitchens and dining areas, dining areas that open up into the living room, and great rooms with a vaulted ceiling that joins the kitchen, dining room and living room. Great rooms maximize a home’s social aspect, for homeowners that enjoy cooking and entertaining.
An open floor plan doesn’t mean there are no barriers between the rooms. Sometimes pillars or part walls help support heavy beams used to carry the weight of the floor above, instead of a load-bearing wall. Another way to visually divide two spaces within a greater open space is with levels, and one or two stairs to transition from one level into a sunken area. Different paint colours or accent walls can also provide the feeling of moving from one space to another.
Earlier in this millennium, we were seeing a shift away from open floor plans. Open areas are somewhat less efficient to heat and cool, and personal streaming entertainment was causing family members to grab a plate and retreat to their private rooms for the evening, rather than share meals and entertainment. Over the past two years, we’ve seen a resurgence of interest in open floor plans. Families were forced to rediscover that individual activities and social togetherness can coexist. Realtors tell us that for the majority of homeowners in 2023, open floor plans are highly prized and they are a primary reason for undertaking a major remodel project.
Open floor plans offer better traffic flow, with improved sociability and communication. Interior spaces that once had no windows are bathed with shared natural light from the addition of walls that have windows. Open spaces make it easier to watch children and pets. Without partitions, it’s also much easier to reconfigure the furnishings and accessories in different layouts. And, according to Realtor.com, open floor plans are highly desirable and increase your home’s value to prospective buyers by up to 7.4-percent a year.
Are there any downsides? As already mentioned, great rooms with high ceilings can be more costly to heat. Without partition walls to block sounds, open spaces can be noisier. And there can be more housekeeping involved because you can’t just close one of the doors to hide a messy room.
Extending your living room
Bump outs are another popular way to expand the size of your living room. Homeowners often bump out a wall to create extra floor space for a specific feature they want to add to the room. Bump-out extensions add more space, without the high costs typically associated with a full addition. Some popular bump-out applications are:
- a window seat with bookshelves
- creating space for one or two hideaway desks, allowing the living room to be converted to an office by day, family room during the evenings
- expanding the floor space to accommodate a large sectional couch
- creating space for a family hearth and toasty winter gatherings
- adding a well-stocked wet bar
Bump outs can be as large or small as you require. They can extend as little as 2 feet to accommodate an entertainment centre cabinet or fireplace, or outward 10 to 15 feet from the house. Small bump-outs can be cantilevered, without any supported posts, footings or foundational walls, while larger ones will require support.
Unlike the addition of a whole room, bump outs will usually share the existing HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) services. Bump outs will typically have shed-style lean-to roofs, so there’s no need to extend the existing roof.
Designing the perfect living room space requires careful consideration of several key factors. From the floor plan to selecting the right furniture and creating a focal point to incorporating colour and texture and adding personal touches, there are many elements to consider when designing your perfect living room.
Reid Madiuk's been putting on a toolbelt since he was twelve years old, alongside his father, one of Whistler's first residential builders. As a third-generation Squamish and Whistler builder, Reid brings over 20 years of carpentry expertise to designing and constructing exceptional homes.