We look at how to maximise space, increase functionality, and circumvent lounge room clutter with tips for layout, colour, storage and lighting.
Everyone loves an expansive living area. Creating a feeling of space in your living areas requires advanced planning and clever solutions.
1. Plan the layout
For most people, the living area is the hub of the home. If your budget allows it, it’s worth considering structural improvements that maximise the useable space or provide the feeling of expansiveness, such as:
- Knocking out internal walls to combine separate rooms forming one large open-plan living zone.
- Putting a buffet bar through to the kitchen.
- Adding a wall of glass bricks, mirrors or large reflective panels.
- Expanding the living space vertically raising the ceiling to expose rafters, adding a mezzanine or even building into the roof.
- Incorporating outdoor areas by adding a patio or deck, French windows or bi-fold doors.
- The living area is a zone in constant use. Hence, the layout is crucial to functionality and comfort, as well as the feeling of space.
Ensure there’s sufficient passage space between furniture groups and allow space for opening cabinet drawers.
Use light, versatile furniture that can be moved around easily. For example, ottomans and floor lamps can be moved between studying and socialising areas as needed.
In larger, open-plan living areas:
- Create ‘permeable’ zones by adding moveable screens or folding partitions.
- Place furniture in functional groups to define the space and its functions; creating ‘rooms within the room’.
- Use floor rugs (large enough to encompass each functional area) to further define living zones within open-plan space.
- Two or more smaller coffee tables rather than one outsized one make the area more flexible.
In more compact living rooms:
- Opt for furniture in minimalist forms rather than chunky oversized pieces.
- Use glass and mirrors to capitalise on natural light and give the illusion of extra space.
- Rather than cluttering the area with couches, have just one, plus a few streamlined armchairs, floor cushions or ottomans.
- Choose furnishings with multiple functions: good-quality sofa beds; cabinetry that can house clutter; storage chests that can be variously deployed as tables, storage or seating.
- Avoid cluttering the space and surfaces. Keep accessories and artworks to a minimum.
- To increase the sense of space and create a welcoming feel, position your couch facing the living room entrance.
- Employ various light sources as flat overhead lighting makes the space seem smaller.
- Use wooden or Venetian blinds or simple drops rather than elaborate window treatments.
2. Find the right colours, patterns and finishes
- Lighter colours and blonder wood make the area seem more spacious.
- A dark colour on the back wall makes the room appear wider.
- Vertical patterns on walls or furnishings give an illusion of greater ceiling height; horizontal patterns make areas appear lower but wider.
- Furniture upholstered in monochrome neutral hues is less obtrusive, simpler to update and coordinate. Use patterns and brights for accents only.
- Block colours help avoid a cluttered feel.
3. Don’t forget about storage
- Organise storage around your routines and activities. Choose storage units that correspond to what actually needs to be stored.
- Cabinets with sliding doors save space.
- To streamline the living area, contain non-decorative items within closed storage units. Then put decor items, books and valuables on open shelves or in glass-fronted cabinets.
- Use shelves and storage units to partition off zones.
- Save space by choosing storage that doubles as seating or surfaces. In this way, you can keep frequently used items (stereos, DVDs, candles, throw rugs etc) out of sight but close at hand.
4. Lighting is key
- Consider adding skylights or resizing windows to increase the amount of natural light entering the area.
- Compensate for insufficient natural light with clever use of colour, reflective surfaces and smart lighting.
- A variety of light sources in your living room allows you to change ambience to suit different activities. Use soft and multilayered diffusers for entertaining, bright but focused directionals for reading, indirect side lamps for watching TV and spots or floor lamps for dining.
- Avoid using a single overhead light source as it makes the space appear smaller.