Interior design is undeniably a question of personal preference. What to some is a marvellous combination of colour and texture, others will view as madness. Nevertheless, there are some basic design guidelines that can be followed to assist you in realising the full potential of your living space.
There are many elements to interior design and understanding these, along with the importance of how they interact, will allow you to create a room that successfully reflects your individuality.
Some people will adopt a particular design theme to run throughout the property, while others will select different designs for different rooms. Although some of the ideas we will be looking at are suitable for any room in the home, it is living room interiors that we are concentrating on in this article and style trends expected to make an impact.
But to begin with let us look at some general rules for interior design.
Naturally the question of space is decided by the size of the room, and although certain design elements can be employed to make a small room appear larger or a very large room less cavernous, the room’s dimensions will be your starting point.
So if you are living in a small flat, your love of bold patterns and bright colours may have to be compromised. The good news is that this particular design preference need not be abandoned completely for, as we will see later, there is still a place for a dramatic and vivid statement when decorating a small living room. Similarly, those who favour a severe minimalist approach to interior design should be aware this could result in a stark and forbidding environment in larger rooms.
How the room it is to be used should also affect its design. Those planning to use their living room for entertaining will want to create a living space that can accommodate additional seating, but still have room for people to move about comfortably.
Family living rooms must be planned with the children in mind. The room has not only to offer a warm and comfortable environment in which children can relax and play, safety – particularly for families with very young children – will be a major consideration too. This will take the form of avoiding furniture with sharp corners, fitting childproof catches to the windows and ensuring electric sockets are safeguarded from inquisitive little fingers. Freestanding features that can be knocked over and broken should also be avoided.
With all home improvement and DIY projects your budget is a crucial factor. However, a restricted budget need not limit your interior design ambitions or imagination. The success of television home improvement shows has brought interior design to the masses; consequently suppliers serving this market now offer an excellent range of goods and materials to suit every pocket.
Elements of style
The secret to successful interior design is detailed planning. All elements of the design should be carefully considered and plans drawn up of the method of approach. This will also allow you to calculate the cost of the project.
The elements to be considered are:
- Paints and/or wallpaper
- Furnishings and fabrics
- Curtains or blinds
- Decorative and ornamental features e.g. mirrors, pictures etc
Each element is important to the success of the overall design, but no one element is more important than any other.
Interior design can be a daunting experience for the novice, so here are a few basic rules concerning space and colour that will help you avoid some of the most common pitfalls.
- Using a similar colour for the ceiling and the floor covering with a lighter shade on the walls can make narrow rooms appear wider.
- A long room will look less like a corridor if one or both of the opposite narrower walls are painted in a slightly darker shade than the longer walls.
- Place a large mirror close to a window to reflect the scene outside. This will make the room appear larger and brighter.
- Vertical stripes on the walls will succeed in making the ceiling appear higher. However, narrow stripes in small rooms can create a cage effect, so using a pattern made up of alternating 15cm-20cm bands of colours of a similar shade may be a better option.
- Horizontal stripes running around the room have a broadening effect. As this type of design is not to everyone’s taste, the same effect can be achieved by using wide bands of plain wallpaper in slightly different shades, applied across the walls.
- Larger rooms can be made to look smaller by using a dark colour on the walls below a picture rail, and a lighter colour above the rail and on the ceiling.
- Furniture should always be chosen carefully to ensure it is in proportion to the room’s size. Simple, low-back sofas, open-back chairs and corner sofas can all make small rooms appear more spacious.
- To make a small room appear bigger use neutral colours on the walls. Painting skirting boards and mouldings in a lighter colour to the walls will have the same effect.
- Bright, vibrant colours such as reds, oranges and yellows deceive the eye by creating the impression that space is reduced; while blues, greens and violets produce the opposite effect.
How a room is lit can change its appearance dramatically, so the importance of lighting in interior design cannot be over emphasised. Living rooms serve many purposes from reading or relaxing in front of the television to entertaining and dining. By opting for a flexible lighting scheme, you will be able to create just the right mood for different times and activities. Using sources of light at different levels is the best way to achieve this.
The following tips will help you decide how best to illuminate your living room:
- Avoid a lighting layout that is too fixed. Down lighters recessed into the wall either side of the sofa may produce the effect you are looking for. But what happens if you want to move the sofa to a different position in the room?
- Wall lights are best positioned near fixed features such as in alcoves and either side of fireplaces.
- Accent lighting – focussed light used to highlight interior elements – is a great way of drawing the eye to a key design feature in the room.
- A central overhead light fixed close to the ceiling can create unflattering shadows. This is easily remedied by extending the flex, allowing you to bring the light down to a lower level. A cup hook screwed into the ceiling enables you to raise the light when the room is not in use.
- Image supplied by Leigh HarmerTable lamps positioned on tables and shelves at the edges of the room will radiate light into the room, producing a spacious yet welcoming environment.
Decorative heating and lighting
Away from soft furnishings, there has been a revolution in domestic radiator design. Although essential for warmth the radiator has always been one fixture that has provided little creative scope other than applying a fresh coat of paint.
Following a trend popular throughout Europe, domestic radiators are now being designed to be decorative in addition to their primary purpose of heating the room. The innovative designs utilise a range of shapes and eye-catching finishes, transforming what was once an essential but dull fixture into an attractive, architectural feature that serves only to enhance the room’s appeal.
Designs include the tall “waved” panel that lends softness to the radiator’s appearance; panels in a trellis-effect; robust tubular designs; and for those with a taste for the avant-garde, radiators in ornate baroque designs are also available. The finishes applied to this new style of radiator are equally diverse ranging from mirror smooth, copper-etched, feather-ground aluminium and brilliant colour.
Designer radiators work with all central heating systems and have BSP (British Standard Pipe) connections and will accept manual and thermostatic valves. Furthermore, many of the new designs can be made to measure ensuring the most practical use of space.
The simple lines and organic shapes of nature can also be found in contemporary table lamp design. Table lamps incorporating natural stone or wood as part of their base with shades in materials such as copper and wooden veneer, not only provide light, they bring interesting textures to the room.
Another trend in lighting to look out for next year is a variation of the angle-poise desk lamp. Designers have taken this common item of office furniture, greatly increased it in size, fitted a large shade and dimmer switch, and produced a versatile, freestanding floor lamp capable of illuminating the room at different levels and angles.
When looking to revamp your living room begin by planning and researching every stage of your interior design – and don’t be afraid to experiment. Seek inspiration from magazines, newspapers and product catalogues, taking cuttings of those ideas that you’d like to replicate in your home. Collect fabric and carpet swatches, use paint samples on the walls: combine, contrast and harmonise colours and textures, and gradually all the design elements will come together in the individual style you are seeking.
For futher information on products and design ideas featured in this article visit:
- Removing wallpaper
- Repairing damage to plasterboard
- Tips and ideas for decorating a child’s bedroom
- Tips to consider when designing a child’s bedroom
- How to use a wallpaper steamer
- How to wallpaper
- How to paper a ceiling
- How to paint a ceiling