On dark winter evenings, there’s nothing nicer than retreating to a cosy living room. If yours is feeling a little lacklustre, read on to discover leading interior designers’ expert advice for creating a living room you’ll be desperate to retreat to. By Jessica Jonzen
A LIVING ROOM DESIGNED BY KATE GUINNESS DESIGN . IMAGE: JAMES MCDONALD
Cosiness. Whatever your personal style, the feeling of being cosy – warm, welcomed and content – is something we all aspire to for our homes. Whether you live in a characterful cottage with an open fireplace, or a new build flat where the only feature is an ugly radiator, the living room should – and can – be the only place you want to be on a cold winter night.
So how to create a look and feeling of cosiness? “A sitting room must have plenty of layers,” says Emma Sims-Hilditch, Creative Founder of Sims Hilditch. “A blend of new and antique and pieces, plenty of artwork and layered lighting all work together to bring character, contrast and atmosphere to the room.”
For interior designer Susie Atkinson of Studio Atkinson, it’s essential to make the room feel as relaxed as possible. “We want people to feel like they can just take off their shoes and shake off the formalities of the day,” she says. “For living rooms, I like to create warm, spacious rooms, that help you to unwind, whether that be through the use of scenic wallpapers that you can get lost in, soft and subtly glamorous velvet upholstery or choosing soft curved sofas. It’s all about creating a balance of colour and tone and texture, and of course lighting.”
LAYERS OF TEXTURE IN SIMILAR MUTED TONES ADD WARMTH TO THIS QUEEN ANNE TOWNHOUSE DESIGNED BY STUDIO ATKINSON. IMAGE: COURTESY OF STUDIO ATKINSON
The first layer, of course, is the paint colour. “For me, it’s about using paint colours which are tonally warm and cocooning,” says Laura Stephens. “In my own living room, I used ‘Clay Mid’ by Little Greene. I adore it as its red undertones make the space so inviting. It also layers really well, so adding a chintzy fabric such as the one I chose from Colefax and Fowler adds to the cosiness.
Emma Sims-Hilditch encourages her clients to ‘play’ with colour in their living room schemes: “while we love neutrals, deep reds, browns and greens work well all year round,” she says. Sophie Rowell of Côte de Folk recommends painting your ceiling the same colour as your walls: “it envelops you into the space and creates a seamless, more calming result no matter what colour you choose.”
Sophie also advises that furniture should always be chosen with the people who will be using it in mind. “When choosing your sofa think about what will best suit you and your family, not just how it looks,” she says. “Do you like lounging as you watch TV? Then go for a super deep sofa. Do you love that scrunched up sinking feeling when you sit down or a firmer seat which doesn’t need any plumping? In the first instance, go for feather and down and for the second, opt for core wrapped foam.”
(LEFT) INTERIOR DESIGNER SOPHIE ROWELL OF CÔTE DE FOLK HAD HER SECOND-HAND SOFA REUPHOLSTERED IN A COMBINATION OF STRIPED FABRICS. (RIGHT) SOPHIE LEFT THE PLASTERED WALLS UNPAINTED, ADDING A RICH PATINA TO THE ROOM. IMAGES: CHARLOTTE BLAND
Kate Guinness designed the sofas in her London home herself, basing her design on one of her mother’s old sofas and taking account of her and her husband’s heights (she’s 6 ft while he is 6 ft 4″.) “They also have removable and washable covers, which is essential for a busy family with small children,” she adds.
“If your living room is a family space then an L-shaped sofa designed for snuggling up on might be the best option,” says Emma Sims-Hilditch, “and if you are working with a more formal space then elegant armchairs and sofas upholstered in velvet might work well.”
A COLOURFULLY UPHOLSTERED OTTOMAN CREATES A WELCOMING CENTRAL POINT TO THE LIVING ROOM IN THIS WINDOR COUNTRY HOUSE DESIGNED BY SALVESEN GRAHAM. IMAGE: COURTESY OF SALVESEN GRAHAM
Once you’ve got your seating arranged, you need to think about a central point which will both anchor the room and provide you with somewhere to put your feet up. Nicole Salvesen and Mary Graham of Salvesen Graham recommend opting for an upholstered ottoman instead of a central coffee table: “rather than having a hard surface, an ottoman is another way to add softness and comfort into a scheme.”
Fabrics are the next consideration. For Salvesen Graham, “layering cushions in different patterns and textures is a great way to instantly make a room feel cosy. Budget allowing, we tend to use curtains rather than blinds to soften a window frame – it’s another way to bring in more fabric.”
A TELEVISION IS CLEVERLY DISGUISED WITHIN A FALSE BOOKCASE, DESIGNED BY SIMS HILDITCH. IMAGE: COURTESY OF SIMS-HILDITCH
Given that the living room is where we retreat for a Netflix session, your television is an important part of the equation – but not many of us want them to dominate the room when they’re switched off. Emma Sims-Hilditch has devised clever ways to conceal them in her schemes: “this might include installing a television that doubles up as a mirror or a piece of artwork when not in use, concealing it in a false bookcase or even installing a projector and a screen that rolls seamlessly down from the ceiling like a roller blind.”
Lighting can make or break the look and feel of a room – in short, just say ‘no’ to ‘the big light.’ “Layered lighting is essential to create an inviting room,” says Laura Stephens. “In our Cotswold cottage project we ditched the ceiling lighting in favour of wall lights and side lamps to create a glow at different heights around the room.” Emma Sims-Hilditch suggests connecting the lighting to a 5 amp dimmer switch. “It’s a great way to alter the mood during the evenings, creating a cosy haven for family and friends.”
LAURA STEPHENS ESCHEWED THE CEILING LIGHT IN FAVOUR OF WALL LIGHTS AT HER COTSWOLD COTTAGE PROJECT. IMAGE: PAUL MASSEY
Rita Konig believes that wherever you sit in your living room, there should be somewhere to put your drink, and a light to read by, so remember to include enough lamps and side tables in your living room.
Finally, don’t forget that ultimately it’s you and your family’s possessions which will really bring a room to life and make it feel truly welcoming. “I often feel the final layer of a room is the thing which makes you most want to sit in it, and that is ‘stuff’,” says Laura Stephens. “Piles of books, a game, a throw, a simple bunch of flowers in a pretty vase; I always try and add what I can but it’s the client’s belongings which always make it feel like home.”
(LEFT & RIGHT) COLOUR AND TEXTURE PLAY AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN CREATING THESE COSY LIVING ROOMS DESIGNED BY SIMS HILDITCH. IMAGES: COURTESY OF SIMS HILDITCH
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