These custom storage solutions maximize every inch of space, adding function and style. Neat rows and columns can be very satisfying to gaze upon — especially if they represent the orderly assemblage of some of your favorite things. Built-in cabinetry can bring order to your living room, transforming it from a simple blank slate to a creatively curated exhibition. No longer plain walls with a window here and a door there, the space takes on a new dimension: foreground and background, storage space that closes up and display space that attracts the eye. The living room in Kent and Jenny Longardner‘s home in Elmhurst, Illinois, after Design Star winner and Host Meg Caswell‘s redesign, as seen on HGTV‘s Great Rooms, season 2 . The built-in library opens to unveil the door to the office, the tikky bar is in a corner and the facing wall is covered with a display of framed photos. Built-in cabinetry allows for thinking about storage both horizontally and vertically. The higher and the deeper you go, the less accessible things become. Depending on who needs what, built-ins can serve a whole household, not to mention guests as well. They provide the framework for addressing a variety of needs: storage of books and photos, a home for televisions and media equipment, display for beloved collectibles, a handy spot for children‘s art supplies and toys. Maybe there is a tray on a deep shelf complete with drinks, napkins and barware. Never underestimate the power of quality built-in cabinetry to unify a room — and to do so with both efficiency and good looks. What might be lost in flexibility within the space is gained in sure and steady practicality. A built-in filled with books cleverly surrounds the TV so the black screen isn‘t an obvious focal point in the room. The glass desk and coffee table add a contemporary touch, while the classic white furniture keeps with the room‘s overall traditional vibe. Jennifer Jones of Niche Interiors recommends corralling loose items on shelves by stocking up on simple, attractive boxes and baskets. "Unless you truly live like a minimalist the only way to control the clutter is to have a home for everything, from remote controls to your child‘s favorite toys," she says. "Use boxes or baskets on bookcases and shelves to store your least attractive but necessary objects." These days many people are searching for ways to use all of their rooms — every square inch of them — in the most adaptable and creative ways possible. They are retrofitting them to accommodate growing families or downsizing to bring simplicity to their lives. And the living room — once a pristine and formal room — is prime territory for housing more functions than ever. It‘s become a much friendlier and more adaptable room today. To convert a study in this Minnesota lake house into extra sleeping space for guests, Hendel Homes installed a "Zoom Bed" beneath the bookcase and TV. Design by Cathy Iverson; photography by Troy Thies Photography. "People are looking for custom storage solutions where things can be tucked away," says Ginny Snook Scott of California Closets. "Whether it‘s a computer or a media center or a spot to do homework that can be closed away at the end of the evening, they are finding places where those things don‘t have to be out all the time." Yes, she‘s talking electronics - the computers, tablets, phones, cameras, and televisions with all their cords and accessories. But it‘s not just that. "Homeowners who want to convert their living rooms into multifunctional spaces are incorporating a wall bed," she says. "Rooms don‘t have to be dedicated to media 24 hours a day. Wall beds were part of our culture in the 30s and 40s, and they are making a comeback." So the Murphy bed is back. With its novel yet retro vibe and that über-cool element of surprise, your guests may want to stay awhile. Hospitality is built right in.
Top Living Room Flooring Options, learn the pros and cons of wood, stone, concrete and carpet, along with buying tips. Before a room can be decorated, furnished or even just moved into, it must have a substantial floor. When chosen with care, the best flooring options will set the stage for many years of good looks, durability and comfort. When selecting flooring, a little homework goes a long way. You will want to take into account the style of the house, the budget, the amount of wear-and-tear you anticipate it will need to withstand, and the look and feel you want to create. From standard wood flooring to stone or concrete, living room flooring options are plentiful and offer a range of pros and cons. Architect Bob Wetmore of Cornerstone Architects says that as styles evolve, so do our options. "With the developing soft contemporary movement, we frequently design stained concrete floors or a clean-engineered wood floor," he says. "We also enjoy using cork floors that are very resilient to walk on and warm on the feet during the winter." One of the benefits of working with a trusted architect or contractor is that he or she can quickly help you narrow down your options. But whether you are going it alone or enlisting in the services of a professional, experts agree upon one thing: Do not make a decision based on a small sample in a showroom. See how it looks on a grander scale. "Compare samples side by side and to try to see the product in an actual installation," says architect Robert Tuthill. "Seeing a floor as a complete composite is sometimes much different than how it appears as a small sample." And then, of course, once you have chosen the materials, proper installation is key. A firm, stable, substantial floor should feel that way. In living rooms in particular, a decorative rug will likely anchor the furnishings, but the flooring materials are the foundation that the rest of the room depends upon. Here are the pros and cons for the most popular living room flooring options. When remodeling an older home, good fortune sometime smiles upon those brave enough to pull back a corner of a tattered old carpet: There might be pristine hardwoods underneath, which often can be sanded, stained and sealed. With plenty of choices in stain color, the floor and the room as a whole can feel remarkably refreshed, polished and updated with minimal effort and expense. No large crews of workers, no shopping for expensive materials. It can be incredibly satisfying to do so much with so little. But what if your hardwood floors have damage or need to be extended? A practical and economical option is to match them. "Make use of what you have," advises architect Carol Sundstrom. "If you already have hardwood, consider matching and refinishing. I prefer large continuous areas of one material rather than a different flooring material in each room, which reminds me of a patchwork quilt." And if you need to start from scratch, you can broaden your horizons a bit. There are hardwood options that can be fitted into your space while bringing a sense of age and patina. "We love the warmth of reclaimed heart-pine flooring," says Jane Frederick, of Frederick + Frederick Architects. "It is sustainable because it is reused from old beams removed from buildings being torn down. The boards are wide — 8 inches to 12 inches — and the patina is wonderful." Though wall-to-wall carpeting in bedrooms is still a popular choice, in living rooms, not so much. "I generally never use wall-to-wall carpet in high-traffic or public areas unless my client specifically asks for it," says designer Rachel Oliver. "It is usually less expensive than hardwoods and many styles are easy to keep clean, but it can soak up odors and liquids in high-traffic areas and may stain." Oliver, however, has a trick for taking advantage of the cozy feel that wall-to-wall carpeting provides: In addition to the rugs she likes to scatter about a space, she sometimes has carpeting cut and bound to the exact size needed for a room — it provides all the comfort of carpeting but can be easily removed and cleaned or swapped out. As for getting the size just right, Oliver recommends floating a large carpet 12 to 24 inches from the perimeter of the room. "It offers a uniform, clean look," she says. "The right rug can offer a high-end look in any home, no matter the price," she says. "There are even many indoor/outdoor rugs that are soft enough for babies and kids to play on. Natural jute, seagrass and sisal rugs are hugely popular, but can be harsh on bare feet." "Stone has a strong, tailored feel that tends to work in public spaces," says Robert Tuthill. Stone flooring is not only desirable for certain architectural styles (think grand Old World rooms or spacious modern expanses), it can be entirely appropriate and elegant and, in some cases, relatively locally sourced. With its natural tones and unique characteristics formed eons ago under the surface of the earth, stone flooring can be a sophisticated, one-of-a-kind and very durable option. It can also be one of the more costly options. Using natural stone, such as marble, slate, travertine or limestone, will require careful installation. Cracking, chipping and staining can be some of the pitfalls if the area is not carefully prepped, depending on the type of stone used. Remember, stone flooring will be cool in warm climates and downright chilly in cold climates. Minimalism and the appeal of industrial-chic options make the use of concrete a surprisingly popular option for indoor living spaces, where concrete flooring has moved beyond the garage and into the house. Painting, staining, scoring and polishing — just a few of the options available — enable an existing concrete slab to be transformed rather dramatically while also fairly cost-effectively. These floors can withstand just about anything, but the reverse is also true: Not much can withstand them. If you drop something on a concrete floor, chances are it will suffer. There is no give in this material, but in living rooms, where we are not often on our feet, it might not be such a concern. Also, "concrete floors, by nature, reflect sound," says Bob Wetmore, who advises that the placement of rugs and sound-absorbing materials such as drapery and furniture should be carefully considered. "But the pros for concrete floors are their durability and practicality. Using the right sealers, they generally only require a damp mop to clean." Whether you choose the warmth and patina of hardwoods, the elegance of stone, the modernity of concrete, or another type of floor that speaks to you and the architecture of your home, weigh the pros and cons and get expert advice. And in the end, if you make a choice you regret, throw a rug over it. Chances are, you were going to do that anyway.
Use different kinds of light to illuminate your living room and create an inviting atmosphere. Homeowners spend lots of time choosing a sofa or paint color for their living room walls, but often forget about the importance of proper lighting. In a space where you watch TV, read books, play games and entertain guests, lighting serves an important purpose in both the function and look of the room. "Lighting is important because of the intimacy it creates," says interior and lighting designer Linda Allen of Linda Allen Designs. "Since living rooms are usually one of the first rooms you walk into, it sets the tone for the rest of the house." Texture and neutral colors help make this living room the ideal spot for relaxing and entertaining. A good living room lighting scheme uses different kinds of light, set at different levels, that work together to make the space warm and attractive. Allen says if you want people to linger, use dimmers that allow you to control the level of light to suit the activities that take place in the space. Take advantage of the newer, more energy-efficient lighting solutions for residential use, suggests Mary Beth Gotti, manager of the GE Lighting Institute. "Ten years ago you wouldn‘t have seen nearly as many halogen fixtures, and LEDs are definitely one of the newest options," says Gotti. "Lighting can be magical. You can go online or visit your local lighting showroom and learn about the new light sources and colors now available." When you want to highlight certain features in your living room, like a fireplace, textured walls or a favorite painting, accent lighting is the way to go. Recessed, adjustable lights directed to points of interest or under-cabinet lighting in a display case that highlights selected objects are examples of accent lighting. "Accent lighting adds a pleasing variation of brightness," says Gotti. "You are drawing attention and putting more light on an architectural feature." In order for accent lighting to work, it needs to supply about five times as much light on the focal point as the surrounding general light. Although the overall style of the workspace is traditional, Alex was able to bring a touch of his classic, modern style into the room with a smoked glass pendant light centered above the Chinese farmhouse table. Stylish chandeliers, ceiling lights, wall-mounted fixtures or portable lamps can provide the ambiance that casts a warm glow in your living room. It controls glare and provides the general illumination that makes the living room feel comfortable and inviting. "As a lighting designer, when I am creating ambient light I am creating an effect," says Allen, who likes to use ambient light when she wants to illuminate a surface but not see where the light source comes from. Since this type of lighting affects the overall quality of light in the room and tends to be used the most, Gotti says this is where you want to use your energy-efficient When you want to create interest and add sparkle to your living room, table lamps, hanging pendants and chandeliers can provide the decorative light that adds coziness and intimacy. "It personalizes a space," says Allen. "I always say it‘s like wearing a great pair of earrings to complete an outfit." When you want to read a book or need to write at a desk, good task lighting helps you get things done. This brighter light can be a floor lamp with a swinging arm next to a comfortable chair, or a directed light source over a desk. "These are not the lights you use all the time — they are only to be used when you are doing a task, like reading or writing," says Allen. A more localized type of lighting, positioning is especially important. Portable table lamps allow for flexibility when furniture is moved.
Do you find yourself drawn to contemporary living room décor but concerned about how to warm it up for real life? You’re not alone. The lines and design of contemporary style are fluid over time (today’s contemporary will not be the contemporary design of 2025), but currently they involve a bit of minimalist modernism, which has the potential for aesthetic sterility. Here are some options to consider for easily warming up your contemporary living room so that you have the best of both worlds – a great, clean-lined design with plenty of welcome and staying power. Deep Wall Color, because contemporary living room furniture is often clean-lined and hard-angled, the aesthetic can appear more rigid and cold than is probably intended. Soften the feel of the entire living room by laying a foundation of muted, deep, and/or warm coloring on the walls. Contrast Piping. There is something inherently softening and friendly about two-tone furniture, and contrast piping on contemporary living room furniture is as welcoming as it is classy. Particularly when the colors themselves are neutral and soothing, such as are on this eggshell-and-steel-blue sofa. Animal Reference. From faux taxidermy to wall art, statues to rugs, animal prints, patterns, and references adeptly combine the contemporary zest for chic wildlife with the animals’ intrinsic natural-ness. Even in a space where high gloss, reflective surfaces, and glamour are the thing, reference to animals brings the entire space down to an absorbable and truly inviting level. As shiny metallic, abstract, or modern as your living room’s light fixture might be, the inclusion of light bulbs with warm lumens will create an immediate softening of the space. This is a particularly effective balance to strike in the contemporary living room, as lighting extends throughout the entire room, not just affecting one visual experience. Layers of Layers. Whether your first love is layering prints in front of the mirror on the mantel, or mixing eight throw pillows on the sofa, or stacking area rugs, layering is an excellent design choice for softening a space. Edges and lines don’t disappear (which is important in contemporary design), but they do blur a bit when layered. These nesting-type oval coffee tables have an excellent layering appeal and add depth (which usually = warmth) to this neutral monochromatic living room arrangement. Tropical Foliage. While the days of matching printed upholstery to curtains (and even wallpaper and flooring) are history for many, remnants of those delightful prints still remain to create a sense of comfort in the contemporary living room. Tropical foliage and other related prints are always welcome in a modern living room. A throw pillow with frond print, for example, provides a sophisticated dose.Natural Wood. The grain and multi-colored characteristics of raw, exposed, and natural wood is a beautiful addition to the contemporary living room space. Not only does the neutral color of wood bring in warmth, but the inherent variation in the wood grain and shape itself brings in organic and nature-loving elements to the contemporary décor.Textured Textiles. Natural fabrics and wovens tend to have an innately inviting texture to them. Think of tweed, wool, and linen, for examples. Their appearance mimics the subtle unevenness that’s exhibited in nature itself, in tree bark, rock faces, and the cloudy sky itself. While the silhouette of a piece can be decidedly modern or contemporary, the upholstery can soften it right up. Green plant life, in small and large doses alike, offer an inherent freshness and softness to the contemporary living room, regardless of many other factors. Place a larger potted plant in the corner of the living room, or a smaller potted green on the coffee table or bookshelf. Plaid Touches. Let’s be real for a minute: few items of décor are as cozying as plaid. Plaid upholstery, walls, throw pillows, rugs, etc. On whatever and wherever plaid finds itself, the immediate surroundings feel friendlier, more familiar, and inviting. Plaid works in the contemporary space, though, because of its solid classic grid pattern, so the two pieces make an excellent pairing. You can have furniture with great lines that is still comfortable, as is evident by this plush contemporary sectional, which is key to a warm, inviting living room. Few people want to linger in a space where the furniture is stuffy or uncomfortable, but the opposite is true in a contemporary living room with beautiful seating that you can sink into and stay awhile.
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