If your living room doesn’t have a natural focal point, such as a cozy fireplace or a picture window with a scenic view, create one with an exceptional piece of furniture or a large coffee table arrayed with interesting objects. Wherever the focal point is, surround it closely with seating so that people will not feel as if they are sitting around the fringes of the room.
Ease the Transition
If the front door of the house opens directly into the living room, create a mini-foyer by installing a tall bookcase or storage unit a few feet back from the door. This visual break will provide a boundary between the entryway and the rest of the room, allowing a more comfortable transition for people coming into the room from outdoors.
Lighter Looks Bigger
To add a spacious feeling to a small room, use light colors for the walls, rugs, and furniture and a few darker shades for accents. Instead of a dark floor, consider a pickled finish—provided the look fits with the decor.
As an alternative to the space-eating clutter of table lamps or floor lamps, mount lighting fixtures on the walls. Called sconces and available in many styles, these wall fixtures can light a dark corner or illuminate an entryway. Pair them up to enhance a picture or to add importance to a fireplace mantel. Use several to cover a large space such as a long wall.
When light is bounced off the ceiling, it creates an illusion of openness that can make a small room magically appear larger. For the best effect, install several upward-facing sconces, or a row of lights hidden by a valance or a molding, about two feet below the ceiling.
When installing sconces along a staircase pick a style that doesn’t expose the light bulbs, so that they won’t be visible to those ascending or descending the stairs.
If the TV and VCR are in the living room, place them on a wheeled cart that can be rolled out, or hide them in an elegant cabinet. That way they won’t be so intrusive when company comes.
Have a Seat
Always have extra chairs on hand when entertaining a larger group by storing a couple of hassocks underneath a long, narrow table set against a wall. Cover the hassocks with a bold, bright fabric if the room needs some color. The table can hold a set of collectibles or a favourite work of art, and double as a dessert or coffee buffet at the end of special meals.
When purchasing upholstered furniture, buy pieces with cushions stuffed with durable high-density material. Hint: Look for cushions that have a domed shape. The dome will flatten eventually, but it does indicate the presence of firm polyfoam inside.
Installing a new hearth? Check with the local building inspector first. The dimensions are critical for safety, and are usually specified in the building code.
Fireplace in a Hurry
Zero-clearance wood-burning fireplaces can be installed on any wall with minimal hassle, usually without building in additional floor support. The prefabs are more energy-efficient than their hand-built masonry counterparts, and they’re reasonably priced.
Natural-gas fires can add clean, convenient heat and the welcoming look of a cozy hearth to a room where there is no existing fireplace. Prefabricated direct-vent gas fireplaces can be mounted on any wall where there is access to a gas line, and can be vented through a metal chimney channel.
Fit a piece of painted lattice in the opening of an unused fireplace, and let an ivy plant or some other vine twine its way through it.
Hide the Hearth
Decorate an unused fireplace during summer by planting a container garden in it. Fill the hearth with potted plants from the patio, rotating them so none is deprived of sun for too long. Place saucers under the pots to catch drips.