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If there’s one room that forms the beating heart of any home, it’s the living room. Alternately called the den, lounge, parlor, salon, drawing room, or family room, this space is where you are most likely to socialize or relax after a hard days’ work.
Personalizing and optimizing your living room is a process that will give you more relaxation, pride, and joy day after day. Here are five things to focus on when planning your den’s redo.
Pick A Theme.
I’m a theme enthusiast for one simple reason – having a coherent theme is one of the simplest ways to enhance elegance. It creates symmetry in your home and naturally puts visitors at ease. With so many themes to choose from and combine, your creativity is the only limit!
To start, here is a brief list of some of the more popular (and aesthetic) design themes:
- Bohemian (Boho)
- Oriental (problematic label, I know)
- Eco-Green (I may have come up with this term myself…)
These themes can function on their own or in combination. The main thing is not to attempt too many themes at once – stick to no more than two. You may still bring in elements of further themes, but it’s important to have a core design to work around.
For example, my own space tends toward Rustic Chic elements. One of my goals is to incorporate Eco-Green features such as a DIY indoor greenhouse with fresh herbs and a series of hanging plant baskets over my bay windows.
Many elements for my own design goals can be made on a DIY basis or purchased cheaply online. Secondhand stores are another option that I enjoy using. Be mindful when designing your space – think about your values and the things you frequently do in the living room, and start there. Aesthetics should arise naturally out of your own unique personal tastes, preferences, and needs.
Always Plan, Never Rush.
When we are excited about something, we tend to barrel into it at full speed. Home design is no exception. Additionally we tend to have a scarcity mindset when it comes to the resources available for our home projects. As soon as we have any spending money or free time, we feel an urgency come over us to use these things as quickly as possible lest they disappear.
Your home – and your comfort – are not short-term endeavors. It is imperative that you view your living room’s design as an ongoing project requiring dedication and planning. Adding things willy-nilly because you happen across them is a recipe for clutter, not to mention a surefire way to lose sight of your overall theme.
Before you so much as google “affordable canvas sofa” or “reclaimed wood table,” you need to sit down and brainstorm your design on a conceptual level.
Here is a helpful list of questions to ask yourself while engaged in design planning:
- What are the four most important pieces of furniture in a living room?
- What are my social habits – how much of a focus should hosting/guests be in my design?
- What themes speak to me artistically and emotionally, and why?
- How can I integrate my theme into the front-facing AND accent items in this space?
- What can I reasonably commit to making myself, and what projects are only doable in my head? (Be honest!)
- How much time do I spend in my living room?
- What sort of cleaning and maintenance does my work/social/recreational schedule allow for? How can I streamline these processes by designing function into my space?
The questions will have very personalized answers, so be totally honest with yourself. Be open-minded about the ways you can reduce maintenance and cost as you design. This brings us to our next key…
Integrate Your Needs Into Your Design.
If you work 40+ hours a week, have children, are active in your community, and find that you barely have time to eat and sleep, would you design a room that demands frequent maintenance such as plant-watering or fabric-cleaning?
I certainly hope not! Design starts and ends with YOU. What are your needs? What are your constraints? It’s easy to fall into the trap of designing your home based on the ideas and principles touted by other people via the media or friendly opinion, but it’s important not to allow your own reality to fall by the wayside when optimizing your designs.
Someone with the lifestyle described above would benefit from a low-maintenance, easy-to-clean set of furniture and colors that hide dust and stains. They will want to embrace minimalism by reducing objects with what I call “clutter potential,” i.e. too many coffee-table books or numerous accent pillows and blankets. Streamlined, simple, and efficient will be their focus – and it is up to them to bring their own aesthetic preferences into those needs.
Someone who has more time – someone like yours truly – would potentially value other things. I am a work-from-home professional writer, and so my space is centered around comfort, art, and organization. I have included elements such as whiteboards and chalkboards, soft and inviting fabrics, and numerous pieces of eclectic decor in my space’s design. As you may imagine, I needed plenty of storage for books, journals, and other writing materials as well as an ergonomic workspace that makes long hours of typing comfortable.
Take stock of your professional and personal habits and center your design around them. There is no sense designing a beautiful room that will end up becoming a mess within three days, or a perfectly themed space that is too inconveniently laid out for you to use ninety percent of the time. This simple advice will save you countless future headaches!
Dedicate Time to Research.
The vast majority of us live within the realm of “convenience culture.” We go for the easiest, most obvious options when choosing anything from clothes to furniture, and the impact is rarely fully considered. Not only does this create a vast quantity of waste in both resources and function, but it also tends to breed regret later on when you realize your choices were not optimal.
The way to avoid this regret is good, dedicated research sessions. Creating a design-themed “brain dump” is a helpful way to get all of your ideas, thoughts, and data into writing. This will minimize overwhelm when you go about formulating your perfect space, and it also helps to boost creativity and problem solving skills.
My research method is to make bullet lists. After I do my brain dump, I list my 3 keywords – these are generally my themes. Then, I choose the top 5-10 items I need to start building my space. In this case, these would likely be: sofa, table/surfaces, TV stand, textiles (blankets & pillows), storage items (shelves and chests), reading chair(s), lighting (lamps and string lights), carpets/rugs, art, and a specific place to put my collection of board games.
I then give each item some space and make a sub-list that details what I already own that can be used to fill or partially fill one of these categories, and then the places I can purchase these items in ascending order of price. For example, I may put Craigslist or “Thrift Store” as the first option, then places like Wayfair or Amazon, Etsy, and so on. From there I can keep a running wishlist of links and images to help me make my final choices.
I often will have a section in my design planning document for inspirational images or quotes, just to make sure I’m remembering to use the value-driven method as my focus. It may also be useful to set “deadlines” for when you need to decide on specific items, and timeline for finishing your design project.
Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize.
This is a key skill that enters into any successful home design. Knowing your priorities as the primary user of your space ensures that you will not become distracted or overwhelmed by unimportant details of the process, and it keeps you goal-focused and efficient. Most time-management guides will emphasize prioritizing as one of the most important abilities to develop in all areas of your life.
Design is a series of choices, like much else in life. Making those choices can be an enjoyable, simple process, or it can be a source of stress and confusion. It all depends on your ability to prioritize – your needs, your wants, your time, your resources, and your energy.
The first part of prioritization is assigning orders of importance to the choices you need to make. Then, you can work within the parameters of that choice before moving on to the next element of your design. You’ll finish the job faster and with a lot less stress this way, trust me.
The most important choices I had to make regarding my own living room design were my budget constraints, time commitment, and DIY abilities. By prioritizing these decisions I allowed myself more freedom during the rest of the design process, and my end result was more satisfying and more personally rewarding than it would have been otherwise.
My value-based priorities were comfort, creativity, organization tools, and (of course) the integration of Mindful Aestheticism through consideration of the five senses. These priorities informed every single choice I made and helped me to eliminate superfluous options. Less stress and more joy mean that value prioritization is a win-win skill to develop!
In Conclusion – Living Rooms Are Your Home’s Center, So Don’t Neglect Them!
Any design project can seem intimidating from a distance, but when you engage mindfully with the process you will find deep fulfillment from the results. The living room is a place to rest, work, play, and socialize – it fills many roles, and so it’s incredibly important that you take it step by step and think deeply about your choices when designing this space.
Above all, make sure that your design reflects who you are when you’re at your truest, most relaxed self. The elements of your design will inform your day-to-day attitude and keep your social events centered. Remember to put your comfort first, but also to try and integrate beauty and pleasure into that comfort as your guiding principles.
I hope you’ve found this post useful! Don’t forget to subscribe, and let me know if you have any tips and advice to add – I’d love to hear from you privately or in the comments!
Talk to you soon, and stay elegant, lovelies <3