Living Room Decorating TipsWhether you live in a cozy apartment or rambling suburban home, a cottage by the sea, or a lodge in the mountains, your living room creates a lasting impression for all who enter. It tells your family and guests if you’re formal and elegant or fun-loving and laid-back. It sets the mood for the home and should be a reflection of the owner’s personal taste.

A living room can be arranged in many ways. For some, this space is formal and perfect at all times, to be entered and used only when guests come to call. To others, it serves as a comfortable family gathering place for watching TV, doing homework, or visiting. Some have a cozy nook for sipping tea and curling up with a book.

A formal living room, historically referred to as a drawing room or parlor, often showcases the homeowner’s finest possessions. The décor is often symmetrical—a sofa with painting above, flanked by two end tables topped by lamps. Formal window treatments of luxurious fabrics trimmed with braid and fringe, and perfectly set pairs of occasional chairs and tables follow traditional rules of decorating. Few homes these days have space for such a perfect (and often useless) room that is more to be looked at than used.

Decorating style has evolved to allow a less formal look. While retaining certain elements such as beautiful millwork or lush fabrics, the more casual living room has lighter window treatments and more comfortable furniture. Studied symmetry has given way to softer lines, fewer rules, and more color.

A more casual family room style of living room has a character of nonchalance. While furniture and fabrics should be coordinated, there are few rules. Choices are governed by practicality. Furniture selection and placement is less structured. Seating around a TV is often necessary, with a table for casual eating. In today’s home, the living room may even have a computer center, so a desk may have a place of prominence.

Regardless of what purpose your living room serves, the fabrics, colors, furniture, and accessories should be what you love. Whether it’s serene and neutral, colorful and lively, or something in-between, it should reflect your taste.

What to Put in Front of Your Sofa

Because a sofa is probably the largest piece of furniture in your main living area, it could look lonely all by itself, a big glob of fabric-covered seating. And when you’re sitting at a sofa, you’ll undoubtedly want a place to put things like magazines or drinks so that you can reach them easily.

But there are options for a piece of furniture in front of a sofa that can provide storage, a flat surface for decorative pieces, or just a nice break in the look of upholstered furniture.

Here are some of our suggestions for a piece of furniture to place in front of the sofa. Will one work for your home?

Coffee Table

Coffee tables are available in all sorts of sizes, heights, and metal, glass, painted, or natural wood finishes. A traditional coffee table can have a glass top, can be solid wood, or can be made out of metal or finished with a high gloss to shine as the center of attention in the room.

A coffee table should be chosen in a proper proportion for the size of the room

and the sofa in front of which it stands. A large square room would look strange with a small, delicate oval glass-topped coffee table, just as a small room would be cramped with a large, heavy, dark-painted square coffee table.

Before buying a coffee table, place a large piece of newsprint or brown on the floor in front of the sofa to help determine an appropriate size and shape. You can cut down the paper or add to it until you get the right proportion for the rest of the furniture and the room.

When shopping for a coffee table, take the measurements of the sofa with you, in addition to a floor plan of the room and the measurements you’ve determined will be best. You may have difficulty finding just the right size, but this will help.

Coffee Table Ottoman

By combining the top of a table with cushions of an ottoman, you’ll get the comfort for resting your feet and the convenience of space to place items. Usually with this type of design, the ottoman cushions pull out from below the table top, meaning you can use both the top and the cushions at the same time.

Large Ottoman

As homeowners are gearing furniture selections to comfort, the ottoman has taken center stage in front of many sofas. Really, an ottoman is just a large padded or upholstered stool or bench. It’s a perfect piece to use in front of a sofa, as its soft top offers comfort for legs, the upholstery fabric contributes color and texture to the room, and the large flat to is ideal for placing a tray or books.

Pair of Small Tables

Two small square tables, placed side by side, give a slightly more formal look than the more modern large coffee table. A matched pair looks best, but a mismatched set of small tables, of exactly the same height, can be used together with matching tops. If you have a pair of small antique tables, this may be the perfect place to use them.

Picnic Bench 

For a very rustic or cottage style home, a long, low, wooden bench is a perfect touch. The long flat top works well for placing books and beverages without adding too much formality.

Piece of Glass on a Base

A large built frame, a pair of cement columns, interesting sculptures, or large pots can serve as a stable base for a piece of 1/2 inch thick beveled-edge plate glass, cut to the perfect size. This is a good option for a very small space, as you can place the bases as close together or as far apart as you wish and have the glass cut to fit your space. Keep in mind that the larger the glass, the heavier it will be. So the bases need to be sturdy enough to support the weight.

An Old Dining Table 

This is the perfect place to put a dining table. Of course, you’ll need to cut the legs down to the proper height (between 15″ and 22″) for your seating space, but the large surface will be convenient for many purposes, including playing games, doing homework and entertaining.

A Piece of Wrought Iron Fencing

Find an ornamental piece of wrought iron fence or a gate and have a wooden frame built for it. Please a piece of 1/2 inch thick beveled-edge plate glass on top of the iron for a smooth surface.
 
You can use almost anything for a coffee table. Keep in mind that the piece should be sturdy, properly proportioned and durable, and it will give you wear and convenience in any room.