Best Design Tips For Choosing Furniture For Your Living Room

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Moving into a new home or giving your existing living space an interior design overhaul? When it comes to choosing the right furniture, all sense of calm can quickly fly out the window. We hear so many rules when it comes to furnishing and decorating a living room that it becomes easy to second guess yourself. 

While one interior design publication swears by the latest and greatest trends, your favourite designer might recommend that you only purchase furniture that suits the home. But it’s a bit of a conundrum if you live in a 50s apartment block but hate everything mid-century, isn’t it?

Once and for all, let’s lay out everything on the table. If you’re looking to re-furnish a living room, here’s everything you need to consider when you embark on your furniture-buying journey.

How to choose living room furniture

From a design perspective, the living room is usually the area of the home that we tend to tackle first, because it’s the space you spend the most time in, and every guest can see it. 

In each living room, there are a few key elements, a couch or sofa, coffee table and entertainment unit. On top of that, you’ve got side tables, occasional chairs, buffets, consoles, rugs and more to think about. Let’s work in order of size and importance and start with the sofa.

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#1 How to choose the right sofa for your home

What’s so important about a sofa? Everything, some would argue, which is why picking a sofa feels so hard. In a living room, it’s generally the most prominent feature and does the heavy lifting when it comes to anchoring a space. 

If you’re about to choose a new sofa, lounge or lounge-suite (as we’d call them in the 90s), there are few things you need to think about. And trust us, given how much good sofas cost, this is a process you don’t want to rush. 

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What kind of room will your sofa be in? If you’re looking for a sofa for a sitting room versus a lounge room, you might not want a couch that you’re going to spend hours lounging around in, and may opt for something a little more formal. In a loungey kind of space, you’ll probably want something cushier and that sits at a lower profile.
  • How big is your space? This will determine the size and depth of the couch you choose – some couches can be up to 1.5 metres deep! Before you choose your couch consider the availability of space you have.
  • What kind of shape are you after? There are many different shapes of sofas, so which sofa shape is right for you? Modular? Sectional? Loveseat? You’ll need to work out what makes the most sense in terms of form and function. 
  • What sofa material should I choose? From leather through to velvet and linen, there are so many materials to choose from. This will depend on what vibe you’re going after, but also on your lifestyle. Leather sofas and linen couches with removable covers can be easier for households with children and pets. Many furniture stores and manufacturers will also allow you to choose upholstery fabric, so if there’s a shape you are keen on, ask if it can be made in the fabric of your choice. 
  • How do I choose a sofa colour? How would you describe your style? Laidback or bold? Neutral colours like cream, brown, white, grey and charcoal are popular as they offer more flexibility, but if you really want to make a statement, a more daring colour like moss green or midnight blue could be a good choice. 

Whatever sofa you choose, a sofa is a big investment piece, so you’ll want to really consider what you like and what you need before figuring out how to furnish the rest of your living room. 

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#2 How to choose cushions for a sofa 

Depending on whether you’re a neutral lover or a maximalist, there are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to styling a sofa and choosing cushions and throws. 

For us, cushions are like the five-minute facelift for the decorating world, and without cushions, a sofa can really read as a little bit boring. If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re interested in design, and you don’t want your home to feel boring at all. 

The first step is to build a colour palette, use your sofa colour as the starting point. To achieve that higher end look, it’s really about allowing colours to gently flow into each other. Practically speaking, that means rather than using a solid green and then a solid white cushion, you’d use tans, creams, pale greens, pale greys and whites to create a harmonious look. Matching cushions can be a bit too same-same, so choose no less than three colours, and no more than five.

Patterned cushions can do a lot to overhaul a space. Think of patterns like a herb or a spice, which add a lot of flavour to a space. You might be wondering, “what sized cushions should I choose?” If you have a modular sofa, you can get away with adding a larger cushion in the corner, and then building out with different sized layers from there. You can even use a lumbar cushion to layer in front. 

The trick with cushions is to mix scale, pattern and textures. If you’re afraid of patterns, pick something simple, like french striped linen, or small scale patterns. Small scale patterns, from a distance, will actually read more like texture. A mixture of all these different sizes and elements will help to move your eye around the room. 

After you add all the pillows, add in a throw. It’s another layer that makes a room look lived-in, cost and comfortable. 

#3 Choosing a coffee table

When you’re deciding on a coffee table, you don’t want it to be so big that it dwarfs your sofa, but not so small that it looks insignificant. A coffee table should be big enough that you can use it as another styling tool, and styling surface, to make your living area really cool.

What if you’re trying to choose furniture for a small living room and feel like you can’t fit in a coffee table? Well, a lot of people can go wrong with foregoing coffee tables, thinking that their space is far too small to accommodate one. In reality, having a patch of nothingness in front of a couch in a small space tends to emphasise the fact that it is small. The minute you put a table in front of your couch, your brain is engaged and intrigued, and your eyes are tantalised. 

When it comes to choosing your coffee table, a few considerations will come into play: budget, function, size and shape. While you might not want to spend too much on your coffee table, keep in mind that a better quality table will stand the test of time – if there’s a look you like but can’t afford, you can try your hand at scouring Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree, local antique centres and auctions to find something similar.

Function is important as well. While glass looks modern, it also tends to accumulate fingerprints, so will need to be cleaned regularly. While an old vintage chest may look really cool and rustic, it might not be the most functional piece of furniture for a family with young children.

#4 How to choose a rug for a living room

While choosing a rug might feel overwhelming, it’s actually quite simple when you know where to start. To start with, you need a rug size that frames your furniture, meaning that at least the front legs of couches and occasional chairs should sit on top of the rug. A rug that is too small can potentially lead the room itself to seem smaller. 

Once you know your size, you need to think about materials. Consider how much traffic and use your living room gets. Natural rugs are often a really popular choice; they’re usually woven from jute, sisal or abaca, and are more resistant to wear and tear, so they’re great for rooms with a lot of foot traffic. They’re generally a more understated look as well, and will look perfectly at home in a laid back, beachy or light and airy space. 

Dhurries and kilims are flat woven from wool and cotton. Due to the flat woven texture they’re also a really durable choice for a room. Generally the fluffier the rug, the more delicate it becomes, and the harder it is to keep clean, so keep this in mind.

In terms of design, if your furniture has a lot of pattern, a more neutral rug will help to pull a space together. These rugs can still add a lot of interest if you choose textural patterns over coloured patterns. If your furniture is more neutral or solid in colour, then go for a patterned rug. There are so many patterned rugs out there, like persian, berber, azilal, oushak, nain, tabriz and even contemporary designs. These all come in a variety of colours, and you can even purchase vintage rugs, which will usually have a more toned-down appearance due to the weathering of time.

#5 How to choose an accent chair

By now you should be pretty well acquainted with your style, which will go a long way in helping you choose an accent chair for your living room. As always, think about the use of your accent chair in your living room. Is it simply for extra seating when you have visitors, or is it a chair that you’re likely to spend a lot of time in reading or watching television? Once you’ve defined the use of the chair, you’ll be able to focus on how it looks. 

There are many different shapes when it comes to accent chairs, from club chairs and wingback chairs, through to slipper chairs and tub chairs. With all this choice, once you’ve worked out the function of the chair, it’s important to ensure the accent chair you choose works with the style of the rest of your living room. 

Looking to purchase more than one accent chair? Don’t be afraid to mix colours and styles. If you ever get the feeling that the chair might be a little bit odd in your space, then it’s important to trust your gut. 

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Cover image: Globe West


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