The Living Room
I think the saddest thing about American living rooms is that they are so seldom used unless space is at a premium. We tend to live our lives in our kitchens, family rooms, and bedrooms and save the living and dining rooms for holidays and entertaining. And so, we end up with stiff overdone rooms that aim to impress but have the opposite effect -or those which are so devoid of life as to appear forlorn.
The real antidote to crafting an inviting living room is to look at the way the English live in their country houses-and I’m referring to the way they use their sitting rooms, particularly. Of course, you needn’t end up with a stereotypical chintzy English room but you can apply the basic principles, whether your taste is contemporary or classic.
So what do I mean by the basic principles? One, you have a variety of seating-comfortable sofas and armchairs, stools, and a number of chairs of differing heights and sizes. The next thing, is to create one or more seating arrangements, which would be geared toward group interaction when people are seated; a corner with a comfortable armchair or lamp for reading; a table for gaming or a desk for writing. The objective, of course, is to suggest that life happens in this room and that it is a joyous place to be.
Your primary seating arrangement should surround a focal point such as a view or a fireplace. Don’t orient it around a television; save that for the family room. If you live in a smaller condominium, you may not have a choice but there are ways to insert other comfortable furniture around it to mitigate the effect that your domestic life revolves around the large screen.
The next thing you will want to do is add elements that will warm up the space, such as paintings or large scale arty photographs, throw pillows and throws, books, flowers, and plants. But please stay away from small scale items that are scattered randomly all over the place. If you have porcelain statuettes, and what- nots, group them on the fireplace mantle or put them away in a vitrine.
I personally loathe curtains but some people use them to great effect. Keep them simple and remember we’re not in the 80’s anymore. Please stay away from lace curtains unless you live in a cottage in the countryside.
One of my favorite living rooms of all time is in Jorge Elias’ mansion in Sao Paulo-you can search Pinterest to see it. What makes this room so great is not any single element but the way that diverse elements are combined. There are boiserie panels on the walls, but they are non-essential. What one does immediately notice is the combination of art that works so well. 18th century landscapes surround the fireplace -while abstract 20th century paintings are placed on the mantle and above the mirror. Two sofas in oyster colored silk velvet are placed perpendicular to the fireplace. A white Parson’s coffee table, French jacquard armchairs and variety of cushions add color and interest. The quirkiest and most interesting part of this arrangement is the Pedro Friedeberg Gold Hand Chair perpendicular to the sofas. On the other side of the room, another sofa, green plants, simple curtains, African statues, blue and white Chinese lamps, photographs, and paintings complete the picture. All this sits on a rosy Savonnerie carpet. Expensive? Yes. But, the principle to take away is the way that the room was organized to reflect a completely personalized aesthetic that is both eclectic and harmonious.
Another room I love is in Paris, and is completely reproducible. A white Le Corbusier style sofa faces a dark marble fireplace. In front of it, placed on a grey geometric rug are a metal and white coffee table, two Mies leather benches, and a Barcelona chair covered in grey tweed. What warms the room are the abstract paintings in heavy gold frames, and the collection of pottery and prehistoric statuettes. There is nothing complicated about this room-and nothing that can’t be reproduced in any modern condo –yet it is completely chic, unusual, and inviting.
My living room mixes Meis and Le Corbusier furniture with Chinese antiques. I have two focal points, a fireplace with a contemporary marbleized fireplace surround- and a red lacquered antique Chinese cabinet, on an adjacent wall. Two giant fig trees stand in front of east facing windows, velvet throw pillows in greens and hot pinks compliment the large abstract painting above the Knole cabinet. Indonesian rain drums, Chinese rosewood nesting tables, a black lacquer Chinese coffee table, and Mongolian throne chairs round out the look. The parquet floor is covered by a black and griege Tabriz. The walls were originally grey, which tended to depress me-now they are a too pale shade of green-soon they will be something yet undecided upon. It’s not for everyone, but it makes me and my friends very happy to be there.
However you decide to furnish it, keep your living room looking like real humans inhabit it and that it is not just a place to pass through in order to to reach the kitchen and family room.
Guest post by Lily Temmer
Next time, we will take a look at the kitchen.