Expert design tips for creating your perfect living room

  • How to create the living look and mood you want
  • Why a pen and paper is still the best designer's tool
  • Using social media to create a mood board

Martin Holland, winner of The Great Interior Design Challenge 2015, runs his own interior design company MartinMark Design with his business partner.


Planning the design of your living room before you move in can help you decide what to keep when you’re packing. Martin Holland from MartinMark Design – winner of The Great Interior Design Challenge 2015 – shows you where and how to start.


First, decide the feel and mood you want for your living room

How do you want your living room to look, feel, and function? Contemporary, bright and clutter-free? A traditional, welcoming space that’s perfect for lounging? Or a party room that’s great for gatherings? Follow these tips to get the key elements in place.


Design a light, airy living room

  • Mirrors will instantly increase natural daylight and can double the impression of space, so put one up, the bigger the better. Hang it opposite a window to reflect light around the room
  • Expanses of pale flooring will make your living room feel bigger and brighter, so swap large, dark-coloured rugs for smaller, light-coloured ones
  • Sofas and chairs with show-legs allow you to see the floor beneath them – the more floor you see, the bigger the room will feel
  • Windows need to be seen so keep them free of bulky furniture. Replace a sofa with two armchairs or a console table
  • Storage should be plentiful to keep the room clutter-free of small objects

A light, airy living room GIF


Create an inviting, cosy room

  • The sofa is your focal point, with corner sofas perfect for the family to snuggle up on. Create lots of texture with cushions and throws
  • A fire, particularly a real or gas effect type, adds instant warmth to a living space and it’s a wonderful focal point
  • Softer lighting is another a way of creating a warm glow around the room. LED bulbs use 90% less energy than incandescent bulbs to create efficient and less stark home lighting
  • A large upholstered footstool can double up as a coffee table
  • The TV might not be your prettiest piece, but it’s a must-have for a family night in. Want to disguise yours? Hide it away in a TV cabinet
  • Rugs add comfort underfoot and break up expanses of hard flooring. They add colour, interest, and texture, too
  • Grouped furniture – in other words, furniture that has been pulled forwards away from the walls – creates a cosier feel than items that have been pushed back. Pulling furniture away from the radiators also helps to improve the heat circulation in your living room.
  • Artwork and family pictures can help bring the  look together. Hang yours in groups for a cool effect

Inviting,cosy living room GIF


Revamp for a sociable space

  • Extra seating is handy – why not put a small ottoman beneath a console table, to be pulled out as needed, or used as an extra side table for drinks?
  • Side tables are a better choice than a coffee table for a room that will host lots of guests as they allow more space and can easily be stacked away
  • Sofas and chairs facing each other or grouped at right angles encourages conversation
  • Lighting should be adjustable, so have dimmer switches fitted or go for table lamps
  • A music system trumps the TV in a sociable space, but make room for both if you love match days as much as parties
  • A focal point is essential in any room: make yours a fireplace, a large window, or a painting
  • Less is more – living rooms shouldn’t be overcrowded with furniture, especially in a space where you’ll be gathering a crowd
  • Symmetry is key if you want your entertaining space to feel smart. Matching lamps at either end of a cabinet table will create this balance

Revamp for a sociable space GIF


Tips for planning your living room

Know your style? Then you’re ready to start building a picture of how your room will look with visual inspiration.

  • Make a moodboard with pictures cut from magazines, paint and fabric swatches, and flooring or carpet samples
  • Create boards on Pinterest, using images you’ve found online and snaps you’ve taken yourself
  • Sketch your room – you don’t need to be an artist to create a good impression of what it might look like when you fill it with furniture and colour – a pen and paper is as good as any other tool
  • Use design and decorating apps to create virtual room plans – they’re a great way to check your layout and colour scheme will work with the furniture you already have and everything will fit in


Free room planning apps

Planner 5D allows you to create building plans complete with rooms, fixtures, furniture, landscaping, and even people. It’s easy to use and gives you both 2D and 3D views.

Roomstyler 3D lets you use thousands of pieces of furniture in 3D to create a room quickly. It also has a camera view function that allows you to see your room – and render a photo of it – from any angle.

Homestyler – once you’ve created your floorplan, you can drag and drop everything from doors and fixtures and fittings to furniture so you can get a clear idea of how your room’s layout will look.



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