Eight tips for a functional and stylish living room


The living room is a space that lives up to its all-encompassing name. It has certainly evolved from its former days of occasional use, when it was often referred to as the ‘parlour’. Today, this ubiquitous room serves many different functions, from casual living to formal entertaining and everything in between, all while looking fabulous.

Not sure where to start to make your living room the place you want and need it to be? Here are eight living room rules to live and design by.

Embrace layers and textures

Layers and textures add depth and visual interest to any room, creating a sense of warmth that feels authentic. Start by adding a rug underfoot to ground the space and bring comfort. In an open-concept living area, rugs are especially essential, as they help define separate zones within the broader room. Choose a rug that complements the overall style of the room, while providing a cosy, cushioned feel.

Upgrade your pillows

Replace the generic pillows that came with your sofa when you bought it. Curate a collection of pillows in different fabrics, lush textures, colours and pleasing patterns. Consider opting for down-filled pillows if you’re not allergic to feathers, as they are more comfortable and have a solid structure that gives them a nice, organic shape. Mix and match pillows of varying sizes to create visual interest and a welcoming spot to sit back and sink into.

Integrate storage

Incorporating storage in a room helps keep it organized and clutter-free, and the living room has ample opportunities. Custom millwork is a great way to elevate the look while storing the essentials such as TV components behind closed doors. Add your personal touches with photos, books and artfully displayed decorative objects on open shelving above. Multi-purpose furniture with hidden storage, such as ottomans or coffee tables, are great for storing extra pillows and blankets while providing additional seating when hosting a crowd.

Choose the right sofa

Not all seating is created equal. The sofa is the centrepiece of a living room, so choosing the right one is key. Consider the shape of the sofa in relation to the broader space and your lifestyle. Will you be watching television, reading, or relaxing by a fireplace? How big is the room, and how many people will be seated at the same time? If you entertain frequently, opt for sofas or sectionals that can be easily reconfigured. If you have kids and pets, choose durable, washable fabrics or invest in removable slipcovers. Most importantly, pay attention to the length and depth of the seat to ensure optimal comfort for its intended use.

Focus on furniture placement

When arranging furniture in your living room, consider the space around each piece and the relationship between the coffee table, the sofa and other pieces. The goal is to create a cosy seating arrangement that encourages conversation and interaction, without clutter. Leave about 14 to 18 inches between the coffee table and sofa, to ensure the tabletop is within arm’s reach, and about 30 inches between furniture, to allow for the flow of traffic.

Incorporate a variety of lighting

Different types of living room lighting serve to enhance mood and function in the room. Start with ambient lighting to provide overall illumination. This can be achieved through ceiling fixtures, or recessed lighting. Table lamps or floor lamps offer focused lighting for activities such as reading, and accent lighting highlights specific objects or areas such as artwork or architectural features.

Create a focal point

Choose a central focal point where people will naturally gather in your living room. A fireplace is the obvious choice, providing warmth and a cosy atmosphere. However, if your living room doesn’t have one, you can emphasize existing elements such as a window or other architectural details, or create a focal point by adding a bold piece of furniture or a large-scale artwork.

Use cohesive materials

To create a balanced and harmonious living room, choose a palette of colours and materials that complement one another. Consider the style of your furniture, rugs, drapery and decorative elements to ensure overall harmony.

Love your living room

Take it from the pros: A living room that lives up to high esthetic standards and also meets its functional purpose becomes the beating heart of the home, and truly a space you’ll love to live in.

Trish Knight and Nicole Varga
Trish Knight and Nicole Varga

Designers Trish Knight and Nicole Varga are co-founders of Knight Varga Interiors. Collectively with two decades of experience, this Vancouver-based multi-award- winning design firm is known for creating well curated interiors. The firm provides complete bespoke residential design services throughout Vancouver & North America. knightvarga.com @knightvarga

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