Truth be told, I’ve always bristled a bit when I hear the term “dream” anything when it comes to design. Dream home, dream room, dream space…you get the point. I guess you could also throw the term “perfect” into the professionally uncomfortable category as well. Partly because I feel as though they both in some way infer that great design is a static or fixed reference point in our mind. And that once we’ve declared or stated our dream preferences that our rooms are somehow complete. Let me submit to the jury that like dreams themselves, our interiors evolve, change direction, introduce us to new and exciting characters on a whim…and beautifully reveal the stylishly strange stories of who we really are. Okay, maybe that’s just me. I doubt it. But let’s be honest, many of our interiors, including some of my own, are already like a dream. Confusing, disjointed, have no definitive design direction…and are down-right wacky. But still…like our dreams…are still on their visual journey. My point is that like the stories in our dreams…the dirty little secret in design and decorating is that we’re…never…really…done. Besides, where’s the fun in that!? That being said, when pondering the question…”What elements make up my dream spaces?” my perspective starts from a very different vantage point. And, for the purposes of this blog…let’s focus on the often confusing, under-utilized, and way too formal cousin of the Family Room…the Living Room.
The design of the Living Room often times gives my clients fits. They tend to treat it like the “appendix” of their homes. Understanding that might have been relevant in homes long ago…but have been rendered meaningless as our homes, lifestyles and open floor concepts have evolved in the modern era of design. And, just like an appendix…if it were removed…would you even miss it?! Here’s my take. I believe rooms aren’t used because they’re either decorated for one single lifestyle purpose or not designed at all. Too many Living Rooms look like people should be negotiating a peace treaty over afternoon tea…or like the Land of Misfit Design where heirloom pieces are banished to design purgatory. What a shame right?! So, let’s change the definition and start LIVING in the Living Room.
As an artist first, I’ve always seen interiors as a series of connected canvases begging to be something great! And as such, my vantage point for designing a “dreamy” Living Room starts with the ceiling. Okay, I’ll play along. In my “dream” (just made a squishy face) Living Room the canopy/canvas above me matters! In most cases, the ceiling accounts for the most amount of square footage in a room. DO SOMETHING AMAZING WITH IT! In my book, white ceilings are a design “bail” and wasted opportunity. My dream Living Room needs to envelop me and those I engage in it…and the ceiling sets the tone.
Next, throw out the traditional definition of the Living Room. In my design dream world, the best spaces have the ability to dress up or dress down. They’re ready for any occasion! They can wear a ball cap and still look sexy…and they’re up for anything! Design accordingly my friends. Here’s a couple of tips. Look for furniture that has maximum comfort, but correct for the scale of the room. Also, make sure you have areas that can accommodate a larger group AND a side conversation in style! Sometimes the best views of a space are in the chairs off to the side. Where you are still connected to the activity in the room…but need a small corner to just get away, take it all in, and absorb the moment. Point being, don’t doom the room with furniture that doesn’t fit…and where there’s only one place to sit. (That should be an over-sized bumper sticker.) This room can be whatever you’d like it to be! It’s like a BONUS room…do something special with it! Heck make it Music Room, a Reading Room, a Craft Room, your Zen place, a Parlor Pub or even a VIP Martini Lounge! But whatever you do…for the love of God, please make it something you’ll ACTUALLY use. Your home, your square footage, and your peace of mind are too important. Here are some inspired Living Room seating selections from our friends at Arhaus to get you to rethink that room!
Lastly, a must in my dream spaces are my collections! The items that make it intensely personal. The contents of a personal shrine to me and my family! I’ve said for years, some of the best artwork you’ll ever own is probably on your cell phone. Get those images out of your pocket and give them purpose! Same for the boxes of collectibles in the closet! Time to play museum. Let’s find a way to display those amazingly personal elements that tell your story. Then, surround them with the stylish and functional elements that put your passion on display. I’ve seen too many hollow rooms in my day. Ones filled with things that act as costume jewelry. Shiny…but of little or no value. Rooms filled with elements we don’t cherish…have no soul. That’s not a dream…it’s more like a sensory dulling nightmare.
Your home and it’s rooms are chapters to a book with no end…and much like our dreams…should take us to places we couldn’t possibly imagine.