Traditional Style in the Living Room

The way we live has changed the way we decorate. For most of us, gone are the formal living rooms that no one ever uses except for company and holidays. Today’s lifestyles are generally more informal.  This doesn’t mean that traditional style is out of fashion too. Instead, it means that the style has come to incorporate slightly different aspects of decor.

Traditional style today can be influenced by anything from French to Farmhouse to Mediterranean styles as well as more formal antiques.  This living room is a good example of the traditional style that works for today’s living.  The style does not focus on strict structure, but rather creates small pockets of grouped furniture and works with traditionally styled pieces that are actually contemporary in nature.


Focusing on this wonderful stone fireplace, this seating arrangement is perfect for conversation, gathering around a cozy fire, or playing games.  A television is not visible but could be incorporated into the room.


Comfortable upholstered furniture in traditional styles is mixed together.  The sofa with the antique chair, side table, and clock are a nice mix. The area rug helps unify the colors of the furnishings and accent pillows.


The hardwood floors in this area are the perfect choice for a traditional style room.  Hardwood is a timeless classic that feels at home with any type of style.  However, in this setting, the hardwood floor becomes its own statement piece. In a traditional style room, a Persian or Oriental rug may be a good choice.  The colors and patterns of these classic rugs would also work to tie in the wall and furniture colors. 

How to Think Like an Interior Designer Part 14: Proportion

Simply put, proportion is the proper balance between design elements.  It is being able to walk into a room, take in all its parts and know that it is just the way it should be.  This tends to be a more personal concept to grasp because every homeowner is going to feel differently about when they feel that a space is truly finished and correct.  Proportion comes through repeating similar themes throughout the same space to provide unity while also using differing pieces for variety.  Whether your items are similar or different, there must be a relationship between them to create the harmony needed to make it all work.


A good way to get started is to try to take this process step by step.  What colors are you working with? Are there a few spots in the room where the same color can be repeated to pull those items together? Choose an odd number of items in each grouping since this can be more pleasing to the eye.  If there are a lot of colors going into the room’s accessories, use some neutrals to bind them so the colors don’t become overwhelming.


Think about the shapes that are present in the room.  Arched doorways and circular tables bring a circular shape that can be balanced out with some rectangular pieces to add visual weight.  If there are a lot of boxy pieces in the room, then incorporating some free-form shapes would soften it up a little bit.  Don’t just stick with plain items for your living space.  Any patterns you can add through wallpaper, pillow covers and area rugs will give the room a more interesting look.


How much light is in the room? If you are dealing with a dark space, balance that out with lighter colors for your furnishings and add the appropriate fixtures to bring attention to special areas. If there is a lot of available natural light, items of a darker color won’t dim the room too much so feel free to place a few in the space.


Remember to think about textures as well.  Items with thicker textures will make a room feel cozy and inviting, so be sure to blend them in with its cooler, sleeker features.  A lush blanket thrown over the side of a leather couch, one wall of textured wallpaper against 3 solid colored walls or a smooth wooden mantelpiece hanging from a textured stone-finished fireplace are all great ways to achieve proportion.

The Retro Living Room

Sometimes it is fun to take a trip down memory lane and enjoy the nostalgia of the past. Some people even want to live more in the past. One way to do this is to decorate in retro fashion. Decorating your living room in a retro style is a great way to bring back the feel of more innocent times.


Wallpaper is a hallmark of retro rooms. There are many options, and the decade you decide to focus on will affect the style of wallpaper you choose. There are some important things to consider when choosing wallpaper. There are various types of wallpaper to choose from, and important things to consider are cost, maintenance, and style. Before you apply the wallpaper, make sure you check the pattern direction several times. It is common for people to put up wallpaper, and realize after the design is going the wrong way. 


Another key feature to decorating a retro living room is the type of furniture. There are many styles to choose from, and depending on the size of your living room there are also many types of furniture to decorate with such as sofas, loveseats, sectionals, settees, and chaise lounges. The style and type of fabric you choose will depend on the decade you are decorating. 


Flooring is another key feature to focus on when decorating. Some popular retro flooring choices are vinyl, wood, carpet, linoleum and tile. With some many styles to choose from, it’s important to consider cost, maintenance, and style. 


Knick Knacks for the 1940’s consider flowery yet simple pieces, also wooden décor, clocks, and sunny pictures. For the 1950’s consider atomic motifs, big lamps. The overall look is clean with Scandinavian style being very popular. In the 1960’s copper and other types of metal were very popular for decorating. A few other popular decorating themes were owls, roosters, Siamese cats, and mushrooms. This was also the age of lava lamps and posters. Lava lamps were also popular in the 1970’s along with globe lamps, arc floor lamps, abstract wall art was also popular along with sculptures. 


Each decade had its own popular colors. In the 1940’s one popular color choice was art deco, which included lighter and more neutral shades. The mid-century modern palette was also popular with deep tones and bold colors. The style changed in the 1950’s to pastels, Scandinavian, and modern colors being very popular. In the 1960s colors were inspired by the outdoors. Colors like gold, yellow, green, and orange were very popular. Turquoise, bright green, brown, and sunshine yellow were very popular colors in the 70’s. As you can see, each decade had its own style, and focusing on the popular colors of the era you choose to decorate around will make your living room look more authentic. 

How to Think Like an Interior Designer Part 12: Rhythm

The principle of rhythm can be described as a pattern that provides movement through a design.  It connects all the room’s elements together, providing order and unity to the space.  Without it, a room can feel disjointed and out of proportion.  That’s why it’s a good idea to educate yourself on how to achieve rhythm in your design and ensure that your living space feels harmonious when you enter it.  There are three main ways to incorporate rhythm into your home’s layout: repetition, alternation and progression. 


Repetition uses repeated elements of the room’s design in a regular, recognizable way.  Examples of this method are placing 4 to 6 matching picture frames with similarly photos in them on the wall above your couch in the living room.  Carrying the pattern through the room would be matching the mat board color in the frames to the couch.  Repetition can also be seen in matching pendants lights hanging from the ceiling and identical throw pillows as accessories to the room. You can also use repetition through lines.  If there are vertical lines on an upholstered chair, you can repeat the pattern in a vertically striped wallpaper or area rug.


Alternation is the method of using two or more elements in a pattern that repeats throughout the space.  An example of this would be using the color combination of black and white with square shapes.  These colors can be utilized through a tile floor design, black and white pillows, frames, area rug and wallpaper.  Another example of repeating elements would be combining circular furnishings, neutral colors and textures.  You would see something like a half-moon shaped leather couch in a taupe color on top of a round stone colored area rug with circular glass side tables. 


Progression is a pattern developed through a sequence of colors or objects in recognizable way.  An example of this being used in your home can be through accessories ranging from small to large or low to high.  This can be seen in a set of nesting tables in the corner of a room or a three-piece animal sculpture that advances in size.  Window panels with progressively changing color, candlesticks ascending in height and abstract paintings featuring the same color in different levels of saturation are also good examples of progression.


Using your new knowledge of rhythm, make your home unforgettable with a discernible pattern that will delight you and your guests. 

How to Think Like an Interior Designer Part 11: Balance

In interior design, balance is crucial for making a space look comfortable.  This principle uses the visual weight of a room’s objects to provide it with stability.  Visual weight does not always represent the actual weight of an item, but how it is perceived in a design.  Items that are larger in size, darker in color, higher in contrast and more complex in pattern and shape appear to be “heavier” than items that are lighter, less dense in design, lower in contrast and lighter in color.  The art of balancing these items is making sure that the heavier objects and lighter pieces work well in the same space.  One heavier item may be balanced out with three lighter objects.  Or two equally heavy objects can balance one another out. Understanding the different types of balance will help you choose which arrangement will work best in your home. 


There are three types of balance: symmetrical, asymmetrical and radial.  Symmetrical balance is achieved through the placement of the same objects on either side of a room using a central line as a guide.  An example of this is a bed with matching side tables.  On those tables are matching lamps.  The bed acts as the center “line” while the matching table and lamps are symmetrical on each side.  While these arrangements can be pleasing to the eye, the similarities can sometimes do the space a disservice by making it look too predictable.  Be sure to sprinkle in different items to prevent the room from looking too plain.  Asymmetrical balance uses a variety of objects with similar or different visual weights and places them opposite one another to provide equilibrium through interesting combinations. This arrangement can be a little more difficult to achieve if you are unsure of an item’s visual weight, so be careful with your choices.  An example of asymmetrical balance is placing a large sofa with side table and lamp across from two single chairs with a floor lamp in between them.  Finally, there is radial symmetry, which is an arrangement of pieces around a central point in an almost circular way.  Focus can be pulled inward or pushed outward, but the center remains the anchor of the design.  An example of this would be an upholstered chairs arranged in a circle around a coffee table or a half-circle sofa facing a chaise lounge and accompanying area rug.


Now that you know all about balance, choose the type of symmetry that will bring the most visual interest to your space.

How to Think Like an Interior Designer Part 10: Light

Proper use of light is essential to accentuating all the other aspects of interior design.  It influences how colors are seen, sets the mood in a room and brings attention to a focal point.  Natural and artificial light both have their parts to play in making a space look its best.  Making sure that natural light can come through while assuring that artificial sources can make up for any gaps in coverage is important when it comes to making a home as inviting as possible. 


While natural light obviously comes from the sun, there are three types of artificial light that can assist with enhancing any room: ambient, task and accent.  Ambient light is considered your general lighting.  These are the main light sources you use when you enter a room and need basic overall coverage to see.  Examples of ambient lighting are chandeliers, recessed can lights and wall-mount fixtures.  They are usually the first types of light you think of when furnishing your home.  Task lighting is next.  This lighting is used to assist you in performing daily functions in your home.  Good examples of task lighting are desk lamps for getting paperwork done, track lights for under the kitchen cabinet to illuminate your meal prepping and vanity lighting for the bathroom mirror to perform your morning and evening cleansing routine.  Finally, there is accent lighting.  This type of lighting is used to bring attention to the focal point in a room.  The bulbs used tend to be brighter to accomplish this goal.  Accent lighting can be used to showcase a large painting over the fireplace, bring focus to items displayed on open shelving and even bring light to shadowy recessed sections of a wall.  


One of the best things you can do for your living space is invest in dimmer lights.  Having control over how light or dark a room is coming in handy when you are having a dinner party and want to create a more relaxed mood.  It’s also perfect for bedrooms, since bright lights aren’t conducive to good sleep.  Even the bathroom can benefit from a dimmer as well.  You don’t want to be greeted each morning with an overwhelmingly bright light when you’ve just woken up. 


Now that you know the functions of each type of lighting, you are ready to choose the right combinations for your home.  Remember that while you may have enough natural light in some rooms during the day, you will still need to have enough artificial light sources for the evenings.

How to Think Like an Interior Designer Part 8: Time


While time is not an official element or principle of design, it is still an important factor to consider when deciding how to decorate a space. The time of day and the time of year can determine how certain areas of your home are utilized and what level of attention they need to be showcased at their best.


The time of day that you spend in each room helps to determine its look.  Bedrooms will have a more relaxing color scheme and softer lighting, while your kitchen and living room will have livelier elements since that is where more of your waking hours are spent.  This concept can also be thought of in terms of how much natural light certain rooms are exposed to throughout each day.  A room that faces the day’s first light may need a different window treatment than the one that catches the sunset.  For example, a bedroom that receives a lot of sunlight in the morning would benefit from light-blocking curtains to promote better sleep patterns and lighter furniture to keep it cool temperature-wise so your energy bill does not go up during warmer months.  In contrast, rooms that tend to run on the cooler side can benefit from thicker, more lush fabrics with vivid colors to warm it up. 


Another way to think of time is how it plays a role in seasonal decorating.  No matter what climate you live in, there are going to be times of the year where you want your interior and exterior decor to reflect the cultural celebrations you observe.  These can be events that occur in the immediate neighborhood around you, an event that you are hosting, or a special holiday observance.  No matter what the occasion is, any one of these festivities can bring about the addition, removal or replacement of certain items in your home, even if it is only temporary.  The adjustments can be as simple as changing your tablecloths, displaying figurines or even incorporating party supplies into a space.  Special holidays may call for a change in kitchen accessories or more luxurious blankets to hang over the couch.  Lighting may be adjusted and candles can be brought out and prominently displayed. 


So, when it’s time to make decisions about your decor, think about the idea of time and how it will influence your process overall. 

How to Think Like an Interior Designer Part 7: Pattern

Pattern is one of the more difficult elements of interior design to master.  Choosing incorrectly can easily overwhelm a space and become a design disaster.  It is important to understand this element and how to best utilize it to enhance your living space.  Pattern is best described as a repetitive graphic depiction on any material.  Patterns carry with them a sense of predictability which in turn provides unity to a room’s design. 


Some commonly used patterns in interior design are: stripes, geometric, floral/organic and motif. Vertical stripes add height while horizontal ones add width.  Geometric patterns provide different impressions depending on the shapes being used; circles provide movement while rectangles convey stability.  Floral/Organic designs are inspired by nature through plant and animal life.  Florals are classic while animal prints tend to go in and out of popularity.  Motif patterns are random repetitive designs that are good at creating a sense of continuity. 


The best thing to do before you get started is to consider the size of the room you are working with.  The larger the room, the larger the pattern you can safely use without overpowering it.  If there is a bolder pattern you are interested in, then a large room may be your best bet for incorporating it into your design.  In contrast, smaller prints work better with smaller spaces.  Use lighter patterns in these smaller areas to keep the eye engaged and the room looking fresh. 


Next, think about the function of the room.  If you are decorating a space that you enjoy entertaining guests in, then choosing a pattern with highly contrasting colors will inject energy into the room.  Patterns containing more complementary colors tend to feel calmer and are better suited to bedrooms and other quiet spaces. 


Finally, think about the style of your home and what patterns will suit it best.  Whether you have a modern, contemporary, or traditional style home, there are going to be patterns that are better suited to your current furnishings.  Choosing a mismatched look for one part of your home will ruin its overall natural flow, so make wise choices.  You may have to adjust your expectations to best serve your decoration project.

How to Think Like an Interior Designer Part 6: Texture

The next element we will be discussing in interior design is texture.  This element is unique because it is equally important to feel the surface of the objects being used as it is for them to be visually interesting.  Striking the right balance in textures will give the space you are working with a more complete feeling.  This element tends to be overlooked since there are so many other things to take into consideration when starting a design project but skipping this step would do a disservice to your decoration plans.


Choosing the proper textures to contrast with a room’s furnishings will add dimension to the space.  Not only is it important to be able to feel the materials you are using, but you also must consider how they appear when you aren’t touching them.  Depending on how you choose to decorate your space, you can make the room feel formal or cozy, warm or cool. 


For example, smooth surfaces can make a room feel light and sleek, but this also causes it to lack warmth.  Adding a rougher texture helps provide visual contrast while simultaneously incorporating the cozy feeling that’s missing. Be sure not to overdo it with different textures.  No more than 3 should be placed in the same area.  You want to display intention with your design and too many textures will confuse that intention. 


Texture is especially useful when dealing with a color palette that doesn’t contain much variety in the tints and shades being used.  Choosing contrastingly colored textures will not only add a pop of color but it will help provide a focal point to the room. 


Texture can be seen in every aspect of a space so don’t limit yourself to believing that this element is only obvious using accessories.  Think exposed wooden beams, tufted arm chairs, raised patterned wallpaper, marble fireplaces, tile flooring, wall tapestries, intricate chandeliers.  The possibilities are endless. 


No matter which items you choose to accomplish your goal, keep in mind that your choices should remain practical.  Some objects may be considered good talking pieces for when guests encounter them, but if they do not add to the overall function of the room, then consider incorporating a different texture.  Making the right choices for the space will give it a polished and welcoming look.

How to Think Like an Interior Designer: Shape

In previous posts, the idea of shape was mentioned.  Form is derived from shapes and should be expanded on to deepen your knowledge of the important part they play in interior design.  While form is three-dimensional, the shapes that create it are two-dimensional, simply lacking depth.


The post on form discussed how shapes are separated into geometric and organic; the former being man-made with distinct outlines such as a rectangle or triangle and the latter inspired by nature with less distinct borders such as the shape of a fruit or a plant.  A third type of shape used in design, which can be considered an offshoot of organic shapes, is known as abstract.  This is a simplified version of organic shapes that are easily recognized by the viewer.  For example, a stick figure is an abstract version of a person, but we can recognize what the design is meant to represent.


Shapes can further be described as positive and negative and well as static and dynamic.  A positive shape is solid while a negative shape has open space inside or around it.  Positive shapes appear more stable and carry more visual weight while negative shapes appear to be lighter and more fragile.  Describing a shape as static also conveys a sense of stability and repose while dynamic shapes convey movement.


The six basic shapes at the center of interior design are Circle, Square/Rectangle, Triangle, Cross, Spiral and Curve.  Circles, with their lack of beginning and end give the viewer a sense of infinite movement and possibility.  Squares and rectangles, with the latter being the most popularly used, represent stability and conventionality.  Their horizontal lines are parallel with the Earth, giving a sense of being grounded.  Triangles are a symbol of power when incorporated into a design right-side up with a strong base to support it, but if this shape is turned upside-down it can give the opposite effect of instability to the space.  Crosses, which can be used in a “t” or “x” pattern, provide balance and are not automatically seen as a religious symbol when it comes to interior design.  Vertical crosses convey strength while horizontal ones provide a sense of calm.  Spiral shapes provide natural movement and signify growth, change and creativity.  Finally, curved lines bring softness to harder, more distinct lines.  They have more movement than circle or spiral designs since their borders are more free-flowing and unexpected automatically drawing the viewer’s eye to a new region.