Plenty of people skip having a TV in a living space in order to spend more time conversing with family and friends, rather than staring at a flickering screen. But the lack of a TV doesn’t necessarily mean conversation is going to come easily. A thoughtful furniture arrangement, adequate lighting and intriguing pieces make a good formula for ensuring your living room gets people talking. Here are three living rooms that use it beautifully.
1. Modern Message
Designer: Susannah Holmberg of cityhomeCollective
Location: Salt Lake City
Size: 280 square feet (26 square meters); 20 by 14 feet (6 by 4.2 feet)
Homeowners’ request: Replace old carpet, update a large, overbearing fireplace and bring in more brightness.
Conversation starters: “We felt it really important to put the TV elsewhere, so that the design could shine,” designer Susannah Holmberg says. “TVs often absorb all of the energy and focus of the room, and we wanted a place where people could play games, chat, enjoy the views, relax and be together rather than be distracted by television. Even the pillows are unique and have a story, so everything feels hand-sourced and original, and the design helps to foster conversation.”
Other special features: Daybed on vintage Afghan rug near fireplace. Light hardwood floor. Plants. Clean-looking, drywall-framed fireplace. Views of Salt Lake City. Original art. “We created storage solutions in other parts of the house so that it wouldn’t be a feature of this room,” Holmberg says.
Designer secret: “Don’t be scared to spend money on pillows — and layer new with vintage, tasseled with metallics,” Holmberg says. “It gives the room a multinote feel, and pillows can do a lot to set the stage of a room.”
“Uh-oh” moment: “The clients were hesitant to swap out the fireplace,” Holmberg says. “They weren’t sure it was worth spending the money on. However, once they saw the new, cleaner version and how it brightened the room, they were sold.”
Also on the team: Kerri Fukui (photographer); Alfredo Santos (painter); Keenan Davies (contractor); Ashley Hind (artist)
Edlyn sectional and Collaged Majida pillow: Anthropologie; Monobloc coffee table: Lyon Beton; natural tree stump side table: West Elm; concrete table lamp: JWDA; Livvy rug: One Kings Lane; plant box: Ferm Living; Grasshopper floor lamp: France and Son; Collins chair: Joybird; In the Forest throw pillow: Amy Ross
2. Contemporary Chatter
Designer: Tiffany LeBlanc
Location: Brookline, Massachusetts
Size: 320 square feet (29.7 square meters); 20 by 16 feet (6 by 4.8 feet)
Homeowners’ request: Bring sophisticated style and personality to a previously cookie-cutter home. Add better lighting and storage.
Conversation starters: Floating bleached wood built-ins that give the appearance of more floor space. A copper-and-glass statement light fixture that “gives the illusion of a glowing sunset,” designer Tiffany LeBlanc says. “That alone is a great conversation starter and mood indicator.”
Designer secret: ”We had a sisal rug cut to fit the size of the room,” LeBlanc says. “It follows the perimeter of the room and jogs around the cabinetry. The large sisal helps the room to appear larger. Then an overlay antique rug grounds the room and defines the seating space.”
“Uh-oh” moment: “When we went to install the center light, the electrician had centered the [junction] box on the room,” LeBlanc says. “We had envisioned the light over the seating space to create a more intimate space. The electrician had to move the J-box to accommodate our wish. It made for more painting and plastering, but in the end made the space more inviting and intimate.”
Also on the team: Masterpiece Woodworkers (built-ins); Michael J. Lee Photography
Grass-like wallcovering: Donghia; sisal rug: Merida; overlay rug: Steven King Decorative Carpets; sofa and chairs: A. Rudin; lighting: McEwen Lighting Studio; table: Art Applications
3. Touched-Up Talk
Designer: Darla Bankston May
Size: 546 square feet (50.7 square meters); 26 by 21 feet (7.9 by 6.4 meters)
Homeowners’ request: A modern space with clean lines and minimalist style. “I definitely wanted to stay with this aesthetic but add some organic qualities to soften the otherwise boxy room,” designer Darla Bankston May says.
Conversation starters: “It was decided early in the design process that there would be no TV in this room,” she says. “The space would be used for enjoying conversation with family and friends, art appreciation and taking in the beautiful views of both the front and back yard.”
Special features: Two blue velvet sofas. Two statement lighting fixtures. Lots of natural light. Original art.
Designer secret: “I always start with one key element in a room and build the design around that,” the designer says. “In this case it was the blue velvet sofas. We chose small accent tables and chairs instead of bulkier large pieces to work with the sofas. The smaller pieces can be moved around to easily accommodate different seating arrangements. Another key element with the furniture selection was the cocktail tables. One long table would have felt expected, so I chose three separate tables at various heights to add dimension to the room.”
“Uh-oh” moment: “Because of the size of the room, we originally planned to have two different seating arrangements situated around each chandelier,” she says. “The room felt disjointed with this arrangement, so we ultimately chose to flank the fireplace with both sofas and add movable seating around the space. This allows for intimate conversation or an open flow for large gatherings.”
Also on the team: Robert Dame (architect); Joy Homes (builder); Michael Hunter (photographer)
Rug: Stark; sofas and cocktail tables: Roche Bobois; side tables: Mecox, via David Sutherland; chairs: Hellman-Chang; bronze sculpture on mantel: Corbin Bronze; light fixtures: Jonathan Browning Studios; accent pillows: Holland & Sherry; art: J. Antonio Farfan
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