Updated Traditional Living Room Updated Traditional Living Room

We'll be talking about a living room that reflects one of the current trends in interior design: a return to traditional designs that are simple, functional, and yet updated for today's more casual lifestyle.

Using the Sheffield Guidelines to Interior Design - function, mood, and harmony - we see first that the function of this room is to provide an area for entertainment. Any time you're designing a room for entertainment purposes, it's important to think of having separate seating areas. One mistake often made is to have the chairs and sofa arranged against the walls, as if the room will be used for a big group sitting essentially in a circle. Obviously, this wouldn't do much to encourage intimate conversation.

Here, we see two seating areas. The main area is delineated by the sofa and two chairs, and the secondary area is comprised of a white-cushioned settee, which you can see by the window. There is, outside of the photo, another chair angled next to the settee, making for another seating arrangement for two or three people.

In the main seating area, you could easily seat three people on the sofa and one in each of the chairs, allowing for one large or two small conversational groups. The coffee table and end tables provide a spot for placing a drink or hors d'oeuvre, and the end tables have room for lamps so the room can be softly lit.

In addition to providing a place for entertaining, this room also serves a function as a place for relaxing and reading. Again, the lamps offer directed lighting, the sofa is casual enough that it invites one to stretch out on it, and the bookcase offers plenty of reading material.

Looking at the second Sheffield Guideline, mood, we see that the mood of this room is not strictly formal. The formality can be seen in the coffee table, in the pink chair, in the settee by the window, and in the striped wing chair. The fabric of the wing chair and the pink chair in particular lend this more formal air.

However, this formality is undercut by the more casual elements: the comfortable sofa in a durable, stone-colored slipcover, the curtains hung from simple wooden rings, and the painting over the sofa.

Given these two distinctly different moods, it's reasonable to ask if the room has harmony ? Here at Sheffield, the experts say "yes." This is because the elements are brought together by different common threads, the most obvious of which is color. Everything in this room fits the palette of pink, yellow, white and stone.

Notice carefully how this is done: the curtains are made of the same silk fabric with which the wing chair is upholstered, but they're far enough from the chair that the window and the chair balance the two ends of the room. The striped throw pillows carry this pattern further across the room, and the pink and yellow pillows keep the other colors alive as well.

Finally, all these colors are reflected in the painting over the sofa. The green plant behind the pink chair echoes not only the green in the painting, but also the motif of plants, further unifying the whole of the room.

In this room, then, we can see how a traditional living room can be livened up with bright light from an oversized window, and with colors that are modern yet understated, making for a room that's formal enough for entertaining yet comfortable for a quiet evening alone.

Reprinted with permission from the Sheffield School of Interior Design

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