Personal space

Personal space

Make your living room a trendy haven that’s entirely your own.  By Ilze Hugo


Famed late American interior decorator Billy Baldwin (whose client list included the likes of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis) once said that a living room should be lived in. For him, a lounge that did not perform this function was a ‘ghastly waste of space’.

The emphasis on comfort was evident at this year’s imm cologne (one of Europe’s largest interior design shows, held every year in Cologne, Germany). Cosiness was a major trend that stood out: think warm, inviting spaces, and couches and armchairs that make you want to curl up with a good book or a loved one and snuggle. Added to this was a resurgence in mid-century retro-chic furniture upholstered in plush, velvety and decorative fabrics.

Interior designer Liam Mooney, whose studio was named ‘One of the Top 20 Reasons to be in South Africa’ by Wallpaper* magazine in 2011, agrees that hard furniture never did anyone any favours. ‘Keep it comfortable, go for timeless furniture pieces that resonate with you and always buy the best quality you can afford. This way, you will have a lounge you love for a long time.’

Lynette Monsson-Forbes, from Cape Town-based architectural and interior design turnkey fit-out, Seed Design, also seconds eschewing trends for choosing a style you really like, and making the space individual and reflective of who you are and what suits your lifestyle. After investing in good-quality signature pieces, such as a sectional or L-shaped couch in a neutral colour, Monsson-Forbes says coffee tables, occasional chairs and scatter cushions can then be replaced to give an entirely different look when you need to make a change. ‘I usually try to achieve a clean, minimalist feel in all my interiors, with the interest in the finishes and finer details,’ she says.


For Mooney, the key to a well designed lounge is layering. Layering textures, materials and colours makes a room feel lived-in and interesting, he says. 

Denise Francklin from LIM, a Cape Town-based furniture and homeware store, advises starting off with a moreneutral colour base and furniture pieces with clean, simple lines; then layering with textures to create a sensual space. Mixing materials like wood, steel, glass and fabric creates interest and dimension. Mooney especially loves layering rugs: ‘sisal with a black trim underneath, then something smaller and plush on top – even Nguni hides work well layered.’


Anyone who has watched the classic Coen Brothers film, The Big Lebowski, knows that a great rug can really tie the room together When choosing the perfect rug, bigger is always better, says Mooney: ‘People often buy rugs that are too small for a room. Rather go too big than too small. Monsson-Forbes agrees that a large signature rug is a must-have for any lounge, the ideal size being around three by four metres, to evoke a feeling of luxury. Your rug should be large enough to go under your couches or armchair, adds Mooney.


Besides a luxurious signature rug, other pieces your living room needs right now, according to Monsson-Forbes, include a fireplace and wave-system curtains. A large standing lamp that gives a sculptural effect  is a definite must – as is softer lighting. She also recommends investing in items made from raw metal and wood, as well as individual pieces by up-and-coming local designers.

But, instead of buying off-the-shelf, why not have items tailor-made to match your personality? Customisation emerged as a huge trend at imm cologne – think multi-functional and made-to-measure furniture and decor, and consumers being able to pick and choose their colour and finish.

One trick Mooney likes using is something he calls ‘symmetry remixed’: ‘Use the same lampshade at the same height around a room’ he says, ‘but vary the bases and you have an interesting space.’ He also advises not being afraid to play around with layout. For example, he suggests asking yourself: ‘Can something be placed at an angle, as opposed to square against the wall?’

Don’t push all your furniture against the walls, adds Monsson-Forbes, as this will make your living room look smaller. She recommends going for different scales and sizes when choosing furniture, to create visual interest. Less is more, so steer away from clutter, she says. ‘If you have a variety of pictures or collectables, try group them together for added interest.’


Stick to warm and neutral shades, says Mooney, ‘then bring in bright pops of colour with accessories and cushions.’ Monsson-Forbes agrees and suggests neutrals such as cement-type finishes on floors or walls; dramatic charcoal fabrics with a touch of metal in a coffee or side table; and raw, wooden elements to give the room a beautiful visual balance. She also suggests creating one feature wall in a deep, dark colour while keeping the rest of the walls neutral.
Need an idea to get things popping colour-wise? Colour authority, Pantone, annually brings out a colour of the year to inspire those in the design and decor industries. This year, it has really shaken things up by announcing two colours, and we are seeing these shades crop up in everything from cushions and carpets to paint colours: Rose Quartz 13-1520 is a dusty pink and Serenity 15-3919 is a powdery blue. Paint brand Plascon’s colour of the year for 2016 is an intense, moody blue called Atlantic Beach B5-B1-1, which would work quite nicely on a feature wall.


In a nutshell, a well-designed living room should be functional; not just a space for show while impressing guests, but a warm and inviting sanctuary where the family are able to congregate and unwind together after a long day.

One thing we’re going to see more of in 2016, according to trend-watchers in the blogosphere, are tech-less living rooms that encourage more family time. So it’s time to chuck out that big-screen TV and read, talk, cuddle or play board games in front of your fireplace instead.

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