Andrew Harmon



Design Made
Simple & Easy

A Step-by-Step Guide by
Glynis Tart
Verden Interior
Design Studios

What is a sustainable living room?
A sustainable living room is an interactive space which provides a balance of entertainment, casual relaxation and function for an individual, roommates and families. This can be achieved by using specific furniture selections, paint colors, adding “green” and eco-friendly accessories in the space, utilizing correct lighting fixtures by using warm energy efficient bulbs, maximum air quality, eliminate clutter, provide adequate storage solutions, artwork and using correct furniture placement in the living room space.

The living room should be considered as an extrovert section (action area) of a home (the kitchen is also considered as an extrovert area). The bedroom for example is the private/ introvert section of a home. Electronics such as televisions, dvd player devices, are utilized here. Architectural built- ins as fireplaces, bookcases and seating ledges maybe included in the living room with some residences (retro 1960’s architectural design styles). Books, photos, artwork and other items are on public display for guests to view. Life, love and laughter should be the focus of this space.

There are four benefits of creating a Sustainable Living Room Space:

  1. Utilizing a space in which one can enjoy entertaining guests
  2. Creating a healthier space which is beneficial to allergy sufferers
  3. Achieving a multi-functional space notwithstanding the amount
    of square footage given
  4. Creating a space that is a true reflection of the individual or
    family members

Consider space planning your Living Room furniture the right way!

Know the size of your space when it comes to Furniture selection and placement:
When space planning for your living room, the biggest mistake most people make is purchasing furniture which is too big and too bulky! When furniture is too big for the area, it blocks the flow and circulation space. It also prohibits one to add additional items (such as an accent chair, small end table, etc.). Furniture which is too big for the space makes a room appear smaller and cramped. Sofas are usually the main culprit. People tend to buy sofas which are far too large for their rooms. For most spaces, do not purchase a sofa which is over 86” wide unless your living room is over 250 square feet. Remember to place end tables on each side of the sofa to anchor the unit. A Sectional sofa is a great option to include seating for 5, 6 or 8 persons in a room. Measure the corner wall spaces accurately and subtract 24” on each side if you want to add a small end table with this layout.

When purchasing furniture for your living room, take a measurement of your space. Look at windows, doors and opening locations. No piece of furniture should block entry and exit ways. Window locations should be accessible to open and close and adjust window treatments. Furniture should not fully block visibility properties of the window. If you have a large square shaped living room, you can experiment your space layout by placing your furniture on diagonal angles (see space plan on easel). This is not effective in small spaces unless you have single chairs and small side tables (see space plan on easel). Angled placement of furniture gives a dramatic feel within a space (show the layout which has diagonal furniture).

2. Determine the purpose of your living room.
Is your living room used strictly for entertaining, relaxing, work, solitary time or family gatherings? Will it be multi-purpose? Is this a studio type space? Make a decision on what use or uses which are required in your living room in the order of importance.

3. Determine the type of furniture to include in this space according to the purpose of your living room
If you are a single professional or an adult couple, you can choose living room furniture which can be high maintenance, high end, fabrics and finishes which are more expensive, such as cottons, wools and silks. Glass, marble, stones and other types of expensive accessories can be presented in the space. Is your living room a place to show off photos, paintings, sculpture work? Make this room your special art museum and gallery. Have your artwork be the focus of the space and choose informal yet casual seating with small side tables. Keep the colors on the walls neutral, not necessary white but in the beige, and gray family. Make sure that you have accent lighting which will highlight your artwork piece by piece. Consult with an Interior Designer and/or a professional art consultant for the best colors and lighting to use in this type of space. The themes and color of your specific artwork should determine what wall paint color is used in the room.

For living rooms which are mutli-purpose or used for practically a studio space, use furniture which is multi functional. Ottomans, end tables and coffee tables with lower shelving, and bookcase units should be highly considered. Sleeper sofas are a great option for a studio/living room or can serve as alternate sleeping space to unexpected guests. There are no rules for color in this space, although if this space will be used for home office work or student study, pick a warm color such as reds, yellows and oranges. These are mind stimulating colors.

If your living room is a gathering space for family members including children and pets, choose fabrics and finishes which are easy to clean and maintain. Choose furniture and tables which have rounded and soft corners. Make sure sofas, seating and tables are made from good quality and sturdy construction for long lasting and continual use. Tables and media equipment may serve as alternate storage units for multi-purpose use. Show memorable photos and items which portray happy times with your family.

4. Determine how to choose colors in this space
The living room should be a place of fun and enjoyment! There is a great array of colors from which to choose to choose from. Choose your favorite colors but make sure there is some uniformity and color connection with the adjacent rooms, especially for those who live in small spaces. Pick an object of inspiration for your color scheme such as a painting, a vacation spot or a pillow! Do not use more than (4) colors for your living room. Consult a color consultant or an Interior Designer for correct color placement, tones, weight and hues for your space.

The traditional rule for colors in Interior spaces is lighter colors on the walls create an illusion of a larger and airier room and dark colors can make a room appear smaller. Actually, dark colors on the walls give a room an intimate and secure feel to the space. You can use dark colors on walls, but again have a color template of no more that (4) colors to use in the space. Keep ceiling and trim colors light to add definition to the space.

Make your Living Room a healthy Living space!
Items to consider when creating a healthier living space:

Flooring - Choose hard wood floors, bamboo flooring, laminate flooring, stone, recycled vinyl, concrete, linoleum, or ceramic materials for flooring. Carpet harbors dirt and bacteria even during regular vacuuming. If you want to have a soft surface material on the floor, consider area rugs which are made from natural fibers as jute, sisal, wool and wool-silk blends. There are manufacturers which include natural dyes in the production of their carpet products. Also consider recycled carpet in the form of carpet tiles. If a carpet tile is stained or damaged, you can remove the (1) carpet tile and add a new carpet tile instead of replacing a room of carpet. This saves time and money and offers a sustainable solution. Area rugs provide a design trick to separate spaces from one another or to enclose an area!

Window treatments - It is best to use wood blinds or hard surface blinds as window treatments for allergy sufferers. Blinds are easy to clean and do not harbor bacteria. If one must have drapery fabric as window treatments, choose materials which are easy to clean in a conventional washing machine such as cottons and cotton/poly blends. Wash your draperies on a regular basis (once a month) so bacteria, dust, and dirt will not grow in a rapid pace on curtains.

Seating - the best option is to select seating which is upholstered in leather or vinyl. These materials are easy to clean by hand wiping with a soft cloth. Leather and vinyl does not hold or harbor bacterial, hairs or wet/damp matter. If an allergy sufferer must have a fabric upholstered seating, choose cotton slip covered seating. Slip covers are easy to wash and recover. Again, if seating in your space is used heavily on a regular basis, remove, wash and recover your slipcovers at least once per month.

Air quality - make sure indoor air vents and grille are maintained and cleaned on a regular basis. Take advantage of opening windows late spring, summer and early fall. Fresh air is healthy and allows the house to “breathe”. Make sure when vacuuming soft floor surfaces and upholstered furniture that your cleaner contains a HEPA filter. This will filter the dirty air into clean air. A must for a space which small children and allergy suffers occupy.

Lighting - Your living room should have adequate lighting! Take advantage of natural lighting at all times! During the daytime, open your window treatments to allow sunlight to enter the living room. Sunlight makes a space warm and inviting. It improves one’s mood and spirit. Most Americans are purchasing energy efficient bulbs which are a great incentive to conserve energy and save a portion on electric bills. But some of these bulbs give a cool or blue cast on the walls once the lamps are turned on. This produces a cold appearance in a space. Make sure that your bulbs have warm lighting. Go to a local home improvement store for the correct selection.

6. Storage and clutter issues - Storage is one of the most addressed issues in the home today. Most people are often trying to locate more closets and hide away units for more products which we use and purchase. America is a nation of consumers and at times over consumers. Easy access to purchase items, whether it is in a retail establishment, television or the internet, often results into where to place these items. New housing construction allows for large closet rooms, master suite closets, walk-in closets, etc. in homes but most of us do not have the luxury of a celebrity walk-in closet or a large closet room to house items and with the changes in the national economy, over consumption is now substituted with using a product which has several functions of use. The Green revolution and the focus of becoming more sustainable with one’s practices and lifestyles has given priority over unnecessary consumerism.

In the living room, occupants may want to store media equipment, books, cd’s and dvd’s in components. These items (except for books) should be hidden to prevent clutter. Use wall units which contain drawers which can store these items. Ottomans can double as an alternate storage unit by lifting the seat area, trunks can serve as a multi-purpose function for a coffee table and storage. Open and/or closed bookcases can serve as library space in a living room. The key is to use storage type furniture pieces for multiple use. This will eliminate the clutter.

Again, please use the expertise of an Interior Designer to achieve your look! You and your loved ones and friends will be impressed in an attractive, sustainable space!


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