How to cosy up your living room
As the cold nights draw in and we start to think about hibernation (or winning the lottery and buying a beach villa in Barbados). We might start to notice if a living room isn’t feeling as cosy as it should. So for this week’s blog, I’m going to give you 8 handy hints and tips for making your living room a cosy, warm and inviting bolthole.
First of all, let’s not assume that by cosy I mean small. Small rooms are not necessarily cosy by size alone and can feel quite the opposite if they are left dark and uninviting. Likewise, large rooms don’t have to feel cavernous, they can feel just as cosy by applying some tricks of the trade. It’s basically all down to comfort levels. So to make a room feel cosy, we ramp up the comfort factor by doing some (or all!) of the following;
I’ll start with the obvious. If you have read my blogpost on use of colour in the home, you will know that there are warm and cool colours and that this is a subject for research before you decide on your colour palette as it’s so easy to make a mistake based on the room size, feel, position etc. So, without repeating myself, the easy way to start is by decorating walls using colour with warm undertones. If you have a north-facing or particularly chilly room, I would advocate this anyway. If you have a sunny south-facing room, feel free to warm up a living-room this way but proceed with caution. You may want to steer clear of terracotta’s so you don’t feel like you are sitting in a tagine over summer. Basically, add layers of comfort using texture rather than colour. Even colours we consider to be cool colours like green can have warm undertones. Take olive green for example. If you like your neutrals, instead of a cool blue-based grey, look at a greige, a warm-toned grey veering on beige that works well with woods and natural textures for a warmer Scandi vibe.
Ok, so you don’t have to go all swags and tails (remember those!?) on your windows, but a little drapery goes a long way to adding warmth. In rooms with a lot of glazing, even when it is the most modern, insulated version you can find, there can be something a little chilly about vast expanses of glass. Contemporary hotels deal with this by layering window treatments. E.g. offering some flexibility to view versus cosiness by having voiles or blinds underneath curtains.
Curtains can be ‘stacked back’ away from the window if space allows to maximise the view during the day and drawn fully across in the evenings as ashown below. Floor-to-ceiling adds a hint of luxury and that extra foot or two of the fabric increases the cosiness for sure. Layer Roman blinds under Curtains for a luxurious and cosy look in a traditional or contemporary setting, just choose a fabric which works with the style of the space. Our resident soft furnishings expert suggests choosing a bump interlining for a more luxurious and insulating finish on curtains and blinds.
Plump and oversized feather filled cushions in a range of different textures and complementary fabrics add warmth and cosiness to a sofa and are an absolute must if you have a leather sofa. If your cushion covers are in good nick but are looking a bit sad and flat, buy a size too large feather inner and squash it in there. A quick karate chop in the top of the cushion will get it looking fat and fabulously cosy in no time. Choosing sofa’s and other seating in warm luxuriously rich fabrics such as velvet and chenille will definitely help bring a level of cosiness too and there's so many around at the moment! Check out DFS and their range which includes an incredibly child/spill friendly clever velvet shown below on the gorgeous and very reasonably priced 'Mya' sofa.
Don’t underestimate the power of good lighting. If you sit there each evening watching Coronation street with ‘the big light’ on (sorry to go all Peter Kaye on you) basking in the glory of a 60w bulb, then you won’t feel cosy. Same if you have made the mistake of choosing a cool white LED bulb, always, always go for the warm white! (unless you are setting up a dental practice). Lighting needs to be layered to feel cosy. One table lamp won’t cut it, as usually, it leaves one area looking like the seat on Mastermind and the rest of the room sunken into darkness. So, consider positioning a table lamp near each seating area, or using floor lamps if you don’t have the space for side or end tables. Wall lights and dimmer switches are great too for controlling the light levels in the room.
I could have lumped this in with soft furnishings but I felt it deserved a whole mention on its own as it’s that important! Even when not in use for snuggling up under whilst you sip a G&T and watch the flames flickering in the hearth, throws add a layer of pattern and texture which breaks up a large expanse of sofa and gives the eye another element to rest on. In a neutral room, they give you an opportunity to add some warm colour tones and in winter they are an inexpensive item to add instant warmth and hygge vibes. Think oversized and go for boucle knits or tartan check for a Christmassy feel. 'Home-sense' has a fantastic range and so do Made.com with their Burley throw as seen below.
If you are blessed with square feet in the living room department then don’t make the mistake of pushing all your furniture against the wall and leaving yourself with some sort of weird expanse of dance floor in the centre. If seating is too far apart it will make the room feel too vast, and vast doesn’t feel cosy. Instead, it’s all about the space planning and layout (HartleyCox designs are pro’s at this – insert smug emoji). Look at grouping seating together so you create distinct zones within your living room. A couple of chairs intimately grouped under the window with a side table for drinks combined with a sociable sofa facing sofa situation for example. With a comfortable ottoman in place of a coffee table, that extra bit of soft furnishing also softens the space. Make sure your furniture is to scale too, a large oversized corner sofa may work in a large squared-off room. Break spaces up with items such as console tables and bookcases to divide up engulfing spaces. Don’t make the mistake of facing everything towards the TV, there is literally nothing worse!
There is no point in purchasing expensive carpet if you go cheap with the underlay. A good quality underlay with some bounce factor will stop wear and tear on your carpet but also helps that luxurious underfoot feel, even on a short pile. Always get expert advice from an interior designer or carpet specialist as some underlays work better with different types of carpet.
If you have hardwood or ceramic floors then do consider a rug. It will feel better underfoot when seated, will dampen sound in the room and prevent ‘echo’ and will also help you to zone off your cosy seating area. Just remember the rug needs to be large enough to go under the first 1/3 of your sofa to help ground it, basically go large or go home, no doormat sized rugs!
There is in my mind, nothing colder and less inviting in a room than bare walls. I’m not saying everyone should jump on the gallery wall bandwagon but some artwork/wall hanging/family photography is a must to make a room feel lived in. Work with the space but don’t be afraid to break rules. I've seen some amazing small living spaces get interior boom worthy with oversized wall art. I could write a whole other blog post on hanging art and how to choose it (again, it may be worth a little expert advice here) but generally speaking it should tie into the room somehow either by a particular colour, the frame design, the shapes or contrast in the imagery etc. Group smaller images together and let larger ones have some breathing space. Choose artwork or photographs you love and you will always enjoy sitting there.
Unless you are an absolute minimalist you’ve probably got some books and objects of personal interest lying around. Stuff like this helps to make a room cosy. Personal artefacts, treasures from travels can all be used to give personality to a room, it’s just about the way you group and display them. A wall of books can make a room feel like a super snug den, the book-covers and spines acting as a form of artwork to break up a large expanse of wall. Group things by colour, texture or type, and try and group in threes as it looks more balanced. Experiment with placing objects at different heights, I often use books to help me do this. Just have a play and then sit back and observe, does it look good?
Plants are another way to add warmth to a room, just make sure they suit the rooms positioning for sunlight and warmth as dead plants are not a cosy look. They fill up dead space, clean the air and the pots give another element of texture and colour. Look at little botanicals for an amazing range of houseplants and succulents.
I hope this gets you on your way to making your living room a cosy little haven for winter, and if you want any extra help just give us a call!
Olivia Hartley X
Lead interior designer.