These custom storage solutions maximize every inch of space, adding function and style. Neat rows and columns can be very satisfying to gaze upon — especially if they represent the orderly assemblage of some of your favorite things. Built-in cabinetry can bring order to your living room, transforming it from a simple blank slate to a creatively curated exhibition. No longer plain walls with a window here and a door there, the space takes on a new dimension: foreground and background, storage space that closes up and display space that attracts the eye. The living room in Kent and Jenny Longardner‘s home in Elmhurst, Illinois, after Design Star winner and Host Meg Caswell‘s redesign, as seen on HGTV‘s Great Rooms, season 2 . The built-in library opens to unveil the door to the office, the tikky bar is in a corner and the facing wall is covered with a display of framed photos. Built-in cabinetry allows for thinking about storage both horizontally and vertically. The higher and the deeper you go, the less accessible things become. Depending on who needs what, built-ins can serve a whole household, not to mention guests as well. They provide the framework for addressing a variety of needs: storage of books and photos, a home for televisions and media equipment, display for beloved collectibles, a handy spot for children‘s art supplies and toys. Maybe there is a tray on a deep shelf complete with drinks, napkins and barware. Never underestimate the power of quality built-in cabinetry to unify a room — and to do so with both efficiency and good looks. What might be lost in flexibility within the space is gained in sure and steady practicality. A built-in filled with books cleverly surrounds the TV so the black screen isn‘t an obvious focal point in the room. The glass desk and coffee table add a contemporary touch, while the classic white furniture keeps with the room‘s overall traditional vibe. Jennifer Jones of Niche Interiors recommends corralling loose items on shelves by stocking up on simple, attractive boxes and baskets. "Unless you truly live like a minimalist the only way to control the clutter is to have a home for everything, from remote controls to your child‘s favorite toys," she says. "Use boxes or baskets on bookcases and shelves to store your least attractive but necessary objects." These days many people are searching for ways to use all of their rooms — every square inch of them — in the most adaptable and creative ways possible. They are retrofitting them to accommodate growing families or downsizing to bring simplicity to their lives. And the living room — once a pristine and formal room — is prime territory for housing more functions than ever. It‘s become a much friendlier and more adaptable room today. To convert a study in this Minnesota lake house into extra sleeping space for guests, Hendel Homes installed a "Zoom Bed" beneath the bookcase and TV. Design by Cathy Iverson; photography by Troy Thies Photography. "People are looking for custom storage solutions where things can be tucked away," says Ginny Snook Scott of California Closets. "Whether it‘s a computer or a media center or a spot to do homework that can be closed away at the end of the evening, they are finding places where those things don‘t have to be out all the time." Yes, she‘s talking electronics - the computers, tablets, phones, cameras, and televisions with all their cords and accessories. But it‘s not just that. "Homeowners who want to convert their living rooms into multifunctional spaces are incorporating a wall bed," she says. "Rooms don‘t have to be dedicated to media 24 hours a day. Wall beds were part of our culture in the 30s and 40s, and they are making a comeback." So the Murphy bed is back. With its novel yet retro vibe and that über-cool element of surprise, your guests may want to stay awhile. Hospitality is built right in.
Yellow adds optimism to your home, prompting feelings of happiness in all who enter. Interior designer Lisa Teague, designer of Quiet Home Paints, says most people know their color preferences — they just do not know that they do. "It‘s an intuitive process," she says. "My job is to explore with my clients their reactions to color. Do they lean toward clean colors or do they like a little earthiness?" Green represents renewal and lends a calming feel to a room. You can identify these preferences on your own. Experts advise pulling inspiration from a variety of sources. Collect photos of rooms that appeal to you. Find inspiration in a piece of artwork or fabric where you can already see how the color relationships play out. And don‘t forget to look inside your closet. Is there a scarf, a blouse, a wrap or a tie that you gravitate to again and again? Changing how you think about color can give you the confidence to make bold decisions. Designer Andrea Brooks says she approached the design of her own living room by starting with her long-time favorite color. "I’ve always loved pink," she says. "I know I feel my best and most confident when Iam wearing pink, and because of that, I was not afraid to bring it into my own living room." If you long for serenity, using the color gray in your home decor is a great place to start. But Brooks did not just pick just one pink, and she didn‘t count on it to do all the work: "By layering different shades of pink and layering in different textures through fabric, the pink reads as a neutral," she says of the room where she entertains friends or works on design projects. "It gets my creative juices flowing. It‘s an instant pick-me-up." If you want a color that encourages your family and friends to slow down and relax, brown can be the solution to your problem. Photo courtesy of West Elm. Brooks‘ careful approach to color combining and textural layering speaks to the interplay of all the painted surfaces, the fabrics, the wooden furniture, the accessories and the art that sets a good room apart. Some designers even take the wall color (or a paler version of it) into surprising territory. "Nobody wants to notice a big white geometric shape [the ceiling] when entering a room," says Lisa Teague. "I often carry my wall color up and over the ceiling so that you see the color rather than the shape of the wall. And of course, there are some architectural features that one wants to enhance. Color is a great tool for doing so." Reds, oranges, lime green and turquoise tend to bring excitement and stimulation to a space. Whites and pale blues and greens tend to soften it, expand it and give it a restful feel. Grays and blacks bring moodiness and drama. So choose with care. The palette you choose for your living room could excite you enough to make you want to throw open your doors with enthusiasm - or sigh with relief at such a heavenly respite from the outside world.
Use smart strategies to make your small living room feel larger. When carefully planned, a small living room can be both attractive and user-friendly. When you take the time to consider your storage needs and daily lifestyle, you can create a small but smart living room that increases the enjoyment of your home. "Make sure the furniture you choose for your small living room is appropriate for the space," says eco-friendly designer Robin Wilson, CEO of Robin Wilson Home of New York City. "For example, avoid sofas with skirts. You want to go for furniture raised off the floor." A tall lamp that draws your eye up and adds height to the room or a stylish chair with a pop of color or interesting back are other tools Wilson likes to use to make a small living room feel larger and give it personality. Other simple ideas, like going for a space-saving flat-screen TV or a laptop that hides out of the way instead of a stationary desktop computer, keep the area free from clutter and allow traffic flow in and out of the room. But try to resist the urge to use only small pieces in your small living room. Instead, consider an oversized chair that gives unexpected scale to the space, suggests San Francisco interior designer Jonathan Rachman. "Oversized wall art also expands the room," says Rachman. "Doing an accent wall color stretches and deepens the room. You can use a complementary color or something that offers contrast: You can have three walls neutral and then take that same color and use the deepest version of that color for the accent wall." Creating the illusion of more space is the way to go, believes Rachman. A great area rug can be used to mark a seating area, or you can paint a pattern, like chevron stripes, on your hardwood floor to create borders to help the room feel more spacious. And just because you have a sofa doesn‘t mean you have to have a standard coffee table. "In a small living room, you can use ottomans or stools that move out of the way when you need the space," says Rachman. "Just make sure to consider how you need that room to function and if there are any special requirements. For example, if you need a pullout sofa for guests." Think about traffic flow when you arrange furniture, but avoid placing all the pieces in one corner of the room. Also consider pulling your sofa away from the wall. This simple move gives you space to add a console table that offers open storage and a place for displaying your favorite collectibles.
Control your catchall living room closet and get organizing tips that fit your daily needs. Depending on the age of your house and the style of its layout, you may or may not have a closet within the living room. If you do find yourself with a closet here, count your lucky stars. More storage space — especially the kind behind closed doors — is always a plus. A closet in one of the less-trafficked rooms, such as a living room, can solve problems you did not know you had. One approach is to dedicate the space to the things that fall outside the daily workings of a home. Ginny Snook Scott of California Closets says this can be the perfect landing spot for the items that rotate through our homes while we are busy welcoming and celebrating others. She recommends that clients treat this space as an entertaining storage hub of sorts. "We recommend hanging linens, which can keep them wrinkle-free and ready at a moment‘s notice," she says, "and this is a perfect space for them." It is also a good spot for large trays and oddly shaped serving items. Because this closet won‘t be used on a daily basis, it can be a safe home for the odds and ends — some fragile, some just bulky — that rotate through our lives, like vases, candlesticks, board games and such. Scott also notes that her own family room closet includes a gift-wrapping station complete with a tall desk and baskets and drawers for ribbon and wrap, where she can prepare a gift at a moment‘s notice. Decorator Rebecca Hawkins says that the more creatively you think about outfitting the space, the better it can work for you. "If your closet has plenty of room, you could put a pretty chest of drawers in there so you had have drawers for all the little things," she says. "But I have seen people hide media equipment in spots like this. Anything needed for televisions, computers or music — even Wi-Fi equipment." And that brings us to another approach to decking out the living room closet. Because it does not get rummaged around in as often as others, this can be a good spot for hiding some of your home‘s necessities that you don‘t want to spotlight. Think Wi-Fi network adapters, maybe even home security systems or fireproof boxes — anything that must be in an easily accessible and central location but also out of the way. Think about how you can best use this closet space for the practical necessities that keep your home in good working order or the things that make entertaining a little bit more effortless. Regardless of which approach you take, you will be glad to have the peace of mind knowing that things are safe and sound — and behind the door that keeps it all neatly out of view.
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