Many modern homes are built without a parlor. In days of old, the parlor was the room used for social occasions. It was a more conservative room which served a much more formal purpose than the "living room." The separate living room was more informal, personalized, and the furniture and decorations took on the personality of the homeowner.
Today, the parlor/living room of old might be likened to the living room/den. In this scenario, the living room would be the location of more formal social visits and entertaining while the den would be a place of more privacy, comfort, and informality.
Smaller homes have done away with the separation of rooms, altogether. The living room is now the area of the house where most of the social functions of the home take place. Since there is not a separate area to "let down your hair" so-to-speak, the formality of modern living rooms has decreased significantly. That is not to say that they are not fashionable or stylish. Quite to the contrary. Since this living area is the place most seen by guests, it is the room that is given the most attention when it comes to decoration and personalization.
The modern living room needs to meet a number of different needs. It must represent the character and personality of its owner, but it must also be welcoming and comfortable. It should reflect artistic flair, but it must be practical. The furnishings must make the correct use of space while looking fantastic. It should offer the proper amount of intimacy without feeling too cold or too close for comfort.
The traditional focal point of the living room is the sofa. In days past, a sofa would be selected, and then matching furniture would be ordered. In the modern world, the game has been simplified with the advent of the matching sofa set. The standard sofa set comes with a sofa, love seat and chair, although there are variations. Sometimes there is just a sofa and love seat, sometimes an end table or coffee table is included, or there may even be lamps, rugs, and other accessories that are thrown in as part of the matching set.
Another great innovation in sofa design is the sectional. In this design, a sofa and love seat are connected with a wedge-shaped seat so that one continuous piece of furniture is created. Because the pieces are still able to be separated, they are easier to move. Some sectionals come with reclining sections that take the place of the chair in the traditional sofa set. Others even add a chaise longue (lounge) at one end.
Regardless of which way you go, the inviolable rules of living room design state that there are five questions that must be asked prior to selecting a living room set. Once you answer these questions, you can think about things like comfort. The questions are:
- How much space do you have?
- What is the purpose of the room?
- What is your theme?
- What is your focus?
- Where will the contrast come from?
Regardless of how much you love a certain piece of furniture, if the room is too small or large, the furnishings are not going to deliver the desired aesthetic bang or provide the proper level of comfort. When it comes to living room furniture, size matters, and bigger isn't always better.
The purpose of the living room will change as your family changes. Many times, families with younger children will have the living room double as a play area. As the children grow, it becomes a hang-out where they watch television with their friends. Once the children leave home, the living room goes through yet another transition. In short, the style, color, material, and type of furniture you select depends a lot on how the room will be used.
Themes are critical if the living area is going to look like it was not thrown together at a swap meet. The theme is also where any political statements are made. Do you need to have furnishings that are "green"? Perhaps you don't allow any leather in your home because it is made from the skins of dead animals. Are you a minimalist? Do you simply love black, or is Victorian more your niche?
The focus of the room is the area that pulls everything together. In older homes it was the fireplace. In many American homes today, it is the television set. Larger rooms may even have two different focal points. Before you select your sofa set, ensure that it will fit in the room and enhance your focal point or points.
In music, if all of the tones were the same, there wouldn't be any depth of sound. Therefore, chords are built off of a root note, but there is a variance from the root in the other notes. This creates the beautiful sounds we all know and love. The same thing is true when designing your living room. Pick your root, your base color and texture, but don't let all of your furniture follow that same color and pattern. Allowing variation in texture, in color, and in pattern adds depth and warmth to the room. The general rule when using a matching sofa set is to add an accent chair to provide contrast and break up the monotony of the room.
Once you have answered your five foundational questions, it's time to shop. Now, with your parameters in mind, there is just one more major question to be asked: How comfortable is it? Thankfully, in today's world, you don't have to give up style for comfort, but we all have different preferences. Some want it soft, and others prefer sofas that are firmer. Some love the textured feel of cloth or the soft feel of microfiber, while others swear by the feel of genuine leather.
Another piece of good news is that you don't have to go through this process alone. With the right vendor, you can receive a sofa set that has been specially curated from top-of-the-line brands by designers and decorators. Better yet, they will help you match the sofa set to your dream, ship it for free, and set it up inside your home for free. If you're not getting service like that, then it's time to ask yourself one question: why not?