A living room remodel is a golden opportunity to rethink and redesign the core space of your home so it fits your actual needs, as opposed to how the original designer or builder thought it might be used. A living room remodel is a chance to make your living room more livable. The following checklist can help you assess what currently works and what doesn’t in your living room, and then you can develop your own list of features you’d like to add or change for the room remodel.
Ideally, a living room floor plan should be designed around its furniture. After all, the furniture determines the main activities in the room, and it’s where we spend most of our time. If you use (or would like to use) your living room primarily for conversation and small gatherings, plan for a central space with a comfortable seating area. To accommodate larger groups, include additional seating along the edges of the central space, using window seats or smaller, secondary seating areas. If you’re a reader, be sure to reserve a cozy corner for your favorite reading chair – and plenty of lighting.
When grouping two or more chairs together, it’s usually best to arrange them so they face one another in a roughly circular or square pattern. This facilitates conversation and allows for uninterrupted traffic lanes around the activity area. In primary seating areas, arrange the sofa and opposing chairs 5 to 7 feet apart: This is the most comfortable distance for conversation. Leave at least 3½ feet in width for all main traffic paths and 2 to 3 feet for secondary paths, such as between a seating area and a fireplace.
Every living room should have at least one focal point – a dominant or compelling central feature that draws your attention and lures you into the room. While a fireplace is the most common focal point in living room plans, it can really be anything that you want to set the tone for space: perhaps a large window with an enticing view, a nicely appointed built-in, a piano or prominently displayed artwork. The focal point not only guides your eye as you enter the room, it also serves to “anchor” the main activity area, such as the primary seating group.
Walls and Ceilings
Walls and wall openings are critical to the feel and function of a living room. The size and placement of walls often dictate where the furniture goes, while wall openings establish the traffic patterns into and around the space. Adding walls increases the sense of enclosure inside the living room, making it more private while removing walls opens up space to adjacent rooms and traffic areas.
Ceilings are largely a matter of personal preference. Some people like the soaring, 16-foot-high ceilings of the modern great room, while others like the proportions and sheltered feeling of standard, 8- or 9-foot ceilings. One way to bring down a high ceiling is to frame in a lower ceiling along the room’s perimeter or just over an alcove or an intimate seating area. Raising a low ceiling isn’t always an option, but it can often be done in single-story homes with conventional rafter roof framing (not truss framing).
The living room is one of the best places to add or enlarge windows, and there’s no better time to do it than during a room remodel. As with the other major elements, plan windows to complement – not compete with – furniture and the primary activity areas.
Whether or not to include a TV in your living room is up to you. While a TV should not be used as a focal point in the decorating sense, it should be the focus of a dedicated seating area, with the seating at an appropriate distance from the screen (based on the screen size and height above the floor). To minimize the TV’s dominance as a room activity, try to plan areas where people who aren’t watching can read (earplugs, anyone?), play a game, etc.
If your living room shares some of the storage burdens for the household, or if you’d like some dedicated space for special display items, now’s the time to plan for built-ins, shelving, closet space or storage-savvy furniture pieces.