Smart Design With Suzette: Remodeling A Living Room – Storage, Design And Who To Hire

Cozy living room. Courtesy photo

Los Alamos

Here we are in the fourth and final article of remodeling a living room.

We‘ve discussed determining your needs; identifying your style; budgets; floor plans and layout; lighting, flooring and architectural details. Now we will conclude with storage, design and who to hire.

Storage and Organization

Depending on the age of your house and its layout, you may or may not have storage in 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.

If your closet has plenty of room, you could put a pretty chest of drawers in there so you’d have drawers for all the little things. I’ve seen people hide media equipment in spots like this. Anything needed for televisions, computers or music — even Wi-Fi equipment.

We all know a living room needs storage solutions, not to mention organization, of remote controls, blankets, magazines, books and the like. If you don’t have a closet, then furniture will need to serve as your storage and be multi-purpose.

Design with Multi-Purpose Furniture

Despite the size of your living room, you need smart storage and organization. Dressers, sideboards and baskets are irreplaceable when it comes to storage, not to mention functional furniture pieces like tables, ottomans and benches with hidden storage.
I also do what I can to repurpose pieces for creative problem solving – old trunks become coffee tables, a beautiful chest can hold books, games, and children’s toys but keep them hidden from view. Even a simple basket cleverly placed in a room can store dog toys or cozy throw blankets. Sofa tables and modern coffee tables with baskets tucked neatly underneath—these are all opportunities for bringing order into your living room.

Built-in cabinetry allows for thinking about storage both horizontally and vertically. 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’s 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.

Careful editing is the key, designating the best spot for everything. Once we know where everything belongs, the systems are already in place for keeping a home organized and tidy. But careful editing doesn’t always mean purging. Sometimes it just means reorganizing, prioritizing, and creatively tucking a few things away, underneath, or behind—all in the spirit of organization and efficiency, that is.

Design and Decor

Like an artist with a palette of paints, interior designers know that the thoughtful application of color is one of the most effective ways to get what they want: to evoke a mood, solve a design challenge or raise the sophistication within a room.

Color plays an integral role in the way people feel about a space — it even plays a role in how they feel in that space. We intuitively and subtly register the effects induced by a cerulean blue or a vibrant red and, as a result, our subconscious urges us to either relax and unwind or pulse with excitement.

When choosing colors for a living room, think through the details, like its dimensions, the amount of light available, the layout, and the mood you want to encourage: cheerful, relaxed, formal, introspective, whatever the case may be.

I 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.

Stylish Ways to Dress Your Windows

Night or day—the best window treatments offer form and function at any hour. Not simply decorative, the right window treatments work hard when needed. They provide privacy, block sunlight, insulate against outdoor temperatures, absorb sound and provide a unified look from the street. But on an aesthetic level, within a living room they can solve some of the biggest decorating dilemmas, by transforming a mundane wall, visually expanding a ceiling’s height or setting off a spectacular view.

Begin planning window treatments by considering their function first with the intended use of the room. That helps to determine how much privacy is needed, the amount of natural light wanted, or if the treatments will be simply for decorative use. Once that’s determined, the style, materials, and hardware comes in.

I like to soften living room windows with drapery panels, especially those made of linen or velvet, which brings more texture to a room. My current favorite is a French pleat panel on rings with antique brass hardware. I also like to layer window treatments by placing woven blinds behind the panels for a more organic look.

Hang panels at the correct height. Aim for a flattering, classic look. Install the curtain rod just below the molding to raise the look of the ceiling. Pay attention to all of the details, including the style of the drapery—pleated is more formal, and grommets give a clean, modern, and sometimes masculine feel.

Consider how many panels a window might need—it might not be as obvious as you think. A double window might have panels on each side, as well as one in the middle. It could have two panels on each side for a generous, blowsy feel.

For more modern, informal rooms, Roman shades and woven shades can fit the bill. These require a bit more precision—they generally fit within a space or just outside it—and as a result don’t offer the same amount of creative license and dramatic problem solving that drapery panels do. But that’s ok too. They’ll still bring pattern, texture, and privacy to your living room.

Choosing Living Room Furniture
We’ve all seen living rooms that feel sterile with furnishings lined against the wall. Yes, the floor space is wide and open, but it’s not inviting or conducive to conversation. The best rooms are not static boxes. They include furnishings that can be pulled up, dragged over or gathered around. Seating is key. Moveable pieces give a space versatility.

Every living room has a focal point. It’s the spot that begs attention when we first enter the room. I suggest starting there. Make sure you always start with a main focal point and begin placing furniture from there. Don’t be afraid to have your furniture placed in the middle of the room. A decent-sized area rug will ground it and create a more comfortable feeling.

Begin with upholstered pieces, first and foremost, to delineate a pleasing seating arrangement. Use either two matching sofas facing one another or a sofa with two armchairs to encourage interaction and engagement with others in the room. To ensure there’s always room for more, ottomans can also be a great addition to seating and can easily be moved around.

Ottomans, coffee tables and occasional tables lend the room a congenial atmosphere, ensuring that there’s always a surface nearby for a book, drink, lamp, tray or vase. These are the pieces that catch all of our stuff — the worthwhile things that engage us and encourage us outside the rush of day-to-day commitments.

Focus on the living part. Make these rooms livable, with comfortable, deep upholstery pieces and snuggly but durable fabrics. I love an oversized ottoman — it’s moveable, inviting to sit upon and you can put your feet up when you want to.”

So play around with the placement of your furnishings. Pull up a chair, put up your feet and find an arrangement that encourages living in your living room. Add personality to your living room by personal works of art that speak to you and add living plants. Plants clean the air and make a room more inviting.

Styles: Camelback, Chesterfield, club, midcentury modern, slipper, and tuxedo
Fabrics: Cotton, linen, wool, microfiber, velvet, cotton/poly blend, faux suede, leather
Keep in mind: Stain resistance, durability, pets, loose or attached pillows and cushions, filling (often foam wrapped in polyester or down)
Additional options: Loveseats, sectionals, sleeper sofas, chaises, settees

Occasional Chairs
Styles: Armchairs, barrel-back, club, slipper, wing
Fabrics: Cotton, linen, leather, microfiber, silk, velvet, wool, cotton/poly blend
Keep in mind: Comfort, stain resistance, durability, pets
Additional options: Rockers, recliners, swivels, chair-and-a-half

Upholstered Ottomans, Benches and Stools
Styles: Rectangular, square, circular
Fabrics: Cotton, linen, leather, microfiber, silk, velvet, wool, cotton/poly blend
Keep in Mind: Storage capabilities, portability, stain resistance, durability
Additional options: Small portable poufs

Coffee Tables, Side Tables and Accent Tables
Styles: Rectangular, square, circular, oval
Materials: Wood, Lucite, glass, metal, woven fibers, mirror or some combination thereof
Keep in mind: Storage capabilities, shelving, durability
Additional options: Trunks, nesting tables, multiple small tables in place of one large coffee table

Hiring Professionals

Depending on the scope of your living room renovation, you may be working with one professional or half-a-dozen, from architects and designers, to electricians and carpenters. Think about which pros you will actually need to get your job done.

Architect. If you are moving walls, changing the layout of your room, or replacing windows with French doors, an architect will be responsible for drawing up plans that are both structurally sound and aesthetically pleasing.

Contractor. A term that is used to mean many different things, a “contractor” is in charge of construction and may also serve some of the basic functions of an architect, carpenter or electrician. Perhaps more importantly, s/he can work with other professionals to coordinate all aspects of your job for maximum efficiency.

Interior Designer. You may know what colors you like, and what kind of furniture. And if you’re simply replacing your old sofa with a new one, you may opt to decorate the space yourself. But an interior designer can bring an extra level of planning and polish to your project, laying out the space in a way that maximizes flow and beauty, and mixing elements creatively so that the room is greater than the sum of its parts.

Electrician. If you are planning to add or upgrade lighting in your living room, you will need a licensed electrician to do the work. An electrician may also be necessary if you need to install new electrical outlets to accommodate a revised floor plan or expanded footprint, or to add outlets that can handle a high-wattage sound system if you are putting your TV and stereo in the living room.

Carpenter. If you are adding built-in cabinets or window seats, or if you are adding complicated or custom crown moldings to an existing room, you will need to hire a carpenter – or a contractor with precision carpentry skills. In addition to seeing photos of the carpenter’s work, ask if you can visit some in person; that’s the best way to make sure moving parts like drawers and doors are lined up perfectly and function smoothly.

Painter. A qualified painter will make sure that your walls – whether they’re newly built or existing, drywall or plaster – are prepared properly, and will then paint the walls with precision so that the results look good not only upon completion, but down the line.

As you start interviewing any of these professionals, remember that the success of your project will depend on the professionals’ ability to work together. Construction project are a team effort and the professionals involved should be working together and not pitted against one another.

Build Your Team

To make sure all of your remodeling professionals are on the same page, try tofind a team that has worked together before. They’ll know how each other works and will be comfortable during problems. Also, with any relationship, they will have worked out the ‘growing pains’ of getting to know each other.

If you can’t find a team with past collaboration experience, don’t worry. Just make sure everyone knows who is in charge, and where to turn with questions and problems. And make sure that all parties have agreed to a timetable that includes every aspect of the overall job.

So, who is in charge? If you are doing construction that requires a contractor’s services, they may serve as a general contractor, coordinating all subcontractors (the plumber, painter, etc.). Or, you may choose to serve as your own GC, but be forewarned: Unless you have renovation experience and oodles of time, being your own GC may actually end up costing you more money in the long run, because a professional knows how to avoid expensive missteps and duplication of efforts that a novice cannot anticipate.

Consider Timing

When you are ready to start interviewing architects, contractors and interior designers, consider timing. If you’re planning an 18-month remodel and you are hosting a huge family reunion a year from now, you might want to shift your start time forward or back so that your family members aren’t stepping over 2×4 boards to get to the buffet. The less of a hassle your renovation is, the more you will enjoy the finished product.

There are a lot of things to consider when remodeling a living room. I hope to have helped some with the scope of the work and breath of knowledge it takes to bring it all together. If you need help, please contact me.

Feel free to contact Los Alamos/White Rock Interior Designer Suzette Fox to suggest specific design topics or for help with your home. For more information, find her on Facebook at and on her website