How the living room came back to the heart of the home… as a life/work zone or party hub

How the living room came back to the heart of the home... as a life/work zone or party hub

What you call the room in question depends partly, apparently, on your age: millennials call it the living room, midlifers call it the lounge, and the older generation tend to call it the sitting room – the odd traditionalist still calls it the drawing room. And what you do in it also depends partly on your time of life: the most popular living-room activities are, unsurprisingly, watching TV and reading; but 19 per cent of those surveyed worked in their living room, 61 per cent used it for doing ‘life admin’ on a phone or computer, and, controversially, half ate in it (of whom 21 per cent wished they didn’t). 

Interior decorators are in agreement that, whatever you call it, the way it is designed and planned is changing. “It’s become a really important room,” says the designer Suzy Hoodless, who is currently working on one for a client at the Albany in central London, incorporating separate sitting areas and a study. “Every corner of this room has got a different function,” she explains. “There’s going to be a really comfortable corner sofa for relaxing; a high-backed armchair by the fire for reading; a corner with a card table for games, and a piano. The study area will be floor-to-ceiling books, a big desk and armchairs.” This ‘zoning’ of the space is a clever way of dealing with a multifunctional, hard-working space, particularly in an open-plan home. 

John Lewis is running a pop-up space in its Oxford Street store over the next 10 weeks showing different styles of living room, with experts on hand to offer design advice. Here’s how to nail down your own tastes, and decorate accordingly.

The flexi family space

With the shrinking size of the average house, few families have space for a separate playroom any more, so if you have young children, the chances are you’re sharing your sitting space with them and their entourage. A practical sofa is essential – although leather upholstery, once the mainstay of the family home, is now on the wane, in favour of washable loose covers and stain-resistant fabrics (the new high-tech velvets can be surprisingly robust). A large, patterned rug is also a key element, as is plenty of useable storage, whether fitted cabinets, modular shelves or big baskets. 

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