Designing a family living room

The family living room is a place where memories are made – chilled-out weekends, the excitement of Christmas morning, and snuggling together on the sofa for family movie nights. But the living room can also be a busy crossroads, with people coming and going, and several activities happening at once. The key to designing a family living room is to combine a practical, multi-purpose layout with cosy soft furnishings and child-friendly finishes.

Plan your living room space

The first step in designing a practical family living room is to think about how you’ll use the space. Jot down everyone’s needs – from watching television and homework to grown up entertaining. Then draw the living room and furniture to scale and move pieces around to find the best layout. Try to keep the living room floor clear so that people can move about with ease – this may mean shifting some furniture elsewhere or replacing large ones with smaller pieces.

The sofa takes centre stage in most family living rooms. Look for one that’s big enough to fit everyone, but not so large that it swallows up the room. Modular sofas that can be reconfigured to suit your needs are a good idea. Or, if space is short try combining a small sofa with armchairs and some comfy floor cushions.

A generous coffee table that’s big enough to accommodate a craft session or a TV dinner is a good investment. In a small living room, consider stackable side tables that can be grouped together when needed, and tucked in a corner later.

If the living room doubles as a playroom, think storage and speed. You’ll need a good storage system with space for all the kids’ toys – generally a mix of wall shelves or cupboards, large baskets, and lidded boxes. Make sure storage is easily accessible so the living room can be tidied up in a flash.

If the living room doubles as a home office, look for a small desk or one that flips down from the wall. Make sure there are enough electrical sockets for computers, and a good task light.
You may want to conceal the work or play zones of your living room when it’s time to entertain – you can do this with a folding screen, a bookcase-cum-room divider or a roller blind.

Make it comfortable

A cosy family living room has a cocooning vibe that draws you in – think warm colours and soft, tactile fabrics. Pile the sofa high with cushions, scatter around a couple of snuggly blankets, and lay a cosy rug or carpet on the floor.

When it comes to living room furniture, choose sturdy pieces that will withstand rough treatment, such as solid wooden table with rounded corners, and quality sprung sofas rather than foam ones.

Living room storage

A busy family living room can be a magnet for mess, so fight back with a well-planned storage system. Floor to ceiling shelves are a great solution, as they’ll hold everything from books to toy baskets without taking up much floor space. A couple of large, woven baskets will look chic in the living room, and toys can just be tossed into them at the end of the day. If your living room doubles as a playroom, you may need to add a toy box or some containers on castors that can be stacked in a corner or rolled under the sofa. And don’t forget small storage for all those little pieces such as Lego and craft supplies – a couple of unused Huggies Pop-Up tubs are perfect, and they won’t cost you a cent.

In a small living room, think double duty furniture such as sofas with under-seat storage; a trunk that doubles as a side table, or a coffee table with shelves.

Create a focal point in the living room

This can be a casual display of collectibles on the mantelpiece, a wall of family photos, or one or two of the kids? photos or paintings turned into canvases – anything that tells a story about who lives here and what’s important to you. It’s easy to turn your digital photos into a striking living room display – join the Huggies Photo Centre and you can order prints and photo canvases online – you’ll even receive 50 free prints just for registering!

Try not to be too rigid with your living room displays; add to them and move things around to reflect your family’s journey, whether it’s new holiday snaps or shells collected on the beach.

Living room decor

  • Living room fabric – Kids can be brutal on living room furnishings, so it’s best to go for tough fabrics such as cotton, leather and faux suede. Washable loose covers are a godsend, and will look as good as new after a run through the machine. When it comes to colour, patterned fabrics are more forgiving them plains, and richer shades such as chocolate and plum are better at concealing sticky finger prints than paler ones.
  • Living room flooring – Cosy rugs and carpet feel soft underfoot and are more pleasant to walk on than wooden or tiled floors. Opt for low pile rather than plush or shagpile, which will crush under heavy footfall and can be hard to clean.
  • Living room walls – Wipeable paint finishes, such as low sheen or semi gloss, are better suited to family living rooms than matt ones, which tend to show every scuff. Wallpaper adds visual interest, but choose one that can be wiped clean.
  • Living room windows – Look for window furnishings that let plenty of natural light and ventilation into the living room during the day, and which can be closed off for warmth and cosiness at night. Venetians and Roman blinds are great for ventilation and light control, but curtains are cosier.

Child-proof your living room

It’s unavoidable that there will be times – even if it’s only for a few minutes – when the children will be left unsupervised in the living room. Make it safe by:

  • Steering clear of breakable furniture such as glass coffee and side tables
  • Anchoring shelves and televisions to the wall
  • Covering all power sockets
  • Removing any dangling curtain or blind cords
  • Covering the fireplace with a screen
  • Making sure there are no small, easy to swallow objects left lying around such as coins or marbles.