Today, we often call the sitting room a living room. Some call it a family room. Others call it a great room.
The purpose of it is relaxation and visiting with family and friends. It is precisely what it sounds like: a place to sit.
In the absence of company the sitting room, or parlour room, is a place for contemplation and reflection. Perhaps you spend evenings reading a book or the newspaper, perhaps you listen to music. That or maybe you play games with your family or sit quietly in front of a roaring fire with a glass of brandy.
Everyone has a different idea of what to use a sitting room for and different style and sizes of homes can place restrictions on what it’s used for or increase opportunity to use it as a specialized room.
In small apartments, often the sitting room is the only room without a designation. It will be a place to sit while deep in thought, to watch television, to play games and to entertain company. It’s a multipurpose room.
In large estates you may have multiple sitting rooms each decorated different and used for a different purpose. One might be a designated music room, another a library. One may be a theater room, or you might have one as your den or man cave.
For the average middle-class homeowner in a suburban area, the sitting room will be separate from a family room and is usually without a television and reserved for adults or for entertaining guests. A second room serves as a family room for your family and children to spend time together, play games, watch television and interact.
So How Does One Decorate A Sitting Room?
Well that’s a loaded question, isn’t it? The sitting room, doesn’t actually require much other than a place to sit and perhaps a table or two.
Depending on your style, the sofa, chairs and couches you choose will be based on your tastes in decor. It may be very traditional or ultra-modern. Only you can decide. Typically we recommend that your sitting room be the most formal room in the home next to the dining room, if you have one. It doesn’t need to be decorated in a specific style, but it should be a comfortable place to sit and entertain. It should house your finest furniture, most prized artwork and your valued accent pieces. It should also be distraction free without a television, gaming console or theater screen. If you have any electronics in the room, we recommend only using a stereo or record player for background music.
Seating Isn’t Optional
Unlike other rooms in your home, the sitting room should have enough seating for all guests, except in the case that you are throwing a large party in which standing room is acceptable. Based on the size of your sitting room, large framed couches, sofas and chairs are highly recommended and multiples are encouraged. Many larger homes will separate a sitting room into distinct seating areas. This allows guests to migrate to another area and participate in a variety of discussions. Often this will lead to men sitting in one area and women in the other.
Unlike a family room, the seating shouldn’t point to a specific focal point such as a television. Instead, it should be arranged to accommodate conversation as best as possible. Having couches that face each other or chairs side-by-side that angle inwards are ideal. The room should focus on congregating in groups and allow all of your guests to equally participate and feel welcomed. There is nothing more uncomfortable than a seating arrangement that makes guests feel like they are outside the conversation’s circle. If you are planning to host larger groups that will all communicate as one group, there is nothing wrong with rearranging your furniture to accommodate the guests prior to their arrival.
Tables and Accent Furniture
In addition to seating for guests, it is also wise to have coffee, end and accent tables in the room for guests to place a drink on. Tables in the sitting room should be unobtrusive and not impact the way guests communicate. Taller tables and furniture should be positioned in parts of the room where guests won’t have their view blocked or have to look over or around to see other people. Instead, use lower tables such as coffee tables in between and beside seats. The taller accent tables can be used to hold family photos, artwork, sculptures or as a bar for whisky and brandy decanters. The smaller tables should be free and clear of items except for perhaps a single elegant coffee table book, a set of coasters or an accent such as a short bouquet of flowers or a small sculpture. Otherwise, it should be used as a table to place drinks on or to play boardgames on.
Multi-Purpose Room Configuration
If you do reside in a smaller home where you are limited in rooms and your sitting room also acts as your living space, there are tips you can use to eliminate distractions when entertaining.
If you do have a TV in the room, consider placing it in a cabinet or even better, use a frame with some artwork to cover it up, so it’s not a focal point when entertaining guests.
Cable boxes, video game consoles and movies can be stored in closed cabinets and brought out as needed. When seating is arranged for living purposes but also needs to be conversation-friendly, instead of having all the furniture pointing to a single focal point, use the various angles of the room to try and allow the furniture to easily rotate in so people seated can visit. Using L-shaped furniture or an L or U-shaped layout can be a great way to increase the ease of conversation.
Artwork Defines the Space
Art can be an integral part of adding warmth to a sitting room. Wall art can be large and bold, or it can blend into the surrounding. Many people opt to use large statues and accent pieces in sitting rooms. The biggest benefit of using bold and intricate artwork is that it becomes a conversation piece, and it can help break the ice if you’re having difficulty communicating with a guest in your home. The thing you should focus on when acquiring art for your sitting room is that it is unique, that it is a reflection of your personality and style and that it blends harmoniously into the room instead of sticking out like a sore thumb. For larger rooms, using texturized art made from wood, stone or other natural and three-dimensional elements can be a great way to create comfort in a sterile environment. This is especially useful for ultra modern homes that use minimalist designs. Fireplaces are another great feature in a sitting room and offer actual warmth as well as a coziness to the room.
Flooring and Color Schemes
There are no rules when it comes to what type of flooring you use or the color palette you choose for the walls and furniture. However, we recommend creating warm spaces. Therefore, it’s always a wise idea to stick with comfortable and elegant carpeting or hardwood floors rather than using tile or laminate. One tip is if you do have hardwood floors, to have a heater installed underneath so your feet don’t get cold on the floor. You can also use area rugs to add depth to the room and in areas that receive the most traffic such as right by the couches and chairs.
The walls should be simple, not too distracting and elegant. The use of creams and various shades of grey is popular, but so are deep reds, mustard yellows and even light blues or greens. If you do want to add some striking boldness to the room, consider an accent wall that uses a bold color that’s different from the other walls in the room. Showcase your most valued artwork on the wall and try to keep the wall free of furniture so it is easily noticed.
Lighting and Window Treatments
The lighting in a sitting room should be variable. We strongly recommend warm lighting that’s a mixture of overhead lighting and floor lamps, table lamps or wall lighting. Having dimmer switches attached can greatly impact the room and using new products like Philips Hue can add intelligent lighting systems that you can customize for specific times of the day or events and parties. We also suggest using candles to increase the glow and warmth of the room.
As far as windows go, natural light during the day is wonderful. We suggest using long drapes over plastic blinds as they add a touch of elegance to the room whereas blinds tend to be more institutional. For larger rooms, consider deep colors made of heavy fabrics such as velvet. For smaller rooms, try lighter colors in light fabrics like silk.
In the end, how you decorate your sitting room is completely up to you. It can blend with the other rooms in the house or it can be in stark contrast and completely different from every other room. The only thing that matters is it’s comfortable for you and for your guests. What tips do you have for sitting room decor?