BY NESSA PULLMAN
It’s the place you retreat to after a long day at work, the place where you sit around the table with your loved ones over a good meal and where you create memories with friends and family. Enter: the living area. It’s the part of the home where you cook, dine, relax and entertain — all functions that directly affect your everyday life.
Nicala Hicks, principal designer at Maven Design + Build, says the living area of your home should support your lifestyle and family needs or it will affect your overall experience in ways you may not realize.
“The outside world takes a lot of energy out of you,” says Hicks. “Your home should be designed to promote ease and comfort.”
Hicks says most people are unaware of the areas in their homes that create visual chaos.
“Furniture incorrectly placed, competing colours and finishes or unforgiving materials all contribute to an underlying irritation that adds to people’s stress,” she says.
Eliminating that irritation and promoting more comfort in a multi-function area requires proper space planning.
“The design of your living area is important because it has to function in a variety of different ways,” says Michele Putters, interior stylist at Spaciz.
This is especially the case with today’s popular open-concept living areas, where planning in zones is crucial. Defined areas designated for cooking, eating, entertaining and relaxing are the minimum requirements in any home, while a play area, a homework station or a pet room could also be high on the list for some.
“The most critical question to ask yourself is, what are my family needs?” says Hicks.
Whether you have children and need lots of space for toys and storage or you are empty nesters wanting to revamp your space for entertaining, your living area should be built for your lifestyle.
“Your home should be designed to improve your life, not make it harder,” says Hicks. “It’s a practical foundation to create memories in.”
3 ways to upgrade your living area
Get in the zone
In a large open space, consider using structural elements to establish zones. In this condo by Spaciz (below), the built-in wood-and-glass shelving creates a more intimate dining space and serves as storage, without blocking all the light.
The fireplace (above) is open on both sides, adding interest and warmth, while separating the home office from the space for relaxing and entertaining.
Start in neutral
Keep to a neutral colour palette throughout the overall space then add in a flash of colour — for example, with art, an area rug or window coverings. “These can be easily switched out over the years,” says Putters.
Décor accessories such as pillows, throws, table runners, placemats, centrepieces and art can also add pops of colour and can even be changed seasonally for variety.
Because the living area needs to operate multi-functionally, having suitable storage to tuck things away easily is important. An uncluttered family space also helps guests feel more welcomed. Think multi-purpose furniture with drawers, cabinets that close and cubbies that makes tidying up quick and easy.
“Buying an attractive coffee table with built-in storage provides a function to both your family and your guests,” says Putters.
The expert advantage
When it comes to making design changes, homeowners may look to doing it themselves, but there are benefits to having a professional eye review your plans.
“A designer can see the big picture and then work backwards,” says Hicks. “The biggest mistake I see DIYers make is doing small bits at a time without working towards a cohesive vision.”
Even if you decide against hiring a designer for the whole project, you may find a consultation at the beginning useful, even to help break the project into phases.
“After discussing their goals, we can create a plan they can run with, knowing it will coincide with
their end target,” says Hicks.
If you want to reuse items, a designer can also help you use what you already have in your home to support your new vision.
“We see the overall intent and find creative ways to make it happen,” says Putters.
A designer can take your goals and integrate them with what you already have, which may mean decluttering for more visual ease, updating throw pillows and curtains, or re-zoning with your current furniture.
“We can find ways to breathe new life into old items,” says Putters.
Follow the steps
No matter the scale of your project, Hicks says, always start with the same three steps:
1. Determine your goals.
2. Decide on a design style.
3. Create a budget.