When it comes to designing the living spaces in a home, it’s all about personal choice and how you live, which makes these rooms the most versatile spaces in the home. From quiet parlors to cozy dens, the possibilities abound. Depending on your needs, you could opt for a formal living room designed for welcoming special guests. Or, you could eschew formality and take a more casual approach, creating a laid-back family room where pets, kids, and all who enter feel at home. No matter the type of room you choose—or if it’s one of each—these are spaces where being yourself is the only requirement.
The Elements of Good Design
This Hal Thompson-designed home features interior updates by designer Myrl Talkington.
Why it works: With its dramatic coffered ceiling, carved French doors, arched doorway, and copious gilt accents, the grand space is a visual treat no matter where your gaze falls. May/Jun 2008
- Add interest to the ceiling with wood detailing, wallpaper, or a contrasting paint color.
- Let natural light shine in.
- Make seating arrangements ideal for conversation.
- Bring in greenery to add signs of life.
- Choose a rug size that fits the space and the furnishings.
- Add in smaller pieces that can be easily moved around to make room for guests.
The Hearth of the Home
Homeowner Cristina Lynch worked with designer Dan Nelson to add touches of Mexico to her Preston Hollow hacienda.
Why it works: The scale of the antique carved stone fireplace makes the piece a focal point. Jul/Aug 2011
Although it certainly makes a space feel cozy, a fireplace isn’t just for adding warmth. It can also be the focal point of a room. Whether you choose a decorative mantel or a wall-sized surround, a statement-making fireplace might be just the spark your space requires.
LEFT Designer Brant McFarlain worked with fabricator Robert Wohlfeld to craft the hammered brass fireplace in this high-rise unit at the Stoneleigh residences.
RIGHT For this Preston Hollow living area, designer James McInroe kept the original 1959 fireplace. The wall-sized surround preserves a bit of history in the updated home.
Sofas Just Wanna Have Fun
Sure, you could save your peppy patterns and bold colors for the throw pillows in your pad, but why not let your large-scale seating get in on the action? When it comes to upholstering couches, settees, and lounge chairs, don’t be afraid to take a chance on a vivid hue or spirited print.
Designer Joseph Minton channeled British decorator Syrie Maugham in the late Betty Blake’s art-filled apartment.
Why it works: The rare Maugham sofa and chairs, which feature rosettes and loops of ribbon, pay tribute to a legend, and that’s never a bad thing.
Homeowner Regan Carlile found her couch at Ceylon et Cie, then reupholstered it in a graphic-patterned fabric.
Why it works: Pairing the eye-catching sofa with chairs in neutral tones means there’s no fear of clashing patterns.
Where to shop for fabric:
Holland & Sherry
Lee Jofa — Kravet
Two Ways to Work with Color
When it comes to incorporating color into a space, there are several schools of thought. We prefer those that make a statement. One option is to go tonal, using the same shade throughout a space—a dramatic way to make an impression, especially when the hue is as bold as it is beautiful. Our other favorite method is adding pops of vivid color against a serene backdrop. If you want to use color but can’t commit to a single shade, consider introducing vibrant bursts in the artwork or accessories.
Using the same shade throughout a space is a dramatic way to make an impression, especially when the hue is as bold as it is beautiful.
James McInroe wrapped this Midway Hollow living area in blue metallic wallpaper by Osborne & Little, then added chairs, drapes, and a rug in the same shade. The monochrome palette and brass accents make a striking combo.
Why it works: The monochrome palette and brass accents make a striking combo. Jan/ Feb 2016
If you want to use color in a room but can’t commit to a single shade, consider introducing vibrant bursts in the artwork or accessories.
In this Jacklyn Caveny-designed living room, the artwork, furnishings, and accessories all add color to the space. The stark white walls help the vibrant pieces stand out even more.
Why it works: The stark white walls help the vibrant pieces stand out even more. Sept/Oct 2018
Home Is Where the Art Is
Whether you’re a lifelong collector or just starting out, the art you display in your space says more about your personal style than any other piece. It’s also an ideal starting point for designing any room. Be it contemporary or rococo, consider letting your art set the tone for all of your design decisions.
Clockwise from top left:
- Designer Louise Kemp chose a vibrant piece of pop art for this East Dallas sitting area. Why it works: The primary colors pop in the otherwise serene space. Jan/Feb 2009
- William T. Wiley’s “In the Quarry” hangs in the late Betty Blake’s Turtle Creek-area apartment, which was designed by Joseph Minton. Why it works: Opting for such a large-scale artwork means you can’t take your eyes off the floor-to-ceiling piece. Mar/Apr 2007
- Valley House Gallery owner Cheryl Vogel shows off a painting by her father-in-law, Donald Vogel. The piece, along with many others, resides in bins in the Vogels’ family room. Why it works: A floor-to-ceiling screen can be pulled down in front of the bins, concealing evidence that the room was once Donald’s art studio. Mar/Apr 2012
- An 18th-century ecclesiastical painting found in San Miguel de Allende hangs on a limestone wall in this Tyler Cobb–designed space. Why it works: The contemporary feel of the bamboo floors serves as foil for the rustic wall and antique painting. Mar/Apr 2012
Antiques Never Go Out of Style
They say what’s old is new again, but we say: What’s old was never out to begin with. Old World pieces offer history, style, and fine craftsmanship, so when you decorate a space with only antiques, it means every item will have a story to tell. That all-in approach works beautifully in Cathy Kincaid’s living room. But lest you think antiques are only appropriate in certain settings, think again: Blending contemporary pieces with fine antiques creates a striking mix that lets you honor the past while embracing the present.
Go All In:
Old World pieces offer history, style, and fine craftsmanship, so when you decorate a space with only antiques, it means every item will have a story to tell.
In her personal living room, designer Cathy Kincaid incorporated plentiful antique pieces and a variety of patterns.
Why it works: Consistent use of beige and green ties the space together. Mar/Apr 2004
Consider a Mix:
Blending contemporary pieces with fine antiques lets you honor the past while embracing the present.
Designer Cynthia Collins mixed custom furnishings with fine antiques in this apartment at The Mansion Residences.
Why it works: Though the pieces come from different eras, nothing looks out of place. Sept/Oct 2016
Everyone knows reading is fundamental, so give your books the home they deserve. Libraries can take many forms, from floor-to-ceiling shelves packed tight with decades of collections to well-styled nooks displaying only a few favorites. What’s important is to house your tomes to fit the way you live.
LEFT Upholstered furnishings selected by designer Joseph Minton rest in front of a shelf holding hundreds of books.
RIGHT Downing Thomas designed this two-story octagonal library for a pair of book lovers.