Living in the Living Room - Not all of us have an open concept layout!

Have you ever noticed, after all the preparations one makes to have guests come over and all the tidying one does to get the living room in shape for that special occasion, guests walk right past the living room and go sit in the kitchen or family room? So what's the deal?

Why do we have 10% - 15% of our home not being used? It may be that we do not think of the living room as more than a room for formal occasions. Maybe it's time to rethink the living room ...

ANALIZE your space. Answer "yes" or "no" to these questions.

Is your room formal?
Is there seating that allows for conversation?
Is there a focal point in the room?
Does the room feel warm and inviting?
Do family members use the room for anything on a daily basis?
Is enough light reaching in to warm the space? In the evening, is there enough light to allow for different tasks?
Do you have plastic covers on your furniture or a rope across the entrance to the living room? (Please say no!!)

If you answered "yes" to 3 or more of these questions, you are under-utilizing your living room. So how do we get the word "Live" back into "Living Room"? Try these ideas to transform your room!

DECLUTTER: Take all the accessories out of the room. Once you have your room set up the way you would like, add them back one at a time. Add your personality without your accessories overwhelming the space. Remember that careful editing will simplify the room and make it more inviting.

GIVE THE EYE A DESTINATION: A focal point gives an area to center your furniture. Use a focal point such as a fireplace or create a focal point with furniture, pictures or other artwork. You could even use a colour block as a backdrop for the artwork to strengthen the focal point. Maximize the appeal of the fireplace by extending the decorating to the walls around and the floor below the fireplace.

LEAD THE EYE: Look at a secondary focal point. Add small groupings of art and accessories to allow the eye to wander into interesting arrangements. Use the triangle theory of highest to lowest when arranging accessories.

GET COZY: Does your furniture grouping allow for good conversation? If necessary, pull the furniture away from the walls to create easy interaction among seated guests. Use an area rug to anchor the furniture. Make sure that there are no major traffic areas breaking up the conversation grouping.

TWO IS BETTER THAN ONE: If the space is very large two separate groups of seating arrangements may work better for the space and for conversation.

LOOK AT IT FROM A NEW ANGLE: diagonally placed furniture creates a more dynamic feeling and may draw people into the space.

MIX IT UP: If your style is traditional, spice it up with some contemporary pieces. Transitional is the mainstream of today's interior design. It will also update the style of your room!

Forget the three-piece suite. Matching sofa, loveseat and chair is not the way to go. Try two loveseats and accent chairs in a co-ordinating fabric. Ottomans are great for laying back and relaxing and do double duty for pull up seating.

Don't forget to mix up the fabrics. Varying the texture is important when using a neutral colour scheme. Carefully varying the patterns also adds interest in both neutral schemes and schemes that use colour.

SUPERSIZE the coffee table. This will allow for a multitude of functions from doing homework to a lavish layout of horsdourves and cocktails.

LIGHTEN UP: Colour is all-important when putting out an invitation to come and stay awhile. Use light toned neutrals to appeal to calming instincts. Warm colours on the walls and a light warm coloured sofa will rejuvenate anyone's spirit.

CREATE A MOOD: Softer slightly darker colours, slightly grayed will enhance intimacy.

RELAX IT: Lifestyles today are much more relaxed. Try to relax your room by using less formal more tailored materials, more neutral in colour, more texture in fabrics and area rugs, and less serious pieces of furniture. It should be OK for someone to curl up on the sofa!

NOT JUST ANOTHER PRETTY FACE: Comfort is the key to relaxation, so make sure the furniture is comfortable.

Durable fabrics are another important key to using a room - but they don't have to look like the nylon sofa of yesteryear that won't wear out. Today's fabrics, like ultrasuede, and other polyester-based fabrics can be beautiful and durable.

RELABEL THE ROOM: What in a formal living room is there to do besides talk? Add bookcases and use it a library. Add a beautiful desk and use it as "the study". Recreate your room by adding a television and stereo equipment placed in a cabinet with retractable doors, and you know you are inviting the room to be used.

WORK WITH LIGHT: Use sunlight during the day and soft friendly light features that cast a warm glow in the evening

SOFTEN WITH FABRIC: Drapery will soften a room and filter strong light. It will emphasize a great window and the view. The right treatment will distract or even hide a poor view. Drapery is a great tool for adding warmth and character to a space.

WARM IT UP: Nothing says "come sit by me" more than flickering flames from a fireplace. If you do not have an existing fireplace in your home, there are some very realistic electric fireplaces on the market.

The soft glow of candles adds a sense of ease to any space. Collect several candleholders that mix well together and make an arrangement of them.

Whether you use your existing furniture in a new way, or get everything new, your living room should now feel more comfortable, welcoming to your family and inviting to your guests, proving the living room can be a place for living every day - not just when company comes calling.

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