How to make a Living Room…Livable

As my new client greeted me at the front door of her wonderful Italian villa to help her with a bathroom remodel, she quickly glanced at the grand living room space to our right, and said “that’s our next project, I never want to go in there.”

Living room redesign entry Before
Living room redesign entry after

Six months later, we were redesigning the living room to make it more “livable.” It had great bones. Twenty-foot ceilings, a wonderful fireplace, views out to the vineyard and interior courtyard…all great features…so what was missing?

Bates-furniture-layout-for-living-roomThe key to making any living room livable is a functional furniture layout. Without it, no one knows where to land in the room. A good conversation area is paramount and seating for four wasn’t working. So I went to task trying to brainstorm a way to create more seating, orienting the furniture to take advantage of the views, while utilizing some of my clients existing furniture that she loved. A custom sectional solved a plethora of problems by increasing our seating from four to seating for eight to ten. Keeping the fabric in a neutral tone allowed for us to showcase the black and gold, African inspired custom pillows and fabrics we used to recover my client’s existing chairs. We found stunning hammered brass lamps with black shades for existing end tables, and designed a custom sisal rug to define the furniture layout.


The next task was to take advantage of the 20-foot ceilings by drawing the eye visually into the top ten feet of the room that had previously been dead space. I spotted my client’s 8-foot-tall wood framed mirror leaning against the wall at the end of the hallway…and thought “aha” there is our focal point for behind the sectional. Not an easy task to hang, but well worth the effort, as the mirror commands that space while reflecting the view and niche wall at the opposite end of the room. But the niche wall needed help. We needed to create drama!

Living room redesign seating before
Living room redesign seating after

Solution? We installed 2-inch thick walnut shelves into the niches to house a collection of pre-Columbian art and artifacts gathered by my client on her many travels. Specialty lighting brings these objects of art to life at night. Painting the recessed niches an accent color of gold while contrasting the architectural element framing the picture window in a copper penny created the drama we were looking for while providing a perfect backdrop for their stunning dining table and high back leather chairs.

Living room redesign windows before
Living room redesign windows after

No one will walk by this room again and say “I never go in there.” This is a “come hither” room now, with comfortable furniture, fabulous artifacts, and warm and inviting color. It is a “livable” room loved by all.