Interior design for living room and dining room

A living-dining room in which all the woodwork dining furniture, sideboard (if you must have one), occasional tables, chair armrests and so on are all of the same colour, and of as few different heights as possible, looks much bigger than one whose colours and heights are a jumble. Arranging a room to make the most of available space is a question of careful planning and compromise. One of the problems often encountered-unless you are lucky enough to be refurnishing completely, is trying to incorporate the often unsuitable furniture you already own. Inevitably, one has items inherited from a parent or grandparent, or that were bought on impulse, or to fit a different house.

living dinning room

But even if you cannot-indeed would not want to-throw everything out and start again, some improvements are always possible. Even a box unit that takes away two cubic feet of clutter will help. And in the long run, the daily comfort and convenience of having a well organised room, and the family friction avoided by flexible, practical furniture, will be worth any pangs of regret that you feel at parting with the ancient, much loved, but totally impractical object that once filled your room.

In a small space, you simply cannot have a huge sofa across a corner with yards of wasted space behind it, nor afford to ignore an alcove which could take shelving and cupboards and work-top but in fact still houses a cumbersome old desk or sideboard. And if there is something you simply cannot bear to part with, you will have to earn a place for it by perfect planning in the rest of the room. However intelligently you plan your space to suit your family’s various activities, there will still be limitations and problems. But in many ways these provide half the fun as well as the headaches. For they give you the incentive to be imaginative, and,ultimately, the satisfaction of knowing you have solved some problems and disguised others. And in terms of sheer comfort, space-saving can be a very rewarding activity.

Modern families tend to have sophisticated hobbies which involve a mass of equipment and materials. If these were allowed to ‘stray’ all over the house they would cause untold havoc. Small children have their nurseries to clutter up, and specialists have their workshops, but a properly planned ‘family room’ provides the whole family with a social centre where each member can create his own brand of mayhem. And then, perhaps, you will meet more often than just at mealtimes.

living room london

It’s no use packing the whole family into the spare room and hoping that everyone will have a marvellous time. Family rooms do have to be planned, if only to ensure that they are warm enough, well ventilated, suitably lit, insulated against noise, provided with adequate storage and somewhere to sit, and so on. The ‘basics’ should be carefully thought out before you try to plan the layout of the room.

Studio Flats in London

‘Bed-sitter’ is almost a dirty word, conjuring up visions of dingy, badly decorated rooms in converted Victorian mansions, each with old-fashioned furniture and minimal cooking and heating facilities. However, young couples who want a home of their own, but who cannot yet afford a house, are often forced to live in a one-room flat. Large bed-sitting rooms with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities can convert into workable self-contained flats.

studio flat london

Room to work in and storage space, space for sitting and dining in, for entertaining friends, and also a second sleeping area to accommodate unexpected guests, must all be considered. Whatever furniture and fabrics are bought for a flat like this they must be suitable to adapt or re-arrange at a later time in a larger house. By using white laminated chipboard storage and shelf units which reach up to the ceiling, you gain extra space for storage.

When you are measuring the room or rooms, take down the dimensions accurately and be sure to include; the positions of doors and where they lead to; the positions of windows, whether they face the sun, and the sort of view they overlook; the heights of window sills; the size and position of chimney breasts; and all the smaller, but still important, items such as radiators, power outlets, lights and switches.

Draw your plan to a fairly large scale, say one-tenth of the room size, and cut out cardboard rectangles to represent the surface area of the furniture intended for the room. You can now experiment to see whether, by careful grouping and re-grouping, it is possible to ‘zone’ the activities logically-and still allow enough space for circulation and cleaning. Circulation is important.

You need a minimum of 500mm to walk between low units of furniture, more to walk comfortably between taller ones, more still where ‘traffic’ will be heavy and people must frequently pass each other. However, unnecessary circulation space is wasteful and it is therefore desirable to organise your traffic flow in as simple a pattern as possible. If the positions of the doors to the hall and kitchen hamper efficient planning, consider whether it is possible to move or close one or both of them. Try to avoid moving the chimney breast, however; this can be a major, and expensive, structural job.

Once a basic layout has been arrived at, it should be tested for flexibility and whether it will remain suitable for likely future needs. This experimentation will provide a good guide to the best position of major items which cannot easily be moved, such as wall storage units and dividing screens or doors. It will also indicate to what degree the furniture must be multi-purpose. The next step will be to decide on appropriate colours, materials and lighting, and the possible use of such devices as mirror walls and floodlit walled gardens, as these can have a profound effect on the character, and apparent size, of spaces.

Interior Design for Living Rooms

Planning a living-dining area is easy. Once you have fitted the dining table into the most obvious nook, and bunged in the sofa opposite the television set, everything else just clicks into place. But planning a better living dining area-the one that looks a little better, works a little better, is a little more comfortable and accommodating-is a difficult job indeed. You need talent, concentration, or luck, or a combination of all three.

living room London

The first problem is, that unlike the kitchen, the function of which is reasonably constant, the living-dining area in the average house is playing quite different roles at different times of the day. Whether one room or two, it has to be coffee parlour, study, hobbies room, reading room, television ‘cinema’, music room, writing room and, when you are entertaining, restaurant. And some of these functions are quite incompatible.

The second problem is that what suits well now may be hopeless in, say, five years’ time, when today’s toddler has become a seven year- old addict of television’s noisier programmes. Or a studious 10-year-old has become a rumbustious teenager whose army of friends descends without warning. It is impossible to design living and dining areas so that they will function perfectly for al1 time, regardless of family changes. In most cases, the family starts off as just a newly-married couple.

It increases in numbers as children are born, and in physical size as the children grow up and develop wider interests. It contracts as the children leave home, but may increase again when, for example, an ageing relative, unable to live alone, becomes a resident member instead of an occasional visitor. Since the range of a family’s activities changes even more markedly than its numbers the best you can do, then, is to plan for the family as it is now and make some assessment of likely changes, at least to the time when the present furnishings have outlived their usefulness.

This, if you have a houseful of growing children, will probably be sooner rather than later ! But regardless of the numbers or activities for which it is trying to cater, some things are quite fundamental to a successful living area:

The room itself must be of reasonable size if you are to avoid that ‘shut in a telephone box’ feeling. In many homes, separate living and dining rooms can be combined into a ‘through room’ which somehow always manages to look greater than the sum of its parts. In others, a tiny dining room can be combined into a ‘through room’ which somehow always manages to look greater than the sum of its parts. In others, a tiny dining room can be combined with the kitchen to give a greater feeling of spaciousness in both. Even if you cannot alter the physical dimensions of a small living room, you can often install a picture window to the back garden increasing the apparent dimensions by an amazing extent. (Be careful of picture windows to the street, however; if the room is close to the street, or below road level, you may find yourself self-consciously living in a ‘goldfish bowl’.)

And if there is positively no other way, you can make a small room look bigger by a careful choice of furniture. Choose as few pieces as possible, maximising space and minimising clutter; choose low items rather than tall; and try to keep the tops ‘in line’-occasional tables the same height as seats, for example, and cupboard units the same height as armchair backs. It follows that you should try to avoid making small rooms even smaller by partitioning them into little boxes, unless-and the difference is crucial-you can see over, or through, the partitions.

It must have a focal point because, without something to look at, it is difficult to relax and do absolutely nothing. There are times when even conversation is harder work than you feel like undertaking for the moment-and looking at another person without trying to converse is almost impossible. Once, the hearth was the centre of family life; the word ‘hearth’ itself still conjures up pictures of warmth and companionship and hospitality. Now the hearth-or at least the open fire-is yielding place in British houses to central heating. In its place, the television set has become the focal point of most living rooms, as a glance at the seating arrangements will tell. This is all very well, except that for perhaps half the time that the set is switched on at least one person is enduring, rather than enjoying the programme.

(Quick check: In your family, how often does one person leave the room, try to read-go to bed, even while others are watching a favourite programme?) And when it is switched off, the cold stare of a blank television screen is anything but inviting. This is why some families retain an open fire, even with central heating, for nothing more than its visual warmth and the soothing movement of its flickering flames. There are plenty of alternatives : fish in a tank; birds in a cage (or outside in the garden, but still visible through a picture window); flowers; people or traffic passing by; a favourite collection of pictures, posters, pottery, ship models, or anything else you fancy.

It must look comfortable. Comfort is more than a physical thing; however much padding you provide for the bones and muscles, you cannot relax properly if distracting or irritating surroundings have your mind ‘on edge’. (As one example, few people look less relaxed than the girl who demonstrates mattresses by ‘sleeping’ in furniture exhibitions or shop windows; in her place, would you feel at ease ?) So a living area must not just be comfortable, but look comfortable too. This is a point to bear in mind when buying, particularly, armchairs and sofas. It is an extremely personal, individual matter, but if a unit looks too cold and ‘stiff’ to you, remember that it will probably make your room look the same.

Floor covering can also help create a cosy atmosphere. If carpet seems impractical because the family eats in the living room, you might tile the floor of the dining area, and lay deep-pile carpet at the sitting end of the room. It will create a warm effect and help separate the two areas visually. With these basic points in mind, you can begin to tailor your room(s) to suit your own family, whose needs are quite different from others’. The first thing is to list them, beginning with joint activities, and perhaps under these headings: Eating

Some families take all meals formally, some eat in the kitchen or by the fireside or television. Either way, obviously, you need seats and some sort of dining surface, even if only a tray. But these can be suitable for other purposes and, if so, this will make better use of the space. If you seldom use a conventional dining table and chairs, why have them ? You may be better off with fold-away or multipurpose furniture.

Relaxing, conversing, watching television

The main requirement here is comfortable seating. Armchairs offer maximum comfort, but are bulky; they should be kept to a minimum if space is limited.

Sofas or settees are a little less comfortable, but make better use ol the space and can be used for the occasional nap. (A sofa which is not long enough for sleeping is a bad buy; it can fulfil only one of the two-or more-uses for which it is intended.) Some chairs are essential, however, because the seating arrangement must be flexible enough for two people to talk in comfort, yet be capable of being moved so that the whole family can watch television or join in a general conversation. Chairs that can be pushed together to form a sofa are practical and versatile. Try not to acquire furniture that is too heavy, or rearranging it for changing daily needs will be a major undertaking. Low tables are very useful. Have plenty, and space them about among the seats; when you are comfortable you do not want to keep getting out of your chair to reach an ashtray or pour another cup of coffee. Modern boxshaped tables also provide extra storage.

Storage facilities will probably be needed for books, magazines, records, tapes and so on. For this purpose, multi-purpose wall storage units are most useful. Economical of space, they.can incorporate drawers, cupboards and shelving for storage and display, as well as housing the radio, record player, tape recorder and television. They are also designed to allow some flexibility of arrangement. If stereophonic sound or hi-fl is to be catered for, it is important to consider the position of loudspeakers in relation to the seating.

Entertaining

You need to ask yourself what kind of entertaining is to take place, on what scale, and how frequently. Does it justify extra seating, a larger dining table, a bar or cocktail cabinet? Or could you improvise for the occasional informal party ? Having listed family, or communal, activities, the next thing is to list individual ones. The possible range is enormous, but some likely ones are: Studying, letter-writing, computer usage.

These have similar requirements as far as space and furniture are concerned-not just a chair and writing surface, but also adequate storage for books, files and stationery. At a pinch, the dining table will do, with the activities, and the dining table will serve. The main problem is storage, particularly of bulky machines; however, these can often be housed, with their accessories, in a movable unit which can double as an occasional table.

Modern style furniture and furnishings

Interior Design is good taste in Decorating. For furniture and furnishings the modern style can quite happily mix both natural and man-made materials and is not averse to imitations, so long as they are very skilful.

interior design bedroom

For example, a plastic laminate imitation of marble, or a PVC leather look is perfectly acceptable providing the effect is realistic. Otherwise, choose natural materials such as wool, cotton, leather, cork, stone and all kinds of wood so long as the natural grain is not concealed by heavy polish or stains. Man-made materials might include metals such as steel, often with a shiny chrome finish, aluminium, glass and all kinds of plastics moulded into exciting and unusual shapes.

Ideally, furniture should be low and streamlined. Modern seating has abandoned the three-piece suite in favour of compact units grouped in an L or U shape to suit the room. Modern look furniture is often flexible, and sometimes serves a dual role, for instance seating doubling as a bed; tables and beds comprising storage space; adjustable shelves and furniture units which can combine into different sizes and arrangements. Solid foam sofas and chairs which can convert to a bed in seconds are inexpensive and ideal for a modern setting. Otherwise, look for comfortable yet stylish seating in textured coverings like tweedy or knubbly fabrics, smooth weaves in wool, corduroy or linen union or for a more expensive look, in leather.

Avoid shiny materials like velvets or figured brocades and choose plain rather than patterned fabrics unless they are of a geometric design. Again, wherever practical, choose pale colours such as oatmeal or peat. Small, low tables with wood, marble, glass or perspex tops in wood or steel frames are ideal for books, magazines and the occasional TV snack meal. Table and chair legs are often replaced by pedestals to give a more elegant look that is also easier to clean.

Streamlined storage

Storage furniture should be as unobtrusive as possible and it is a good idea to concentrate all the storage requirements of a room on to one wall. Wall storage units can be bought or made to your own design to fit along side each other and fill up any given space.

Various compartments and drawers provide space for anything from cutlery, china and glassware to television, hi-fi and records. Sometimes it is possible to give older more ornate pieces of furniture a modern feel simply by painting them to merge in with their background.

Bedroom fittings

In the bedroom, too, streamlined fittings have taken over from the more conventional wardrobe, dressing table and chest of drawers.

bedroom custome made wardrobe

Now, even the beds are low and streamlined and often incorporate storage drawers below. Some types even have elaborate headboards incorporating all manner of modern electronics, including a telephone, hi-fi system, television and radio, door entry phone and so on. Again, furniture may be finished in medium to pale colour woods such as teak, pine, ash or beech, though more sophisticated, luxurious, modern pieces may be made of richly-figured rosewood. Otherwise a simple finish of white, plain and unadorned will give the room an elegant design.

Interior Design Pictures

The London Painters & Decorators team can advise you further about redecorating your property.

Alcoves and Decorative effects

It is worth taking extra trouble when you have an alcove with a window. Many people simply curtain off the whole area by running a rail or rod across the front of the alcove, thus cutting it off from the rest of the room at night. This is a waste of both space and decorative potential. Curtain tracks are available which can be bent by hand around the insides of the alcove so that the curtains can be pulled back around the walls by day.

chimney alcoves

Alternatively, you could fit a simple roller blind which would not cut the alcove off from the rest of the room when pulled down at night. Alcoves are especially good for creating decorative effects a little out of the ordinary. You could decorate the alcove in a different wallcovering from the rest of the room—perhaps using something special such as paperbacked silk, grasscloth or metallic paper. This could then be used as a backdrop for shelving and to enhance any decorative objects on display. A less expensive—but equally effective— method is to paint the alcove walls a tone or two deeper than the colour chosen for the rest of the room.

Mirrors, too, can be used to enhance an alcove, and they will give a feeling of extra space in the rest of the room. You can buy the mirror in a large piece and fix it to the wall with mirror-screws with domed chrome heads; or you could cover the wall with mirror tiles, fixed with self- adhesive pads. Bronzed mirrors are more sophisticated, and perhaps less disturbing for people in the room as their reflections are dimmed. In all these arrangements, whether with shelves or mirrors, a grander, ‘period’ effect can be created by building arches over the tops of the alcoves adding plaster mouldings if desired. Painting and Decorating the alcove should be done in theme with the decor.

Where two alcoves flank a chimney breast, remember that there is no need for each to be treated in the same way. In fact it often looks better if the shelf arrangements do not exactly match, although they should balance each other. If the fireplace has been removed, it is possible to treat one alcove and the chimney breast as a unit, leaving the other alcove mostly empty. You can build deep shelves projecting from one alcove and continue shallower shelves across the face of the chimney breast, with perhaps one deep shelf at seating height across the remaining alcove. Now that you have taken the trouble to give your alcoves a special decorative treatment, make sure that the possessions you put on display do your ideas justice.

An alcove is the perfect place to show off a treasured collection of old glass, silver, or a particular colour or make of china, or carved ivory animals, painted eggs or wooden boxes. Consider using glass or mirrored shelves for added glamour. Or use an alcove for a stunning display of leafy plants, or vases of fresh or dried flowers, When setting up alcove displays, pay particular attention to lighting. Slim, fluorescent strips can be used to provide lighting at the front or back of alcove shelving and the lamp can be concealed with a narrow strip of wood. If a gap is left between the back of the shelves and the walls, lighting can be used very effectively to flood the back of the wall.
You can also light an alcove from the front, using a spotlight trained on the objects you wish to highlight. Finally, a word of warning. If you do not want to fill in an alcove with built-in storage spaces or shelving, but prefer to use it to set off an interesting piece of furniture, be sure to take the alcove measurements with you when you go hunting around furniture or junk shops. Remember that alcoves on either side of a fireplace are not necessarily exactly the same size, particularly in old houses. Measure the alcove at the skirting board, and again further up the wall. And, when shopping, beware of furniture which may have a projecting piece around the top which might prevent it from fitting into an alcove: always measure furniture at its widest point.

Decorating with cork

• Cork tiles
• Cork sheeting
• Colours and finishes
• Preparing surfaces for cork
• Working with cork
• Tiling walls and floors
• Hanging sheeting
• Protective finishes for cork
• Finishing the surface

cork tiles

Cork is one of the most versatile of all home decorating products. It gives a hardwearing finish to floors, walls and ceilings, yet looks equally good covering furniture or small household ornaments. And few materials can reproduce the look and feel of a natural material combined with a range of subtle textures and colours in the same way that cork can.

Because it contains a large number of tiny air pockets, cork also makes a large contribution to insulating your home against cold and helps to cut down noise. A floor covered in 5mm thick cork is 70 per cent more effective in reducing heat loss than a comparable vinyl or quarry tile finish; it is also a lot quieter underfoot. Walls and ceilings are likewise better protected from noise and cold if they are covered in cork—especially the thicker variety of tile.

Types of cork

Cork sheet is manufactured by bonding together granules of the bark of the cork oak tree under heat and pressure. The resulting material is then cut into a number of different forms so that it can be handled and applied more easily.

Tiles: Cork is usually bought in tiles 300mm square which vary in thickness from 4mm to 20mm. Although some builders’ merchants do sell tiles separately, they are usually supplied in packs containing between nine and 20 tiles. The advantage of this form of cork is that it can be applied to all surfaces—some tiles are made especially for floors, others for walls and ceilings—yet can be easily fixed and fitted around awkward corners.

Planks: Many manufacturers now produce a range of rectangular cork tiles—called planks—measuring either 910mm X 300mm or 900mm X 150mm. These can be fixed to give a ‘decking’ effect or laid in patterns similar to those used when laying brick paths.

Sheeting: Cork is often applied to walls and ceilings in the same way as wallpaper and rolls of sheet cork are available to do this. Although great care needs to be taken when fixing this delicate material in place, it is well worth the effort since fewer joints are visible and greater insulation is achieved because of this.

Finishes and colours

Cork tiles, slabs and sheeting are usually bought untreated so that they can be waxed or varnished once they are fixed in place. But all types of cork are available ready-coated in a hard wearing protective layer of PVC, polyurethane or wax. Many of the more expensive sealed tiles and slabs have a second protective layer under the cork—usually made of PVC— which acts as a moisture barrier and helps give added grip and stability to the fitted material. When buying cork you can also choose from a wide variety of shades, textures and patterns. Plain colours range from the classic honey shade most commonly associated with cork to a deep chocolate brown—with practically every shade in between.

Geometric and random patterns are produced by combining accurately cut slivers of different coloured cork and this technique is also used to give a textured finish to the cork. More recent is the production of randomlyspaced cork superimposed on a number of different coloured backgrounds.

Preparing bases

Cork is an absorbent, pliable material and unless it is applied to a perfectly fiat, dry and sound base it will quickly deteriorate. You will greatly extend the life of your surface covering by spending time beforehand in strengthening and preparing the base to which it is to be fixed. The approach you use will vary according to where the cork is to be fitted. Timber floors: This is the best surface of all on which to apply cork—providing you make sure that the surface is perfectly flat.

Hammer any protruding nails into the floor, punching them well below the level of the boards if necessary. Use filler to make good any hollow areas and smooth these level with an abrasive block once the filler has thoroughly hardened. The timber floor you want to cover can often be in very poor condition with broken and splintered timbers and an uneven surface. If this is the case, you must lay sheets of hardboard or plywood over the damaged floor to form a sound base. Cut the sheets so that they cover the whole floor and butt neatly against each other and around the edge of the room.

Fix them securely into place with 20mm galvanized nails randomly spaced at 300mm intervals.

Concrete floors: These must be level, clean and absolutely free of damp before cork is fixed to them. Check the floor carefully, looking for patches of damp or areas where the surface is uneven or crumbling. Floors which do not have an adequate DPC should have one added before work continues, but as an added protection against damp, a coat of sealant will be wise.

Also, keep in mind, cork is extremely flammable.