The living and dining room is the most relaxed space in the house, and the most used. Setting the stage for daily life, it’s also the perfect space to reflect your style.
This week on The Block, Living and Dining Room Week saw new trends emerge to spark our imaginations. We asked the experts for their take on incorporating them into our homes.
Exposed timber beams proved popular with all the contestants. Tom and Sarah-Jane’s “phenomenal” rustic beams got the nod from the judges, and Rachel and Ryan’s proved a stylish accompaniment to their sloping ceiling lined in blackbutt floorboards.
“Exposed beams give ceilings a real design moment, drawing the eye upwards, punctuating voids and adding warmth and personality,” agrees designer Adela Sivewright.
Timber beams can be added for functionality or purely for good looks. Depending on their purpose, choose from a range of materials, including engineered and solid timber. “They’re an inexpensive addition, depending on the timber, and enhance a room without taking up floor space,” says designer Bea Lambos. “Leave them rustic, paint white to match the walls, or gloss them for a contemporary edge. Spaces of all sizes will reap their rewards.”
It turns out Rachel and Ryan and Ankur and Sharon share the same taste in sofas. Both pairs chose an extra-long L-shaped modular sofa upholstered in cream boucle wool. Its rounded back and curved edges offer an organic silhouette that accommodates a large gathering and can be arranged in different ways. “Soft equals comfort, so an extra-long lounge makes the living space the room to be in,” Lambos says. “It also embraces the seasons; move it close to an open fire in winter or face it to the outdoors in summer.”
Take your time selecting your lounge, suggests designer Sara Chamberlain. “People either go too small so that it shrinks the room, or opt for oversized without any proportion elsewhere, so the focus is solely on the sofa.”
Ensure your lounge fills the space by marking its dimensions on the floor with masking tape. “Move it around to ensure it fits with other furnishings, windows and door openings,” says Lambos.
“A living room needs a floor lamp,” said judge Neale Whitaker repeatedly this week. It was the missing ingredient in many of the houses, particularly Omar and Oz’s.
“A floor lamp is a sculptural moment by day and a soothing rest from brighter overhead lighting by night,” says Sivewright of every designer’s secret weapon.
Traditional straight stands are always in style, and more organic shapes and articulated styles that arch or angle over a sofa imbue a sense of movement. “If you are building a new home, plan for a power point on the floor to allow for a floor lamp to be plugged in,” she says.
Floor lamps add a layer of height between the room’s furniture and the ceiling so consider how it will interact with other furniture. “A full-height lamp is great behind an armchair, but in an open-plan seating arrangement, it should be higher than the back of the sofa.”
The judges were like moths to a flame this week, with fireplaces forming the focal point of every living space. “A fireplace isn’t just a design statement; its movement provides an animated background to social gatherings, and is company on a quiet night at home,” says Sivewright.
Tom and Sarah-Jane’s suspended style was a “showstopper”, Ankur and Sharon and Rachel and Ryan won points for their elegant stone surrounds, and Dylan and Jenny’s and Omar and Oz’s got the nod for their choice of contemporary brick.
“Brick hearths once covered up in old homes are now being restored and new country homes are copying that tradition,” says Sivewright. “Very old bricks can take extreme chemicals and scrubbing without damage, so they come up looking just as beautiful as the day they were laid.”
Open fireplaces use the most fuel, so are best used for aesthetic purposes, while slow-combustion wood heaters are enclosed, which makes them more efficient. “Whichever fireplace you choose, ensure your walls and ceilings are well insulated so the warmth doesn’t leak out,” she adds.
Mix and match your dining table and chairs for a look that’s all your own. “Dining tables are quite generic so it’s an exciting visual treat to change them up with chairs,” says Chamberlain.
Dylan and Jenny’s traditional upholstered chairs elevated their streamlined table, while Omar and Oz chose rattan-style chairs to surround their spacious table.
“The biggest table you can fit practically is the best,” says Chamberlain. “It adds balance to an open-plan space.”
Choose your chair before the table, she advises. “Consider provincial with its linen upholstery and carved woods, a beachy style in blond wood with woven seats, or a contemporary style in velvet with metal legs.”
Repeat the finish of the chair legs somewhere else in the space. “Whether they are blond, oak, gold or silver, use that finish in a lamp, coffee table or TV cabinet for perfect cohesiveness,” she says.