6 Things You Don’t Need in Your Living Room

6 Things You Don’t Need in Your Living Room

Aside from the kitchen, which many refer to as “the heart of the home,” your living room is one of the most important spaces to spend a little time getting the decor right, as it’s a hub that also serves multiple purposes. It’s a place for lounging after a long day, a gathering space for watch parties and movie nights, and a quiet retreat for opening a good book. Therefore, it’s most people’s goal to create a living room that’s both cozy and functional, two adjectives that don’t always go hand in hand. 

You’re likely to start your decorating journey by thinking of certain elements that feel necessary for a living room, like a comfy couch, a soft rug, and probably a TV — but what about the things you don’t need? I asked three interior designers what to skip in a living room; their answers might surprise you and also be the key to making your space look even bigger and better than it already is. 

A surefire way to make a tiny space (or even a large one) feel smaller is by putting down a rug that’s too little. For that reason, a miniature carpet is not something you want in your living room. “Area rugs should go past the bottom and sides of the furniture by at least 24-inches,” says New Jersey-based designer Beth Diana Smith. “Taking the right measurements is important in order to fit the space perfectly.” 

If you have an area rug that falls short of Smith’s guidelines, don’t worry. You can always layer the piece you love over a larger rug, as shown here. 

Thanks to lots of people trying the minimalism trend and finding they just couldn’t stick to it, maximalism is back and better than ever. Even in small spaces, you don’t need to pare down all your things. In fact, according to designer and DIYer Ursula Carmona of Homemade by Carmona, less isn’t always more when it comes to living room decor. “A sparse room feels smaller, whereas a well-furnished room feels cozy,” she says. 

Of course, you want to be tactful about your brand of maximalism if possible. Some tricks for successfully incorporating more things into a small living room? “Start by propping a large floor mirror against the wall,” Carmona says, because “this helps reflect the room back on itself, making it feel bigger and giving it a great ‘line-of-sight’ illusion.” Plus, you get the added benefit of more light being bounced throughout the space. To compliment the added light in the room, Carmona also suggests opting for glass accent furniture, which helps “fill the room without it feeling cramped.” 

“This is an unpopular opinion,” acknowledges designer Shamika Lynch, founder of the interiors firm Maximizing Tiny. “But I have a personal bias against coffee tables in small spaces because I think they take up too much square footage.”

Now, before you protest this point of view, hear Lynch out. “I encourage folks to consider the ‘why’ with every small space,” she says. “Essentially, I don’t think everyone needs a coffee table. Instead, I highly suggest nesting tables, poufs, and side tables for consideration.” 

Lynch is definitely onto something here. In super-small spaces, coffee tables take up a lot of prime real estate, and often people will have to base their entire living room layout around where a regular-sized coffee table will go. You can avoid that decorating jam by getting creative about what you want to use as a surface for resting things like your remotes, refreshments, and other living room necessities.

If you’re dead-set on a coffee table, Lynch suggests acrylic tables that take up less visual space or small, round 30-inch tables, which help optimize the way a space flows with their curved corners. 

Most designers will point you away from matchy-matchy furniture sets, which Smith notes “can make a room feel impersonal, like a furniture showroom” instead of a lived-in home. Some of the most beautifully-designed rooms appear collected over time — not put together all at once — so Smith likes to mix “a variety of colors, textures, and materials,” such as a brushed gold statement piece, mixed with an eclectic wood design piece that’s been handcrafted in India, as an example. 

Already purchased or inherited a living room set? You can still create a layered, storied space. Simply break it up, using some pieces in your living room and relocating other items to different rooms in your place. You can always sell or donate part of a set, too.

Similar to rugs, laying out teeny throw blankets on your furniture can make the space feel smaller and disjointed, so consider opting for a larger-than-usual throw blanket. According to Smith, the average throw blanket is 50 inches by 60 inches. So she recommends her clients purchase throws around the 60-inch by 80-inch mark, which feel ultra-cozy and can wrap around more than one person. If you want to go a little smaller, just double up so a given throw doesn’t feel tiny on a sectional or chair.

Only real plants and flowers

Mixing faux and real plants is a designer’s best-kept secret; it keeps everyone guessing and can make green baby care just a little easier. For a “lush look that’s low maintenance,” Carmona suggests filling your living room with faux and real plants. Her favorite hack is “planting” some faux plants into hanging planters or planter boxes, which look exactly like the real thing from just a few feet away. 

This is the One Thing You Don’t Need in a Bedroom

This is the One Thing You Don’t Need in a Bedroom

Recently, I asked a handful of interior designers about the pieces people just don’t need in their bedrooms, and one answer bubbled to the forefront time and time again. “A TV is definitely not needed in the bedroom,” designer Leah Alexander says, and her surveyed designer peers definitely agree.

“Why not embrace rest to the fullest by unplugging from as many screens as possible here and have [the bedroom] be a sanctuary for reading or sleeping instead of binge-watching your favorite show?” designer Jean Liu suggests. Designer Wendi Young, who has been in the interiors business for over 25 years, shares a similar sentiment. “It’s a hard thing not to do, but [I suggest] keeping electronics and work outside of the bedroom,” Young says. “It is a space to rest and restore.”

Designer Emilie Munroe takes the no-TV rule a step further and advises against using any screens in your sleep space, no matter their primary purpose. “We hear so much about not having screens in the bedroom because screen time tricks the brain into not feeling relaxed and restful,” she says. “I’d like to extend this concept to include exercise equipment.”

While many of her clients ask for guidance on placing spin bikes and rowing machines in their main or guest bedrooms, Munroe would rather these pieces be placed in another space entirely. “I cannot think of a less calming and relaxing view from the bed than onto a piece of machinery,” Munroe says. “Love supporting exercise, but [I] would rather see equipment in a garage, den, media room, or playroom.” This is especially the case when these items are attached to streaming services and have — you guessed it! — yet another screen attached to them.

Of course, small-space living may mean the bedroom and living room are the only options for your television and other screen adjacent gear, and by no means did these surveyed designers believe in making their clients sacrifice those “Grey’s Anatomy” marathons or at-home sweat seshes for good. “If a client insists on having a TV, then I try to put it inside of an armoire or cabinet, so that it’s tucked away while not in use,” designer Elyse Petrella says, suggesting one way to conceal a large screen in a bedroom (or elsewhere).

Have no choice but to put a TV in your bedroom (or living room), or just want to be a designer rule breaker here because you like streaming from bed? You can still do you without disrupting your design aesthetic. The days of clunky televisions that kill a room’s mood are by and large gone. Plenty of flatscreens can be camouflaged in a sleep space.

Not ready to part with your perfectly functioning flatscreen? Consider leaning your TV on an easel rather than mounting it to the wall for a more artsy look. Only watch television on occasion? Throw it back to simpler times and opt to view your favorite flicks on a projector you can set up whenever it’s your turn to host movie night. Heck, you can even cover your TV with a blanket, as seen in the Queens apartment shown just above, and have it concealed. That way, your TV won’t be a constant visual reminder of technology or a tempting distraction all day and night.

10 Things You Don’t Need in Your Apartment, According to Designers

10 Things You Don’t Need in Your Apartment, According to Designers

To help you get your place into tip-top organizational shape, we polled designers on the items that just do not belong in your apartment. Soak up their tips, then do a quick pantry, cupboard, or closet clean-out.

“I somehow always end up with so many of those free vases that come with mailed floral arrangements and have to do a regular purge. When I’m doing a room design, I make sure to select one or two sculptural vases that can stand alone without the addition of flowers, so my clients always have a vase somewhere in the house they can add flowers to when they receive or purchase them. This way, they don’t have to hoard plain vases in their valuable cabinet space.” —Designer Kerra Michele Huerta, founder of Kerra Michele Interiors in Washington, DC

“Of course, you be the judge of your own literature and whether or not you intend to reread something, but in most cases, we read a book and then it lives on a shelf for many years collecting dust. If you’re in a small or temporary space, go through your books and donate them to schools, libraries, or anywhere else they could be read by others.” Designer Kerra Michele Huerta, founder of Kerra Michele Interiors in Washington, DC

“This is coming from a person who possesses more books than anything else. If space is an issue, consolidate your favorite reads onto one digital platform. While nothing replaces the feeling of holding a physical book, you will thank yourself when you don’t have to haul boxes of books to your next place.” —Designer Elle Jupiter, founder of Elle Jupiter Design Studio in New Orleans

“These can be hard to store in an apartment and take up valuable pantry and/or counter space, especially since they’re most likely used very sparingly. Instead, look for multifunction appliances, like an air fryer/toaster combo, to free up valuable space!” —Designer Heather DiSabella, founder of Heather DiSabella Interior Design in Washington, DC

4. Single-Use Kitchen Gadgets

“As much as many of us want to live like a celebrity chef in our own kitchens, single-use kitchen gadgets can consume a lot of space and are often exceptionally unnecessary. Do yourself a favor and pass on the strawberry huller, herb scissors, and the like. Stick with simple yet high-quality kitchen basics that are multifunctional.” Designer Elle Jupiter, founder of Elle Jupiter Design Studio in New Orleans

“A fresh, luxurious candle is a great housewarming present. However, after three, you can close up shop. Having too many candles of all different scents filling your shelves is unnecessary clutter that no longer remains functional.” —Designer Larisa Barton, founder of Soeur Interiors in New York City

“Do you really need those eight extra mugs for ‘in case’ you have guests that ALL want coffee at the same time?!” —Interior stylist Kelly Hartley, founder of Hartley Home in Florida

7. Lots of Extras in General

“We’ve been taught as a society to always be prepared: Have a backup plan, and then another plan for your backup plan. This preparedness mindset leaks over into our home lives causing us to collect and accumulate more things because ‘you never know’ — a phrase I’m guilty of using myself! We stuff our linen closets with multiple sets of towels for a number of guests we will rarely, if ever, host all at once … While I admit that I love a bit of variety and a few options myself, our homes and our minds will feel so much better once we retire managing multiples of everything we own!” —Designer Brandi Wilkins, founder of Three Luxe Nine Interiors in Frederick, Maryland

“If you are an apartment-dweller, your space should reflect only the things that you love and bring you joy. As nice as it is that your dentist mailed you a branded coffee mug for the holidays, it’s not something that you have to keep. If you are low on space, consider donating free promotional items that have no sentimental value.” —Designer Elle Jupiter, founder of Elle Jupiter Design Studio in New Orleans

9. Drapes or Curtains on Your Kitchen Windows

“Let there be light! If you’re lucky enough to have a window in your kitchen, skipping a curtain actually adds depth to your space because it allows more light to enter in your apartment.” —Designer Anita Williams, founder of PLD Design Studio in Richmond, Virginia

Here’s Why You Might Want to Give This Smart Layout Trick a Try

Here’s Why You Might Want to Give This Smart Layout Trick a Try

Have you ever tried floating your furniture in a room? Often, in small spaces in particular, the tendency is to place all of your pieces on the perimeter of a room to gain precious square footage at the center of the floor plan. Surprisingly, though, this isn’t always the best layout technique.

While it may be seen as a bit unconventional, designers are actually pulling pieces away from the walls for a variety of reasons right now, and as long as you can move around your furniture easily with this kind of setup, you might consider floating your furniture, too. Below, six pros share the top five reasons why they think floating furniture can actually be a genius design strategy. Let their reasoning inspire you in your own home!

Floating furniture can define an open area

When walls are at a premium — hello, open concept homes! — pulling your furniture away from the perimeter of a space can actually help you to create zones that provide a sense of separation to your rooms and improve flow. “People don’t realize, but floating furniture can help to define an area without having actual walls,” says designer Linda Hayslett. “When you float a sofa with chairs next to the piece in a space that’s open to the kitchen, it creates a divide that says, ‘This is the living room area.’”

Designer Molly Torres agrees, noting that she often floats chairs and sofas in open living areas to break up larger spaces, both visually and physically. Floating furniture can be especially useful in multi-purposes spaces, too. As designer Lauren DeBello explains, “Suddenly, a one large room can become a family room and a dining room,” and it’s simply because you’ve created groupings that feel more intimate due to the fact that pieces are closer together and not pushed to the extremes of the walls.

Designer Emily Ruff notes that rugs are a key part of the equation in these situations. “Rugs are your best friend when doing this, because it creates the defined area for the furniture to sit within,” she says.

Floating furniture can save space

Hayslett appreciates that placing furniture in the middle of a room often opens up other possibilities layout-wise. “Floating furniture is a great way to save space and create storage,” she says. “Walls are great for storage, so if you place furniture up against them, you take away that space to use as a bookshelf or placement for amazing artwork.”

Floating furniture makes a room more cozy

DeBello finds the cozy factor that floating furniture introduces into a space particularly pronounced in living room applications. “Floating furniture can create more cozy spaces geared toward conversation,” she explains. “If furniture is placed against the walls, especially in a larger room, the pieces will be too far apart and not conducive to gathering.”

Designer Amy Youngblood agrees. “In an oversized living room, floating a couple sofas is a way to create a vignette of seating for more intimate conversation,” she says. “We see this trend in hotel lobbies, for example.”

Floating furniture makes a statement

If you really want to draw attention to a specific piece, floating it in a room is one way to do just that. “It’s almost like art,” Hayslett notes. The only thing to keep in mind here is that you don’t want compromise the flow of your space. Be sure people can safely and easily move around the room once everything is in its place, even if you park a chair or sofa somewhat near the center of the floor plan.

Floating furniture makes a space look airier

Again, it might seem counterintuitive, but pulling pieces off of the walls can actually visually open up a space. This has to do with depth perception and can be a great trick to utilize when you’re dealing with a particularly visually imposing item. “Floating a piece of furniture in a room allows for 360 [degree] interaction with the entire space and allows more heavy furniture, like a desk or a sofa, to feel more airy in a space,” designer Kristen Pena says. In the room above, she floated a desk slightly in front of the windows for this reason.

When it comes to desks in particular, Ruff offers a key piece of advice, “It is ideal to face the door to the room instead of having your back to people when entering the space,” she says. Now that’s sound layout advice, whether you choose to float your furniture or not!

This Asheville Apartment Has Big Apple Energy

This Asheville Apartment Has Big Apple Energy

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Sometimes the fourth time really is the charm. That was the case for one lifelong New York City couple, who at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic found themselves as empty nesters yet still somewhat cramped in their Manhattan duplex and ready to retire down south. The only problem? None of the local designers really “got” their style once they decamped and downsized. So they enlisted architect Daniel Ian Smith, principal and lead interior designer of Village West Design, who they had worked with on three prior projects, to turn their large, upper floor apartment into their dream destination.

Smith’s task was a tall one, as the apartment had fantastic views of Asheville’s historic landmarks and great bones but felt “cookie cutter” and “colorless” in the way that newer construction sometimes can. That wasn’t his vibrant, arts-and-culture loving clients at all. The space would need a serious dose of personality, as the clients planned on sourcing almost all new furniture and lighting that would let their prized art collection truly shine. Smith got to work right away, honing in on a crisp, clean decorating scheme anchored by soothing shades of blues and grays, handsome woods, and whimsical pops of warm, bright colors like yellow, red, and orange — often provided by the couples’ blue chip artwork.

For Smith, color is more than just paint on the walls, and his subtle but high-impact approach with this element of design is on display at all turns in the apartment. In the open-plan living room and dining area, whisper-light cream walls put the focus on the Asheville cityscape right outside the floor-to-ceiling windows, while a dark blue sectional grounds some of that airiness with its intensity. In a separate sitting area, another blue sofa plays off light grayish walls, both surfaces energized by the multicolored geometric rug underfoot and pops of red in a bookshelf, domed lamp, and pillowscape.

In some rooms, such as the primary bedroom and bathroom as shown above, these color relationships are inverted, with blues on the walls and lighter hues woven throughout as accents. Paired with wood furniture and hits of texture — like the grasscloth wallpapered focal wall behind the bed, for example, or even the navy tiled backsplash in the kitchen (shown below) — the space feels cozy, layered, and welcoming even though it’s on the more minimalist side.

Mellow yellow just might be the sleeper hit hue of the space — present in a few unexpected spots, from the guest bedroom walls to the second bathroom, where it provides the base color for a fun, geometric wall mural that strikes a retro note stylistically. In fact, the whole apartment has a bit of a contemporary meets mid-century modern vibe, thanks to key pieces from brands like BluDot, Room & Board, CB2, and West Elm, among others.

Smith also worked to ensure the couples’ art would be spotlighted. In fact, finding the right pieces for his clients, matching them with complementary frames, and placing them in the home properly is one of the designer’s favorite decorating challenges. For this particular project, he even sourced a special Marc Chagall work that the wife of his client couple wanted to surprise her husband with as a “thank you” for finally agreeing to settle down south. Framed by local purveyor, Blackbird, the piece now hangs above a console table and brightens up a dark bare wall. Smith also surveyed the local art scene and helped his clients make a few key Asheville acquisitions, including pieces by potter-glass blower husband-and-wife duo Courtney Martin and John Geci, whose shared studio Smith visited in person after touring it virtually from his California office. 

Of course, considering the scope and timing of this project, things exactly didn’t go off without a hitch. “Lead times started to creep up as we were sourcing, and we were working with a fixed deadline — the homeowners had already agreed to vacate their NYC apartment by a certain date, and as long-time repeat clients, the pressure was on to have everything ready for them when they arrived,” says Smith. “There were so many false starts with various vendors, an abrupt cancellation from the movers whose crew all seemed to contract COVID at the same time, and so many cancelled flights and postponed trips.”

To help offset some of the chaos, Smith brought on a local concierge to serve as the group’s eyes and ears on the ground in Asheville as the home took shape. She was able to offer local suggestions and pivots when logistical issues arose, mainly due to supply chain issues.

Against all odds, the project took exactly twelve months, from the homeowners’ first email inquiry on working together to the big (tears of joy-inducing!) HGTV-like reveal of the space. “The homeowners have texted, called, and emailed with gratitude so many times and seemingly love everything we created,” says Smith. What could be a better testament of a job well done than that?

Danielle Blundell

Home Editor

Danielle Blundell is AT’s Home Director and covers decorating and design. She loves homes, heels, the history of art, and hockey—but not necessarily always in that order.

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