The serene setting above, showing the Casimir collection from Colefax & Fowler, employs three of the most important principles in interior design: the furniture has a pleasing symmetry, which in turn frames a strong focal point, while the different texture in the various materials ensures that the overall impression is multilayered.

A living room has to work hard – it’s the place where the family congregates, where we relax, possibly work, and of course, entertain, so it’s important that its decor meets broad criteria.

Practicalities must be considered, of course, and furnishings chosen to suit our lifestyle, but there’s more to it than that: as any interior designer will tell you, a great scheme depends on principles that might not be immediately obvious, but which, when successfully employed, make a world of difference not only to the look of a room, but to the way it makes you feel in it.

Here we explore three vital components to making a room scheme work – and provide inspiration with some of the best-looking and most comfortable living room furniture around.

Beautiful balance

A formal symmetrical scheme forms the basis of traditional interior design and is easy to achieve: if you were to draw a line down the middle of a room, one side would simply mirror the other, right down to the accessories or finishing touches. It’s a considered approach, though it does take discipline to keep it in order, and needs strong visual elements to stop it from appearing bland.

An asymmetrical scheme avoids such exacting repetition, and relies on balancing the look with items of a similar size or visual weight, texture and colour. It’s less obvious – and more casual – than a formal scheme, but still feels well thought through.

The room set above – featuring stylish pieces from Interiors – is a great example of asymmetric symmetry with furniture arranged to balance rather than mirror. The two club chairs are placed precisely across from the modular sofa, as are the two padded stools, so the overall look is neat and contained.

At first glance, this elegant setting showcasing the Caracole collection from Bloomingdale’s Home Dubai, appears purely symmetrical, thanks to the curved seating, wall panelling and windows, but look closely, and there are elements that make it far more asymmetrical: the coffee table duo is off centre, while a throw on one chair is balanced by the plant on the cabinet.

This arrangement from Andrew Martin, featuring the Cadogan sofa, is simple, uncluttered and arresting, not only because of its symmetry, but because of the different textures that are brought into play.

Fabulous focus

A room will feel more comfortable and inviting if it has a focal point, whether that’s an architectural feature, a fantastic view, an arresting piece of furniture, or artwork. The idea is that it draws the eye – it should be the first thing that’s noticed on entering a room - and if possible, furnishings should be arranged around it.

Show off your key focal point by framing it appropriately: painting a wall a strong colour is the perfect backdrop for, say, striking artwork, a dramatic mirror, or display. Consider lighting, too: this should be arranged to show off your chosen focal point to best advantage so that it doesn’t get ‘lost’ once night falls… and of course, there’s no reason why a fabulous light fixture, such as a sparkling chandelier or dramatic pendant, shouldn’t be the star, too.

The sitting room scheme above, featuring the sumptuous Julia couch from ID Design, employs a classic focal point – a fireplace. In this sunny region, a similar feature is not a necessity, but even a faux fire design could be considered to harness a room scheme, and make it more cosy and inviting.

The statement artwork on the wall is the focal point in this stylish living room featuring Dome Deco from Blanc D’Ivoire Dubai. To draw the eye, and give it even more impact, vibrant cushions are arranged directly beneath.

Arrange a collection of mirrors on a plain wall to create a focal point that not only makes an impact, but bounces light and reflection into the room, too.

Tactile Texture

Layering your scheme with different weights, finishes and materials is a fundamental principle of making a decorative look work: otherwise, no matter how beautiful the furniture or colour used, the effect will be flat and dull.

Combining different elements – wood, stone, glass, metal, leather – together with a variety of surfaces, from smooth and shiny to rough and nubbly, is easy to achieve. Layering different fabrics is a great way to bring texture to the fore – provided patterns are all within the same colour family, it will work.

The living room corner above with the Mosley Croc Club Chair from Indigo Living is a fine example of good layering. The materials – leather, wood and wool – together with the artwork all employ very different textures, but the natural colour scheme ensures they all work together.

This monochrome sitting room – with super-stylish furnishings from H&M Home – is given interest with textiles in a variety of different patterns and textures. The theme is further punctuated with the artwork, lamp, and black-trim coffee table.

A rough brick wall is a fabulous contrast to the sleek smooth lines of the cream couch, glossy wooden furniture, and luxurious textiles that add a layer of softness to the overall look.


Additional images by GAP Interiors