How to Design a Sitting Room - post image background.

How to Design a Sitting Room

A sitting room, sometimes referred to as a formal living room or drawing room, may sound self-explanatory, but deciding how to decorate one needs careful consideration. This Minotti London guide will explore some key sitting room ideas to showcase style and set the tone for the rest of the home.

Often the sitting room will be the second living space after the day-to-day, more relaxed living or family room, and is usually located at the front of a house near the entry. Whilst a living room is designed as a comfortable multipurpose space, a sitting room is often reserved for quiet pursuits such as reading, hosting guests, special occasions and showcasing fine art and furniture.

As an occasional room, the layout and chosen furniture pieces should be more about form than just function. It’s a zone to sit and have a conversation in and needs to cater to varying levels of formality.

6 Sitting Room Ideas

A good sitting room design should align with one’s lifestyle and serve as a stylish and efficient space.

The sitting room creates the first impression for the home, thus it needs to reflect the lifestyle, individuality, and personal taste of the homeowner. From the overall layout to stylish seating and cultured touches, the following six sitting room ideas will help create a welcoming and special space.

Use Furniture to Create a Centre

Best sitting room ideasIn the centre of these two Portofino Armchairs is a coffee table, though the bookshelf also works to anchor the seating arrangement | Designed by Rodolfo Dordoni for © Minotti London

It’s important that the sitting room has a recognisable centre, whether this is a coffee table, ottoman or group of seating. A larger space can incorporate multiple centre points, for example, a coffee table at one end of the room and another seating area around a fireplace at the other end.

However, too many small pieces of furniture can make a large space feel cluttered so it’s worth incorporating a couple of anchoring pieces. A large stylish sofa, statement coffee table or a grand piano will have this effect, with smaller pieces and accents added as necessary.

Place a coffee table at the centre of the seating area to serve as a focal point for the room and a setting for food, drinks and games. Alternatively one could use an upholstered bench or an ottoman with a tray, which will also provide useful storage in a room that needs to stay neat and tidy.

If the coffee table isn’t big enough for the space, create a larger conversation with two matching square or rectangle ottomans side by side, or a table with two ottomans pulled up next to it.

Use Symmetry to Create Structure

Sitting room design decor ideasHere, two Andersen Paolina Chaise-Longues sit adjacent to each other to create a seating area that is strikingly relaxed – the symmetry, however, gives the design a sense of stylistic formality | Designed by Rodolfo Dordoni for © Minotti London

Keep symmetry in mind when designing a sitting room; without this, the room can head into more casual territory rather than a structured design. Regardless of whether the architecture of the space provides symmetry, one can still achieve the sense with furniture orientation.

Try placing similar sized furniture across from one another, on either side of the coffee table, to create a conversation area. This could be two matching sofas or a sofa on one side and armchairs on the other. So long as they fill roughly the same amount of space, this will achieve a formal, symmetrical feel.

Pair sofas, side tables and chairs on opposing sides of the room, for a space that looks and feels both comfortable and organised.

Consider Design-Led Seating

As the name suggests, seating is the most important aspect of a sitting room and it may be wise to select a few different chairs so that one can choose which seat is most comfortable for them.

A key part of making a sitting room distinct from a living room is finding the right sofa. While low-rise corner sofas are great for reclining, sofas with a higher seat, upright backs and design-led detailing are more appropriate for a formal space.

However,  there is licence to focus more on exciting design in a sitting room. For example, a unique sofa in the middle of the room can anchor a furniture plan and a chaise longue looks elegant but also inviting and comfortable.

When designing a sitting room, one may wish to avoid hugging the walls with seating, as this can leave too much open space in the middle. In a larger room, pull seating out from the walls to create a more intimate conversation area around a focal point such as a fireplace or coffee table.

Add Character and Personality with Artwork

Art adds character and personality to a space, which can’t always be achieved through materials and colours alone. A large painting over a fireplace creates an immediate point of focus. Keen collectors may consider putting favourite pieces in pride of place in the sitting room, to be enjoyed by guests.

Try using the artwork as the basis to introduce accent colours to the room and keep in mind that the frames are also a decorative element; straight lines will be ideal for contemporary interiors, while ornate or carved frames are more suited to classic and traditional styles. Sculptures also have their place in a formal sitting room but choose smaller pieces that will not steal the attention and distract visitors.

Use a Rug to Add Texture and Dimension

Sitting room original furniture ideasHere, the seating area, which consists of a BELT Sofa and three BELT Armchairs, is clearly defined in this open–plan space by the rug on which all furniture elements sit | Designed by Rodolfo Dordoni for © Minotti London

Almost every sitting room will be in need of a large rug, whether that be rustic sisal, a modern Berber rug or a traditional Turkish carpet. Rugs add texture and dimension to a space, while also providing a function.

Choose a rug that complements the colour scheme and can be placed in the centre of the room to create a central conversation area. Rugs can be used to divide separate zones, so in a large room try using two rugs for two separate conversation areas rather than one large one.

When choosing the right size for a sitting room, a good rule to follow is that the rug should be large enough so that at least the front legs of the furniture are on it, and the rug should be more than 15-30cm away from the walls.

Set the Mood with Creative Lighting

No matter the size of the sitting room, lighting can make a difference in how the room feels. The main lighting fixture, for example, a centrally hung statement chandelier, should complement the overall style and light most of the room.

Secondary lighting, such as lamps, spotlights and picture lights, should focus on highlighting dark corners and setting the mood. Be careful of having too many secondary light sources, as this can make the room look awkward.

Try picking two or three lamps of a larger scale with similar shades, and then mix in slimmer, less obtrusive floor and wall lamps to bring lighting all around the room. Glass lamps can also prevent overload.

Sitting Room Décor Ideas

Often people require two separate spaces in their homes for formal entertaining and relaxing with their family. In this guide, we have discussed how both the layout and the furnishings selected can help to create a welcoming and stylish sitting room:

  • Use furniture to create a centre
  • Use symmetry to create structure
  • Consider design-led seating
  • Add character and personality with artwork
  • Use a rug to add texture and dimension
  • Set the mood with creative lighting

The sitting room combines form and function and an ability to cater to varying levels of formality from afternoon tea by the fireplace to special occasions. These sitting room decor ideas will help to create an elegant and efficient space for everyone to enjoy.

    Sign up to receive our newsletter

    Minotti London contacts: map, phone number, email address, opening hours, press contact.

    Request Callback

      Request a call back or meeting

      Please add your details and we will call you back to discuss your requirements