When it comes to renovating a property, the living room is one of the most versatile and valuable aspects. It is an area that is most seen by guests at your home, and one of the factors that can determine the decision of a buyer or tenant. More importantly, it is one of the places where you personally will spend a lot of downtime.
The living room is also one of the areas where you can map out financial requirements in advance without less risk of emergency expenditures.
“With living rooms, it is easy to get your budget right. There are no wet areas or plumbing concerns, and it is very easy to get a quote for all works to ensure that you stay within budget,” explains Amerex Renovations business manager Suzanne Burke.
It all starts with having a well-thought out plan, and taking care to update whatever parts of the room need to be modified to fit your scheme. Even if your renovation involves a major overhaul in terms of style, you can save on both time and money by getting creative and determining the most convenient ways you can achieve your dream space.
It may be hard work, but the important thing is that you’re absolutely satisfied with the result, from the look of the floor all the way to the cushions on the couch!
“With living rooms, it is easy to get your budget right. There are no wet areas or plumbing concerns.”
Step 1: Know your overall style
An end goal is the first and foremost requirement when it comes to renovation. Without a plan, it can be impossible to figure out where to start the whole process.
Having a style trend in mind can be very useful in order to provide direction for the overall project. Are you aiming for a minimalist, modern aesthetic, or the Hamptons style? This will inform the decisions you make when it comes to furniture, colours and lights.
If you have no idea where to begin, the best way to be inspired is to go shopping. Visit warehouses, browse magazines and Google articles on the topic.
Option 1: Black Mango 85cm Black Hampton Club Chair - $684.00, Bunnings
This chair is inspired by those found in luxury tropical resorts, evoking both simplicity and class in its clean lines.
Option 2: Kenda Lounger - $449.99, Bunnings
For a warm, homey appeal that has a touch of rough charm, this lounging chair is made of rattan and can even be used outdoors.
Top tip: Never underestimate the impact of the right furniture. The wrong chair can disrupt the flow of the entire room, so look at the room as a whole so you can be sure everything comes together.
Step 2: Have a strong foundation
The floor of your living room shouldn’t just be a treat for the feet – it should also be a feast for the eyes. Outdated, unmaintained flooring can be a sad sight, especially when it comes to wood flooring, which is particularly prone to discolouration.
The Burkes faced this issue with their renovation project when the parquet floor they were working with started to turn orange because the sealer had been stripped. But by installing new floors and applying a water-based sealer, they were able to restore a vibrant, welcoming feel to the whole room.
Option 1: Flooring Blackbutt Metallon Copper 134mm 1.463sqm Pk Lt – $187.00, Bunnings
This timber floor is easy to install and has great wearability with a minimum film build of 100gsm. It is finished with low-sheen acrylic lacquer.
Option 2: 85 x 19mm Tongue & Groove Forest Red Flooring– $9.00 per linear metre, Bunnings
Creating warmth is usually the main aim when you pick wood flooring, and it doesn’t come much warmer than this!
Top tip: Water-based sealers are ideal for wood floors, as “it doesn’t have an orange tinge to it and is much more environmentally friendly,” explains Suzanne. Be sure to sand and strip off all the old sealer before applying a new one.
Step 3: Update the lights
Lamps and bulbs don’t just contribute brightness – they are part of the décor. Dim, old lights can make a room feel ancient and more rundown than it actually is.
Downlights are perfect for living rooms as they generate a lot of warm light to enhance the ambiance of the space. Recessed downlights, in particular, are a great, subtle way of really brightening up the room.
LED downlights are a great alternative as they save significant energy, are long lasting and come in a variety of designs. They can light up the room without being a safety hazard the way halogen lights can be by emitting so much heat.
Option 1: LEDlux City II Fixed LED White Dimmable Downlight in Warm White - $35.96, Beacon Lighting
This LED downlight is dimmable, allowing you adjust the brightness of the room according to the atmosphere you want to create.
Option 2: LEDlux Vivid Colour Switch Downlight in White - $22.46, Beacon Lighting
You can shift from warm to cool lighting in a flash with this downlight, which is also compatible with some dimmers.
Top tip: Wall sconces are a beautiful decorative element for a living room, but their ability to light up a room can be quite limited. So the use of sconces should be accompanied with other sources of brighter lighting.
Step 4: Make the centrepiece a real standout
Having a centrepiece to orient the design of a room around can be an excellent idea, as it gives you a focal point. A good centrepiece immediately captures the attention of guests, and can be an instant talking point.
Centrepieces can not only look good, but also be functional.
“A fan in the living room adds a beautiful coastal feel to the room. It creates a great feature to bring you into the room and gently moves the air around the room to keep you cool and comfortable without the expense of running air conditioners,” says Suzanne.
Option 1: Fanaway Veil Ceiling Fan in Chrome with Clear Retractable Blades and Light - $899.00, Bunnings
Can’t choose between a ceiling fan or a chandelier? Why not both? This fan comes with retractable blades and tiered crystal embellishments.
Option 2: Tahitian 132cm Fan in Off White with Off White Blades - $389.00, Beacon Lighting
This fan is sure to captivate everyone with its wide, raffia-inspired blades. It turns any room into a dreamy getaway.
Top tip: Go for ceiling fans that come with lights so you can get the best of both worlds. There are options with LED lighting to save energy and don’t cost too much.
Step 5: Liven up the walls with colour
The right shade of paint can make a big difference in the presentation of a space that is designed to entertain, so it’s not always the best idea to go with your heart.
The colour you choose will depend on your ultimate intention for the property, whether you plan to keep, sell or rent. Light colours are a classic choice that you usually can’t go wrong with, as they serve to brighten up a space and complement virtually any look. Dark shades can make a room feel cosy, but also make it look smaller than it actually is.
Option 1: Dulux Wash&Wear 4L Low Sheen Paint- $79.90, Bunnings
Low sheen paints are perfect for walls, especially in subtle, neutral shades. This paint is also stain resistant and is easy to maintain.
Option 2: British Paints 4L White Interior Low Sheen Paint And Prime - $68.00, Bunnings
This paint also serves the purpose of being a primer, so you don’t need an undercoat. It dries quickly to make the job easier.
Top tip: Using different types of paint can add a three-dimensional quality to a room. Matte paints are perfect for ceilings, while semi-gloss paints can make doors, frames and arches pop next to a low-sheen wall.
Step 6: Keep it functional
When it comes to deciding on accessories for your updated living room, the key is to keep it looking spacious. This means going for bigger, but fewer, pieces that serve multiple purposes – as Suzanne puts it, “small items visually break up the room and make it look cluttered and untidy.”
For instance, a large runner rug can already add warmth and cosiness to the room while complementing the walls. A single coffee table incorporates a pop of style with the added function of being a storage space. A table lamp (or two) has a homey charm while providing more light.
Option 1: Khofri Floor Rug 250cm - $399.00, Freedom
With a unique pattern inspired by Native American tribal motifs, this circular rug adds instant character to your living room.
Option 2: Madras 80cmx300cm runner – $149.00, Freedom
Composed of jute and handmade in India, this beautifully textured, tough-as-nails floor rug is ideal for living rooms and hallways.
Top tip: In open-plan layouts, rugs can be a great way to distinguish each room without breaking up the connection across spaces. Position the rug in the middle of the room so that it doesn’t look like the furniture is crowding it.
Step 7: Find where your style is being sold
If you’re following a specific trend in your decoration, you don’t want any furniture to look out of place. A great way to do so is to find a store that deals in precisely what you want.
“If you love the Hamptons look, a super easy way to ensure that the furniture meets the brief is to simply shop at a store that specialises in Hamptons homewares,” Suzanne advises.
In the process, you don’t need to go through a process of trial and error to achieve your desired aesthetic – you have experts ensuring that your new couch does fit the bill!
Option 1: Signature Sofa 3-Seater - $2,859.00, Henry & Oliver Co.
This sofa is pure Hamptons style all the way, with hardwood frames and soft Warwick fabric to keep it looking good for years.
Option 2: East Hampton Sofa 3-Seater - $3,390.00, Henry & Oliver Co.
This powder blue couch can serve as the perfect centrepiece of your living room. It stands out exceptionally well against white or neutral walls.
Top tip: With the right throw pillows, a couch can become an absolutely stunning piece. Don’t limit yourself to solid colours or a single pattern – mixing and matching can have spectacular results.
Step 8: Work with your windows
Curtains create the illusion of spaciousness, so they’re a great way to add depth to a room.
“Installing curtains that drop from the ceiling to the floor can make the room feel larger and promote a feeling of luxury,” says Suzanne.
“The illusion of a long curtain can make a huge difference to a room. This is a very simple interior design trick that anyone can do and does not come with a big price tag!”
You want to maximise natural light while maintaining privacy, so always opt for window coverings that you can easily adjust to suit your needs.
Option 1: Sheer Curtains – price on measurement, Curtainworld
“To make the space airy and to feel more spacious – particularly in smaller living areas – use sheer window treatments in a light colour.”
Option 2: Plantation Shutters – price on measurement, Curtainworld
“These are incredibly popular at the moment. They are easy to operate, durable, low maintenance and provide great control over how much light enters the room.”
Top tip: You may find that your existing window frames are out of place in the new room, but it’s out of your budget to replace them. Curtains and plantation shutters are a low-cost way of putting undesirable frames under wraps.
Steve and Suzanne Burke were tasked with transforming a dated living area into an open, airy, Hamptons-inspired haven – and they wholeheartedly succeeded.
Steve and Suzanne Burke had more than just a renovating job on their hands – they had to change minds with the result of their work on a rundown Mount Lawley property.
“The owners were a retired couple wanted to update their tired and dated home so that could live in a greater level of comfort and style. The male owner did not think the home needed a renovation, while his partner persisted with the vision she had in mind,” Suzanne says.
That vision involved a Hamptons style look and feel. The Burkes decided to work with a blank slate and removed everything that looked old – starting with the floor.
“We stripped the sealer off the original parquetry floor as it was looking dated and the colour was turning orange. The new sealer is water based and is much more environmentally friendly,” Suzanne explains.
The original brown ceiling fan holding court in the middle of the living room was an “eyesore” for Steve and Suzanne. Fortunately, they and the owners came up with the perfect solution.
“The owner purchased a white Tahitian fan to be installed in the alfresco area outside, but she was advised by the builder that it would hang too low. She decided to replace the old fan in the living area instead!”
To ensure that all the furniture fit the Hamptons look, the Burkes chose to purchase them all at a retailer that specialised in that type of look. However, another challenge they faced was with the “colonial look” windows, which were fitted with bars.
“We took the bars off the windows in the living, dining and kitchen areas, and spent hours cleaning the glue off the glass to help modernise the look – a tedious job,” Suzanne admits.
“The existing window frames were dark green and did not fit the colour scheme. But the owners did not want to replace them.”
Steve and Suzanne found an inexpensive way of handling the issue by installing plantation shutters and new sheer curtains, which hid the frames.
The final result was not only a hit at the 2019 Housing Excellence Awards held by the Master Builders Association of WA, but most importantly, the owners were thrilled with it.
“In the end, the male owner sheepishly admitted that he loved the transformation and could not believe the improvement and level of enjoyment that it brought to their everyday living!”
Steve and Suzanne Burke are the owners of Amerex Renovations and Additions, an award-winning renovation company with over 20 years of experience. They are also the co-authors of Nail Your Renovation without Getting Screwed.