AD Middle East: How to Style a Living Room

AD Middle East: How to Style a Living Room


From how to place your sofas and why you need at least one lamp to why small rugs are a waste of money… 11 easy tricks for A-list living rooms
How to style a living room is one the trickiest things in home design. After all, it is a room that often has to perform various functions at different times of the day, and work for every member of the household. But, according to designer Dara Huang – the talent behind some of London's most exclusive properties – there are some general rules to bear in mind when designing a living room that will help you to create a successful and inspiring space.
How to Style a Living Room 11 Expert Tips for Timeless Style by Dara Huang. woman in yellow gown on white spiral staircase.

Architect and designer Dara Huang, founder of studio Design Haus Liberty and furniture brand Dara Maison.

1. “One of the first things you need to do in a living room is to work out your seating strategy. Just putting a three-seater sofa across from the TV is really basic. If you’re planning on entertaining or having people over, or just having somewhere nice to sit and have a chat, you want to arrange your seating as if it’s in conversation. I call it the magic square: you don’t have to have seating on all four sides of the square; you could have armchairs facing the sofa and a bench on one side. As long as you have a conversation, and seating on more than one side of the square, it holds the room and makes it look bigger. And please explore curvy sofas, they bring instant oomph to any space.”

2. “You also need a lighting strategy. You have to have three types of lighting in your living room: main, decorative and ambient. Main lighting, which is basically your floodlights, usually comes in the form of downlights. I’m not a huge fan of these sorts of lights, it’s just what people have – but make sure you don’t rely only on them for all your lighting.”
3. “For decorative lighting, a really beautiful pendant can act as a focal piece to hold the living room together. You want to consider the proportions of the room and make sure the diameter of the pendant is wide enough so that it really becomes a feature. If it’s too small, it just looks cheap.”
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Photo: Holly
4. “Ambient lighting is really key; it’s what you use to change the mood. It could be indirect lighting, for example when you have hidden LED lights in your shelves to create a warm glow; or candlelight, that’s another form of ambient lighting. Lamps are both decorative and ambient and they create the cosiest atmosphere. It could be a standing floor lamp or a lamp that sits on a table, but it’s very important to have at least one lamp in your living room.”
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All Rights Reserved Photo: John McDavid
5. “Everyone has a TV, no matter how chic they are. You need to work out which wall is the TV wall, and then you can conceal your TV in the living room in a number of ways. I did an easy flip trick in one project where I got the builder to build out a box around the TV, and then he put a set of bi-folding doors, like the ones you’d use for a closet, on either side. It was so quick and easy and it made the room look like a million bucks. In my own home, I’ve concealed the living room TV with mirrors.”
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Photo: Julian Abrams 
6. “I love an amazing coffee table. People underestimate the power of the coffee table – it is the centre of your square. Getting the size of your coffee table right is key to an impactful living room. People often get coffee tables that are too small; they see it as just a leg rest, but it’s so much more than that – and you can style is in so many fun ways. You can get away with some less expensive pieces in your living room, but you can’t get away with a cheap coffee table. A marble table really makes a statement, and my brand, Dara Maison, has one in burl and resin, which is so stylish and tasteful. You could even get a big ottoman with storage that you can pack up with magazines and put a floral arrangement in the centre. It just needs to be a good size.”
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All Rights Reserved Photo: John McDavid
7. “Another coffee-table tip: people always think that the coffee table and the sofa have to be close to each other, and it’s not true. You need to have little side tables near the sofa and chairs, to be that first point of contact for your drink, whereas the coffee table can be a little bit further away. You still want to be able to put your feet on it, because at the end of the day you’re at home and you want to be comfortable – but there’s no need to pack everything up next to each other. As long as your feet can reach it, you don’t need your hand to reach it; having side tables in the living room is far more functional than having all four sides of the magic square meet the coffee table. It looks really chic as well.”
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Photo: Supplied
8. “A fireplace is an effective focal point in a living room – and a fake one will do just fine. Even in the Middle East, you can add a fireplace using carpentry. You can build a fake fireplace that comes out from the wall, to give a room proportion: in one project, we built a fireplace coming out of the wall and going all the way up to the ceiling, and concealed the TV in it too, and it looks amazing. You use a remote control to start the fire and bring the TV out; it’s very James Bond.”
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Photo: Alessandro de Besi
9. “Buying the right size of rug can make or break a living room. A rug should never just define where the coffee table sits; it defines the whole room and it can really hold the space, so the larger the rug, the better. The ideal is to have a rug that reaches almost all the way to the walls, with a border of about a foot between the rug and the wall. In short, don’t waste your money on a small rug.”
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Photo: Shiraz Kook
10. “You need an incredible piece of art in the living room. It doesn’t matter if it’s cheap or expensive, but size matters. There are different ways to do art, and a beautiful gallery wall with lots of small pieces is a statement too; but whatever you put above your sofa, it must cover the wall in a bold way.”
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Photo: Holly 
11. “Accessories make the biggest difference: candles, fresh flowers. If you have throws, cushions, coffee-table books and a beautiful vase for a centrepiece, it makes everyone feel cosy and creates so much ambience. I’m actually a minimalist but I feel that you have to add layers for comfort.” Find Dara’s collection at

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