Your living room probably takes more wear and tear than any other room in the home, so never skimp on the basic coverings; any defects will soon become obvious and will lead to more expense if your furnishings need replacing prematurely.
Most types of wall covering are suitable for the living area, as long as they will stand up to direct sunlight, the occasional knock and even concentrated heat if you have an open fire or spot heating system. Above all, whatever material you choose should retain its looks over a long period of time. The living room is generally the largest room in the home and therefore one of the most costly and time-consuming to redecorate, as well as causing major disruption to normal activities. Together walls and ceiling cover the greatest surface area and therefore tend to dominate.
Painting is the cheapest and easiest method of decorating the walls. Use a matt or silk paint and make sure your surface is clean, dry and free from loose plaster and cracks. There is no reason why the ceiling has to be white – try painting it the same colour as the rest of the room for a warm and coordinated effect. Again WHITE is NOT always necessary for woodwork – a matching or contrasting colour might be more effective here.
It is not usually a good idea to paint or paper one wall in a drastically different way from the rest of the room, although at one time this was fashionable. This treatment tends to dominate everything else and throw the room out of balance; a subtle scheme, rather than a dramatic or very bright one, will be more successful in a frequently used room. If your walls are slightly bumpy or have small cracks, try using a textured paint; this is applied with a brush and will cover small imperfections, leaving an attractive surface which resembles rough plaster. The walls are prepared as for painting; so if you are covering bare plaster, you will have to prime the surface first. You can apply the textured covering straight onto ordinary paint and remove it, if necessary, with a proprietary stripper. Most brands of this covering come in a range of pastel colours; if you would like a deeper shade, brush a coat of ordinary emulsion paint in your chosen colour on top.
A paper chosen for a room which will be used by adults only need not be particularly strong; but if there are young children around, it should be tough enough to take a few knocks, marks and scratches -and preferably vinyl-coated to enable any marks to be wiped off.
Wallpaper comes in a huge range of styles and colours, some with another material covering such as felt, hessian. foil, wool, grass or ordinary fabric. This type of specialized covering is. naturally, more expensive than paint or ordinary paper, so take into account the type and amount of wear it is likely to endure before making a final choice. One of the newest version of wallpaper is made from a polyethylene-based material which looks and feels like fabric. It is easier to hang than other coverings because you paste the wall, not the paper. When you want a change, or are moving house, it peels off easily and can be rchung elsewhere.
If your budget is limited, but you want a more decorative effect than plain paint can give, stick on a wallpaper frieze or cut-outs from a roll of paper whose design you like, but whose price prevents you from using it everywhere.
Ordinary fabric is sometimes used very effectively to cover the walls. Staple or glue it to a timber batten framework, but remember it will have to be taken down and washed when it begins to look grubby.
Cork tiles have a warm look, improve heat and sound insulation and provide an informal and flexible pinboard for posters and children’s drawings; but they are relatively expensive.
Cover one wall of a small room with a mirror to make it seem larger. If this wall is opposite a window, the mirror will increase the amount of light in the room as well.
For a rough and natural effect, leave brickwork exposed: where the walls have been plastered over, you will have to strip the plaster back to bare brick. If the brickwork is in good condition, cover it with a proprietary sealer to discourage dust and to prevent cracking or chipping. To improve the final finish, you may need to repoint the bricks before applying your protective covering. A slightly smoother finish will result if you paint over the bricks; but make sure they are absolutely clean and dry before you do this.
Timber cladding or panelling is another popular wall covering and one which is excellent on uneven walls: it will also help with heat and sound insu- lation. Fix boards horizontally, vertically or diagonally, but make sure the wall underneath is completely free from damp before you start. Timber wall cladding will be covered later in the Course.
Durability, comfort and resistance to dirt are the most important characteristics of living room flooring. This will be one of the areas most heavily used in the home and it is worth spending as much as you can afford to get the best covering.
An 80 percent wool, 20 percent synthetic mix is an excellent choice here, especially if it has a dark colour or a subtle, dirt-masking pattern which will help the carpet keep its looks after many years of wear. Try to avoid a shaggy pile, which traps dirt and is difficult to clean, but make sure the pile is not too hard and scratchy so family members who like to lie about on the floor can do so in comfort. Rush matting has a rather rough surface, but is inexpensive so you can fit it wall-to-wall and add a large rug in the seating area. Cord carpet is a practical solution if your budget is tight: it wears well and resists stains. Here again, choose a darkish shade.
Carpet with an efficient underlay will give more sound and heat insulation than any other sort of floor covering; keep this in mind if your home is particularly noisy or cold. A small or unevenly shaped room will be improved by a fitted carpet, which tends to pull it together visually and make it look larger as well as disguising irregularities.
Carpet tiles give the same effect as a run of carpet or you can achieve a checkerboard effect if you arrange the tiles accordingly. Tiles have the advantage that you can rearrange them if some become worn or soiled -or replace individual ones.
If you are lucky enough to have floorboards in good condition, you may prefer to sand and seal them to provide a natural, warm looking floor covering. An assortment of rugs and small carpets can be set off against this type of surface, but the rest of the room should be kept fairly simple to avoid a cluttered effect. If you cannot restore the finish on the wood, remove all dirt and grease and cover it with an appropriate floor paint. Timber floors are sometimes draughty and will always be colder than a covered floor.
Cork flooring, usually chosen for a kitchen, bathroom or children’s room, can be suitable for the living room, especially if young children are likely to be playing on the floor and therefore require a warm surface which will stand up to the damage they can inflict. Again, you might want to add some rugs for colour, but always make sure they are fastened down to prevent accidents.
Don’t be afraid to consider other floorings which are normally used in specialized rooms; taking into consideration the needs of your family, your heating system, budget and personal taste, you may find ceramic or quarry tiles, or slate, stone, rubber or vinyl flooring perfectly practical. Although these may be hard, cold and noisy in the wrong setting, they may also help create precisely the right look and feel in your living room.
COLOURS AND PATTERNS
As WITH all major furnishings, such as large curtains and coverings for large pieces of upholstered furniture, try to keep any colour or pattern as simple and neutral as possible so you will not tire of it easily; this will enable you to make changes without having to replace costly items.
Living room windows tend to be large, so any treatment here not only affects the look of the room but often dominates it as well.
Blinds can be a practical choice for this room. especially when the window surround is particularly attractive or its shape interesting but difficult to curtain, such as a bay window.
If you choose to hang curtains allow plenty of fabric so they do not look skimpy; they should be lined, to improve their appearance and effectiveness, and given a fairly formal heading such as pencil or pinch pleats. Remember blinds and curtains give the most flexible covering of ALL.