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Comfort-Loving Living Rooms

Comfort is key in these user-friendly living rooms

Written and produced by Candace Ord Manroe
  • Savvy homeowners and their interior designers are scoring a victory for livability, putting the “living” back in living rooms. Comfort is the key. For the living room to be a vital part of everyday life on the home-front, it has to be as user-friendly as a family room, beckoning with creature comforts that beg to be sat, walked, relaxed, and napped on.

    Don’t think for a minute that elegance and stuffiness are synonymous, either. This custom sofa’s thick rolled arm—the most comfortable design on the market—its deep cushions, and its thick-padded tufted back make this formal silk furnishing as seductively comfortable as it is sophisticated and dressy.

    Interior design: Madeline Stuart

  • A Luscious Living Room

    A 19th-century Ferahan rug started the design scheme in this Los Angeles living room. It established a sophisticated sensibility, as well as the palette of blues, beige, and deep coral. But thanks to upholstery treatments that are thick with cushioning comfort, this refined design lives easy. The plump sofa in front of the fireplace features rolled arms (great for a nap) and a loose-cushioned back (so inviting you won’t want to leave).  Even the pair of custom benches sport soft seating surfaces for optimal ease.

    Interior design: Madeline Stuart

  • Designed for Casual Comfort

    At the opposite end of the formality scale, the living room in this Maryland waterfront getaway addresses ergonomic issues in a friendly, more informal manner. The fabrics are durable cottons and blends built for use (and abuse). Every seating piece is designed for lounging. Arranged in a radial formation, all four club chairs encircle an amply padded ottoman that’s plenty big enough to accommodate four sets of stretched-out legs. The comfort level is so pitch-perfect one hardly notices this section of the room is missing a sofa.

    Interior design: Kelley Proxmire

  • Blue Is the Color of Comfort

    A wider view of the living room reveals a second but primary conversation area composed of a sofa and two armchairs. The fabrics are indoor-outdoor to ensure the lowest maintenance possible for a home where a dip in the water outside can occur at any moment. The design’s comfort is visual as well as physical, featuring blue, the most restful and beloved of all hues. “Blue-and-white isn’t original but it translates beautifully,” says designer Kelley Proxmire, who gave the color combo its own signature with a mitered stripe.

    Interior design: Kelly Proxmire

  • Living Room That’s Cozy and Bright

    As a frequent entertainer and the mom of a six-year-old girl, Little Rock designer Tobi Fairley required her living room to have the sassy style that’s her signature combined with the kind of comfort even a child can appreciate. Every seating piece in her living room is upholstered for deep relaxation, with no bare wood in sight. A pair of big striped pillows make the sofa extra-enveloping. Barclay Butera’s punchy green-and-white fabric on a pair of wing chairs makes these traditional classics up-the-minute for Tobi, fam, and friends. The Hickory Chair coffee table designed by Mariette Himes Gomez is as elegant as its Greek-key motif, but it’s also virtually indestructible. Spills and fingerprints wipe right up.

    Interior design: Tobi Fairley

  • A Banquette You Can Bank On

    One of the more unusual seating solutions in this Chicago living room also is a ticket to heavenly comfort. A custom-made banquette covered in Clarence House’s “Danube Velvet” taps the touchy-feely in everyone so it’s hard to keep hands and bod off. The seating cushion is segmented into three horizontal sections for increased comfort, while the back is buttoned up at the tufts for a certain insouciance. The low-slung, elongated scale suggests a luxury passenger train and its idea of adventure. Metallic bullion fringe steps up the glam, especially combined with the Lucite mica-top end table. Stay tuned for the rest of the room!

    Tip: Bring the banquette out into the living room. This charming seating solution too often is relegated to breakfast rooms.

    Interior design: Melanie Elston

  • An Unconventional Living Room

    The remainder of the living room in this prestigious 1927 apartment building on Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive is as unexpected as the sink-down banquette seating you just saw in the previous slide. The four swoop-back chairs from Dessin Fournin huddle around the coffee table “like campers ringing a bonfire,” says the designer. The informality of the arrangement is a sharp counterpoint to the crystal chandelier, classic valanced draperies, grand piano, and small gilt bench. And that’s its own kind of comfort.

    Interior design: Melanie Elston

  • Comfort in Living-Room Color

    Deep, saturated coral color lifts the San Francisco fog every morning in the living room of this Bay area home. The rich color starts correcting its environment at the windows, where it’s fabricated into dressy silk panels. It replays its happy theme across the room on a pair of coral linen-upholstered chairs accented with white welting. The feel-good factor is enhanced with the tactile appeal of the sofa’s velvet upholstery fabric from Kravet.

    Interior design: Julie Massucco Kleiner

  • All the Right Pieces for Comfort

    Attaining a comfortable design for the living room can be as simple as following a checklist of must-have furnishings. When the square footage isn’t as grand as your desire to entertain, look for options in furnishings—pieces that are stowable, stackable, nesting, or folding free up space when not in use. This living room stows a pair of comfy custom X-leg all-upholstered stools beneath a window-front console table. When company calls, “Xtra” seating  is an arm length away.

    Interior design: Julie Massucco Kleiner

  • Hide-and-Seek Furniture Solutions

    The custom stools slide neatly beneath the console table from Eric Brand Furniture, occupying zero square footage when not being used. They are upholstered in a jazzy “Java-Java” fabric in “New Shrimp” colorway from China Seas. The tufted top cushion adds a traditional element to the design.

    Interior design: Julie Massucco Kleiner

  • Comfort in the Walls

    Comfort is about more than the body’s response to a surface; it also involves a reaction from the brain. So imagine a living room with walls that are padded in faux leather. You may never bump into them, but there’s comfort in knowing they’re there, shielding you from harm, softening the impact.

    Interior design: Skip Sroka

  • Old World Coziness

    A living room filled with 18th-century English and French antiques is as livable as you make it. That’s the design philosophy behind this eminently comfortable space designed by Shreveport decorator Marlene Shaw in the home she shares with her husband, Edward. The main conversation area is all new upholstered pieces made especially inviting with their large scale. The sofa is long and deep enough for an adult to stretch out on for a nap. A pair of club chairs are bridged by a ottoman that can be brought to the foot of either one when desired. Every piece features a loose versus a tight back for the most kindness to the human back, as well as wide rolled arms that can gently cradle the head.

    Tip: Comfort anticipates needs. Include reading lights for both ends of your sofa. A sofa table with lamps is an alternative to flanking the sofa with lighted end tables or floor lamps.

    Interior design: Marlene Shaw

  • A Comfortable Arrangement

    As the home’s entertaining arena, the living room carries the burden of facilitating conversation. This means each seating piece must not only be comfortable in and of itself, it must also be arranged in proximity to other seating pieces in such a way that conversation is easy. Eye contact is a must. This Hawaii home masters the art of entertaining comfortably with its simple furniture arrangement that has a long, sink-down sofa facing off across the coffee table to two club chairs. All guests have equal access to the glass-top table, where drinks can be stashed with no worries of spillage.

    Interior design: Mary Philpotts McGrath

  • Living (Room) on the Sunny Side

    This Richmond home’s living room packages every ingredient essential for comfort. Its sunny palette is the launching pad, with sparkling goldenrod walls snuggling up to crisp white coffered ceilings and millwork. From there, the design looks underfoot, wrapping the hardwood floors in a diamond-pattern wool rug that feels good to bare feet and is reminiscent of latticework. The garden theme is further conveyed with floral chintz curtains and a vine-and-flower print on the pair of sofas. Plump padding and sofa skirts complete the study in comfort, which is both physical and intellectual.

    Interior design: Anne Page

  • Living Room Designed for Quiet Comfort

    Tranquility, perhaps the greatest comfort of all, is introduced to this living room with its ethereal pale blue and white palette. Designed by Jack Fhillips for the Shippan Designer Showhouse in Stamford, Connecticut, the room pays homage to the water nearby in a quiet way that reads sophisticated, not flashy. The balanced furniture arrangement, which strikes a note of formality, feels comforting in its orderliness.

    Interior design: Jack Fhillips

  • Luxury in the Living Room

    When comfort and luxury are design teammates, victory is guaranteed. This San Francisco living space in a 1913 Beaux Arts home on Nob Hill is proof. Fabrics are over-the-top elegant—velvets, suzanis, and silks. Picture moldings and egg-and-dart crown moldings are painted understated crème fraiche. Two sofas and every chair are piled with pillows for sustained comfort.

    Interior design: Antonio Martins

  • More Living Rooms

    See more decorating ideas for your living room in Colorful Living Rooms.