No room carries quite as much weight in setting the scene for a home than the living room. It reflects the style and aesthetics of the inhabitants that then spreads to the rest of the house. That is why it is so important that you decorate and deck it out with products that fit your own personal taste.
In this article, we offer 12 factors to consider when choosing living room products. By doing so we hope to provide a stepping stone towards fitting your living room with the best products out there, within a delimited budget and in a functional as well as stylistic manner.
The sofa is the focal point of most living rooms and for this reason it is important to choose one carefully. The near infinite number of models and styles can be overwhelming, particularly as you set foot in a furniture store or browse through the selection offered by online retailers
The size of the sofa is largely depending on the space available in your living room and how snug you want it to feel. Sizes generally vary anywhere between six and eight feet, with a depth anywhere from 30 to 40 inches. If you are looking for comfort, we recommend a larger depth so that you can get cosy on cold evenings.
For smaller rooms, you may want to opt for a slightly smaller sofa to allow space for additional furniture like a coffee table or side lamp. In larger rooms, make use of the extra space with a larger model.
Shapes and Styles
When we think of shapes, jargon like l-shaped, rounded, daybed, chaise, and loveseat come to mind. Styles range from chesterfield to naples and bridgwater. It is, however, easier to break down styles to particular components of a sofa like arms, cushions, back cushions, and the base.
For arm and cushions you have models such as English, T-cushions, straight cushions, rounded cushions, lawson, pleated arm, straight arm, sock arm, and track arm. Each has its own characteristics and it is worth investigating them to decide if they fit your tastes.
Back cushions are a large part of how a sofa feels and looks. There are three dominant styles. Loose back cushions are not attached to allow for different arrangements. These offer great durability because you can flip them over, but tend to move around far more willingly if you wiggle around a lot while sitting. Next, we have tight back cushions, which are incorporated into the back base of the sofa. This style is for those than want a clean look and low upkeep requirements. Finally, we have semi-attached cushions, which are similar to loose back cushions, but with a section fixed to the sofa. These are a middle ground between the two styles above.
The base is essentially the chassis of a sofa. Obviously, you need a robust option that will withstand weight and movement. Beyond this, there are two main options. Skirted base sofas have an overhanging piece of material that usually runs down to just above the ground to create a traditional and ordered look. Secondly, we have upholstered base sofas where the feet are generally visible. The lower half of the sofa is incorporated into the fabric covering the other parts. Smaller rooms tend to benefit most from this style as it creates a sense of flow by allowing space under the sofa. Both these styles can be broken down into a long list of different options too.
Fabrics and Textiles
Sofas are the most used piece of furniture in the home other than beds. The selection of fabrics and textiles for the upholstery can be overwhelming. To ease the choosing process concentrate on functionality. If you have children, do you need stain-resistant fabrics as a precaution for the inevitable spills and mess? Do you prefer softer textiles, but want flexibility?
Linen and cotton are always good options if you want something traditional. Synthetic microfibers are a compromise between feel and durability, and are also ideal if you have pets because they are easier to clean. Wool and leather are much more expensive, but add a degree of elegance to the room. You also have to consider if you want printed or woven patterns. Printed tends to wear away quicker so keep this in mind. Though stunning, suede is a potential risk particularly if you have children.
Make sure you choose a sofa with adequately comfortable cushions with enough filling. Low cost options include polyurethane foam and polyester fiber, which are cheap and durable, but can feel too hard or too soft depending on how dense they are. Better yet is high-resilience foam, a mid-range option that provides a nice balance of durability and comfort. Finally, we have high-end fillings like animal feathers, though they can move around inside the casing and create uncomfortable bumps and distortions that are hard to fix. They are also notoriously hard to maintain.
Mix fabric options are also available, such as goose down, a mix of feathers and down, very comfortable, but once again rather fragile. A down and poly fiber mix costs less, but is susceptible to clumping. We particularly like a blend of down, polyurethane foam and high-resilience foam that provides a plush filling, but with a reasonable amount of stiffness. Another good option is spring down cushions, which incorporate springs padded with polyurethane and feathers to ensure a longer lifespan.
As with sofas, the selection of TVs on the market is incredibly large and in addition the use of technical jargon makes it even harder to make a decision. Here are a few factors to consider when hunting down that ideal television for your living room.
Types of TVs
People often confuse LED and LCD TV’s as two separate types of televisions. In reality, LED are LCD TVs or liquid crystal television. LED means light-emitting diode and simply means an LCD equipped with LED backlighting.
The majority of contemporary televisions are LED LCD and are defined by a very sleek profile for a width measured in inches in comparison to models of old that could extend up to more than a foot backwards. The concept behind them is to illuminate parts of the screen to create a more vibrant spread of colors to improve picture quality. With the advent of HD and Ultra HD, quality is incredibly high for a very reasonable cost. LCD LEDs are particularly suited to providing a bright image even in the middle of day when natural light floods a living room.
In general, the LEDs are positioned either behind the screen or on the edges in packets that act independent of one another to precisely brighten or darken portions of the screen in line with the image being emitted. You can now also get quantum dot LED technology, QLED, which adds another set of lights to further improve color quality. QLED technology is slowly catching up to the higher quality provided by OLED at a much more reasonable price.
The only real negative of a LED TV is that it struggles with fast action (like sport and fast-paced action movies) and has difficulty processing some darker scenes since LED can’t create a true deep shade black pixel color.
OLED or organic light-emitting diode are top of line TVs. Instead of patches of LEDs, each individual pixel acts independently to create a greater depth of color accuracy and the ability to formulate real black colorations for added textures and contrasts. OLEDs offer by far the best picture quality and sharpness. They are even able to maintain that quality regardless of what angle you view the TV from. OLEDs are even thinner than LED LCDs and are perfect for wall mounting and space saving.
The only real downside is the cost, which is exorbitant, and they suffer from occasional burn-in issues when a scene is kept on screen for a prolonged period of time.
TV sizes vary greatly and the one you choose depends primarily on the size of your room and how much distance there is to your seating. Though this may sound like a marketing push, we honestly cannot give you better advice than buying a large TV. People never complain about having a TV that is too big, but many regret not getting the next size up a few months down the line.
Width is not really a consideration anymore given the book thin size of most models. In terms of size, the real choice is in the picture. Sizes range from 65 inches and above, down to 32 inches. We recommend anything upwards of 40 inches regardless of how small the room is to avoid disappointment. Modern technology like HDR and 4K show exponentially better performance as the size increases.
We recommend 65 inches and above for home theatre buffs and those wanting a truly immersive viewing experience. Coupled with a good sound system and you are approaching cinema levels of immersion.
If you are weighing up where to spend your money, we always recommend opting for size over other features, particularly those marred in industry jargon designed to confuse buyers.
4K, HDR, Smart TVs
When buying a TV, you will often encounter terms such as HDR and 4K. It can be hard to navigate through these to actually understand what they do especially when paired with numbered indications like 1080p, 120hz, and 16:9. Here’s a breakdown of the most important features to consider.
When it comes to 4K, go for it as it is a sure-fire way to future proof your TV and make sure you don’t have to buy a new one in a year’s time. 4K offers up to four times more pixels than standard HD and compared to a year ago prices are significantly lower as manufacturers are able to incorporate the technology at a lower production cost. If you are hoping to grab a bargain, then forgo 4K and look for heavily discounted HD models.
As for HDR, high dynamic range, the better contrast, colors and illumination can’t be argued with, but you have to consider the fact that most TV shows and channels aren’t HDR ready. This means the chances of HDR kicking in for daily viewing are incredibly low. On the other hand, if you are film a buff and exclusively watch HDR Blu-ray movies then by all means go for it. One of the benefits of HDR is that 4K TVs incorporate the technology as standard so you won’t have to worry about this aspect. In reality, most networks, notably online streaming providers, are moving towards more and more HDR-ready content and the trend is for this to continue.
To confuse matters even more, Dolby has introduced Dolby Vision, a competing standard for high definition range technology. In addition, Technicolor have also announced Technicolor Advanced HDR. We can expect all three to battle for standard supremacy in the coming years and it is hard to discern who will come out of on top. A few manufacturers offer TV models that work with both HDR and Dolby Vision technologies so look for these if you want to future proof your purchase regardless.
Unless you are using your TV for gaming on a console with dedicated HDR titles, then we wouldn’t recommend using HDR as a defining factor in your TV purchase. See it more as a useful feature for the long-term.
As for Smart TVs, this is less and less important because any TV can now be made ‘Smart’ thanks to fairly inexpensive USB sticks that provide the required platform to stream services like Netflix and Amazon. In addition, most TVs made in the past few years are Smart TVs by definition as they incorporate some form of internal operating system to manage access to different sources of TV via Wi-Fi. The chances are the models you are considering are Smart TVs so don’t let this factor into your choice.
3. Tower Fans
Tower fans are incredibly useful devices for accentuating air flow in a living room and providing much needed cool air during hot summer days. They have the added benefit of being rather discreet. Though at first glance a tower fan may seem out of place in a stylish living room, the market is packed with stylish models that fit right into any decor. Choosing the best tower fan is helped by the following factors.
Size is dependent on the size of the room and how much power you require. They have the added benefit of being rather small devices so won’t take up too much space. Smaller rooms require less air circulation and often a quieter motor so as not to create too much noise. Large rooms on the other hand need more power to circulate the air throughout the space.
Taller models tend to help air reach higher ceilings, whilst the smaller 30 inch equivalents are great for small living rooms and can be stored with ease when not in use.
Finding the right airflow is about striking a balance between enough power to cool a room, yet not cause items to fly around the room as a consequence of the circulation generated. In addition, more air flow is usually synonymous with more noise. Models are usually assigned a cubic feet per minute value so use this as an indicator of power. We always recommend testing a tower fan before purchase to ensure it meets your needs.
In addition, oscillation of the fan is also a big factor in cooling down a space. The right amount of pivot can help air reach the back of the room. Some models offer varying speeds so look for these if you require versatility. These tend to produce a different type of air flow, with for example a breeze setting. You can also get models with in-built filters or ionizers that clean the air for you. These do sometimes require regular replacement of filters. Bear this in mind when considering long-term costs.
Other features to pay attention to are the controls, particularly remote controlled fans that can be incredibly useful and save you having to get up to regulate air flow. Check if a model has a timer feature that triggers an automatic shut off function.
Safety is also important notably if you have children or domestic pets. The protective grate needs to be robust enough to handle accidental contact and the openings small enough so that fingers don’t get caught. A further safety measure is the material used for the blades. Softer materials are safer and you can even buy models that are bladeless. The stand needs to be sufficiently strong not to topple over.
Finally, ensure the fan is environmentally friendly and doesn’t cost a fortune to run. Most models are economical, but it is worth checking the finer details to maximize efficiency. In addition, ensure the tower fan is capable of running without any issues or overheating for long periods of time. ETL safety certification is always a good indicator of this.
4. Space Heaters
At the opposite end of the temperature control spectrum, we have space heaters, vital devices for ensuring a living room stays cosy and warm during the winter months. They come in a selection of styles and can be used as an alternative to traditional heating systems as a way of heating specific rooms. This means you don’t need to heat unused rooms, saving money on energy costs.
When choosing a space heater there are a number of factors to consider to ensure you get one that fits your space and requirements properly.
Types of Space Heaters
At the most basic level, there are three types of heaters. Radiant space heaters are small devices that are designed to heat confined spaces rapidly. They emit or radiate heat that is then absorbed by the cold air surrounding it, raising its temperature. Radiant heaters work best in short burst and offer near immediate heat production. They are also very quiet due to the absence of an internal fan. You can also get infrared radiant heaters that produce a constant source of heat in a specified direction.
Convection heaters are more powerful and are best at heating large rooms. Air in the room circulates through the device, warming up as it exits. The hot air then rises sending colder air down into the heater to be warmed. This cycle repeats until all the air in the room is warmed. Most convection models include fans that produce significant amounts of noise. The heating element is usually a coil, an oil filled cavity heaters or a ceramic disc.
Micathermic heaters are small in size and fairly adept at heating all types of rooms quickly with an even distribution of heat. They use a mixture of radiant and convection heating that is covered in a layer of mica. Mica is a highly insulating silicate that is very resistant to high temperatures. By covering the heat source in the heater, the mica allows higher temperatures to be produced without any worries of overheating or burning. Functionally, the element produces heat that radiates. The heat is then circulated through the heater itself and rises to be replaced by colder air, like with a convection heater.
There is a space heater for every space, nook and cranny. These include panel heaters that are wall mounted, as the name suggests, and are ideal for saving space. You also have baseboard heaters, which are fitted near windows to heat drafts as they enter the room. Floor heaters are slim, tower-like devices that oscillate to distribute warmth. Finally, the classic space heater design, which is small and portable, perfect for moving around with ease.
Wattage is a measure of heating capacity and determines the size of the room a space heater can warm up. In general, you can follow a ratio of 10 watts per square foot of space, though this does vary from model to model. Most models offer anywhere between 900 and 1500 watts so can cover spaces from 9 square feet to 15 square feet. You can also get smaller models with wattages of around 450 watts for very small spaces. It’s important not to under power a heater and conversely go overboard and get a high wattage for a tiny living room.
Safety and Fire-Hazards
As with any electrical device that produces an important amount of heat, safety should be a prime concern when selecting a space heater. By their very function, space heaters can be fire-hazards if not designed or used properly. On the manufacturer’s end, casings that are heat resistance or heat dissipating ensure that if a flammable item touches the device, it won’t burst into flames. Quality models include internal kill-switches that are triggered when a heater falls over or is inadvertently bumped, and when the heating element overheats past a set temperature, at which point it automatically shut offs. Safety certification is also a useful measure of how safe a space heater.
Many people aren’t phased by the noise emitted by space heaters, notably convection heaters with fans. If you fall in this category, this section may not be of much use to you. On the other hand, if you are sensitive to noise, opt for a low noise model, such as a radiant heater.
One of the main determinants of a space heaters energy efficiency is whether it is suited to the space being heated. A small radiant heater in a fifty foot room will have to run continuously to only slightly heat up the space, wasting a lot of energy. On the other hand, a large convection heater will work efficiently and can be switched off fairly quickly. Features such as in-built precision thermostats that can be adjusted and/or programmed, timers and energy saving modes are great at ensuring the heater doesn’t overrun and rack up a huge energy bill.
A final factor to consider is options, which include remote controls, oscillation for heat distribution, various heat settings, digital display LCDs, transportation and storage features like handles and wheels, and cosmetic features like sleek designs and color schemes. There are endless combinations and it all comes down to convenience and personal preference.
5. Home Theater Projectors
The key to finding the right home theater projector is all about understanding exactly what you need and what will work within your living room. Here are the main factors to consider.
Aspect ratio is important because it determines the size of the projected image. Not all formats or video sources have the same ratio meaning you will never find a projector that will work with everything. Generally, most projectors either offer a ratio of 4:3 or 16:9, or both. 4:3 is the aspect ratio of traditional television and resembles a square. 16:9 is the ratio of HDTV and takes on a rectangular shape, which is wider horizontally. We recommend choosing either a projector that supports both formats, or stick with the aspect ratio of your main source of video. If you are projecting from a computer, stick to 16:9. If you plan to watch old home footage, then go for 4:3.
Resolution is essentially the number of pixels the home theatre projector can use to constitute an image. A higher resolution translates to better image quality and detail. Most if not all projectors on the market today offer a resolution of 1920x1080, otherwise known as 1080p. Don’t be tempted to buy an inexpensive older model that only supports 720p as the image quality is subpar to what we have become accustomed to. This is particularly apparent if you plan to project onto a large screen because the loss of detail is even more apparent.
1080p is established enough that prices are very reasonable so you won’t spend a fortune. If you do have cash to spend, we recommend going all out for 4K Ultra HD resolution/3840x2160. Prices are high and are rather prohibitive, but if you can afford it, you will be set for many years to come. Especially as more and more 4K content becomes available.
Projection or Throw Distance
Throw distance or throw ratio is the distance between the projector and the screen. Most models have a flexible range anywhere from 1 meter to 5 meters and above. The trick is to find a projector that comfortably works with your own setup. Simply measure up the distance between the place where the projector will sit and the screen, then buy accordingly. Often, throw distance is measured as a ratio, for example 1.4:1. This means that for every added distance of 1.4 feet, the image grows by one foot in size. Ratio can be confusing so it is best to stick to distances as a measure.
Some models define their throw distance within one of the following three categories: long throw, short throw and ultra-short throw. The names are self-explanatory and relate to projection distance.
Projection Image Size
Projection image size determines the maximum size of the projected image, in other words how big the image can be projected. It is related to throw distance and most models have an ideal distance/size range. We recommend a range that works comfortably for your projector-screen distance and the size of your screen. In terms of numbers, projection image sizes range anywhere from 30 inches to 200 inches.
Brightness is a crucial feature of any projector. It determines how bright the image is perceived by the eyes of the viewer. The standardized lumens measurement is somewhat misleading since brightness depends not only on the projectors output, but also the screen’s reflective properties in terms of its size and gain. In essence, lumens only cover the output of the projector and form an incomplete picture of how the image will appear.
A better measurement is foot-Lamberts, which determines how much light is reflected back by the screen. This means the output as well as reflection are taken into account. The problem is that most projectors are sold without a screen and because of this manufacturers are unable to provide a foot-Lamberts specification.
For this reason, more lumens don’t necessarily mean better brightness, if anything an elevated lumens value can be too bright and affect viewers in unpleasant ways, notably eye strain. Conversely, too few lumens mean the contrast ratio won’t work correctly, if at all.
We recommend establishing what screen you are going to get first, then determine the foot-Lamberts based on the lumen values of the projectors that are of interest to you. You can do this by using an online projection calculator. Enter your values and the program will do the hard work for you.
In terms of specifications, lumen values range anywhere from 700 to 4000 with certain models offering adjustable brightness. Opt for a foot-Lamberts value of between 12 and 22 if you are setting up in a dark living room or only plan to project video at night. For daytime viewing and brighter setups, anywhere between 20 and 40 foot-Lamberts is ideal. Larger images also benefit from a higher foot-Lamberts value.
In terms of image quality, contrast ratio is just as crucial as resolution size. Contrast gives the image subtleties and nuances, bringing to life the projected video. Contrast ratio is the quality of the brightest and darkest elements of the image being projected. Colors become more vibrant and details are more apparent. In addition, more contrast gives depth to the video and clarity to shadow details.
Unlike brightness, contrast ratio is much simpler to determine and follows the simple rule of more is better, though this comes at a price. Similarly to brightness though, contrast requirements are different depending on the natural brightness of the room or the time of day. A better contrast ratio is required to work suitably in brighter settings, and vice versa with darker environments.
Talking actual numbers, the ratio is the spectrum between the most intense white and the deepest black or the brightest and darkest parts. For example, a contrast ratio of 5000:1 projects the brightest parts five thousand times brighter than the darkest parts. We recommend choosing a home theatre projector with the highest contrast ratio you can afford. Coupled with a 4K resolution and you are looking at the highest quality available.
There’s really only one option you will need and that is HDMI, the worldwide standard for video transfer. You may also want to get a backwards compatible projector with VGA and DVI inputs, among others, if you plan to hook up an old camcorder or other such phased out video sources. USB ports and SD card slots are also available if you want to display images and slideshows.
You can also get projectors with wireless HDMI inputs. The projector receives information from the video source wireless a transmitter that slots into the HDMI output of your computer or TV, then sends it to an in-built receiver in the projector. This is a convenient option if cable management happens to be a priority for you.
Otherwise known as the bulb life, this determines the lifespan of the projector’s lamp, or how long it can emit light before you need to replace it. Most models used LED bulbs that can emit light for up to 50,000 hours. In reality, the likelihood of replacement is very low and will only affect the most regular viewers years down the line.
A final consideration is extra options such a 3D projectors, remote controls and vertical/horizontal lens shift. These add cost and apart from lens shift, which is useful for positioning the image from awkward positions, they remain convenience based add-ons rather than imperative features.
6. Fireplace Inserts
A fireplace insert is a great visual addition to any living room with an existing fireplace, creating a snug atmosphere. Modern designs for inserts can really set the tone and ambience of a room. The benefits are not only aesthetic though. An insert increases the efficient of a fireplace thanks to a closed-system firebox. More heat is contained and funnelled into the house via an in-built fan or vent that circulates the heat produced into the adjacent room.
The result is a warmer environment and less reliance on traditional gas heating systems. You end up saving on energy bills. Inserts also ensure less smoke goes into your home. In addition, inserts are a much less costly solution than replacing your whole fireplace unit, which involves important structural work to implement. When choosing a fireplace insert consider the following factors.
There are three types of inserts available: wood burning, gas burning, and pellet burning, though the third remains relatively uncommon compared to gas and fire. Here, we cover the two most overwhelmingly popular options that are wood and gas.
Not only is wood the most inexpensive fuel type, it is also renewable and carbon-neutral, so ideal for the environmentally conscious among you. With less smoke being produced, wood burning inserts are more or less clean burning, with very little residue or emissions seeping into the atmosphere. They also produce far more heat than their gas counterparts, effectively requiring less fuel to heat the same space. Wood is also the traditional heat source of choice and with this comes connotations of the comfort a roaring fire produces and the unique fragrance that emanates throughout the room. Gas simply cannot match the setting provided by wood.
The only real issue with wood burning inserts is that you need to find a reliable source of firewood to fuel them. In addition, when choosing a wood burning insert check the maximum log size the chamber can accommodate to ensure the size matches that of the wood you will be using. Remember that wood will require some cleaning though not nearly as much as with an open fireplace.
As for gas, the name of the game is convenience. Gas is already readily available in most homes, meaning you won’t be darting down to the woodshed in the depth of winter to gather and chop wood. Gas also produces heat far quicker than wood. Most models simply need turning on to produce a flame and warmth follows soon afterwards.
In addition, gas inserts offer a degree of adjustability that wood burning inserts cannot match. Via thermostatic heat output and flame height settings you can truly control how much heat the insert produces. In general, you can use a remote control or a wall-mounted thermostat on which you can set the desired temperature. Gas inserts are also mess-free due to the absence of burning residues like ashes and unburnt log stumps. Maintenance is pretty much inexistent.
One issue with gas is that it is not a renewable energy source. Gas is, however, clean burning so non-pollutant. You also have to make a choice between a direct vent or vent-free model. Direct vents use the chimney as source of oxygen for combustion, while vent-free are open units and oxygen is extracted from the room itself to create combustion.
Features and Measures
Once you’ve established what fuel source is best, you can now peruse the variety of features available and also scrutinize the measures that determine the power of a specific insert that may be of interest.
The factor is fairly self-explanatory and you must always ensure you purchase a fireplace insert that fits your existing fireplace. Sizes range significantly from small, snug fits to large alternatives. Always measure up before buying to avoid disappointment. In general, measurements are height, width and depth. Remember to measure the hearth of your existing fireplace if you choose a model with a hearth surround.
The visual appearance of an insert as well as the materials it is made of all come down to personal preference. You may want to choose something that will complement the color scheme of your living room and fit in with existing features. You can get an array of designs that offer modern and traditional looks, as well as more left-field options. Faceplate designs are also available with a huge number of options to suit every style.
Consider assembly difficulty as well if you plan to install it yourself. Otherwise, employ a certified professional that can also service the insert yearly to ensure everything is working smoothly. You are dealing with open flames and significant heat so compliance is of prime importance.
Measures allow you to determine how efficient an insert will be. Look for efficiency ratings, the square footage a unit can comfortably heat, warm up time and safety shut off features for overheating on gas units. For wood burners, check burn time to ensure it will last long enough for your personal needs.
If you want more functionality look for features like accent lighting and life-like logs on gas inserts that can allow you to really fine tune the mood of your living room. Self cleaning glass is suited if you want a hassle free product. Remote control functions such as heating range, timer, different flame heights and brightness offer even more options. In wood burners you can also look for panels that catch ashes and sparks for easier cleaning and added safety.
7. Coffee Tables
A coffee table is one of the most used pieces of furniture in any living room. As such, it plays a functional role, but equally its habitual position in the center of the room means that how it looks is rather important too. The following factors should help in finding the right coffee table for your living room.
Size is of course heavily dependent on the size of your living room and how big your other furniture is, notably the sofa. It is possible to find a coffee table for all spaces, though the general measurement is 48 inches by 24 inches. Measure the space, ensuring there is sufficient space for movement around the table and leg space when sitting. We recommend always opting for a coffee table that is smaller than your sofa, but not too small that it looks out of place or isn’t useful.
Similarly to size, you can find all manner of shapes for any space. The ideal shape is more dependent on the setup in your living room and should be chosen accordingly. For example, a roundtable is far more suited to multiple sofas and chairs, while a rectangular table will look better in a single sofa setup.
We recommend sticking to classic rectangle and oval shapes for more confined rooms as they tend to expand the space and maximize space efficiency. Round tables are also perfect if you have children due to not having any pointed edges that could potentially cause injuries.
In general, we recommend around 18 inches height, though a better measure is either the same height as your seating or lower. Anything higher may feel inconsistent and bulky, though this again comes down to your own style and is not set in stone. Lower tends to create more space in the room so keep this in mind if that is what you are aiming for.
Materials determine look and style. With this in mind, you will not believe how many different iterations there are available. You can follow simple rules such as glass gives the room more space and wood is better suited if you need something solid and durable, whilst metal looks classy and minimalist. In reality, we recommend checking what fits in with your living room’s existing decor and how the table will be used.
Options range from acrylic, wood, stone, metal, through to different variations of these main materials, notably in terms of shades of wood as well as fabrics such as leather or covered ottomans. If you have children, a sturdy build is highly recommended to avoid tipping the table over or causing drinks to spill at the slightest touch.
Though lamps aren’t the centerpiece of any living room, they provide vital light that has an impact on atmosphere. An improperly chosen lamp can easily look out of place and throw off the balance of the room. You want to find a happy medium between a light source and a stylish statement.
Types of Lamps
Listing all the types of lamps available would require a whole dedicated guide. We can, however, set three different categories for ease of understanding. First, we have short lamps designed for tabletops, large shelves and cabinets. Small table lamps work well as additional lighting for added ambiance and illumination next to, for example, a reading chair, or in a dark corner of the room.
Secondly, we have the traditional lamp that hangs from the ceiling or from a purpose vertical base. Hanging lamps are better suited for larger rooms that need a lot of light or you want something that makes a statement. Finally, we have upright lamps that sit on the ground and shine light upwards. These are great for providing light higher up in the room to create a sense of space and are extremely stylish.
Materials also factor into types and you generally find wood, metal, porcelain, and crystal. The choice is yours, simply make sure it fits with where the lamp will sit and the rest of the room’s color scheme and style.
If you take anything away from this section, its that you must invariably measure up before buying a lamp. It must physically fit the space, yet be large enough to have a solid base to avoid being knocked over easily, particularly if children live in the home.
Brightness depends largely on the lightbulb used so make sure you select a lamp that is compatible with the lumens value you require. Lamp shades also play a part in how bright a lamp may appear. Knowing what it will be used for can help get this right; a lamp for decorative purposes doesn’t need to be that bright so a larger, darker shade will work adequately. If we are talking about the main source of light in the room, find a higher lumens model with a more of less translucent lampshade to ensure the light can radiate outwards with ease.
Whether you go down the route of ready-made or fitted, curtains can turn a dull room into a vibrant, well thought out whole. The issue, as with most of the products in this guide, is abundance, which can lead to head scratching as you attempt to choose a set of curtains. Here are a few factors to consider to ease the process.
Fabric, Patterns, and Colors
The pre-existing style of your living room is a good starting point for choosing curtains. Depending on personal taste you may want a set that accentuates certain elements of the room, such as the paint color or sofa upholstery. Others may prefer more flashy curtains that are a feature in and of themselves.
Solid color curtains work well in rooms that already have patterns incorporated into the design either on the wallpaper or seating. They tend to balance out the room and when coordinated with the dominant bright color in the room, or a slightly darker shade of it, they can add a lot of color. We recommend being rather conservative in the choice of color and not deviating too far from the existing palette of the room, otherwise you run the risk of the curtains taking too much attention away from other features. One downside of solid color curtains is that they can fade if they are subjected to too much sunlight.
Patterned curtains on the other hand are ideal if you have solid color paint or wallpaper and if your furniture is mono-colored. They add a degree of a flamboyance that is not overwhelming, yet adds vibrancy. Classic patterns such as floral designs create a traditional feel, while more daring designs like stripes and repeating shapes give off a more contemporary feel.
In terms of fabrics, the list of options is extensive running from silk, velvet, tweed, linen, suede, through to tapestry, cotton, and the very expensive chenille. If you want durability, avoid real silk, which tends to fade and decompose quickly. Materials like suede and linen are good heat insulators so pick these if you are based in colder climates. You also want sheer curtains if you want something more decorative than functional as they allow a lot of light to pass through and are more or less transparent.
Length and Width
Traditionally, curtains run from the pole all the way to the floor, but there are alternatives that provide a different kind of feel, such as valances that only cover the top portion of a window, allowing light to shine in. They are ideal for windows above fixed units such as in the kitchen or bathroom, but can work in the living, notably for smaller windows. You can also get very ornamental swags. Reminiscent of a manor house or a renaissance chateau, they hang elegantly below the top of the window and down the sides in draped curves.
Window scarves are a good option if you want curtains that are less dominating. A scarf consists of one, long curtain that runs around the length of the window, sometimes dropping into a stylish heap of the floor on each side of the sill. Scarves are incredibly lightweight and are designed more for their visual impact rather than blocking out light.
Regardless of what style you choose, make sure to take precise measurements, allowing enough space above and to the sides of the curtains. Enough width is also important to allow the curtains to close comfortably. A common mistake is to buy curtains that aren’t wide enough creating an unappealing stretched effect. A common marker to ensure they are wide enough is to double the length of the window and buy curtains of that width.
Add some length or be very accurate depending on if you want the curtains to rest lightly, puddle on, or line up perfectly, with the floor. Note curtains that hover above the floor or ever so slightly touch gather less dust and are easier to open and close. The fabric is also less likely to fray.
Most manufacturers offer models in an array of sizes for all window sizes. If you go down the fitted route, double-check your measurements to avoid mistakes as they can be expensive due to the need for bespoke manufacturing.
Another feature that has impact on style is the heading design. Heading is the portion of the curtain that is connected to the curtain pole, track or rail. Depending on their style, headings can affect how the curtains hang and look. The most common are pleat, eyelet and rod pocket headings.
As the name suggests, a closed pocket on the top part of the curtain is sewn in to allow space for the rod to be passed through. The fabric then hangs freely below creating a neat effect that is ideal for more decorative curtain setups due to the sometimes difficult motion of drawing the curtains open and closed.
Tab top headings are designed as spaced tabs at the top of the curtain through which the rod is fed. These usually take the appearance of flattened hoops and are incorporated into the fabric of the curtain and appear at regular intervals for a clean, yet casual look. As with rod pocket headings, movement is harder than other options so we recommend tab top curtains for decorative and sheer curtains.
Back tab are similar to tab top headings in the sense that the rod is fed through spaced loops in the fabric, but instead of being visible, they are concealed by the curtain. They are better suited if you want to keep light from bleeding out of the window and want to keep heat from escaping.
Eyelet headings, otherwise known as grommets, are thick cast metallic rings spread out along the top of the curtain. The rod is then fed through the rings, which look like eyes, hence the name. This creates a fold effect at regular intervals in the curtain hanging below. The look is modern and sleek. They also open easily due to the smooth metallic rings.
Instead of being one type, pleats are a family of headings with a number of sub categories. Drapery hooks are attached to the curtains, then suspended on metal rings that the rod is fed through. They appear at regular intervals and create a neat pleat effect at regular intervals. They are traditional headings that have a rich history and they differ in terms of how close together the pleats are folded together.
Pencil Pleat - Pencil pleat curtains offer long pleats that are bunched close together to create many vertical, pencil-like folds in the curtain. The hooks can be moved around to create the desired width between them.
Double Box Pleat - As the name suggests, double box pleats offer two folds per drapery hook or clip. They are very formal in appearance and suited to traditional style rooms. Hook distance is fixed.
Triple Box Pleat - Similar to double box pleat, triple box pleat simply has three folds per drapery hook.
Single Pinch Pleat - With this pleat design, the fold is pinched forwards towards the room in a fixed position. The look is neat and relaxed.
Double Pinch Pleat - Similar to single pinch pleat, they have two pinches that connect together at the hook level.
Triple Pinch Pleat - Three pinches are connected at the top of the curtain to create a classic look.
Goblet Pleat - Instead of the pleat running from where the hooks are, it is positioned a couple of inches below. Two pinches connect together at this point to create the effect.
Lining is useful to provide added characteristics to your curtains. We have thermal lining, which is designed to insulate heat and works well in areas affected by long spells of cold weather. Cotton lining is designed for areas that get a lot of sun as it provides a protective layer. The layer then protects your curtains from fading.
Blackout lining adds thickness to the curtain to block out exterior light, either at night or during the day. The name comes from the curtains used during air raids in the UK during World War 2. Bombers would target houses with lights on in the windows to maximize the number of casualties. Blackout lining meant light didn’t escape into the street ensuring homes weren’t targeted.
Lighting and Privacy
Lighting is greatly dependent on the location of the window and in what direction it faces, plan accordingly and get a curtain type that works for you. Depending on the function of your curtains, it is important to know that heavier set curtains made with heavier fabric block out more light than lighter counterparts. As we’ve mentioned above, sheer curtains work well if you want natural light to shine through, yet want curtains that are decorative.
The same applies for privacy, particularly at night when lights are on indoors. If you want total privacy from prying eyes ensure the curtains are thick and are large enough to provide extra fabric along the top of the window as well as the sides.
10. Window Blinds
The best way to choose blinds is to understand what you are buying them for, in other words what function do they have; privacy, atmosphere, blocking out light, and insulation are possible reasons among many others. Here are a few features and points to consider before settling on a set of window blinds for your living room.
Types of Blinds
These are the least expensive and straightforward type of blind. A large strip of fabric is wound around a metal or heavy-duty reinforced cardboard tube and can be wound up and down depending on need. They are available in a huge variety of colors to suit any room color palette. You can even get some with intricate designs such as floral patterns, stripes and stylish graphics. Rollers are particularly good at excluding exterior light and provide a great deal of privacy notably when you buy blackout models. They also take up very little space as they can be installed into window recesses. Installation is very straightforward.
Arranged in vertical hexagonal cells, like honeycomb, these blinds fold up and extend like an accordion when they are raised or lowered. They can be single or double layered, and even lined, to ensure insulation by trapping heat inside the cells, regulating the temperature inside the room, both in winter and summer. They are known to reduce energy bills significantly thanks to their design. Though the technology is as advanced as it gets with blinds, the price remains very accessible, meaning you recuperate your money rapidly. They work equally well on small and large windows as long as you increase the cell size exponentially.
These are made of heavy-duty plastic or PVC and are arranged in horizontal slats. You can rotate the angle to either exclude light or let it in depending on need. During the day you can also angle the slats so that light comes in, yet prying eyes are unable to see inside making them versatile in terms of providing privacy. Modern versions are also available in more rugged materials such as wood, fabric, and aluminum. In addition, they are durable and water-resistant. Venetian blinds remain relatively affordable if you buy pre-sized models.
These blinds incorporate sheets of fabric that fold up when elevated to create a neat effect. Their rich history give them a traditional feel and they provide an elegant touch to any room. They generally let a decent amount of light get through and you can often see out of the window comfortably. They are ideal for very sunny areas where light needs to be controlled, but not subdued entirely.
Using an electric motor, the blinds can be raised or lowered via a remote control or mounted control set. They are generally made of a large sheet of fabric that moves up and down. Larger rooms are ideally suited for electric blinds, notably if you have numerous or elevated windows and want to raise all the blinds simultaneously with the press of one button. This makes them the blind of choice in terms of convenience. Certain models even have in-built timers that you can program to open the blinds in the morning and close them at night. Some are even temperature sensitive and will close at a certain threshold to insulate heat. Like roller blinds, they are also available in blackout versions for extra privacy. They are, however, expensive and require professional installation as well as a power source to function.
Made of woven pinoleum, these blinds scrunch up into ordered stacks as they are raised creating a clean, traditional look. They are generally see through, thus better suited as a decorative flourish that allows light to enter the room while retaining a degree of privacy.
Ensure you measure your window well before purchasing blinds. They generally sit inside the window reset so take measurements accordingly. If you have an uncommonly shaped window, go down the route of made to measure blinds, though expect to pay a premium as a consequence.
As you’ve understood from the types of blinds, energy conservation of blinds is a real consideration. The most benefits are felt in larger rooms with many windows and we highly recommend taking into consideration how well the blinds keep heat in and regulate interior temperature. The benefits are real and often negate the need to have a space heater or fan.
11. Massage Chairs
The two determining considerations for choosing the ideal massage chair are price and function. Your budget will largely dictate how much you can spend and narrowing down the reason you need a massage chair will greatly simplify the task.
Types of Massage Chairs
There are two basic types of massage chairs available. The first is therapeutic chairs, which are built to cater for defined uses of a medical and chiropractic nature. Niggling back pain or a long-term issue that requires daily treatment may be reasons for opting for a therapeutic model. Uses aren’t only limited to pain issues and include stress release, lowering of blood pressure and a variety of ailments throughout the body. These chaise are designed to complement the work of a chiropractor or act as a replacement for less serious issues.
The second type are hobbyist chairs that are a mass market option designed more for relaxation and convenience though some do include reasonable therapeutic benefits, though these rarely match those of dedicated therapeutic massage chairs.
Though the difference between the two is often blurred due to examples like a therapeutic chair offering convenience features such as programmable massage cycles, make your choice based on what you will use the chair for. Matching this with price should help you make an informed choice.
The next consideration is the list of features of a particular chair. These help determine how the chair will function and whether this works for you.
The massage track is essentially the base upon which the massage features of the chair are built on. There are three general styles; fixed-frame, s-track and l-track.
Found in the least expensive models, a fixed frame consists of a non-movable frame on which the massage heads are fixed. The heads are then vibrated to create a cyclical massaging motion when someone is seated in the chair. The experience is limited because the heads don’t move significantly. This cuts down how effective the chair can be in treating ailments that don’t align with the natural position of the heads. On certain models, the heads do have some movement, but it is once again limited to up and down, rarely anything more.
An S-Track, or spine track, follows the natural shape of the spine. The heads and rollers then run along this track to create a massage sensation along the length of the back rest. The experience is generally better than fixed-frame models because the rollers reach more areas of the body.
L-Track is the most recent track technology available and consists of an S-Track that runs all the way to just above the knees for added massage scope. This type of track is the most versatile, though the most expensive.
Number and Types of Rollers/Heads
In essence, the type of rollers and setup of the rollers determine the characteristics of the massage. Generally, most models have either two, three or four rollers, with a select few raising the number even higher for the best massage experience available. We recommend following the simple rule that more rollers/heads equate to a better massage. Stay clear of models built with balls rather than heads and rollers. This choice is cost-cutting and provides a sub bar massage.
Recent models also offer airbag modes that relieve muscles and help blood circulation. They offer added pressure in specific locations and are adjustable on many models.
Settings and Adjustments
A variety of settings and adjustments are important in order to have a satisfying massage. Every human body is different and the settings need to be changed to accommodate your particular shape and size. There are four types of chair adjustment designs to choose from.
The first is no adjustments at all. This is generally limited to entry-level models where the rollers are fixed in place. For most people, this is a waste of time and the effects will be negligible, if not nonexistent.
Next, we have manual adjustment chairs where a remote control allows the user to manually move the rollers or heads around to suit their needs. The process takes some times, but you only really need to set up the chair once and the settings will remain the same.
3D body scanning is the most modern type of setting adjustment. The chair scans the body for points of contact and pressure and changes the position of the rollers accordingly. Certain models can be inaccurate so ensure you check customer reviews before committing.
Finally, we have dual setting chairs with both manual and 3D scanning capabilities. The chair scans, adjusts, then you can make smaller adjustments for ideal positioning. This feature comes with a higher price, but it is definitely worth the extra money for the versatility offered.
Massage Techniques and Styles
These range from kneading, rolling, shiatsu, and tapping through to infrared heat. Techniques such as kneading and rolling are fairly standard features and come with most models. More complex styles like shiatsu, come with a matching price tag. Most of these techniques can be personalized by adjusting pressure levels, speed and length of the massage.
One of the most common is deep tissue massage, sometimes known as 3D technology, which adds an extra layer of massaging via rollers that work in three directions. The effect is a far more penetrative massage that works well for fatigued muscles.
We also have reclining chairs that ensure your body sinks further into the chair to maximize the effects of the massage. These are sometimes called zero-gravity chairs. There are also models with extra heat functions targeting different parts of the body.
Other options range from chairs that support the back to ensure sensitive discs aren’t burdened with the weight of the body to accupoint detection systems. Those with chronic pain who want some respite will benefit most.
Many models also offer massage options for parts of the body other than the back such as the legs, head, and feet. You can even get dedicated neck massager features.
Other more convenient options, include usb ports/Bluetooth to connect a music device, air ionizer blowers, chromotherapy lights, remote controls, LCD panels, cup holders and a variety of fabric finishes such as leather and memory foam.
No living room accessory is quite as representative of comfort as carpets. They can be crucial for creating a comfortable living room. They provide a rich, padded surface ideal for bringing that extra touch of snugness to a space. Of course, they have other uses such as warmth and noise absorption. As with the other factors in our guide, there is a whole catalogue of options to choose from in terms of color, fabrics, budget and durability. Here are the main points to consider when making that all important choice.
Carpets are essentially thousands of bunched fibers stuck in close proximity to one another to create a uniform services. There are four main types of fibers to choice from.
Nylon is known for being a durable fiber that requires very little upkeep and tends to recover well from spills and scuffs. It is also relatively inexpensive. We recommend nylon for traffic heavy rooms. The quality of the fabric works on a graded scale, which also signals the softness of the fiber used in a specific carpet. Use this as a marker of the nylon’s quality. Remember that you can expect a significant drop in quality as the price goes down.
A synthetic fabric, polyester is known for its softness and suppleness. Polyester carpets often have quite a bit of depth meaning they are harder to maintain and they do tend to lose some fibers through regular use. Durability isn’t as robust as other options and heavy traffic tends to reduce the springiness of polyester rapidly.
Another synthetic fiber, olefin is a polypropylene product that is durable and resistant to staining thanks to a weaved design that tends to conceal marks and stains. It is also very moisture resistant making it ideal for children and heavy traffic rooms.
A more modern type of fiber is triexta, a derivative of corn sugar. Like nylon, it is durable and very good against marks and stains thanks to its natural properties. Triexta is the fiber of choice if your have a dog or children.
A very common option, saxony is a velvety, plush cut pile that is comfortable, yet leaves indentations when vacuumed and walked on. Saxony is available weaved as well.
Berber carpets are made with loop pile tufts that vary in size and tend to accumulate dirt, but are very comfortable. The price is also high and they require quite a lot of attention to keep in a reasonable condition. They tend to tear easily as well.
Frieze is made of tufts that are twisted to create lumps that respond well to a great deal of traffic. Frieze is also very durable and lasts decades if maintained correctly.
Here we have a cut pile that incorporates multiple yarn colors and a variety of tuft grades. It works well for busy areas because it conceals marks and doesn’t keep the indentations made by feet. Busy families will benefit most from textured carpets.
Sculptured carpets are made with a mix of tufts to hide dirt. It is rather inexpensive and last a long time.
Measures of Quality
There are a number of measures that determine the quality of a carpet, but nothing beats touching it with your own hands and getting a feel for how resilient and comfortable it is. Otherwise, check the tuft twist, which details how many times they have been turned. The more twists a carpet has, the more durable it will be in the face of heavy traffic. High tuft twist levels mean less shedding as well.
Take note of the density rating as well, it lets you know how thick the fibers are and how close together they are. Bending the carpet and checking if you can see the base will let you know how dense it is. The more you can see the base, the lower quality it is.
Face weight is also a useful measure as it signals the weight of fibers within a square yard range. More weight tends to mean a more durable carpet. Check the warranty, notably the texture retention guarantee. This measure covers how quickly the fibers return to their natural position after being stepped on. Finally, the fiber construction may reveal how prone to shedding and tearing a carpet is. Look for bulked continuous filament as they are more resilient than standard construction methods.
Jen Miller is a former electrical engineer and product specialist with more than 20 years of product design and testing experience. She has designed more than 200 products for Fortune 500 companies, in fields ranging from home appliances to sports gear and outdoor equipment. She founded Jen Reviews to share her knowledge and critical eye for what makes consumers tick, and adopts a strict no-BS approach to help the reader filter through the maze of products and marketing hype out there. She writes regularly and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and MindBodyGreen.