Formal living room ideas – what is important to know for design and decor?

by Kremy

traditional style formal room with glass coffee table sofa fireplace

Formal living room ideas have a special charm and you may hear that these rooms are the successors of drawing rooms. Very often people get confused and use living room and family room interchangeably or ask what the difference between a formal living room and an informal living room is. We shall explain the differences between all these rooms as there are some remarkable ones and we will also point out the factors that distinguish a formal place from an informal.


Formal living room ideas – understanding the main features of formal premises


what is the main difference between formal and informal iving room


To start with the most important question – what is the difference between a formal living room and an informal living room?

The location is one of the main differences as formal living rooms are usually located at the front part of the house near the entry while a family room or informal living room is typically located near the kitchen. Depending on the layout plan, the dining room could be connected to either the family room or the living room. Another difference which determines whether one space is formal or informal is the access to the backyard. A formal area, being located at the front of the house, typically does not have a door to the backyard. However, modern house architecture features open plan spaces which utilizes living space so in modern homes a formal room could be planned to provide a view of the home exterior, landscape and external environment.

The purpose (the function) – this is another difference. Formal areas are meant to accommodate guests and visitors, i. e. – for formal entertaining, not so much for everyday living.

The design and decoration also differ so that they are in compliance with the function of the room. You can decorate a formal area in any style provided it works with the overall design concept of the house so besides being elegant and sophisticated, everything – from color palette to furniture- should be carefully and wisely chosen. Remember, that this space creates the first impression for the home and for the homeowners, so it has to reflect your lifestyle, individuality and personal taste.

The concept of the design of a family room will differ as it is meant to accommodate family members and close friends and offer comfort and convenience so there is much more freedom in the design and decoration. This is usually a multipurpose space for the various activities of the family – from watching TV, listening to music, having a drink in front of the fireplace or doing some work on a computer.


Formal living room ideas – design concepts and decor styles


formal chic living room ideas furniture and decorating ideas

We have selected some beautiful formal living room ideas which could be of help when you plan the design concept, the decoration and the furniture. We shall look at the basic elements and will give you some ideas for the color schemes and finishes of formal spaces. For example, you will never see bean bags, colorful cushions, floor cushions, piles of books, an oversized sofa, a computer or a TV over the fireplace in a formal area. These items are not at all formal, so they have no place in the front room. So, how to design a formal living room? Here are some tips and ideas which you can use as guidelines.

Determine the area which will perform the function of a formal place. Consider the zoning of the room – this will depend on the available space, of course, but you can group furniture in different ways and arrange one or more sitting area and define cozier spaces.

Choose a theme and concept. This is the first step that you need to do as it will define the overall appearance of the space. It is true that nowadays designers come up with many interesting and original ideas yet you should remember that this is the space that presents you to the visitors and you can arrange a unique and personalized interior. You can choose from many different options – all white, traditional, neutral, ethnic, baroque – whichever theme suits you. Obviously, a nautical décor is a logical choice for your holiday home by the sea shore and will look ridiculous in the mountains and a traditionally styled space will not fit in a contemporary or minimalist house. The theme of the decor will define the color palette, the accent colors, etc.

Walls, floor and ceiling design – as these are the largest and most noticeable elements in any room décor, you need to choose calm, elegant colors. Avoid bright colors or contrasts unless you deliberately want to add visual interest and the space is large enough. Small rooms look better in neutral colors which are a good background for wall art, furniture, etc. Fabrics and wallpapers can be used on all walls or as a covering for an accent wall which will help you define a focal point. There are many options for the ceiling design as well. Crown molding, ceiling medallions – these would be stylish and elegant details which will add to the sophistication and the exquisite look of a formal area.

traditional living room formal decor ideas black accent walls

Fabrics like curtains, upholstery or carpet add texture to the room interior and complement the design concept and theme. Luxurious fabrics like velvet, silk or brocade are ideas as window treatments and create an atmosphere of sophistication. One detail that should not be overlooked is the choice of curtain rods. Metal or wooden curtain rods have to complement your drapery. Choose double rods with stylish and decorative finials as they will allow you to hang a sheer curtain and a denser and heavier one so that you do not block natural light and preserve the privacy of the home at the same time. Rugs can be used to divide the separate zones, if you have more than one. An ancient Oushak rug or a beautiful overdyed rug, for example will be a good idea.

Furniture is especially important. As we said, the purpose of a formal room is to have and entertain visitors, so you need to make sure you have elegant and comfortable sitting furniture. Typically, it is a sofa, armchairs, sometimes a sofa set, if the space is enough. Choose the color and fabric to work with the style of the décor.

Light is just as important in a formal living room design, as in any other room of the house. If you are a fan of large crystal chandeliers – this is the right place for having one. Complement it with wall sconces, table and floor lamps with stylish lampshades and make sure that the room is well lit at any time. Modern and contemporary interiors will benefit from lighting fixtures with a large size and a sleek look. Drum chandeliers or originally designed wall sconces will give you the modern vibe and the look.

Decorative accessories, artwork and plants would add the final touches to any formal living room. In terms of design, the options are limitless. Think of adding a large mirror over the fireplace, for example. On the first place, it will reflect light making the room visually bigger and lighter. In addition, a beautiful frame can be a decoration itself, so you can enhance the style and the theme of the interior.

Artwork is one of the best statement-making accents. Large paintings over the fireplace are an immediate focal point, for example, but if there is no fireplace in the room, you can hang artwork on the walls and cleverly use the artwork to introduce accent colors to the room thus adding visual interest to the walls or even create a dramatic effect. Keep in mind that the frames of paintings are also a decorative element and straight lines will be an ideal choice for modern interiors while ornate and carved frames are more suitable for classic and traditional decors. Add lights above the paintings to illuminate the artwork.

Sculptures also have their place in a formal area, however, remember that this is not an exhibition, so choose smaller artwork which will not steal the attention and distract your visitors.

In a formal setting you will need vases of fresh flowers and potted plants to add freshness and energy to the atmosphere. This is the perfect way to fill an empty corner and the room will not appear cluttered with furniture.

Family heirlooms are also a great accessory for any formal setting. You can use the mantelpiece to display them or arrange your precious items in built in cabinets around the fireplace with glass doors and inside lighting. Artwork from your travels in different countries can be used to add to the atmosphere of the room as well.

traditional style formal living room with chandelier and fireplace sofa armchairs

Enjoy the magnificent formal living room ideas in the gallery below!



white gray design for formal interiors

what is the difference between a formal living room and family room

stylish and elegant formal living room in neutral shades

how to decorate formal rooms color schemes furniture

formal living room floral area rug crystal chandelier

formal living rooms stylish design furniture ideas

Formal living room ideas modern classic interior decor ideas

formal living room furniture ideas with sofa coffee table fireplace

formal living room furniture fireplace crystal chandelier

formal room furniture and decor ideas living spaces

contemporary open plan formal living space with white furniture

chic drawing room in neutral beige color palette

beach style decorating furniture ideas



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