Are you afraid to admit that you don't really like what your interior designer did to your living room? You spent all that money and all that time only for it to look like a picture in a book, like a stage set, like a lie. It's just cold.
If your living room doesn't reflect your lifestyle, you can still give it some personality without risking sticky-kid-fingers or man-vs.-coaster disasters. Having a cozy living area is like having a beautiful silk pillow. It's mostly for show, but that doesn't keep it from being soft and inviting. If your main salon doesn't have near the appeal of a really cozy blanket, there are some things you can do to put out the welcome mat and wrap your arms around your family and your guests.
Exchange the Couch for a Bed
What's wrong with the idea of making the biggest, nicest room in your home a boudoir? And if there's a fireplace in there, so much the better. OK, not really. Leave the snoring, the blanket snatching and the late night gas attacks in the "master" bedroom. Become a monarch in your own home by claiming the one room that really "gets" you -- the living room.
This is just our cheerful way of saying that formal rooms take themselves too seriously. They're like the popular kids in high school or the tony country club that makes you feel you don't quite cut the mustard. If the president isn't coming to visit any time soon, lighten up. Peek behind that curtain of refinement and find your room's sense of fun. That decorative serving tray perfectly positioned on your ottoman will actually support a cup of cocoa and a dish of cookies every once in a while. The couch is probably a primo spot for a nap, too.
Designate It an In-law Free Zone
Let's put this delicately: In-laws are a bit like outlaws. When they show up, they come bearing issues. If you find yourself getting a migraine every time your family visits, a few well-placed hints will keep them out of your living room. If your parents or in-laws think TV is for the devil, then make sure your huge entertainment center is right in front and the surround sound speakers are in every corner. A roll of crime scene tape wrapped around the banisters and strung from the doorknobs is a nice touch, but don't rely on subtlety. Change the locks, and if they do manage to make it through the wreath of garlic you mounted on the door, barricade the bathrooms. (That'll show 'em.)
Having a nice area to entertain may encourage undesirables -- hey, you may love your in-laws but wish your mooch of a brother would forget your address. Whoever your pesky guest happens to be, don't let him get toxic all over your special space. It'll spoil the good vibrations.
Pad the Walls
You've probably been wondering about this ever since you had kids. Those rubber rooms in the movies -- you know, the ones in the sanatoriums that always seem to have great landscaping -- have soft walls look so clean and safe. You may want to avoid the mental ward route (if you can manage it), but that doesn't mean you can't take a hint from the décor. Soft wall treatments give a room personality and a cuddly quality a simple coat of paint just can't match.
There are a number of ways to go, here. You can use one of the dozens of specialty paint techniques designed to look like everything from leather to lichen. You can actually apply fabric to the walls, too. This works well when you have a chair rail around the room. You can apply fabric with liquid starch above or below the rail without having to mar your walls -- and unlike wallpaper, it's as easy to remove as it is to apply.
Make it Personal
Visitors love to snoop around your home. If you connected your guests to a lie detector, how many do you think would have to admit to peeking in your medicine cabinet? Are you blushing?
Visitors and friends are curious about your family, so make your living room more fun and friendly by putting a few personal touches out there to keep folks entertained. Photos, a novel you're reading, an afghan you crocheted yourself or a collection of shells from your last vacation are reminders that your space isn't an impersonal showroom somewhere, it's a home inhabited by interesting, vibrant people.
Offering visitors a couple of carefully positioned diversions will also keep them from discovering that barbecue stain on your favorite decorative pillow and the secret stash of Mallomars you keep behind the chair cushion.
Install a Chocolate Fountain
Everyone has a room but you. The kids are like free range chickens pecking around the kitchen, family room, backyard and everywhere else they can't cause a disaster of epic proportions. Your significant other has a garage and maybe even a man cave. Even the dog has a nice mudroom complete with a personalized water dish. What do you have? A corner of the kitchen counter for your craft projects? A spot under the bed for your shoe collection?
Make the living room your "desert" oasis by installing a -- wait for it -- yours only, leave it alone on fear of death chocolate fountain. Yes, you too can indulge your sweet tooth with a rippling tower of liquid love in the most prized room in the house. It's inspired. Your living room probably isn't used much, so it's the perfect place to provide a passionate interlude with the one constant in a hectic life -- a heaping serving of the sweet stuff, and we don't mean low-fat yogurt.
Seriously, use your living room for something other than looking at samples when the Avon lady comes calling. Use it for fun. Build a fire in the fireplace and roast marshmallows. Help your kids construct a fort out of the couch cushions where they can spend the afternoon pretending they've just conquered the world. Life is short. Use it or lose it. What are you waiting for?
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- Furniture Distributors. "Decorating Your Great Room to Make it Cozy." Undated. (3/10/11).http://furnituredistributors.wordpress.com/2010/05/26/decorating-your-great-room-to-make-it-cozy/
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- House Beautiful. "This Is What Cozy Decorating Looks Like." Undated. (3/10/11).http://www.housebeautiful.com/decorating/cozy-decorating-0409
- Our Suburban Cottage. "Creating a Cozy Room with a Vaulted Ceiling." Undated. (3/10/11).http://oursuburbancottage.blogspot.com/2009/03/im-not-huge-fan-of-vaulted-ceilings.html
- Rounds, Jessica. "How To Make Any Room Feel Cozy."1/21/11. (3/10/11).http://www.corearchitect.co.uk/room-cozy/
- Thunderbay Press. "Do-It-Yourself Decorating." Pyramid Books. 1996.
- Walton, Stewart and Sally Walton. "The Complete Home Decorator." Anness Publishing Ltd. 1997