Informal living room Nest Interior Design Ryan Fulton

Formal living and dining rooms used to be the norm.  We all know the room, the one  with the white carpet that only got used once or twice a year.  And, even when it did get used, everyone couldn’t wait to high-tail it out of there after Great-Aunt Norma went home.  

Does your home have one of those type of formal rooms that rarely gets used?Wondering how to make the most of the space, so that there is a reason to go into that part of your home?  Wanting to love this room, and it feels absolutely impossible?  We can help!

Let’s use that valuable square footage for something your family will actually enjoy, and create a space that has a friendly, warm vibe and welcomes you in.  Easier said than done, you are thinking, aren’t you?   

Here is our step by step guide to creating your new favorite room in the house!  This “formal” living room was only used to open presents on Christmas morning.  That is not an exaggeration.  So, we set out immediately to make this space better for their whole family.  With great natural light and good proportions, we were already on our way to transformation!

This was how the room had been laid out since the clients bought the home, almost twenty years ago.  It was full of items from previous homes, but they were ready for the space to be finished and meet their needs.

Formal Living Room Nest Interior Design Ryan Fulton

After asking the client some key questions, the plan began to formulate.  The clients have always wanted a fun, swanky bar cabinet as they love to have friends over and mix up specialty cocktails.  They also like to play games as a family, do puzzles and occasionally work from home.  Ideally, they would have a space that allows those things to not happen - just not all on their kitchen table.  If this room could layer in all of these things, it would become the new favorite destination for this busy family.  

So, we got to work dreaming about this space, and came up with a new layout that fit all of their functional needs.  This is always where we start.  Until you know what the ideal layout for the space is, you cannot even begin to start looking for the individual pieces for a space.  When we get really precise on the size and scale of each piece that is needed for the room, we can’t begin searching for the perfect items for the room.  The bonus of this is that knowing exactly the size and number of items we need greatly simplifies the sourcing/shopping process.  We instantly know if that sofa is too big or too small.  We know we don’t even have to look at that game table as a possibility because it doens’t have a pedestal base.  Because we need our game table to cozy right up to the window seat, we know we absolutely need a pedestal-based table.  Make sense?  So much simpler to shop!

This room had been “formal” and under-utilized for far too long.  The space needed a welcoming and comfortable layout that drew everyone in, and became an asset for this busy house.  

This new layout added room for a new window seat under the window, a game table, a comfortable Sunday-afternoon-nap kind of sofa, and a swanky bar cabinet.  Function, function, function.  It is okay to be REALLY ambitious about what you want your space to be and do for your family.  

So, this is what we came up with and WHY! 

Formal Living Room Nest Interior Design Ryan Fulton 2

Annotated Floor Plan Nest Interior Design Ryan Fulton

This clients home had a traditional style and layout, but they didn't want the room to feel entrenched in a stuffy or static aesthetic.  We layered in lots of texture, with just a hint of boho to give them a room that felt current, but still belonged in their traditional home.  First came the area rug to "anchor" the space.  The adjoining spaces had blue accents, so we found something that brought those colors and tones into the space.

Boho area rug Nest Interior Design

This piece has a great scale and aesthetic.  The scale is modern, and the whole piece has an artisanal vibe. 

We needed a sofa for this room that was beyond comfortable, or we knew it wouldn't get used.  By selecting a skirted piece, we give the sofa more visual "weight" and combat the "legginess" of the coffee table, bar cabinet and end tables.  When there are too many legs in a space, the whole room begins to have a restless feeling.  Like everything is about to walk off on all those legs....

Luella Sofa Nest Interior Design 

Next we knew we needed a swivel lounge chair that could be spun around to talk with family and friends in the adjacent family room.  


Swivel leather chair Nest Interior Design Ryan Fulton


Next we knew we needed a game table that would stand up to sweaty iced tea glasses and cocktail shakers alike.  The game table was going to need to be 40" in diameter, be able to cozy right up to our new, built-in window seat, and have a super-durable top.  This marble-topped beauty was PERFECT!Tulip Table Nest Interior Design Ryan Fulton

Over the new game table, we needed to add a pendant light on a dimmer switch. This will allow different light levels for different tasks in the room.  This pendant light is highly-textured and was chosen specifically because it didn't feel like a kitchen or dining light.  It looked like it belonged in a game room or cocktail lounge!  


Rope pendant light Ryan FultonThe client had been dreaming of fabulous bar cabinet where they could store all of their prettiest glasses, shakers, pitchers and serving trays in an area that didn't clog up all of their kitchen cabinetry storage.  Plus, bar cabinets are just downright fun.  They instantly telegraph that the party is about to start!  This Anthropologie bar cabinet was just the right size and vibe for the new room.  

Anthropologie bar cabinet Ryan Fulton

By tucking one game chair next to the bar cabinet and one at the game table, we gave this room flexibility and a casual, conversational feel.  By utilizing skirted game chairs, we were able to hide the utilitarian casters.  Comfort is key - these pieces are definitely built for "sit-and-stay-awhile" lounging.  

Skirted Game Chair Ryan Fulton


 Next, we wanted to utilize a generously-scaled coffee table that would allow lots of space to spread out snacks, cocktails, or even extra puzzle pieces that wouldn't fit on the game table.  This wood-toned coffee table has a traditional feeling, but a modern scale.  Spooled manor cocktail table

Next we needed something cozy and unusual for the new window seat cushion fabric.  Blue and tan wool plaid hits just the right note of informal and cozy for this new family space.

Wool Plaid Sanderson Ryan Fulton

With a pair of end tables on either side of our new sofa, we needed large lamps for this space that has 10' ceilings.  These glass and brass lamps are scaled properly, but don't feel heavy or overly modern.  

Visual Comfort Lamps Ryan Fulton


 In any inviting, entertaining space, it is helpful to have flexible pieces of furniture.  These ceramic garden stool can be pulled around to be used as extra table, if someone needs another spot to rest their drink, or if the host needs another surface to hold specialty cocktail ingredients.  

Garden stool Ryan Fulton

Perfectly sized, this garden stool feels like it might be an antique or a vintage piece picked up on a trip somewhere.  The glossiness of the ceramic finish is a lovely juxtaposition of smooth and rough, when placed next to the bar cabinet.

Finally, we come to the finishing touches for the space:  paint and wallpaper.  Often paint is selected absolutely last in a room.  With literally thousands of choices, paint is often the easiest to select for a space.  By waiting for the end, we can easily know the other finishes and textures in the space, we can find the perfect hue to complement everything else.  

Benjamin Moore's Manchester Tan is the perfect backdrop for this room.  Not too light, not too dark, it completes the room beautifully.

Benjamin Moore Manchester Tan Ryan Fulton

For the baseboards, window and door casings and crown molding, we selected Benjamin Moore's Mayonnaise, in a semi-gloss finish.  

Benjamin Moore Mayonnaise Ryan Fulton

Because this room has soaring, ten foot ceilings, we needed to treat the ceiling of this room with extra care.  Instead of leaving this area undressed, we opted to paper the ceiling in this gorgeous, textured grasscloth that blends the blues and tans together beautifully.  Wallpaper on the ceiling adds instant softness and makes the space feel incredibly special.  

Thibaut grasscloth Ryan Fulton

Are you ready to knock the formality right out of your formal spaces?  Tell us all about your rooms, we would love to hear all about your design journey!  

Informal living room Nest interior design

Would you like some expert advice from our Nest team?   We are here for that, too!

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January 24, 2021

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