By Kate De Palma
If you’re lucky with square footage, your home may have two separate living areas: a family room and a living or sitting room. You may use the family room on a daily basis while the sitting room may be the nicer, more formal room used to entertain guests. (Growing up, my mom refused to let us kids anywhere near her Queen Anne sitting room chairs!)
You can probably picture what a family room “should” look like (a sofa set, coffee table, TV, etc.) but you may have more trouble when it comes to a sitting room. You may be wondering, “What is a sitting room anyway? How is a sitting room different than a living room? What sitting room furniture do you need? Does it have to be formal?”
Get ready to have all your sitting room questions answered with this quick guide that’ll start with what a sitting room is and take you through some simple sitting room ideas.
Sitting Room vs. Living Room
Nowadays, these terms are used fairly interchangeably, though some argue that there’s still a difference when it comes to the size of the room. Namely, a living room would be a larger room meant for socializing while a sitting room would be a smaller version of that. Or, if you live in a particularly large or formal house, you may even have a sitting room just off of the bedroom.
Designed to entertain guests, a sitting room would historically be decked out to impress with the household’s finest furniture and décor. As you may have guessed based on its name, sitting room furniture was all about the chairs. Accordingly, sitting room chairs were traditionally large and in-charge. We’re talking lots of cushioning and plenty of room to make guests comfortable after a long stagecoach trip. Today, a sitting room and its décor is under no such constraints (but the oversized chair is still a popular option!), so feel free to decorate with whatever types of seating and tables you wish.
Need some sitting room furniture ideas to get you started? Here to help are five quick tips on how to pick furniture and style your sitting room.
1. Work to the Room’s Advantage
If you happen to have the perfect sitting room image in your head, make sure that image is taking into consideration the room itself, including windows and overhead lighting. Sticking an accent chair in a dark corner doesn’t do much good if you plan on doing lots of reading in said chair. Instead, work with what the room’s already got.
For instance, if you’ve got a fireplace, take advantage of that by creating a welcoming sitting area with some dramatic accent chairs. While there’s no hard and fast rule for how to style chairs around a fireplace, don’t feel like you have to have the chairs facing the fire if you never even light the dang thing. Consider keeping the room looking open rather than closed-off by turning the chairs away from the fireplace and towards the middle of the room, a set-up that’s both inviting to the eye and helpful for entertaining purposes.
2. Know Your Options
If you think all there’s to a chair is four legs, a seat, and a back, you should maybe spend some time on House Tipster familiarizing yourself with different chair styles because when it comes to chair types, there are a lot of them! As with other pieces of furniture, different chair styles will give your room a completely different look, and from small accent chairs to oversized comfy chairs, there’s something for everyone.
Take the wingback chair, for example. Also called easy chairs, these chairs are recognizable by their signature “wingback” (a tall back with sides that swoop out like wings), and make great statement pieces. Hailing from the 17th century, they’re often seen by the fireplace thanks to the way the wings can shield you from overheating. Don’t have a fireplace in your sitting room? Not to worry. In modern décor, they can be found anywhere from the ends of a dining room table to under a bright, cheery window.
3. Know What Look You’re Going For
While they’re no longer relegated to exclusively formal atmospheres, wingback chairs may still imbue your space with a sense of grandeur you may not get from smaller accent chairs. If this is something you’re going for, great! If not, you can always choose to play down the elegance factor of the wingback chair thanks to a wide variety of upholstery types and patterns you can choose. If that still doesn’t sound like you, a different chair style may be a better fit.
Whether you opt for a wingback or another style, make this piece the focal point of your sitting room with a pair of them stationed side-by-side or across a coffee table from each other. Or, fill up a corner with one in your favorite style and color, side table optional.
4. Think About Space
If you have a large sitting room, you may opt to have two different seating areas, one larger one perhaps, with a sofa or sofa set, and one made up of a pair of accent chairs for a more intimate gathering.
If your sitting room is smaller, you may opt for a single seating area comprised of a couple of accent chairs or a loveseat/accent chair combo. The key is not to feel like you have to have certain pieces (other than some kind of seating, ideally). Depending on size, you may only need a pair of chairs and a little side table for the room to feel complete and not cluttered.
5. Think About Function
When designing your sitting room and chair arrangement, you should also think about the function you’d like the space to play. Consider what kind of gatherings you tend (or want) to host, and think about what kind of space works best for your entertaining need, whether it’s one sitting area for large group conversation or smaller, separate spaces for more intimate settings.
Once you’ve got the layout under control for your sitting room, get ready to enhance your décor with these decorating tips for your sitting or living room.
Images used with permission, courtesy of Kate De Palma