Our extract this week is from Décor Galore, the latest book by DIY (or should we say She-IY) queen, Laura de Barra…
WHO IS SHE?
The living room! What a fabulous place to start. (*Flings open gold-handled double doors, throws hands in the air.*) Lovely, isn’t she? Let’s make our way to the couch. I have a story and a smörgåsbord for you before we get into her routes, zones and pit stops. You and I love her as our ‘living room’, but, like many other icons, she has had many names and styles throughout the years. Early in her career she was the parlour, from the French word parler, to speak: a grand room to entertain guests, but only for drinking and talking, never to dine. Then she was the drawing room: less formal but still glam, usually located off a dining room, where you could take closer gal pals for a more intimate hang. The sitting room was another living room, where just the family would sit – no guests here.
The oddest branding of all was her time as the death room. I know what you’re thinking, but it has nothing to do with Sunday hangovers lying on the couch. During the 19th century, as people began to live in smaller homes (*leans in, whispers still massive*), it was where they waked their dead. You see, up until this stage she was always the best-dressed room in the home, as she was the only one seen by guests. This is why she would also be near the front of the home, so guests would not have a chance to see your less favourable quarters. This made her the perfect spot to host a wake and to take posthumous portraits. You know, those eerie staged photographs taken of people after they’ve died?
I know what you are thinking: how on earth did she take on such a drastic rebrand and go from a death to a living room? As the century came to an end, the death rate was on the decline and the conditions at funeral homes had improved. It was then that an article in the Ladies Home Journal suggested that readers reclaim their death room, jazz her up and reinstate her position in our lives as a ‘living’ room. This idea really took off, as you can imagine, and became quite popular in Europe and the US. People were now able to bring a more relaxed social room to their homes that was not as guest- or death-focused and made for them alone. Rejoice!
To be quite honest, this came at the perfect time, as lifestyles were changing and people were working more. The new interior wave was to have a space in which to do nothing. Radios and TVs were also appearing, so the lounge-style living room was fast becoming the queen of the home. This gal’s routes will usually be from the door to the couch, but as we mostly now have living areas that are part of multi-use spaces, there will be routes to other zones, such as dining areas, kitchens or our outside space. This is all important to bear in mind for things like rugs and freestanding storage, as these can really affect movement through such a relaxed part of the home.
Pit stops here will usually be on top of storage units or the coffee table, so it’s good to keep these in mind when buying anything new. You can keep these pit stops as open or as hidden as you like. Zone-wise, the main zone here will be the couch and then smaller zones may be where we read, work out or make a martini on a Thursday evening . . . In short, these zones are all focused around one thing: relaxing. A space to do nothing
When I think about my living area, I always think of it as the place for leisure time. This is why I prefer to call it a lounge. It conjures up images of lying in a wide-leg cashmere trouser, reading a thick magazine on a slow evening off. The word lounge feels less chaotic and more laid-back than living room. Say it with me: loouuungee. Whenever I have to set up, decorate or purchase something for a lounge, I always start with one question: ‘How do they like to spend their downtime?’ It never fails to make a living area work well for the end user. If I make this my starting point and keep it in mind when choosing furniture, colour, artwork, lighting and storage, the lounge zone gradually becomes a sanctuary. Speaking of purchasing, here are the things that I find essential for a great lounge set-up, a simple ‘go to’ if you are starting afresh or feel you may be lacking something.
Décor Galore by Laura
de Barra is published by
Transworld Ireland, and
is available now.