Designer Minnie Kemp explains the style secrets to creating the perfect living room

Minnie Kemp on the ideal colors, pieces and texture choices to make a living room to hunker down in

A red sofa and cushions in a traditional living room with vintage artwork
(Image credit: Anna Stathaki)

There is nothing better than sinking into your favorite chair with a book and a cup of tea after a long day being fabulous, or sitting soft after a lovely home cooked meal.  Maybe you love hosting salon style drinks parties with all your pals or perhaps it’s Friday night TV and board games sitting on the floor around the coffee table, tails wagging.  

Whatever the weather, when considering your living room ideas there has to be a focal point - without one it’s pretty impossible to build the rest of the room.  As tempting as it might be to erect a black rectangular box above your fireplace please don’t do it! Artwork doesn’t have to be expensive and having one centralised in the room makes all the difference.  Most recently I designed an entire scheme around a painting by Katherine Hamilton bought from the Campden gallery.  The scene depicts two women dressed in yellow at a sewing machine.  The background is a vibrant turquoise with dark crimson strokes illustrating a flickering light.  It’s a visceral painting, a snapshot that when I look at I can hear the whir and tap of the needle going through thread.  

Artworks are emotive and help to build a story in your interiors, way better than concerning yourself with living room TV ideas; great places to hunt for reasonable pieces are Seam Agency, Partnership Editions, Wandering People and Wicklewood. 

How to get your living room furniture right

Apartment living room with plaster pink walls and white sofa

(Image credit: Kristy Noble)

Light and scale are other key ingredients to making a space feel good.  If the furniture is too large the whole place will feel cramped, while small pieces in a large room will make everything feel out of proportion.  When you're thinking about how to design a modern living room, the height of the furniture has to be right. The arms on a sofa shouldn’t be too high otherwise you are propped up and uncomfortable and too low you just fall straight off!  A coffee table should be no higher than 46 centimetres – you shouldn’t feel as though you are making an effort to put your feet up!

The perfect living room colors

Farrow and Ball Red Earth

Red Earth by Farrow and Ball, across the top of this room, is Minnie's favorite living room shade

(Image credit: Farrow and Ball)

Light is everything. Look at the aspect of your living room, if you are north facing and the room is dark I would lighten up the flooring and woodwork (always use a matt finish) why not add a bright rug from Anne Selke or Tim Page to lift the space? Don’t use heavy dark fabrics; lighter warm colors will make the space more inviting. In a south facing room where there is lots of light you can be a bit more daring, denser colors with depth like orange and denim look great on the walls. When it comes to living room color ideas, my go-to paint color is Farrow & Ball Red Earth; I call it a dancing colour as the shades seem to change throughout the day and, after that long day being fabulous, do you really want the fabulosity to stop when you sit down?

Minnie Kemp
Minnie Kemp

Minnie Kemp is an interior designer, part of the team of design experts at the Firmdale Hotel Group. She has worked on the interiors of international hotels such as The Whitby Hotel and the Crosby Street Hotel in New York, and Ham Yard and Charlotte Street Hotel in London. She has also been involved in designing various residential projects in both the Unite States of America and the United Kingdom. She is the interiors columnist for Livingetc, reporting on trends and offering advice on home design and decor, and she was a judge on the first Livingetc Style Awards in 2021.