Should Living Rooms Be Formal?

Q. How do we know how formal to make our living room, Irwin and Nicola? (Steve and Bobbi in Tuscon, Arizona)

A. Steve and Bobbi, this is a popular question. Forgive us for answering it with even more questions, but bear with us. There's a method to our madness.

Take our quick survey: Is your lifestyle formal or informal? Is your personal design style or preference formal or informal? Do you live in a buttoned-down neighborhood, city, town, or region? How formal is the architecture of your house? How many square feet do you have to play with in your house, and do you have the luxury to devote an entire room towards a more formal and traditional living room concept? How often do you entertain? Do you have a big family? Do you feel you want or need a formal living room because you grew up in a house with one, or do you admire the formal living rooms that your friends or other family members have? You can see where we're going with these questions. The answers will steer you in the right direction.


Here is a photo of a formal Long Island, NY interior designed by Irwin Weiner Interiors. The homeowners are avid art collectors. They wanted to display beautiful contemporary photographs in their living room. We went shopping with them in Paris and hit the flea markets and antique stores to find an eclectic mix of art deco furniture with clean lines that wouldn't fight with the art, but blend with the pieces in an interesting and edgy way. We gave the idea of a formal living room a big twist by combining great modern photography and artwork with more classical furnishings, rugs, lighting, and window treatments. This couple has a large home with a media room/den, a formal dining room, and an eat-in kitchen. The formality of their home's architecture, a large space that could be devoted entirely to a traditional living room arrangement, and their enjoyment of cocktail parties and frequent entertaining for large groups pointed the homeowners to the conclusion that a more formal living room space would be the ideal focal point for their home. Steve and Bobbi, this solution may be dead wrong for your home. You could have a big family, live in a casual desert locale, have a house short on usable space, and lead a more casual personal lifestyle. These elements would lead you to veto "formal" in favor of a mixed-use living room where everyone can relax, hang out, eat impromptu meals or snacks, watch television, and come together as a family or enjoy time with neighbors and friends. We hope our questions and explanations will help steer you in the right direction. Good luck!

Jay JohnsonComment