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Amanda Hanley by Design

A Great Reception – tips on decorating your living room

Amanda Hanley explores key flavours in living room style to inspire new looks to personalise your home
Amanda Hanley by Design

"Don’t select the colour of your walls first"

Reception or living rooms are often decorated with a view to being used for entertaining guests, and therefore in some ways designed as the ‘public’ face of a home


Some will prefer to create an oasis of calm, or choose décor that sets a more informal atmosphere than elsewhere. Others will want to be very traditional or perhaps mix contemporary, traditional and continental styles.

Here we explore key flavours in living room style to inspire new looks to personalise your home.

The key to establishing a look is colour. Bold, deep, vivid, unexpected colours employed individually against grey or stone, to moderate the impact, or together (if you have the nerve) can be used to fabulous effect.

This is where a feature wall in one strong shade or wallpaper can be used to transform a room.

Amanda Hanley by Design


Think about curtains, sofa, floor colour and wall finish all at the same time. Don’t select the colour of your walls first, and don’t rush the process. Let it unfold like a pack of cards. Think about the whole.

Another important element is texture. The unexpected addition of an unusual material, such as a velvet-covered armchair, sumptuous linens or a chunky chenille cushion can make a real statement. This can turn a dreary room into one that dazzles.

The featured ‘Howard’-style chair, for instance, is covered with game birds and is absolutely stunning. Pieces like this will never disappoint, and this one is perfect for the Cotswolds. It is one of our most popular looks, is easy to work with, stylish and will look as if it has been there forever.

Consider well-designed, unfussy furnishings. Antique furniture or classic designs can be given dramatic new lease of life when looked at afresh, perhaps with the addition of traditional upholstery with contrast-coloured buttons and piping. Don’t stick to the usual rules. Be bold, play around and have fun!

Whilst the big picture is important, individual items can make a real difference. This is a chance to include eclectic accents, vibrant rugs and cushions, intriguing light fittings, mirrors, wall art, or fabulous window treatments. It may be something as discreet as a coloured-glass vase or a bookcase with books ‘disarranged’ in rainbow colour order. That this look does not take itself too seriously is what makes it such fun. Set the trend.

Furniture should be close together. Don’t isolate objects, pieces of furniture or certain areas. The room should flow so that the eye can move over everything in one sweep. You should get a comprehensive overview rather than singling things out, or making furniture feel static and formal.

The most welcoming homes are those that feel informal, relaxed and decorated with the confidence to be personal and feel lived in. They are not scruffy or cluttered, but neither are they pristine and untouchable. They look elegant, yet invite guests to curl up on the sofa; beautifully decorated, yet not stiff, and most of all, they reflect the character and personality of the owner and the way in which they live.

Collect objects or ornaments with a similar theme to make an impact and show personality. Any object can look pretty if treated in the right way. Displaying something that is not usually displayed can turn it into a piece of art. Love things for their imperfections. Choose some salvaged pieces as a style statement.

The relaxed approach is about balance. Always remember that not being too ‘precious’ about things is key to making a home feel relaxed. Make regular changes and your ‘public face’ will always look fresh to the world.


- Amanda Hanley


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