Noa Santos’ Rules for the Perfect Living Room

Noa Santos’ Rules for the Perfect Living Room

Noa Santos’ Rules for the Perfect Living Room

Our CEO and founder shares his guidelines for achieving living room luxury—from lighting to layout.

Have you met our CEO and founder? Besides being a businessman (and business, man)—he’s an incredible interior designer. Before founding this very company he studied architecture at Stanford and worked at a high-end interior design firm. He’s designed spaces for everyone from Leandra Medine to the Sweetgreen founders (to boast just a little). We figure he knows a few things—and when he doesn’t he definitely knows who to ask. Look out for more of his musings on the Magazine.

Let’s be honest, your living room is likely where you spend the most time. It’s the main spot for unwinding, entertaining, and everything in-between. But designing the right space isn’t as easy as enjoying one—here are my rules for crafting a living room you’ll love.

Rule 1: Figure out the function

The perfect living room should spark conversation. To start, decide if your living room is a showpiece or if it’s a place for you to veg. If it’s about entertaining and being fabulous, opt for a sparsely decorated furniture plan with lots of room and ultra-modern, not-necessarily-super-comfortable pieces. But if you want a space to relax, err on the side of cozy and configure it towards how you’ll use the space—either oriented towards the TV or the fireplace or whatever you plan on enjoying most.

Rule 2: Think about how people talk to each other
This is one of my pet peeves. When you’re having a conversation, do you automatically sit on the same side as that person? Not likely! Arrange seating across from each other for other—two sofas facing or a sofa and a pair of chairs—for optimal chatting.

Rule 3: Don’t “underdecorate” in small spaces

I see this all the time—people have small spaces so they think that means they should fill it with fewer things. They’re worried about the space feeling too cramped, so they go sparse. One sofa and they’re done. Consider all the needs you’ll have in a space and be thoughtful about positioning furniture or other items for optimal conversation, drink landing spaces, etc.

Rule 4: Plan for transitions

Think about all the different times you’ll use your space. It needs to be able to function in the daytime, at night, for movie watching, for cocktails. Good living room lighting gives the versatility to do all of that well. Whether you have lamps with bulbs that have multiple settings or all of your lighting on dimmers, you want to be able to control the wattage. The best lighting is hardly noticed. I’m currently obsessed with the Philips Hue Collection, which lets you control the color and tone of the light via app. If this is the future, I’m super here for it. Imagine, suddenly your living room is all violet and ready for a late-night rager (not really…. But really).

Rule 5: Don’t ignore the TV

Obviously, it’s not the most attractive thing so hide it if you can, whether it’s through custom cabinetry or tricks of the eye. Surround your TV with artwork or choose a TV that literally turns into artwork like Samsung’s Frame.

Rule 6: Balance comfort and class

If you need your space to do double duty, opt for furniture that can ride the line between formal and casual. Choose a sofa with formal lines but down-filling for maximum comfort. If you’re interested in reclining, a Mid-Century Modern, Eames-style piece just won’t do on it’s own. Balance neater lines with layers of oversized pillows or a snuggly fur throw. The right accessories can take a sofa from being cold to more comfortable.

Rule 7: Pick a side with your coffee table styling

I like coffee tables that are extreme—either very sparse with an artfully placed objet or two or ones that are filled with books and candles and you name it. Have fun with your coffee table styling, it’s incredibly easy to switch up.

Rule 8: Go all the way

People are always asking me what I’m sick of as far as statements or wall designs in a living room. “Where do you stand on gallery walls? Accent walls? Etc.?” But the truth is, everytime I say I’m sick of something I see someone do it well. What matters is commitment—when you semi-commit to an idea is when it doesn’t work. If you’re going to do a gallery wall, make it an oversized, floor-to-ceiling affair. If you’re painting an accent wall, don’t pick a color that’s almost a statement. Pick something that’s daring. Light it in a way that highlights its contrast. So often accent walls become kind of a crutch rather than painting a whole space. People think if they paint the whole space in blue might be an issue, so they do an accent wall. The issue is you actually have to pick the right blue and put it on all the walls, not the wrong blue on one wall.