Staying in is the new going out: How to make your home a cosy social sanctuary

People now want to come home after work to the plush cosiness they would get if they went out for drinks or food, writes Denise O’Donoghue

“It’s all about being cosy”

Truer words were never spoken. However, interiors blogger and journalist Kate Watson-Smyth doesn’t mean your trusty leggings or fluffy socks, but your sofa and living room.

Kate was speaking at the Staying Inn event in London earlier this month. The event was comprised of six beautifully styled lounge spaces, showing DFS’s new collection of sofas and dining ranges. Kate was joined for a live podcast recording by interior designer and television presenter Sophie Robinson, her ‘The Great Indoors’ co-host.

Sophie Robinson and Kate Watson-Smyth, ‘The Great Indoors’ co-hosts, who recorded a podcast at a Staying Inn event in London this month. Picture: Alun Callender

The pair touched on a number of topics, but the idea of staying in as the new going out, and of styling your home to suit that lifestyle, grabbed my attention as I sank into a sofa in the plush surroundings of the Staying Inn, as a guest of DFS.

My boyfriend and I recently bought a house, so while my mind is filled with swatches and samples. I’m also aware that any socialising plans will have to take a back seat, while all of our funds are wrapped up in renovations. However, after a few hours of inspiration, I’m now planning the perfect social sanctuary at home, where we can hibernate through winter. ‘In-in’ will definitely be the new ‘out-out’ in our home.

More and more people are opting to gather in houses, rather than travel to pubs or restaurants, but many of them are bringing some aspects of those areas to life in their homes. In a recent survey across Ireland and the UK, DFS found that 60% of those who took part in the survey say it is important to them to be able to entertain at home, and a third are turning to the hospitality industry for interior design inspiration.

Sophie and Kate say they have noticed more homes becoming social areas.

“The way we design our homes, and continue to do this open-plan thing and create very sociable spaces, it’s encouraging people to think about hanging out at home more,” Sophie says.

Kate, however, says the trend has more to do with people wanting to be comfortable after a long day, rather than to be sociable.

“It’s not about entertaining. It’s about making your home a space, where, at the end of a day at work, you want to come home to. If I come home from work, the last thing I want to do is get dolled-up,” she says. Kate also enthusiastically welcomes the shift from FOMO (fear of missing out) to JOMO (the joy of missing out), an attitude being embraced here in Ireland.

Two-thirds of Irish people now proudly cancel their plans to meet up for dinner and drinks, so as to make way for a night in on the sofa, according to the research from DFS.

Kate also says that people are becoming bolder in their interior design choices, thanks to the influence of bar and restaurant decor.

Sofas are a focal point of most living rooms, and the duo shared their top tips for picking the perfect one for everyone’s space and lifestyle. 

DFS is showcasing its new collection of sofas and dining ranges. DFS Capsule Calm wing chair €629

Sophie is all about comfort, even if it means spending a little bit more of your budget on your seating.

“I’m not saying you have to spend loads of money, but you have to get a sofa that is comfortable and if that means spending a bit more, I think that’s worth investing in, so I’d start there, just because it’s something that affects your experience of that room,” she says.

Kate agrees, adding that a nice sofa can disguise some cheaper design choices.

If the floor is not everything you would like it to be, or if you haven’t had time to paint all the walls, get a comfortable sofa and loads of low lighting and no-one will ever know the difference.

Velvet is another trend that is perfect for creating a cosy atmosphere.

“I think velvet is here to stay, because the technology of it has improved. It’s now wipeable, durable, stain-resistant. It’s comfy, it feels good,” says Sophie.

Kate agrees: “It feels luxe-y. We like velvet.”

DFS says it has seen the sales of velvet sofas and armchairs increase more than three-fold in the past year. There has been a 355% increase in velvet coverings since 2017. They are seeing more people buying different sofa and armchair ranges together, in the same order, too.

“The increase in sales of velvet coverings, and the desire to mix different styles, is a really clear reflection of how the nation is designing its living rooms,” says Lauren Harris, senior designer at DFS. “Our research shows how much people love to stay in, not as a compromise, but as a reflection of our homes being a place we find joy, and in which we love to host.

“That trend for ‘hometainment’ is something we’re constantly designing for, with our new collections delivering an eclectic mix of styles, from luxuriously sized corner units from which to gather friends and family, to beautiful, jewel-toned velvets used across accent chairs, sofas and sofa beds.”

The Staying Inn Urban Bar Area: DFS Trafalgar €2,079

While friends and family gather in your home, Sophie recommends using photos and art to spark conversations on the couch.

Group all your pictures together and put them on one wall, rather than dotting them all around the room. Create what we call a gallery wall. It has a lot more impact.

Working with the space you have, instead of the space you want, is vital, especially if you have a smaller living room.

“Measure the doors,” Kate advises, ahead of purchasing something major, like a sofa. “I think lots of companies will take the arms off, so you can get detachable arms and legs. It’s always worth asking if the arms can come off or the legs.

“The other thing is just use masking tape on the floor, for the dimensions of the sofa, so you get a sense of how much space it’s going to take up.”

There are ways to make a room look bigger, and adding legs to your furniture is a surprisingly simple option, with a big impact.

“For small living rooms, furniture on legs really help,” says Sophie, who has worked as a designer on BBC One’s home makeover programme, DIY SOS.

If you can see a little bit of floor under a sofa or chair, it helps the space look bigger. It allows the eye to travel underneath the furniture, heightening the sense of space.

Kate agrees, adding: “The more floor you see, the bigger the space looks.”

Listen to the Great Indoors here:

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