Robert Downey Jr.'s living room seating is a masterclass in small-space styling, and it is easy to replicate

Sink into comfort with a hardworking seating area that will enhance the layout of your space

Robert Downey Jr
(Image credit: Getty Images / JULIEN DE ROSA / Contributor)

Increasing the sense of space in rooms that are small in stature is a design issue everyone wants to solve. The best compact designs combine charm and practicality, especially when choosing living room seating. It was a challenge that interior designer Tom Fox of Fox-Nahem Design undertook – and mastered – in Oscar winner Robert Downey Jr.'s home.

After a mattress, buying a sofa or armchair is among the most significant purchases that you will make for your home. Not only must they be extremely comfortable, suitable for hours of sitting, but also look the part as defining pieces of furniture. As a result, buying them is quite technically challenging: you need to consider the size and shape, but also filling, form, and material durability in addition to aesthetics.

While we find ourselves buying practically everything online, this should be avoided when it comes to seating. Instead, you need to try out as many different designs as possible and ensure that it doesn't encroach on your existing space. Nothing can replace the instant feedback that you get from taking a seat.

‘Getting the living room furniture right is one of the biggest challenges in design,' explains Mike Fisher, creative director and founder, of Studio Indigo. 'This needs to be a practical space, whether for watching TV or creating good conversation. What you choose needs to be stylish and contribute to the personality and harmony of the space. Inevitably, I find people often gravitate to the smaller rooms of a house as they are more intimate and cozier, whereas big rooms can make you feel small and uncomfortable. Be bold with your little space and use large-scale furniture sparingly to give the illusion that the room is grander than it is.’ 

It’s not only about the aesthetic of your chairs, but the ergonomics and comfort they will provide. The first step is to measure how your chairs will fit around the table. Consider nearby doors or cabinets that might restrict the amount of space when moving around, and use this to determine which chairs are the right fit.

The beauty of this Fox-Nahem design is its versatility. A seating niche can be designed to fit into any room of the home, from the living room, dining room, or kitchen to a playroom. A custom-built version like Downey Jr.'s – with a wall-mounted table – is an easy way to recreate the look in your own small or long living room.

A design-led option is an investment, so choose a style that you truly love as this will make you happy for years to come. If you’re unsure how a chair will look within your scheme, create a mood board to visualize how the colors and materials will work, and consider if you want a piece that will demand maintenance or a durable option that can withstand a busy lifestyle.

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Jennifer Ebert

Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.