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Most of us have spent an extraordinary amount of time homebound in recent weeks. Perhaps you are inspired to give your digs an updated look, especially the living room. 

Whether you want to design a magazine-worthy environment or just a place to comfortably hang out, we can help you create your ideal space for Netflix binging, family fun or quiet solitude. Here are a few tips to get you started on how to redecorate your living room. 

Find Out What you Like

Blue and wood living room

A great way to get started is to explore design work done by others. 

Catalog offerings from Pottery Barn or Ballard Designs help you envision not only the specific piece of furniture you might be interested in, but also how it looks within a room. Other catalogs that are fun to explore include Room and Board, Grandin Road and the gigantic volume from Restoration Hardware

Even if the product line is beyond your budget, use the catalogs as inspiration. As you go through them, tear out pages of rooms or furnishings that appeal to you, and you will start to get a better sense of what constitutes your personal style. 

Pinterest is also a great way to collect images that you like. By setting up your page, you can gather styles and items that appeal to you and invite collaborators such as your spouse or your bestie to add to your collection. It is also a great way to pin images from retail sites so that when you see things online at stores, you can refer to both source and price. 

There are also several design bloggers that are active on Instagram. Some trending sites right now are @thespruceofficial, @biggerthanthethreeofus and @nataliemyers. A favorite Instagram account will lead you to a blog, and a blog will lead you to other blogs, and following your favorites can teach you how the looks you like came about. 

Another source of inspiration is Houzz.com. The site has tons of photos, informative stories, how-to information, links to professional resources in your area and shopping. 

Once you sign up on the Houzz site, you can use specific search terms to browse photos and collect ones you like into “idea books” that will become a part of your account. Houzz also lets you invite collaborators, and you can make notes on the pictures you save in order to better identify what appeals to you about the design used in the photo. 

Each photo on Houzz also has questions and answers that others have posted, so that you can learn more about the items in the photo, including information straight from the designer or contractor involved, and sometimes the prices and sources of specific items. 

Look to online home interior specialty sites such as Joss and Main and One Kings Lane for design advice. Both sites post articles and photos, “Shop the Look” photos and other information that can help you pull your room together. These sites also provide the opportunity to save items you like and collect them in a cohesive fashion for later review or purchase. 

Once you have collected your images, it’s a good idea to let a little time pass and go back and edit them. Eliminate things that you feel less in love with and start identifying the commonalities in your remaining photos. This process is less about identifying a specific decor style and more about identifying the look that you want for your own place. 


Define the Room’s Main Use

Sun filled living room with grey couch and gold curved lamp.

Before getting started with any furniture buying or putting paint on the walls, take the time to determine the main purpose of your living room. 

In previous generations, it was common for the living room to be a place used only when company came, and its design was usually more formal. Today, people want an appealing space that gets used; however, how it is used can make a big difference in your design plans. 

Will you use the living room as your main place for TV watching? Does your living room need to be kid-friendly? Will you need to have a place to keep toys, games, puzzles? Will you use your living room for entertaining guests? Or are you considering making your living room a calming space for peace and quiet?  

For many of us, the answer to each question is “Yes!” so take some time to consider how much time your room will be devoted to each function and decide upon a primary and secondary function. 

This will help you determine the number and type of seating, storage pieces, furniture arrangement and overall formality level of your design, and the best way to spend your design dollars.

Thoughts About Color

Modern black and cream living room with.

While you may have an idea about what colors you want to use in your living room, it is best to finalize your paint color after you’ve had the opportunity to pick out your main furniture pieces, especially your upholstered pieces. It is much easier to pick out a paint color that coordinates with your sofa than picking out your sofa to match your paint. 

If you are buying new upholstered pieces, make sure you get a fabric sample to carry around with you, including your trip to the paint store. If you are using a piece you already own, take a seat cushion cover or pillow cover with you. 

Some colors are notoriously difficult to match. Both gray and yellow fall into this category, as these colors are formulated with a wide range of undertones which will impact your efforts to coordinate color. 

Related: 5 Great Ways to Incorporate the Pantone Color of the Year in 2020

It is especially important to keep those fabric and paint samples with you. If you are planning on purchasing your upholstered pieces online, most vendors will provide a swatch upon request that you can utilize in your planning. 

If you are stuck trying to decide which colors coordinate, consult the color wheel for guidance. 

You can choose complementary colors (opposite each other on the color wheel) to create a more vivid and stimulating room, analogous colors (two or three adjacent hues on the color wheel) for a more harmonious and calming environment, a triad color scheme (based on three colors on the wheel equally distant from each other) or a monochromatic scheme when one color family is used in various shades and tints. 

When using the color wheel for inspiration and planning, remember that although the colors are vivid on the wheel, your use in design can range from pure to neutralized to muted shades of those colors, similar to the way you see colors on a paint sample strip.

Color wheel

In your living room, consider using three colors: a dominant color, a secondary color and an accent color. 

Your dominant color will be used extensively and repeated in the room, such as on your large upholstered pieces, walls, or wall-to-wall carpeting. 

The secondary color is utilized a little less than your dominant color to create interest and balance. You might employ it on smaller upholstered pieces or window treatments. 

The accent color is usually bolder and used sparingly on home décor accessories or trim on upholstery.

When choosing your living room colors, keep in mind that a color scheme you carry throughout your home in various ranges of depth can provide you with a beautifully coordinated and cohesive look. It also allows you to relocate your pieces and accessories from one room to another as you desire. 

Plan the Furniture Arrangement

Mid century modern living room with cool and warm color tones.

Get out your measuring tape and start planning how your furniture should be arranged. 

Remember the old saying, “Form follows function.” This means that your room’s main purpose will help you define its form or floor plan. If you are looking for a quiet spot to relax and read or a central TV watching space, plan your furniture accordingly. 

Use graph paper and measure EVERYTHING, pay attention to pathways and doors and the distance between furniture pieces. Measure the height of your seating pieces and your side tables, too. 

Too many different heights can make your room appear unrestful as your eye will jump around to the different elements. In the planning stage, make sure you have enough room to navigate through the room, usually about 30” for a pathway. 

You do not want to have to squeeze by pieces of furniture to get where you need to be. Generally, in furniture planning, less is more, and fewer pieces than you might think will create the look you are seeking. 

Make areas for conversation by grouping a chair or two by your sofa or placing two chairs angled towards each other. Pull your furniture away from the walls to create a more welcoming and inviting space. Sectionals are popular (and comfortable), but they can limit your flexibility in furniture placement.  

For TV watching, there are guidelines available online that will assist you in placing your TV at the proper height and distance from your seating area, depending on the size of the TV. This is especially important to evaluate if you are planning on wall-mounting your TV. 

              

Be Cohesive, but Not “Matchy”

Grey chair with blue throw blanket.

Decorating your living room is an investment in time and furnishings. You do not want a room that feels dated in just a few years. One way to give your room a longer life is to aim for a cohesive look, but not a matching look.  

Your non-seating pieces can be in a mix of finishes, such as a painted piece and a stained wood piece. For cohesion, the style and scale of the two pieces can be similar. 

This also gives you some flexibility in the future as your needs or tastes change as you can exchange one piece to update your look and not have to eliminate a complete set. 

For upholstered pieces, many furniture showrooms display pieces together, such as a loveseat, chair and sofa, all in the same matching fabric. This can make for a rather dull room, and a more updated approach would be to have a solid fabric colored sofa with chairs in a coordinating print. You can use the print colors in other décor items in your room, such as lamps, pillows or throws to create a more interesting environment. 

Over the years, different metal accents have had their moment. For years, using brass items was like putting a label on your room that said it was designed in 1992. Today, brass is having a comeback, and copper is a new favorite. 

Oil rubbed bronze has its detractors at the moment, but it is a more neutral approach than choosing brass or copper. There are many other metal finishes you can utilize, such as satin nickel, brushed stainless or pewter. Whichever you decide, keep consistency in tone and try not to mix more than two metals within your room. 

Pay attention to what metal accents are on your lamps and furniture, what color any decorative nail heads are on your upholstery, and the finishes on the metal accessories that you want to include such as vases, bookends or fireplace screens. Too many different metal elements will feel disjointed.

Add Texture and Symmetry

Living room with bold black and white patterns and warm wood elements

In addition to color, texture adds interest to a room. This is why a fluffy throw looks so inviting on a couch, or why we are attracted to certain rugs and fabrics. 

A lack of texture is also why a room full of all leather seating pieces can seem cold. Add texture by including natural elements such as woven baskets, jute rugs and nubby fabric pillows in the same color as other room elements. 

Wall art can add texture by using framed natural or abstract items, such as shells, agates or paper sculptures. Use texture to make your room feel like you want to touch and examine its elements. 

Symmetry creates a feeling of balance in your room, which is generally pleasing to the eye. Centering your couch between two end tables with lamps is an example of symmetry; however, repeating multiple design elements in pairs can be a bit boring. 

Instead, slightly modify your pairs by doing things like using two different styles of end tables while keeping the lamps at the same height or using non-matching but coordinating throw pillows on your couch.

Personalize your Space

Your living room should reflect your interests and your family’s activities. 

Expand beyond family photos to include souvenirs from travel, mementos of milestone occasions such as your wedding, and items that reflect your hobbies or career. Keep your room cohesive by grouping your collection of personal items by interest and in odd-numbered groupings of 3 or 5. 

If you have a collection of some type, curate it so that your finest examples are on display, and group them together for the most impact.

Lighting and Window Treatments

Two white chairs sit next to a gold table.

After you’ve planned your furniture selections, arrangement and colors, your work is not complete until you have evaluated your lighting needs as well as your window coverings. Since you have already determined the main use for your room, this should lead you to choose the proper task lighting, whether it is for reading or TV watching. 

Table lamps or floor reading lamps will most likely have a specific place in your room, and at the same time, it will be important to make sure that your lighting choices do not create glare for TV watching. Accent lighting can be used to highlight wall art or architectural features of the room, and ambient lighting can be used to fill in the gaps and make your room feel more inviting.

Window treatments can make a huge difference in your living room. Custom professionally fabricated blinds, drapes or cornices can provide an instant upgrade and tie your various design elements together. Make sure you leave room in your redecorating budget to consider having this professionally done, because it is an investment. 

Even though retail drapes and blinds are not inexpensive, they can be a very disappointing purchase for a number of reasons:  Drapes are usually not lined or weighted, which affects how they hang; they do not come in custom measurements so that your room’s unique needs are met, and the fabric selections are limited.

Wall Art

Three piece floral panel hung above a fire place.

Art on your walls can achieve several design goals. It can help personalize your space, promote your secondary or accent colors, and add warmth to the space.  

Choosing a piece that is big enough, but not too large for the space is critical, as well as hanging the item at the right height. Most guidelines recommend hanging your art at “eye-level,” but if you are much taller than average or shorter than most, adjust the height accordingly. A helpful method is to cut out a piece of wrapping paper the size of your artwork and tape it on the wall to check out the scale and placement. 

Eclectic living room design with funky wall art in blues and oranges.

A gallery wall can create a stunning focal point when you combine similar images together. If you choose to hang similar items that are all the same size, then your frame choice should be the same for each one. If your items are different, yet cohesive, then you can be a bit more creative by keeping your frames in the same color or wood tones with variations between them. If your items have all the same colors, then you could experiment with a mix of frames.

Try to avoid putting something on the wall just because the space is there. This can degrade the work you have done on the rest of the room, and result in a disjointed look. Instead, savor the opportunity to collect something unique and personal to you, whether it be a print of a favorite movie (your first date?), a graphic of song lyrics, an object from your childhood or the start of your personal art collection.

Updates to Consider, High-End and Low-End Options

Seating

Classic leather club chairs are great for a reading nook.

Bar Cart

Love to entertain? A stylish bar cart is a must. Here are two silver-toned options.

Statement Rug

Moroccan style rugs are prized for their graphic qualities.

Media Cabinet

An industrial look cabinet for your TV and electronics can be an unexpected addition to your living room

Versatile Pieces

Pieces that are multi-functional are clever and save space. A bench like this would make a great coffee table, ottoman or extra seating in your room.

Something Round

Sometimes it’s important to soften all the square edges in the room. These wood end table examples add a nice organic element to the room.

Table Lamp

A glossy, ceramic table lamp is a great way to add a colorful accent to your room.


If you’re inspired to make a change in your current space, understanding these few basic design strategies and employing a bit of planning will help you make your living room an enticing place to be.

You might also be interested in: Our 7 Favorite Full-Size Loft Beds for Adults

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Posted 
May 8, 2020
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