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How to Decorate a Living Room Like a Pro

When I was growing up, there was a clear distinction between the family room, where the TV was, and the living room, where guests sat and children weren’t allowed.

Today, many of our homes have only one living and sitting space. So knowing how to decorate a living room has become even more important.

If your living room is looking a bit “lived in” as teens, pets, and sofa-surfing friends pass through, I’ve got some fantastic living room decorating ideas and tips for you.

To decorate a living room, consider its functions. Then, plan the layout, install lighting, and choose multifunctional furniture. Add color with upholstery, drapes, rugs, and accessories. Include textural items like throws, pillows, and plants to add interest.

A multipurpose living room needs a mindful design so that you can relax, entertain, and enjoy family and friends. We want our living rooms to be welcoming, comfortable spaces but practical and durable enough to stand up to family life. Let’s look at how to decorate a living room.

6 Simple Living Room Decorating Tips and Ideas

#1. Consider Functions

Modern living room with fireplace.

Whether you’re decorating a living room from scratch (luck you!) or rearranging furniture for a refresh, you need to know the room size and how you plan to use it.How you plan to use the room will impact your layout. Here are some examples.

In a living room for lazy afternoon reading and coffee, I’d want plenty of bookshelves, comfortable armchairs, and well-positioned reading lamps.

Furniture will face the TV if you aim to spend time watching movies or the big game as a family, Labradors and all. And that high-end glass coffee table will be a dangerous choice.

Cozy armchairs, fluffy throws, and low coffee tables are vital for a winter living room with a fireplace as the focus.

My grandad likes a chair by the window to watch the garden birds and a sturdy table for his binoculars.

#2. Measure Up

Take careful measurements of the floor size and windows before you order furniture, rugs, or drapes. It can be disappointing, expensive, and a major hassle to return items that don’t fit.

#3. Light and Dark

Living room with a floor lamp.

When you consider the function of your living room, you also need to think about how much natural and artificial light it gets and the mood you want to create.

Sunlight may provide ambient light during the day if you have a sun-drenched room. Consider which fittings can provide ambient light in the evening. Spotlights are effective, while pendants and chandeliers make a dramatic statement.

Include floor or table lamps as task lighting. For example, if you love to read or do needlework in the evening, you’ll need a bright light.

Accent lighting creates atmosphere. These lamps can be decorative, adding sculptural interest and color. If you have a beautiful collection in a display cabinet or a fabulous painting on the wall, install picture lighting.

If your living room is starved of natural light, hang a mirror to reflect sunlight and bounce it around the walls. A beautifully framed mirror doubles as a beautiful artwork to dress up the walls.

#4. Focus on Furniture

Gray living room.

Once you know what you need and how large each piece needs to be, you can purchase furniture. You need to buy only some of the furniture at a time: take time to source interesting pieces that fit your room perfectly.

Living room furniture is expensive, with the priciest item usually being the sofa. Invest in the best quality and most comfortable sofa you can afford, as you will spend a lot of time sitting on it.

The material you choose will depend on the room’s use. For example, you will need sturdy denim or corduroy covers for a family with pets. Otherwise, consider a plush velvet or soft leather sofa that will wear beautifully as scratchy claws are avoided.

Sofa colors also depend on your family. A darker-colored sofa will show fewer stains and spills than a white linen one.

Smaller living rooms require furniture that can multitask. Choose versatile pieces to move around to create extra storage or seating. For example, a coffee table with shelves or drawers for storage is perfect for magazines, books, or board games.

Ottomans can serve as side tables, footstools, seats, and storage for winter throws. They can also introduce on-trend color to a dated room: choose a muted, mossy green.

Nesting tables are an excellent idea as they take up very little space but can be taken out when you have company.

#5. Add Some Color

Blue and yellow living room.

Your walls are a massive potential canvas: paint them in a lush shade. Choose a color palette that will enhance comfort and relaxation. Trending shades are earthy, with warm terracotta, spicy mustard, and herbaceous green. Repainting is straightforward and will refresh your living room immediately.

If you’re a color novice, blue is always an attractive option. This serene color is always on-trend and works well with neutrals and brighter shades.

Wallpaper is in fashion again, with magnificent designs available. New peel-and-stick paper is ideal if you’re renting a home or want a quick change of scene. Going bold on a single accent wall with an outsize floral print adds a new colorful and textural dimension to your living room.

Gray couch and table lamp in front of floral wallpaper.

A rug of the correct size can transform your living room, anchoring the seating area and infusing the room with color. Ensure that the front two legs of furniture are on the rug. Even if you have carpeting, add richly patterned rugs to elevate a monochrome or neutral color scheme.

Neutral living room with patterned rug.

As the sofa is the largest piece of furniture in the room, you can use it as a gorgeous, bold centerpiece to inspire the room’s color palette. Update the look by getting new – washable – slipcovers made.

Living room with colorful couch.

If you prefer a more neutral-colored sofa, use armchairs for accent color. Designers’ trends have moved from matching suites to a harmonious combination of colors, styles, and materials.

Curating your living room shelves is vital to the living room’s design. Set the tone by combining cherished family heirlooms, eye-catching books, and unexpected pops of fun: a cheap but beautifully shaped vase, a holiday trinket, and a family photo in a homemade frame.

Couch and shelf.

You need not spend a fortune on colorful decor for the living room. Houseplants add life to any interior, bringing in freshness and lush greenery. They are ideal for Boho and eco-chic interiors.

Living room with plants.

#6. Add Texture

Purple velvet sofa, coffee table and beige rug.

Humans are very visual creatures, so we tend to focus on color and shape in design. In living rooms, though, the sensory delights of texture are vital to our comfort and relaxation.

One way to add texture is through upholstery: soft leather armchairs, plush velvet sofas, crisp linen slipcovers, and smooth, glowing wood.

Drapes can provide warmth and textural interest, especially if you choose an embossed or velvet fabric. They’re a relatively expensive purchase, so choose durable fabric that works with your color palette.

Living room with embossed drapes.

Add another layer of texture in pillows, throws, and ottomans. I like to change these items seasonally – putting out the woolly red throws and festive pillow covers has become a ritual in our home.

Throw pillows on couch and ottoman on black and white rug.

Contrast soft textures with bright metallics, glossy stone sculptures, and sleek glass furniture.

Texture is essential in living rooms with a neutral palette. If you’re not styling with color, experiment with contrasting textures and effects: think of shaggy, nubbly fabric, tasseled cushions, sequinned pillows, and lush rugs.

Final Thoughts on Decorating Your Living Room

Decorating a living room begins with choosing and placing functional furniture in the ideal place. Add ambient, task, and accent lighting. Infuse the room with color and warmth through paint, upholstery, and accessories to make a place your family and friends can gather.

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