Updated April 6, 2023
The living room is the heart of almost every home. It’s a place for relaxing, for gathering, and for entertaining. Trying to come up with design ideas for a living room that’s comfortable, inviting, and stylish can be much harder than it seems. Read on for a few tips and some inspiration for designing (or redesigning) your living room.
Whether you’re starting from scratch in a new home or redesigning your existing living room, the place to begin is with a concrete plan for your furniture layout. You can do this before you start buying new furniture or moving your existing furniture. The first step is to measure out the dimensions of the room. Hopefully, your living room is rectangular or square, so all you have to do is measure the length and width. If you have a more polygonal living room, you’ll have to measure each wall. Once you’ve got those measurements, sketch out a floorplan either on paper or using a computer. Software like SmartDraw can help you easily draw up your blueprint and play around with furniture arrangements.
Once you’ve got your floorplan, you can start plotting out where your major furniture pieces will go. You can measure your existing furniture and look up dimensions for desired future purchases, but estimates will do in most cases. Step one in designing a layout is to choose a focal point, a significant feature of the room that the other furniture will be oriented around. A fireplace is a great focal point if you have one. The television is probably the most common focal point in modern living rooms.
You should arrange your seating around your focal point. You don’t need to point every seat directly at the object of focus, but a person should be able to see the focal point no matter which seat they choose; make sure none of your seating is facing away from the focal point. Place your large items like couches and loveseats first, then use smaller chairs to fill in the gaps. Remember to leave enough space between furniture for people to move around the room!
If you have a rug, you should place it in the centre of the seating arrangement. The edges of the rug should overlap with the seating by a few centimetres. Coffee tables should also be placed in a central spot, leaving enough space for people’s feet but not so much space that it’s hard for them to reach the tabletop. End tables, if you have any, should be placed immediately to the sides of couches or chairs. End tables are a great way to fill in the corner gaps of a rectangular seating arrangement.
The next step is laying out your lighting. Unless you’re planning a massive renovation, your ceiling lights probably won’t move too far. If you have hanging lights like chandeliers, it’s best to align these in a central location above the seating arrangement. Floor lamps are most effective in the same places that end tables would go: to the sides of couches or chairs. Smaller table lamps can be placed atop end tables or on shelves.
Speaking of shelves, these should be placed against walls wherever there is space. The same goes for cabinets and other furniture. Wherever you place them, make sure they’re not impeding people’s ability to move easily through your living room.
Once you’ve laid out your layout, you can move on to a more artistic part of designing your living room: choosing the colour scheme. If you’re already happy with the colour of your walls, that’s fine. But adding a fresh coat of paint is an easy and inexpensive way to punch up the look of the room.
When deciding on what colour to paint your living room, there are a few things to consider. The first is what kind of mood you’d like the room to have. What will the room’s purpose be? A living room meant primarily for watching television will invite a different vibe than one meant for entertaining guests. For example, you might choose a darker, warmer colour (brown, burnt orange, gold) for a TV room or a brighter, cooler colour (blue, violet, grey) for a social room.
The amount and type of light in the room will also help dictate your paint choice. A living room that receives plenty of natural light is pretty flexible; most colours look good in such lighting. Consider, though, at what time of day you will normally be using the room. Will you normally use the room during the day, with the drapes thrown wide open? Or will you usually be there in the evening, watching television with all external light shut out? Dark colours mostly work only in rooms with strong lighting; otherwise, it gets a little too dark. Bright colours look great in bright lighting, but they can also bring a little extra light to a dark room.
Even with those considerations, it can be very hard to narrow down your choices. After all, paint is available in every colour you can imagine. The first thing to contemplate is what colours you like. You’re going to spend hours upon hours in your living room; there’s no reason to paint it a colour that you don’t love. If you already have your furniture, you can also consider choosing a paint colour that compliments it.
Choosing a colour scheme of complementary colours can get quite complex. To help, at least at a basic level, you can use a colour wheel tool, such as this one. With this type of tool, you can explore many different colour schemes that are complementary or analogous. Start with the colour of your furniture pieces and see what complimentary colours you could use for your walls or vice versa.
When in doubt, you can’t go wrong with white paint or any of its off-white cousins. White or off-white walls allow you to use virtually any colour of furniture and decorations. Wallpaper is also a good choice if you want a flashier look than the solid colour of paint.
If you’re starting from scratch in a new home, buying a whole suite of new furniture can be a daunting task. Even if you want only a couple of new items to freshen up your living room’s look, it can be hard to decide on pieces that work with your existing décor. Deciding on your living room’s colour scheme helps eliminate some of the indecision; at least you know what colours you’re searching for at the furniture store.
With colour in mind, where do you go next? Start with the basics. Nearly every living room will include a couch, an armchair, a side table, and a coffee table. Depending on the size of the room, you may want two or more of any of these items. Your floor plan will come in handy when determining if a piece will fit within your grand scheme.
Particularly when it comes to your main furniture pieces, buy quality. Furniture with sturdy frames and high-quality, stain-resistant fabrics will be worth the extra cost in the long run. You should also focus on livability; a couch may look absolutely breathtaking, but if it’s not comfortable to sit on, what’s the point?
Once you’ve got your basics down, you can give some consideration to additional pieces. Floor and table lamps to supplement your windows and ceiling lights are important. If your floorplan features too much empty space, you can fill in some of the blanks with shelves, cabinets, ottomans, or additional seating. Shelves and cabinets are a must if you know you’ll need storage space, and they also provide an additional venue for displaying small decorations. If you’re strapped for space, but you still need storage, opt for ottomans, coffee tables, or even couches that have built-in storage.
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A bunch of couches and tables clustered together don’t quite add up to a living room; you need some personalized touches to make it a comfortable space. That’s where pictures, wall art, and other knickknacks come in.
Empty walls make a room look unfinished, which is something you want to avoid if you’re trying to design a stylish living room. Even a few pieces of wall décor hung here and there go a long way to improving the overall look of your living room.
There’s no definitive rule for deciding what to display upon your walls. Of course, you don’t want artwork that clashes with your colour scheme. At the same time, you should choose artwork that you like. It doesn’t matter if a piece matches perfectly with your furniture and your freshly-painted walls if you hate it. Large posters or tapestries are great for covering huge blank spaces, but a series of small pictures laid out as a wall gallery looks great too. What you display in your living room is truly your choice.
The best approach to living room wall décor is to learn the basics and then go wild with your creativity. Wall art should be hung at eye level. An exception would be pieces hanging above furniture; these should be 10-15 cm above the furniture item. When you’re hanging multiple pieces in close proximity, as in a wall gallery, you should make sure that there is uniform spacing between them.
You don’t necessarily need a rug for your living room, but it does wonders to tie things together. Most living room designs include a rug centred within the seating area. Depending on the overall design for your room, it can be difficult to find the right rug. It’s important to match the colour and design of the rug to the overall theme. After all, the rug is a central piece of the living room.
Living room rugs should cover the floor across the whole sitting area. For large rugs that cover most of the room, there should be 25-50 cm of space between the edges of the rug and the wall. Smaller rugs that are contained within the seating area should overlap the front of each couch or chair by 3-10 cm.
Couch cushions are one of the easiest and cheapest ways to pump up your living room décor. You can find cushions in any colour and pattern, so you’re sure to find some that complement the style of your room. Rule number one with cushions: they shouldn’t match the couch! They should match some of the complementary colours in your colour scheme. Find cushions that harmonize with your major art pieces, or your rug, or the paint on the walls; don’t choose cushions that camouflage with their couch.
Lighting is an aspect of living room décor that is often overlooked due to its utilitarian nature. The right lighting setup can elevate your carefully designed room to new heights.
There are three types of lighting to be concerned with, and you will almost always utilize at least two:
The main source of lighting will be your ambient lighting. It is light that blankets the whole room, and almost always comes from the ceiling, either from recessed lighting or hanging fixtures. It is important no matter what the main use of your living room is. If your living room is mainly a television-watching space, dimmable ambient lighting is a nice upgrade to consider.
Task lighting is used to illuminate small areas. While less critical than ambient lighting, task lighting is important if you plan to use your living room for reading or other activities that benefit from a focused source of light. Your table lamps are a great source of task lighting for reading.
Finally, accent lighting is used to highlight certain features of the room, like your focal piece of artwork or a prominent mantle. Accent lighting is nonessential, but when carefully deployed, it can have a dramatic effect.
Once you’ve created your perfect living room, the last thing you want is to have it devolve into messy chaos. There are a few simple things you can do to keep your beautiful living room looking zen.
As mentioned earlier, include some multi-functional furniture that can be used for storage. A handy storage ottoman can be used to stash away clutter out of sight. The same can be said of cabinets and drawers; having a designated place to put wayward papers and other items helps keep tabletops free of clutter. Designating one drawer as a “clutter catcher” (and committing to using it) is a great way to keep your living room clean.
You can also buy some nice-looking small baskets or bins. You can fill these with anything you wish and place them on shelves, where they’ll hide your clutter while looking sharp.
If you have a television in your living room, odds are you’ve also got a few devices connected to it. There’s nothing that ruins the streamlined look of a well-designed room like an unsightly tangle of cables. Keep cables organized by tying them together with Velcro cable ties or other cable organizers.
One of the best things you can do to avoid clutter is to get rid of some stuff completely. Clutter can’t build up if you remove it from your home as it appears. If you find that paper and other disposables are piling up, don’t be afraid to hide a trash bin somewhere in your living room to dispose of them. In the same vein, if you feel like you’ve got too much stuff filling up your shelves, don’t be afraid to spend a Saturday sorting through it with an eye to downsizing. This would also be a great time to complete a home inventory. If you’ve got a few dozen DVDs that you haven’t watched in years, maybe you can donate them or sell them in a garage sale.
Designing or redesigning a living room can be an absolute blast. Don’t forget though, once you’re done remodelling your living room, make sure you figure out the value of all your new décor. If you’ve spent a substantial amount of money on new furniture, you’ll want to make sure your home insurance policy includes enough personal property coverage for your new stuff.
Want to learn more? Visit our Interior Design resource centre for inspiration and tips to help you create the perfect living space. Or, get an online quote in under 5 minutes and find out how affordable personalized home insurance can be.
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