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Golden Rules Living Rooms

The 10 Golden Rules of Living Room Interior Design

Designing a living room can be hard. Of course, you want your living room to look like the spaces you see in magazines or as an accumulation of your favorite Pinterest images. But your ideas for living room design often stray far from the reality.

It’s no secret that decorating a room can be hard. That’s because it’s not just about buying the right furniture and choosing the perfect neutral paint color or living room decor—you also have to think about how it all comes together. And that’s where many people get stuck. How do you arrange your furniture? What size of rug do you need? How tall should the coffee table be—and how far away from the sofa??

These are questions we get all the time. So today, we’re breaking down our best tips on how to decorate a living room. These living room interior design tips will help just about every space come together and look more thoughtful and intentional. So, keep reading for our 10 Golden Rules for living room design!

Golden Rules Living Rooms1. Land on The Right Layout

Nailing the layout is key for any design. That’s because the layout is the foundation of the space and will guide what you put in it—so it’s a very important first step to consider. But there’s not one right way to lay out a living room.

To figure out what’s right for your space, start by considering how you primarily use your living room. Is it for entertaining? Watching TV at the end of the day? Do you value conversational seating or something more formal? Figuring out your values and use of the space will help guide the layout you choose. Once you land on that, arrange your furniture to suit your needs and how you want to use the space!

So, if you want a conversational layout, make sure you have a sofa and two chairs facing each other to promote face-to-face conversations. If you like entertaining, consider the flow from the living room to the dining room and kitchen—and make sure you have enough surfaces for people to place their drinks! If you’re looking for a TV viewing layout, put your sofa opposite your television. And, of course, you can mix these ideas together as well. But identifying the main purpose of the space will help guide your decisions!

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Golden Rules Living Rooms2. Balance Function and Fashion

Have kids or pets? You definitely want to consider that when putting together your living room. But that doesn’t mean it has to be all function and utility. In fact, we’re big believers in balancing the function of your space with style. Because you really can have both!

For beautiful designs and living room decor that don’t require too much maintenance, consider some of our best kid-friendly design tips: opting for a leather sofa or one with a washable slipcover, durable natural fiber or indoor/outdoor rugs, stashable storage like baskets or fabric bins. And if you have a baby or toddler, consider eliminating sharp corners from your design! All of these things will help you create the perfect balance between form and function—giving you a beautiful space that works for your lifestyle.

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Golden Rules Living Rooms3. Proportion is Key

We’ve all seen rooms where something seemed off. Maybe you weren’t able to put your finger on it in the moment, but if you paused to consider, you might notice that the side table is way too tall for the chair it’s next to, the petite media console is dwarfed by the 65” flatscreen TV, or the scale of the chairs doesn’t match that of the sofa. Essentially, the proportions of the room were off—and that can impact the whole feel of a space.

Proportion is one of those underrated but absolutely crucial parts of interior design. It’s what helps you make sure the scale of your furniture and living room decor works together as a cohesive design. So, when putting together your living room, measure pieces and consider how they’ll fit together. And if you need a little extra help with it, just remember that with our Modsy design packages, one of our designers will create a 3D rendering of your room, to scale. They’ll help guarantee proportions are correct, plus give you layout options for your space and help you find furniture and decor to match your style. You don’t have to go it alone!

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Golden Rules Living Rooms4. Find the Best Seat in the House

It’s important to think a bit practically when designing your living room—because living rooms are for living! Most of the time that means sitting, so you want to have seating options that suit your style and needs.

Since a sofa is the largest seating option in the room, let that guide the rest of your decisions. Decide if a sectional, regular sofa, or sofa-chaise is right for you. (And remember, your layout can help guide this decision—see rule #1.) From there, choose additional seating options to suit the needs of your space.

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Golden Rules Living Rooms5. Pick the Right Coffee Table

When it comes to picking the right coffee table, the most important things to consider are the shape, size, and material. Everyone is looking for something different, but these three considerations will help you figure out what coffee table is right for your space. Start with the shape, which is generally just a matter of preference. Do you like a rectangular table? Something round or oblong to eliminate sharp edges? Or maybe you want something in a more organic shape. Starting with your preferred shape will help narrow down your options.

Next, think about how it will interact with your sofa. As we mentioned in rule #3, proportion is key here! You don’t want a coffee table that’s too large or too small for your sofa. Make sure the length of the table you choose is one-third to two-thirds the width of your sofa. You also want the surface of your coffee table to approximately match the height of your sofa and accent chairs. (For side tables, align the top with the height of the arm of the sofa.) From there, material will help you further narrow down the style options—whether you want a solid wood table, a marble top, or something with industrial accents.

Or maybe you don’t even need a coffee table! If you want an alternative to a coffee table, get creative and opt instead for a pair of poufs, an ottoman, or a cluster of side tables!

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6. Consider Your Color Scheme

Color is key to setting the mood of your living room! From walls to decor to foundational furniture, you want to make sure you have a cohesive color scheme. Whites and creams will keep things bright and crisp. Blue living rooms are classic and offer a soothing vibe. Perhaps you like a bold look and want to try something intense, like a red wall? A black and white color scheme will give you a high-contrast look. Or, of course, you can simply think in terms of a warm or cool color palette. Whatever you choose as an overarching color palette will help guide not only your wall color, but the furniture, accents, and living room decor you use to fill out the space.

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7. Scale Your Rug

Finding the right rug size for your layout can be tricky. You want to make sure it’s the right size and shape for your room. If you go too small, it makes the room look odd and out of proportion. Too large, and the room starts looking cramped. In general, you want to choose a rug size that allows for 6-10 inches from the edge of your furniture to the edge of the rug, on either side. Need a little extra guidance? Check out our guide for finding the right size rug for your room.

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Golden Rules Living Rooms8. Add Creative Storage

This is an easy one to forget about, but it’s one of our favorite ideas for living rooms. Why? Incorporating storage options into your living room will not only help you stay organized but will also help your living space keep that beautiful, polished look about it! So, start with furniture pieces that give you built-in storage—whether that’s a media console, and extra cabinet, or even a storage coffee table. Then, sneak in some clever storage options. And adding some baskets for tossing blankets, toys, and other clutter will help keep the room uncluttered and organized—a super important thing if you have kids or are simply spending more time at home!

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Golden Rules Living Rooms9. Style With the Rule of Thirds

Perhaps you’ve heard of the rule of thirds. It’s a decorating concept that says that objects arranged in threes (or any odd number) are more pleasing to the human eye. So, style surfaces with this in mind—whether it’s what you’re putting on your coffee table, credenza, or mantle. This also applies to artwork and even furniture arrangement. If you have an unused corner of the room, adding a trio of a chair, a table or cabinet, and some framed art is all you need to make it look intentional and interesting!

Golden Rules Living Rooms10. Get Multi-Purpose

Most of us are using our living rooms in many ways for multiple purposes throughout the day—so consider this in your design. What do you use your living room for other than lounging on the sofa? What do you do in your living room that you don’t have space for in the rest of your home? Is your living room also currently doubling as your home office? Perhaps your kids use this space as a playroom during the day. Or maybe you use your living room as your at-home yoga studio! Consider all of these additional uses when designing your space and make room for them. The result will be a multi-purpose living room that perfectly suits your needs!

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rectangular living room layout

Layout Guide: A Large, Rectangular Living Room With a Fireplace

Arranging furniture in a living room floor plan may not be the most glamorous aspect of interior decorating, but it might be the most important! When it comes to rectangle living room layouts, you might think you have it easy because they are such a standard shape. You have 4 walls, with two long sides and two short sides—pretty straightforward, right? Not always.

A rectangular room can still be a tricky space to design and comes with many of its own challenges. Some rectangular rooms are long and narrow, leaving an awkward shape to arrange furniture. Some have a fireplace that takes up one entire wall. Others also serve as the entryway in some homes or serve other functions in addition to being your main living space. And some open up to the dining room and need a layout that accounts for the back and forth flow. So, what’s the best way to arrange furniture to create the best rectangular living room layout?

ectangular living room layoutArranging Furniture in a Rectangle Living Room

There is no right or wrong way to arrange living room furniture because so much depends on the function you want! Start by thinking through how you want to use the rectangular room. Will you be having friends over often for formal entertaining or mostly kicking back and watching movies with the fam? Do you love a space where you can cozy up in front of your living room fireplace? Or maybe you want to incorporate a work area to serve as your home office? The list goes on and on.

Once you have a sense of what the function of the living room will be, it’s time to think about arranging furniture in the space. Sectional sofas are a good choice for creating conversational circles in open floor plan living rooms. Long and narrow living rooms can benefit from an arrangement with a sofa against one of the long walls and the TV mounted against the opposite wall. For a small living room, consider using ottomans and benches as extra seating that doesn’t take up much space.

Here we designed one large, rectangular living room two ways to show some of the possibilities and help inspire you for your home.

ectangular living room layoutLayout Idea #1: The Conversational Living Room

This long rectangular living room features a refined layout with traditional appeal and ample seating. It’s an open, beautiful space that creates a conversation circle as the focal point. It is spacious enough to allow for a large, functional coffee table and there is cozy seating by the fireplace. This layout is perfect for social gatherings and anyone who loves entertaining and showing off their beautiful home.

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ectangular living room layoutThe Key Elements

Having a large, sectional sofa pushed back against the wall creates space for additional furniture and maintains a good flow in the space. It adds additional depth to the room—and it has a great view out windows!

The room features plenty of additional seating options, too. The sofa, chairs, ottomans, and bench are all located in one section of the living room so that guests are drawn to the same area to mingle and converse. And low seating like the bench and ottoman are perfect furniture choices for this space because they don’t interrupt the view of the fireplace and window like some tall chairs would.

To make this living room layout extra primed for entertaining, it features a bar cabinet in the corner! An essential element of a good cocktail party, a bar cabinet also doubles as a handy place to store board games for game night. We also included a bookcase by the fireplace—who doesn’t love furniture that adds extra visual interest?  It also adds height and draws the eye to the fireplace area—plus, the display baskets also serve as extra storage.

ectangular living room layoutWill this rectangular living room layout work for you? Yes if…

  • You love any excuse to have guests over.
  • Your living room design has a fireplace and you want to take full advantage of it.
  • You are more into conversational furniture arrangements than staring at the TV.
  • You want the option of creating a small living room area for use as a den, study area or kids’ play zone!

ectangular living room layoutLayout Idea #2: The TV Viewing Living Room

We designed this rectangular living room as a space to watch TV and get comfy and cozy with your friends and fam. The living room is divided into two separate areas, but the transitional furniture and style across the whole space helps them blend together seamlessly. It’s a perfect idea for those who want a multi-purpose space to vege out with your favorite movie or cozy up by the fire with a good book.

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ectangular living room layoutThe Key Elements

The large, floating 3-piece sectional sofa is the heart and soul of this rectangular living room. Its three sides zone the entertainment space and then the area rug helps further define this part of the room. This furniture arrangement is perfect for movie nights or a celebratory TV binge with friends or family. The low arm of the sectional doesn’t block the fireplace and the circular coffee table makes it easy to slip into any seat on the couch.

In addition to the prime TV viewing area, there’s also a reading nook by the fireplace! Putting the armchair in the corner means you can enjoy both the cozy fireplace and the view from the window—and there’s plenty of light for reading. Two stools serve as extra seats in front of the fireplace, or you can pull one in front of the armchair as a footrest!

If your living room is doing double duty as an entryway, we added an end table by the entrance as a place to set mail and bags on the way in. Having a bench behind the sofa helps soften the visual effect of the long, blank sofa back and also offers a place to sit and take in the view out the window.

Will this rectangular living room layout work for you? Yes if you…

  • Love an ultra-comfy chill-out place for movie nights, sports games and anything else on the screen.
  • Prefer furniture that lets your guests kick back and get cozy versus a more formal gathering space.
  • Love an old-fashioned reading nook by the fire.
  • Have a living room that is immediately off the entryway.

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new living room

My Modsy Story: How I Balanced Raising My Baby and Designing My Living Room

new living room

When designing her new living room and caring for a newborn became overwhelming, Monica let Modsy step in to help with the heavy lifting.

 

Homeowner: Monica F, Editorial Director

Location: Brooklyn, NY

Room: Awkward Living Room in a New Home

Her Style: Atomic Industrial

The Backstory

Moving all her furniture from an apartment to a new home

When I first moved from my old apartment into a new home, I assumed that all of my old furniture would easily make the move with me. After all, we had more space, why wouldn’t it work?

Boy was I wrong. So wrong, in fact, that I had to replace almost everything.

Monica’s Living Room Before

The Design Dilemma

Trying to design her new living room and care for a newborn

What I really wanted was to turn our new living room into a family-friendly space that still looked like an adult home. But most importantly, I just didn’t know how to do all that while taking care of our first baby.

As a brand new mom, I found designing a home to be incredibly overwhelming. Just finding the time to browse furniture online was a challenge, let alone making sure it would all fit in our space.

What I really needed was someone to do the heavy lifting for me.

new living roomMonica’s Modsy Design 1

The Modsy Moment

When it all seemed too good to be true…

I saw Modsy in a subway ad and decided to look it up. I was shocked by how affordable it was. So affordable that I wondered if the designs would be really bad and cheap looking.

But holy cow, it was totally way better than I expected!

new living roomMonica’s Modsy Design 2

How Modsy’s Renderings Helped Monica

Sometimes the best design solution is having someone else to do the heavy lifting

The most challenging thing about Modsy for me was trying to get myself to stop playing around with it for hours. It was really addicting!

I had planned on getting a neutral couch and had been looking for some comfortable chairs to go across from it. I didn’t think a couch facing our fireplace would work originally, so I was pleasantly surprised to see how well it did in one of my Modsy designs.

For me, seeing our space designed virtually just really showed me that there’s always a way to make a difficult layout work.

The most challenging thing about Modsy for me was trying to get myself to stop playing around with it for hours. It was really addicting!

new living roomMonica’s Final Modsy Design

The Real Results

Putting all the pieces together with ease

The ability to visualize everything in my exact room made me feel so much more confident about making large purchases. Instead of spending time measuring, researching, and stressing, I was able to just see if it would fit and know right away if I liked it.

This really took the stress out of designing our home and let me focus on more important things, like caring for my new baby.

I know I’ll be following the layout to the T, but I’m planning to purchase a combination of pieces from my two favorite designs. You can bet I’m planning on using Modsy for my bedroom next when I’m ready.

See Monica’s Favorite Design in 360!

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small living room layout

My Modsy Story: Making A Small Living Room Work For My Family Of Five

small living room layout

With a oddly shaped space, Christina craved a small living room layout that worked for her family of five. See how she found the perfect solution for her space.

 

Homeowner: Christina M, University Business Officer

Location: North Logan, Utah

Room: Small, Awkwardly Shaped Living Room

Her Style: Comfortably Chic

The Backstory

Living in a charming home where comfort and practicality are paramount

We are a family of five and we’ve lived in our current home for about a year. We love the all the natural light and the vaulted ceiling, but that was about it.

Our living room is the center of our house. We’re big on movie nights and use the space to watch TV throughout the day, and it’s also where we entertain guests. Unfortunately it’s become a sort of waiting room and a playroom. And while it’s the most-used space in our home, it’s also the least functional.

small living room layout

The Design Dilemma

Dealing with a small living room that needed to work for a big family

I wanted this room to be a comfortable and inviting space since it’s the center of our home. But it’s so long, skinny, and just plain awkward that it seemed impossible to make it work. After six months of hating this room, I decided we definitely needed some professional help to make it into a space we loved.

But when it came to designing the space, we really needed help with everything – A functional small living room layout, some storage for kids toys and games, an awesome couch for movie nights and afternoon Sunday naps, seating for guests, and not to mention a space that was pretty. 

small living room layoutThe Modsy Moment

How a Podcast led her to the ultimate living room solution

I heard about Modsy on the podcast, Young House Love. I was slightly skeptical at first — what Modsy could do sounded awesome, but I wasn’t ready to commit. That’s until I got desperate enough for a design solution for my strange and small living room. Once I got started, it was so easy to use and I was totally convinced this was worth it!

small living room layoutHow Modsy’s Renderings Helped Christina

Getting the exact furniture and small living room layout she asked for — and more!

We LOVED the first two designs Modsy sent us. They were spot on with everything we needed! The 3D renderings looked just like our living room and it was so helpful to see the space with all the furniture in place.

It was amazing how our Modsy Designer was able to incorporate pieces in our designs that fit our style while factoring in all our needs as a family. Altogether, the designs were so doable and the small living room layout ideas were just so much more functional.

“We LOVED the first two designs… they were so doable.”

small living room layout

At first, we liked the simplicity and open look of the first design because it would work with the sofa we already had. We immediately rearranged the room with our existing furniture the very next day, and it made such a HUGE difference in the feel and function of the space.

Then in the second design, our Modsy Designer incorporated a console table opposite the sectional. This was so great to see because I had a very similar console table that I hadn’t thought would work in the space. After seeing that it could work, I pulled it back out and I’m now using it in the room!

small living room layout

Modsy’s idea to put chairs by the window in our second design was genius; it’s the perfect place for them! The round side table was one of our favorite pieces, and we ended up bringing this element to life in our space.

small living room layout

small living room layout

We also loved the mirrors above the mantle in both our designs — it was just what we needed for that space. Everything was just perfect for us.

Ultimately we really wanted a super comfortable space where we could put our feet up, relax, and cuddle with our kids. I had specifically requested to see an option with a sectional, and our Modsy Designer made it happen! Seeing that the right-sized sectional could absolutely work in our space and still look great was a huge eye-opener.

We ended up purchasing a super comfortable small sectional in order to make the sectional layout design happen—and we are so happy with all of it!

See Christina’s Favorite Design in 360!

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