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!
1. 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!
2. 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.
3. 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!
4. 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.
5. 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!
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.
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.
8. 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!
9. 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!
10. 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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