Living rooms are the hub of the home—now more than ever. These spaces saw some serious action in 2020 and your living room is likely the room you spent the most time in. So, it’s important to make sure it’s properly furnished! But, since living rooms are often large spaces and can have multiple functions, it can be hard to know what you need to make this space really work its hardest.
So, today we’re breaking down everything you could ever need in your living room with our living room buying guide! With our interior design buying guides, we’ll help you identify the core pieces you need for your space, how to add additional storage, and some decorative touches that will make your space shine. We’ll offer all sorts of design inspiration, as well as an actual living room furniture checklist to help you out! Whether you’re designing a brand-new living room from scratch, upgrading your existing living space, or are pulling together a design over time, this guide has all the information you’ll need!
Before you get started, consider your budget
But before we get started, it’s worth touching base about the budget. Because, how much does it actually cost to decorate a living room and buy new furniture? Well, it depends on if you’re starting from scratch or just adding smaller accents and decor. The size of the space and the subsequent amount and size of furniture will also have a big impact on your budget range. Other factors that affect budget? If your living room has a secondary function, such as housing and office or a playroom, or if it’s an open space that also includes a dining area or entryway. Ultimately, we’d recommend budgeting $4,000-$15,000 for the core pieces of a living room redesign, depending on your needs!
Ready to dive in? Read on for our living room furniture buying guide!
Core Pieces: The Living Room Essentials
When pulling together your living room design, these are the pieces of furniture that you can’t live without. You can customize each piece however you’d like, and go for more or less depending on the size of your living room. But, ultimately, these are the core pieces that will make this space functional.
Sofa or Sectional
A sofa or sectional is a must-have in a living room. These pieces offer a place to sit, converse, relax, watch TV, and so much more. A sofa will be the biggest financial investment in your living room design—but it will also be the most-used piece, so you definitely want to take your time picking out this piece of furniture! (Learn more about how much to spend on a sofa.)
When considering your options, choose one that’s right for your lifestyle, which will help determine the shape, style, and material of the sofa you choose. Have a big family that loves to lounge? Consider the benefits of a sectional vs sofa. Have kids or pets that are prone to accidents? Opt for durable, machine-washable fabric. (And check out our guide to sofa materials.) Are you super particular about your aesthetic? Maybe you want the sofa style to drive your other decisions. But just remember—the upholstery material you choose can determine the cost and durability of your sofa. So, you may want to consider who uses the sofa, the amount of use it gets, and if you want to prioritize a washable fabric before picking color and sofa style.
Beyond that make sure your sofa will fit into your space! You’ll want to make sure the square footage and layout of your living room allows you to comfortably walk around your sofa, and that it doesn’t block any vents or doorways!
Stylist Tip: Think about your personal style. Do you stick to one style or like to change things up a lot? This can help determine if you go for a timeless sofa or something more trendy! (Our guide to sofa styles can help you here!)
Price Range: $800-$8,000
Accent seating is another core piece you’ll want to include in your living room design. Whether it’s a single chair or a pair—or even a second, totally separate seating area—accent seating works alongside your sofa as a supporting act. It helps round out your seating area and pull together your room—giving you space for entertaining, watching TV, reading, and so much more! You just want to make sure your accent seating compliments the style and coloring of your sofa, and that it’s in proportion with your sofa (you don’t want a seat that looks too big or too small next to your sofa!).
There are a ton of styles of accents seating—from rocking chairs and armchairs to loveseats, benches, and stools, and in a ton of different fabrics and colors. With so much variety, all you have to do is pick the one that works for your space and needs! But as you make your decision, consider who will be using the accent seating. Will it primarily be for guests, with your family mainly using the sofa? Or will someone in the house use the chair every morning and evening? This will help determine if you opt for a higher-quality option or buy something less expensive and trendy.
Price Range: $200 – $1,500
Coffee tables offer you a place to set drinks, corral remotes, display books, and kick up your feet. While you can live without one, we don’t recommend it! In fact, we consider coffee tables a must-have in a living room! But be careful—coffee tables can make or break a space. If they’re the wrong size or height, or in a style or material that doesn’t mesh with the rest of your space, they can turn into a major eyesore.
Check out our guide to coffee table shapes to find one that works for your space. But also consider coffee table materials and your lifestyle in the selection process. If you have a smaller living room, you may want to go for a storage coffee table. Have young kids? Maybe an ottoman is a better choice. You want to make sure the coffee table you choose meets your needs and helps make life easier!
Price Range: $150 – $3,000
Lighting is a simple element that really helps set the stage for a room. So, incorporating lighting beyond natural light sources and overhead lighting is an absolute must in a living room. Layered lighting—with a mix of floor and table lamps, sconces, and candles—helps set the tone and creates a warmer, more inviting environment. You want to make sure your space is well-lit for the way you use it. Have a reading chair you love to curl up in every evening? You’ll want to make sure you have a floor lamp nestled nearby (or a table lamp on a side table). Want to highlight a favorite piece of art? Hang a sconce above it. Make sure you have ample light sources so that you can light your space the way you want it throughout the day. And make sure your lights are placed in a way that they don’t cause uncomfortable glare or shade!
Lighting prices vary quite a bit—from relatively inexpensive to pretty pricey. So, decide if you want to invest in lighting or buy trendy pieces you’ll change out in a few years.
Price Range: $50-$1,000
Organization: Living Room Storage
Once you have your core furniture pieces in place, it’s important to consider storage. Everyone’s storage needs are different, but you’ll want to incorporate at least one to two of these living room storage ideas!
Including a media cabinet in your living room is necessary if you have TV or sound system set-up in this space. These large cabinets are what your TV sits on or hangs above—but they can also be used in a living room, even if your space is screen-free. A media cabinet is usually front and center in your living room. Since TVs tend to be a focal point, the media cabinet naturally is too. So, you want it to be a piece that looks nice and conceals wiring. But, while these pieces can be both functional and stylish, you want to think about function first. Consider scale and proportion when choosing your media cabinet. How big is your TV, how much do you need to store inside of it, and how will the piece fit in within the rest of your living room? Check out our guide to choosing the best TV stand for your TV size for more tips! And remember: media cabinets can be pricey, but cheaper ones can be an eyesore or start sagging under the weight of a large TV. So, the materials used definitely have an impact on pricing!
Price Range: $600-$4,000
A console table is a nice storage piece in a living room and can give a nice finishing touch to your space. Long and narrow, console tables offer a nice mix of open storage, shelving, drawers, and a surface space for decor. If you’re short on space, a console can be a nice, smaller alternative to a large credenza, offering a surface for your TV—through significantly less storage. They’re also great accent pieces for behind a floating sofa or under a window, like in the design above. To choose the right console table for your space, consider where it’s going, how much storage space you need, and what other uses it might have. That will help guide the size of the piece. From there, there are a ton of styles to choose from; just make sure the style is one that goes with the rest of the space and is most stylish and functional for you!
Price Range: $400-$1,500
Bookcases not only look nice in your living room—they provide a practical home for items like books (of course), personal decor, picture frames, and baskets for additional storage. These are great ways to add storage to a smaller living room, as they take advantage of vertical space. And they’re also good for living rooms where a lot of reading takes place! A bookcase should fit into the space and add to it visually (not detract). So, make sure the material and finish you choose complements the other materials in the space and stylistically fits.
Price Range: $300-$2,000
Baskets are the perfect multipurpose storage item for a living room. They can be used throughout your space for storing extra throw pillows, blankets, books, magazines, dog toys, kids toys, remotes—you name it, a basket can corral it! They’re also a cost-effective way to add storage. And, while most baskets are open, some styles have lids so you can hide everything that’s inside! Baskets are made in so many different sizes, styles, and materials, so they’re easy to add into any space, small or big. There are styles that can easily slide under your sofa, as well as more decorative options that add a stylish statement to your room’s decor! Decorative and functional? Now that’s a win-win.
Price Range: $20-$300
Finishing Touches: Living Room Decor
Once you’ve figured out what furniture to include in your living room, you can move onto decor. These finishing touches give a lot of style and personality to your space. If you’re looking for a small living room refresh, focus on this category and make a big impact for a smaller price tag!
Rugs add a layer of comfort, color, pattern, and plushness to a living room. In any living room, they help define the seating area. But if you have an open living room/dining room, rugs can help create zones within open layouts. And if you live in an apartment, they can also help dampen noise and add a sound barrier to your living room!
Rugs can be expensive—so take time to carefully pick on that’s right for your style and space. A big part of this is choosing the right size for your living room. (See our living room rug size guide for our best tips on choosing the right size!) From there, choose a style that you love and that matches your living room style. You can go style-specific, like a highly patterned colorful rug, or something like a simple jute rug that can be used in multiple spaces and across styles. And don’t forget to consider maintenance and if you need a rug that’s more durable or easy to clean.
Price Range: $400-$8,000
Besides the cushions that come on a sofa, you typically want throw pillows for extra comfort and support—and a nice splash of style. They’re great for adding some extra cushion while you’re curled up reading and are an easy way to pull some pattern and texture into the room while tying in colors from the rest of the space. While you want the style to go with the overall look of the room, since throw pillows are relatively inexpensive, you can switch them out seasonally or whenever you want to give your living room a fresh look! Wondering how to arrange throw pillows on a sofa and how many to use? Small sofas require fewer throw pillows than a large sectional—but how many pillows you use also depends on your personal style preferences.
Price Range: $25-$150 per pillow
You know how when you see photos of homes in a magazine or on a blog, and there’s just something about them that feels so next-level? Here’s a clue: it’s all about the decorative accessories. They’re what designers use to add a finishing touch and personalized flair to a space. Decorative accessories can be anything from collected items from vintage stores and family heirlooms to coffee table books and candles. They range in style and size, but strategically placed decor—on a side table, console, coffee table, fireplace mantel, or shelf—adds a lot to a space and makes it look polished. When diving into the world of decorative accessories, start with a few items and try different arrangements. And remember: less is more. You don’t want a cluttered look! Try mixing practical items and those that are purely ornamental, like a vase with a book.
Stylist Tip: Since small decor is typically more trendy than timeless, it’s something you can change out every so often, offering another simple way to change up the look of your living room. But mixing timeless pieces with trendy pieces will add to the longevity of the design!
Price Range: There are truly pieces at any price point—from super cheap objects at thrift stores to extremely expensive heirloom antiques!
Artwork is another nice finishing touch to a living room, adding color, pattern, style, and a personal touch. And the amount you incorporate into your space is totally up to you. You can hang a whole gallery wall or just a single piece of art—it just depends on the style of your space and the look you want to achieve! Whichever route you go, artwork should help pull the room together; you don’t want it to feel like an afterthought. You’ll also want to hang art in the right areas—over the sofa, above the fireplace, or on a painted accent wall. And if you don’t want artwork, you can also frame family photos or personal travel photography!
Price Range: $40-$5,000
Greenery adds texture and color to your living room—along with a lively organic element. Since living rooms tend to be one of the larger rooms in your house, you can get away with more large-scale plants in this space. Try bringing in a tree or a shaggy palm if you want to make more of a statement. Or, you can go more subtle with succulents or even just a sprig of eucalyptus in a vase! Not a green thumb? No problem. There are a ton of great faux plants out there that look amazingly realistic. Or, if greenery isn’t your thing, you can also incorporate a vase of fresh flowers into your living room decor! Whatever you choose, plants and flowers add a lovely touch of hominess to your space and pair nicely with other small decor like vases and ornamental items. Bonus: plants are a great way to fill in awkward empty corners of your living room!
Price Range: $10-$500