6 things people with cozy homes that avoid feeling cluttered always get right

Design experts tell us the secrets to achieving a cozy, eclectic home that doesn’t feel too busy or cluttered

living room with yellow wallpaper and chair, and blue sofa
(Image credit: Mendelson Group)

Some people just manage to create such a cozy feel in their homes without it feeling chaotic or cluttered. They use layered accessories, colors, and textures that work together in perfect harmony, and while there's a lot to look at, it never seems too busy or overwhelming. Instead, it looks cozy, inviting, and interesting. 

It’s an eclectic look and feel that's much coveted by all of us, yet somehow when we try our hand at it, we realize it’s actually pretty tricky to get right. Our open shelves or coffee table styling ends up looking a bit random, and not like a tasteful curation of carefully displayed objects. Try as we might, it’s as if there’s a secret to making it all tie together that we’re just not privy to. 

I took it upon myself to find out those secrets by asking interior designers about what it is that people with cozy homes that don’t feel cluttered always get right. Is there a certain way to arrange objects, certain colors they use, and certain accessories? I wanted to know it all and share it with you so that we can all enjoy that cozy, eclectic look that feels just right in a modern home. The designers revealed their top tips. 

1. Be mindful of scale  

shelving with art and books in front of orange wall

(Image credit: Tom St. Aubyn. Design: Alice Leigh)

In a cozy living room, you shouldn’t be afraid to display multiple objects. The trick is to do it in such a way that it feels thought through and intentional, and the key to that is being mindful of scale. 

'To keep eclectic styling from feeling cluttered, pay attention to scale,' explains Christina Kim, owner of Christina Kim Interior Design. 'When styling surfaces, it's best to stay away from small objects which will read like clutter. Instead, try grouping together similar items in varying heights that are at least medium-sized or larger for more of a visual impact. Don't forget to leave space between "moments" in a room so that your eye can rest and the styling feels intentional, not chaotic.' We love this beautiful vase from Net-a-Porter that works beautifully when styled in a grouping of objects. 

It’s easy for a space to become cluttered, however, so be mindful of how much you keep on display. ‘The little accents of everyday items out on the counter can quickly become cluttered, so be careful of how much is out,' Caroline Dedeker of Cedar & Oak tells me. 'However, a few items that add to this “everyday” effect will keep the space approachable. Cozy is non-pretentious, inviting, and lived-in! The best way to achieve it is to find the balance of your layers — from plants to eclectic lamps, to multiple textures, to your favorite recipe on display.'

2. Use color to create a cozy feel  

blue office with bookcase and glass table

(Image credit: Tim Furlong Jr. Design: Bethany Adams Interiors)

The paint idea you choose for your walls is important because that color becomes the background of your furniture and accessories. Warmer, earthier tones are perfect for bringing a cozy feel to your space, but unlike layered textiles or accessories, they won't make your home feel cluttered. 

‘Cozy homes tend to incorporate warmer paint colors and more often than not, multiple in a room,' explains Caroline. 'For example, the walls may be Swiss Coffee by Sherwin Williams and the cabinetry could be Pale Oak by Benjamin Moore. The combination of warmer tones adds to the layered effect of “cozy” in a space.' 

For the braver ones out there, there's also the option of going for dark paint shades for cozy living rooms. ‘Dark paint colors can do dual duty in a home,' says Bethany Adams, Principal at Bethany Adams Interiors. 'Not only do they imbue the space with coziness, but darker colors can help to conceal little messes (think a basket of laundry in the corner) that your eye would go right to in a bright, light room. I love dark blues like Benjamin Moore's Gentleman's Gray for its sophisticated, yet cozy vibe.' 

Designer and Creative Director Alfredo Paredes is not afraid of color and shares his approach to using it to create a cozy interior that feels cohesive, not cluttered. 'Throughout my projects, I tend to gravitate towards blues and greens,' he says. 'While forest green may be a dominating color in a room I’m working on, through walls and accent pieces, the varying objects placed within all play off that color via their textures and complementary hues. This unifying gesture – the consistency in color or texture  –  will help strike the fine balance between variety and cohesion.'

3. Play with different textures 

wood panelled room with red sofa and art

(Image credit: Patrick Biller. Design: Montana Labelle)

For a space to feel interesting and cozy, it needs to incorporate different textures otherwise it can look flat and dull. ‘Textures and accessories are always noticed in a cozy, eclectic home,’ Caroline says. ‘Mixing materials like buttery worn leather with a chunky blanket, a sleek side table with an antique lamp, and humorous coasters gives character to the room — it’s all the elements together that create the charm versus one massive piece of art or purchasing perfectly cohesive furniture,’ the designer advises.  

Bringing in textures also has the advantage of hiding, or distracting the eye from small imperfections in the home, helping to reduce overall clutter. ‘Textured fabrics like tweeds and boucle can also play a key role in concealment,' Bethany reveals. 'Chunkier weaves with multiple color threads are better at concealing things that are a part of life, like crumbs and cat hair, than solid-colored velvet or twill.' 

When incorporating textures, don’t just think of throws and cozy couch pillows which can quickly crowd your space. Instead, think about all the items that fill your space and how their different surfaces and colors affect the overall feel. ‘Bookshelves layered with good reads, bigger art books, and a selection of accessories draw you in and ask you to stay awhile,’ explains Bethany. 

4. Bring in plants for a lived-in aesthetic  

plant in corner of room with tow windows

(Image credit: Glen Allsop. Design: Studio Robert McKinley)

What makes a space feel cozy most of all is the lived-in feel. It’s not about perfection here, or brand-new, shiny items - it can be as simple as decorating with plants. The great benefit of introducing greenery to your space is that houseplants barely ever contribute to a cluttered look, even if you go for a jungle-inspired design.

‘House plants almost always accomplish that “lived-in” aesthetic because they are living!’ explains Caroline. ‘We purchased a fiddle leaf that sits in the corner of our living room, and since our ceilings are so tall (12’) we got an interesting wood side table to add height and a large ceramic pot to add texture. That tree alone adds so much interest to our living room!' 

Caroline says she also follows the same principles when staging homes for clients. 'Although the trees we use are not real, we will add greenery to the living space and immediately, it creates that cozy, lived-in feel that invites you to stay a little longer and relax,’ she says. Take this as your cue to use artificial plants over real ones if taking care of them is not your forte. We love the look of this artificial fiddle leaf fig tree from Amazon

5. Opt for warm lighting at low levels 

green wall with art, table and lamp in front

(Image credit: Tom St. Aubyn. Design: Alice Leigh)

There's no debate about this - lighting can make or break a design scheme, and it has such a big role to play in creating a cozy interior without contributing to a cluttered look. Caroline believes lamps provide that similar lived-in feel to plants, but warns that overhead lights can be too harsh, instead advising lamps instead. 

‘Lamps create this moody ambiance that almost makes you forget what time it is and enjoy the present,' she says. 'We always opt for lamps versus overhead lights to keep spaces cozy.' This table lamp from Target will look beautiful on a console or side table next to a display of curated objects. To make living room lighting feel cozy - or any room for that matter - it's also a good idea to opt for dimmer switches where possible.

The main point of a cozy environment is that it will make you feel relaxed and at ease. There is science behind the use of lighting, how it affects the way we perceive a space, and how we feel in it. ‘Light levels often form a large part of our understanding of a cozy environment,’ reveals Theresa Schnorbach, Sleep Expert at Emma. 'Warm lighting that sits in the red-orange end of the spectrum can help to promote a cozy feeling.'

6. Tell a story by displaying personal items

dining room with pink walls, wood oval table and black shelves

(Image credit: En Masse Architecture & Design)

There's something to be said about bringing a sense of nostalgia into a space. It’s about telling a story and celebrating one’s life through one’s home, and people with cozy homes don’t shy away from displaying personal objects, mementos, or artwork. 'An eclectic home feels cozy when the items within are intentional and also personal,' explains Alfredo Paredes. 'The key is finding a common thread to create harmony.'

To create your own cozy den, add plenty of nostalgic, sentimental pieces to your space. ‘With warmth and happiness associated with past experiences, cozy environments can also often play into feelings of nostalgia which can work to elevate our mood and reduce stress,' adds Theresa. 'If you’re looking to create a restful and comforting environment, looking back to happy memories from your childhood could be a great place to start.'

Raluca Racasan
News writer

Raluca is Digital News Writer for Livingetc.com and passionate about all things interior and living beautifully. Coming from a background writing and styling shoots for fashion magazines such as Marie Claire Raluca’s love for design started at a very young age when her family’s favourite weekend activity was moving the furniture around the house ‘for fun’. Always happiest in creative environments in her spare time she loves designing mindful spaces and doing colour consultations. She finds the best inspiration in art, nature, and the way we live, and thinks that a home should serve our mental and emotional wellbeing as well as our lifestyle.