How to organize a living room – 10 tips and tricks from professional organizers and interior designers

Ever wondered how to organize a living room to its full potential? Here, the experts offer their top tips for a tidy, stylish space

a modern apartment living room with wall storage
(Image credit: BoND)

Working out how to organize a living room can be incredibly challenging. It’s one of the most frequented spaces in our home, and can be a hotbed for life’s clutter. Thankfully, there are some tips and tricks to set you on your journey to a place of calm and orderly bliss. 

So where do you begin? Professional organizer and Interior stylist Laura Cattano recommends beginning with a serious declutter. ‘The trick is careful editing to make sure you are not storing things that seem useful but you actually don't use, don't add to your life and just end up taking up room,’ she says. ‘These things can actually get in the way of easily accessing the things that do add to your life.’

Once you’ve completed a clear-out, you can turn your attention to the design of your living room storage ideas and how best to set it up for organizational success. ‘The design of the room and how you plan the space should lend itself to an overall sense of flow, order and organization,’ says Roselind Wilson, founder and creative director of Roselind Wilson Design.

To this end, we’ve enlisted the help and advice of top interior designers for their insight into creating a space that invites that often elusive dream of a perfectly ordered living room. 

10 tips for how to organize a living room

It's not just storage ideas you need to consider for organizing a living room. When it comes to sustaining your newly organized haven, professional organizer and decluttering coach Kenika Williams suggests implementing some new non-negotiable habits. ‘Number one; always reset the living room at the night's end,’ she says. ‘And number two, get in the habit of putting things back when you're done using them.’ It’s that simple!  

1. Choose a hard-working storage piece

a modern living room with two sofas and a coffee table

(Image credit: JMorris Design)

Perhaps the most effective way to help the organization of your living room is to invest in storage - and it’s wise to go for the biggest your space will take to keep the clutter at bay. In this cozy living room project, Jennifer J Morris, Principal Interior Designer at JMorris Design, opted for a long and low console to run the length of the room. 

‘I like keeping clutter low down in the room, so using bookshelves at table height or consoles,’ says Jennifer. ‘This means that even if it’s not completely tidy and curated, it’s not in your visual sightline.’ 

As with any room in your home, the design should be supportive to how you live in the space - and if it is, keeping it organized shouldn’t be too much effort. ‘Come up with the main ways you use the space and make sure the design is supporting these functions over your fantasy functions,’ suggests Jennifer. ‘For example, if you spend most of your time in your living room watching TV with your family, then the design should reflect this use. Defining how you use the room can immediately inform the design and help you set your space up to feel comfortable.’

2. Incorporate flexible solutions to deal with everyday clutter

a modern apartment living room with wall storage

(Image credit: BoND)

While it would arguably be a lot easier if our homes - and indeed our requirements of it - remained at a constant, in reality this is never the case. They are ever-evolving spaces that need to respond to a great deal of changing demands, which makes implementing organization all the more tricky - and this is especially true of living rooms. 

The answer? Create a space that can adapt easily and remain orderly while doing it, a feat achieved by Daniel Rauchwerger and Noam Dvir, co-founders of architecture and interior design firm BoND, in their own New York home. 

‘We created three in-built living room shelving libraries for an interchangeable display of books and objects, and the bottom shelves are set up as casual working from home stations to offer maximum versatility,’ they explain. ‘In order to organize everyday items that we use often, we like to provide adaptable storage - for example, magazines and books that we are currently reading go into little metal boxes that are also used as cocktail tables.’

3. Take shelving to the ceiling

built in storage in an alcove

(Image credit: Veronica Rodriguez. Design: Interior Fox)

When it comes to organizing, the key is to make sure each area of the room is reaching its full potential. This is true of the square footage, but also the wall space too, as professional organizer and decluttering coach Kenika Williams explains, ‘Maximizing your vertical space by mounting shelves will add greater functionality to your home, providing additional space for both storage and display.’

Jen & Mar, co-founders of Interior Fox showcase how this works with this alcove shelving idea. ‘Wall-mounted storage helps to open up areas to make the most of empty spaces,' they explain. 'Floating shelves or a tall bookshelf that extends to the ceiling will provide ample amounts of storage and a place to showcase decorative items.’ 

4. Ensure placement of storage serves the functionality of the room 

a traditional living room space

(Image credit: Mel Yates. Design: Roselind Wilson Designs)

Not only is storage essential to the organization of a living room, but also where you choose to put it will have a huge impact on how streamlined the space feels - and this elegant living room idea by Roselind Wilson Design is the perfect example. 

‘My clients wanted to use this room for entertaining, however, its elongated, rectangular shape made the flow and functionality of the space a little challenging,’ says Roselind Wilson, owner and creative director of Roselind Wilson Design. ‘The beautifully designed fitted storage provided the perfect solution. The presence of the tall central cabinet demands attention and instantly draws you into the room - it also houses a bar so that guests can be offered a drink before moving down into the rear of the room,’ she explains. ‘As such, the storage creates a functional flow and order within the room.’

Another key element Roselind always brings to her projects, especially when designing storage into a room, is balance. ‘I am always aiming to create order in a room, and I find one of the best ways to establish this is through symmetry and balance,’ she says. This could be identical bookshelves flanking a fireplace, or low consoles at either end of the room. Creating a sense of regularity and harmony will help with the overall feeling of organization within your space. 

5. Choose one wall for organized storage

wall storage in a neutral living room

(Image credit: Laura Cattano)

Depending on the amount of stuff you need to store, it can really help the overall feeling of tranquility if you can limit the amount of wall space you take up. 

‘Instead of having lots of smaller furniture pieces dotted around the room, I’d suggest concentrating the storage to one wall,’ says professional organizer Laura Cattano. ‘This will help to keep the space feeling light and open. You could have one wall of open shelves above with drawers or cabinets below, or long low cabinets along a wall with art and display objects above.’

6. Use books as styling objects

living room shelves and storage

(Image credit: Aaron Leitz. Design: Lisa Staton Design)

Once you’ve got the bones of your room set up, you can start to consider how to keep the elements within it organized. Spending time creating beautiful moments and artful displays in your home will serve as big motivation to stay on top of the organization and ultimately keep it looking its best! Books are a brilliant addition to any display and come in really handy when styling. Most of us will have a collection of books, so rather than hide them away, utilize them to elevate the look of your home. 

‘Books help to give a home warmth and personality,’ says Lisa Staton, principal designer at Lisa Staton Design. ‘They can also be used to add height to smaller objects.’ A stack of books creates the perfect pedestal for your favorite vase, and curating several of these groupings makes for a dynamic shelf or coffee table display. 

When it comes to styling, Lisa has a few rules she always uses in her projects. ‘Group things that are of the same color and texture together,’ she says. ‘ I also try to incorporate living room art as well as objects into bookshelves and it’s always better to size up in scale - bigger but fewer accessories, as less is always more.’

7. Curate your coffee table

a stylish living room with built in storage

(Image credit: Albion Nord)

An area that can often be a magnet for clutter in a living room is the coffee table, but that doesn’t have to be the case! Styled in the right way, it can set the tone for calm and order within the rest of the room. Camilla Clarke, creative director at Albion Nord, knows a thing or two about how to curate and organize coffee table decor, and kindly offers some sound advice. 

‘Avoid having lots of small items, as that can make a coffee table feel cluttered,’ she says. ‘Instead, play with scale and display larger items like big art books and backgammon boards with smaller bowls or objets. Fresh foliage, flowers or a plant is a must, but make sure it feels relaxed and usable rather than staged or untouchable. However beautiful the arrangement, practicality is very important so make sure there is enough room to put everyday things down such as a cup of coffee or a magazine.’ 

8. Try a blanket ladder 

a blanket ladder in a living room

(Image credit: Milk and Confetti)

While you may like to cozy up under a blanket when you’re relaxing in the evening, you might not want it on the sofa all day. To manage your collection while also creating a style feature, professional organizer and decluttering coach Kenika Williams offers a solution to manage your collection while also creating a style feature; ‘I love using blanket ladders in spaces. They add a decorative spin to the space while also serving a purpose.’

In the home of content creator and lifestyle blogger Sarah Nantel, a blanket ladder perfectly suits the effortless Scandi vibe. Her blog also offers a step-by-step guide to making your own, if you fancy a living room DIY project.

9. Organize with a storage ottoman

an ottoman footstool in a living room

(Image credit: Dormy House)

Multifunctional living room furniture ideas are always going to be invaluable when trying to keep a living room organized and orderly. ‘My top recommendations for a living room space are ottomans because they are multi-purpose,’ says Kenika Williams. ‘They can be used as seats but also as storage too.’ 

Holly Waterfield, interior designer with The Brooklyn Home Company agrees; ‘I love clever storage solutions such as benches or ottomans that also have storage components,’ she says. ‘These are great for extra throw pillows or blankets that you wouldn't necessarily leave out but can easily grab as needed.’

10. Consider closed storage

arched storage in a living room

(Image credit: Daniel Villarreal. Design: Interior Fox)

As beautiful as open shelving can be within a living room, it might not be the best solution for you. Being able to close the door on unsightly items will do wonders for clutter management, and allows for a simpler backdrop to other furniture. 

‘Tall freestanding closed cupboards are a welcome addition to the living room,’ says Jen & Mar, co-founders of Interior Fox. ‘They provide ample storage that can be neatly stored away behind doors.’ 

Of course, there’s always the option of having the best of both worlds, as professional organizer Laura Cattano suggests; ‘Having a balance of open and closed storage allows you to hide what you'd like to store and display those things that you enjoy looking at and that tell a story about who you are and what you care about.’

Shop for your own living room organizer

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How do you arrange a living room?

Getting some solid storage solutions set up is the best way to begin your journey to an organized living room. Built-in bespoke joinery is a brilliant way to make the most out of every inch and works particularly well in awkward spaces such as alcoves. If you’re going down the freestanding route, try to go for the biggest piece you can without it encroaching too much on your usable space. 

‘It’s always a good idea to have some form of concealed storage to hide the items that don’t look particularly pretty, or that you don’t need access to every day,’ says Camilla Clarke of Albion Nord. ‘We like to include a mix of both concealed storage with high-level open shelving, so that you can show off the things that bring you joy.’ 

When it comes to arranging your accessories and books, try to make it as aesthetically pleasing as you can to help the space feel orderly and balanced. ‘My number one move to bring order to a living room is to group items together in threes,’ says Jennifer J Morris at JMorris Design. ‘Creating beautiful displays of plants, books and objects together is an easy way to make your living room feel more organized.’

Interiors stylist and journalist Amy Neason was the Deputy Style and Interiors editor at House Beautiful for years. She is now a freelance props and set stylist, creating work for a range of national publications and brands such as Imogen Heath. She has previously worked at Established & Sons, and her skills include styling still life and interiors shots for editorial features and sourcing unique products to create inspirational imagery. She is particularly respected for interpreting seasonal trends into feature ideas and style stories.