12 easy changes you can make to your living room to instantly elevate how it looks and feels

These are the 12 easy changes top designers make when they want to quickly elevate a living room - small swaps that make a big decor difference

Modern rustic living room with branches in a vase
(Image credit: White Arrow)

What exactly do we mean when we say 'elevate' a space? Well, in really simple terms, we think of elevated living rooms as being spaces that just work effortlessly. Every element of the room from the rug to the lighting has been considered and each piece looks beautiful together, and yet the room doesn't look like it's been over-styled or staged. There's no single shape or color or print that stands out, and yet everything in the room gives you a reason to pay it attention.

So how exactly do you go about elevating a living room? And how can you elevate a room easily, without having to totally overhaul your space? 

12 easy changes you can make to your living room to instantly elevate it

We asked designers for their top tips on how you can easily give your living room an instant lift and give it that effortless, sophisticated 'just-works' vibe. 

1. Add some jewel tones

Neutral living room with green sofas

(Image credit: Whitney Kamman)

Deep jewel shades are synonymous with sophisticated interiors and an instant way to elevate a living room. An obvious place to bring in these sumptuous shades are with the couch as seen in this otherwise pretty neutral living room designed by Niche Interiors. By adding color with your larger pieces of furniture, you ensure these pieces and those colors will be the focus, even if you stick to a soft palette elsewhere in the room. However, if you aren't in the market for new couches, a deep green rug or sumptuous accent chair will have a similar effect.

'For this vacation home in the mountains we layered in sophisticated contemporary furnishings in saturated jewel tones with playful patterns and statement lighting for a stylish (but not too serious) retreat,' explains principal designer and founder of Niche Interiors, Jennifer Jones

'To really elevate a living room, start with a clear design direction and color palette, and decide early on which pieces will be the stars of the room. In this space the vibrant emerald green sofas create drama and pull your eye towards the main seating area. Statement lighting is another surefire way to elevate a living room. Pay attention to scale and be sure to include multiple light sources in a room.'

2. Fill your living room with characterful pieces 

Modern living room with curved couches

(Image credit: Alexander & Co.)

Elevated spaces are spaces that are filled with personality and character and depth, so always be considering what you bring into your living room – Does it speak to you and your style? Does this piece mean something to you? What is it going to add to the room and how will it work with the rest of the space?

Tess Glasson of Alexander & Co. explains this considered approach to design perfectly. 'Make sure the space has a narrative or story and then all the other components should relate to this. Invest in quality, timeless, and crafted furniture that has been built with care. You don’t need a lot but the chosen pieces will be important to you and the storytelling of the space. We love to specify unique found or mid-century vintage pieces as they are special heirlooms that always have a story to tell!'

'To layer and personalize the space choose art you love and that speaks to you,' she continues, explaining how to make a living room look more expensive. Not that the art itself need be pricey - stores like Desenio sell amazing prints for less than $10. 'Art should bring you joy and is a cherished long term investment. A beautiful quality rug will add a layer of craft, dimension, and depth and bring warmth and texture to a space. How you light a space and light fittings are also key. A room can be lit to create drama and highlight the textures of the space. A beautiful light fitting will add shape to the wall and ceiling.'

Modern rustic living room designed by Marie Flanigan

(Image credit: Julie Soefer)

And in a similar vein, don't let yourself be led by trends. A room that solely follows one trend in every piece and decoration can risk feeling flat, and like a carbon cut out of spaces we see all the time. Be inspired by different aspects of interior design trends, but put your own spin on them, and bring them together in the same space.

'To make a room feel beautiful and unique, it needs to have a collected-over-time feel. I love when a room doesn’t subscribe to one design trend, rather there are different finishes, textures, and vintage mixed with new pieces,' says designer Marie Flanigan. 'A gorgeous and thoughtful use of texture goes a long way when looking to elevate and add interest to a space. Also, if you want to quickly add some extra design detail, style your space! Take a look at your coffee table or bookshelves and add some flowers, coffee table books, decorative pieces, or small sculptures.'

'This living room is actually my personal home,' Marie adds.'I just completed building and designing the space last year and it was such a joy. It was very important that this room function for daily use, but also lends itself to entertaining. I mixed newer pieces with older touches, which is my go-to design tip for creating a gorgeous, interesting, and inviting living space.'

4. Vary shapes and sizes

Pink living room with vintage decor

(Image credit: Julie Soefer)

Don't make it too easy for the eye, the best living rooms never have an obvious place for you to focus for long. An easy way to achieve this is to vary shapes and sizes. Don't let too many pieces sit at the same level, be sure to sit things at different heights within the room. And create interest with shapes too, choose curvaceous silhouettes that will create a softness and effortless flow to the room.

This space designed by Nina Magon is the perfect example of how fluid shapes and varying sizes can elevate a living room. 'Designing a beautiful living room is a great opportunity to get creative and express your interests and design style. First, consider the overall color scheme of the room and choose colors that flow together and create a cohesive atmosphere. Then, pick out eye-catching furniture pieces in a variety of shapes and sizes to create interest.' she explains.

'Consider adding unique accent pieces, such as artwork and decor, to give the room more personality. Finally, add in a few statement pieces, such as a rug or a chandelier, to bring the room to life. With careful thought and selection of your living room lighting you can create a stunning space that is sure to be both stylish and functional.'

5. Create 'design moments' within your space

Neutral living room with arched shaped shelving

(Image credit: Mike Davello Photography)

Living room shelving is prime real estate for creating displays that will quickly elevate your living room and give it a refresh potentially without you having to invest in anything new. The three key pieces of advice we have for curating the perfect shelving is to avoid even numbers, vary heights, and don't forget to include some negative space, you don't need to fill your shelving to the brim.

'Create new vignettes. Select a nook in your living room that is a design moment waiting to happen,' suggests Ginger Curtis, Owner and Principal Designer of Urbanology Designs. 'This could be anything from a space that gets great light to a surface you change seasonally like a mantel. Take the time to revisit your bookshelves and see how you can restyle them for maximum impact.'

All it takes is a carefully chosen objet to bring a corner to life.

6. Change your light shade to a striking shape

Grey, white and black living room with statement lighting

(Image credit: Julie Soefer)

'If you are wanting to elevate your living room design, consider adding statement pieces such as a unique piece of furniture or eye-catching artwork. Using this technique can enhance the overall look of your living room by adding a striking focal point and creating visual interest and depth to the overall aesthetic of the space.' suggests Nina Magon.

'Living room lighting can also play a crucial role in elevating the overall ambiance of the space, so consider adding bold lighting fixtures overhead to draw the eyes up and create visual interest. By choosing the right chandelier, homeowners can transform their living room into a luxurious and stylish space that reflects their personal taste and style.'

Already have a light fitting? A new shade in an irregular shape will make a big difference.

7. Mix old and new

Living room with white sofa and open shelving

(Image credit: Kitesgrove)

There's a lot of talk so far about the simplest way to elevate a living room is to ensure your room tells a story. It's considered, without looking overly so and every piece in the rooms has something unique about it. A simple way to create a narrative with your spaces is to mix styles and eras. Even if you are drawn to one look or period of interior design, create some small contrasts in your space by adding aspects from outside that style. 

We would recommend sticking with a style you really love for your bigger pieces of furniture and then using your decor and soft furnishing to add in something different. See how in this living room the couch and shelving are very modern and minimal, but the vintage living room rug and mix of decor add character to the contemporary furniture. 

'Balancing considered pieces of artwork alongside a mix of both old and new furniture really helps to elevate a living space, creating a luxurious feel. As well as helping to define the character of the space, this also introduces a narrative which ultimately reflects the client’s personal lifestyle and taste,' says Katie Lion, Senior Interior Designer at Kitesgrove. 

8. Create an instant centerpiece with a natural display

Modern rustic living room with branches in a vase

(Image credit: White Arrow)

So many gorgeous ideas to take from this living room, but something you can easily recreate is the jar of branches. This is a trend we are seeing a lot as a bit of a contemporary, minimalist take on fresh flowers. Arrange some larger branches in a simple vase to create an instant elevating focal point to your living room. Check out what's growing in your own yard that you can make use of indoors – free and seasonal. Guaranteed to last longer than flowers and is better suited to a more laid-back, rustic space too. 

When describing this living room, Keren Richter, co-founder of White Arrow says 'We leaned into the casual beachy environment and chose durable and casual materials such as the Moroccan Touareg rug, leather sling chairs, and the indigo-dyed cotton sofa. The rich natural finishes stand out against the whitewashed ash flooring and the light-filled rooms with views of the ocean.' 

9. Create a lofty feel with full height curtains

Living room with marble feature wall and green rug

(Image credit: Wynn Myers)

This is a really simple hack for making a living room look more elegant and giving an illusion of loftier dimensions. Always take your living room curtains to the floor – there's something so clunky about curtains that just flap around at the bottom of a window. And, where possible, take your curtain rail a good few inches above the top of the window too. Your windows will instantly look bigger and ceilings will instantly look higher. 

'The easiest way to elevate a living room is adding layers of textiles and accessories. The full-height curtains create a softness in this space that would be hard to achieve otherwise. Luxurious throw blankets and special objects on the bookshelves make this space feel cozy and unique to the family,' advises designer Kacy Ellis.

10. Highlight architectural features with wallpaper

Colorful living room with wallpapered panelling

(Image credit: Kasia Gatkowska)

Wallpaper is such a simple way to elevate a living room, it brings charm and character, and color and you can go as bold or as subtle as you like with the pattern. We love how it's been used in this colorful living room designed by Marta Chrapka, founder of Colombe, to highlight the architectural features of the room. 

'This living room is in a house from the 1950s was designed for a family with four children. The key was a joyful, colorful, timeless, and classic interior conducive to organizing events and meetings,' explains Marta. 'I loved highlighting the room's proportions with the moldings and filling the space with wallpaper.'

Again, we are back to that mixing of old and new, the room itself is full of period charm and original details, and the furniture is decidedly fun and modern. The two personalities of the space come together with that clash of pattern and color, within the traditional moldings.

11. Create layers of color and contrasts

Modern living room with curved sofa

(Image credit: Mary Wadsworth)

'To enhance a living room, it is important to add layers of color and contrast,' suggests designer Irene Gunter. 'Without these elements, the room may look bland and lack personality. Color can be introduced through items such as cushions, rugs, accessories, and artwork, which plays a key role in this space.'

'And there are various ways to introduce contrast into a living room design. For instance, in this home, black window frames, black sofa legs, and a black fireplace hearth create a striking contrast to the neutral backdrop. Contrast is important because it adds interest to a space by drawing the eye to particular elements and breaking up the monotony of a neutral color palette with variety.'

12. Introduce some greenery 

Modern living room with curved sofa

(Image credit: Mary Wadsworth)

Easy and quick, adding greenery to your living room can instantly elevate it. We love the unexpectedness of when you see a sizeable tree sitting next to a couch. The best trees in pots adds texture and color, and shape. You get that height too which creates an unusual focal point and contrast among all the soft finishes. 

'In addition to color and contrast, I encourage my clients to consider greenery as an important feature of their space. Whether introduced through plants, flowers, or an indoor tree, greenery contributes to creating a welcoming and homely atmosphere,' says Irene Gunter.

Hebe Hatton

Hebe is the Digital Editor of Livingetc; she has a background in lifestyle and interior journalism and a passion for renovating small spaces. You'll usually find her attempting DIY, whether it's spray painting her whole kitchen, don't try that at home, or ever changing the wallpaper in her hallway. Livingetc has been such a huge inspiration and has influenced Hebe's style since she moved into her first rental and finally had a small amount of control over the decor and now loves being able to help others make decisions when decorating their own homes. Last year she moved from renting to owning her first teeny tiny Edwardian flat in London with her whippet Willow (who yes she chose to match her interiors...) and is already on the lookout for her next project.