How Can I Make my Living Room Feel Like a Retreat? 8 Steps to a Serene Space

Your living room should be a place to unwind. Here are the expert's top tips for how to do just that

A living room with a calming color palette
(Image credit: German Sáiz. Design: Sierra de la Higuera)

The trick to turning your living room into a retreat lies in creating a space that feels like a separate destination to the rest of the home. It's a zone where you come to unwind and feels like a special place that is tailored to you and your needs.

You want the space to feel relaxing, so enlisting the help of lighting, color, and cozy design ideas will help a sense of calm wash over you as soon as you shut the door behind you. To inspire you to create your very own living room retreat, we've spoken to the experts who have come up with seven top tips.

1. It's all in the furniture

A living room with low profile furniture

(Image credit: German Sáiz. Design: Sierra de la Higuera)

If you want to create a calming and cocooning destination, pick the right living room furniture. You want a sofa that envelops you like a big hug, so think of curved or L-shape sofas that feel gentle and cozy. The L-shape offers the best seat in the house too (that cozy corner seat in the right angle!)

Think low-profile furniture too - this helps foster a relaxed and casual space and stops your living room from feeling too stiff and formal. Pairing with your low-level furniture, think about accessories like tabletops, end tables, and coffee tables that are just within arm's reach - allowing you to keep a mug or wine glass close to hand at all times.

Consider a leg rest too - you don't want to be shifting your furniture around and pulling that coffee table closer every time you want to stretch out your legs. Invest in an ottoman that matches the surrounding aesthetic.t it.

2. Introduce layered textures

A living room with sheer curtains and mixed upholstery

(Image credit: Lindsay Brown. Design: Emily Brown)

Bring in cozy textures with a mix of tones and fabrics that work together to soothe and calm. Think linen, velvet, boucle or high pile materials that bring a shaggy feel. Texture goes far beyond sofa and cushion upholstery. Think about wall hangings or rich tapestries that help create an indulgent aesthetic. Living room window treatments are also important.

Make a note of how natural light enters the room whether you want to create a retreat that feels dark and cozy, or light and airy. Depending on the answer, go for rich and luxurious floor-length curtains or sheer curtains that diffuse light as it enters the space. Sheer has been chosen as the texture of choice for this design by Emily Lauren Interiors and the result is bright, floaty and airy.

3. Select a calming color scheme

A tactile pink room

(Image credit: Studio Andrew Trotter)

Enlist the help of colors that calm. From rich clays, and muddied greens, to gentle off-whites that work with the natural light that floods the room, your color scheme is hugely important to creating that coveted retreat feel.

In general, to achieve a calm, serene vibe, keep contrast to a minimum. 'Most often, rooms we design are neutral with warmth added through natural textures like wood, chunky fabrics or warm metal tones,' says Devon Wegman, founder and director of Devon Grace Interiors.

'If a client wants to incorporate color, we typically tend to choose earth tones such as deep blues and greens or warm rusty browns. A natural palette helps create a soothing aesthetic making it the perfect space to rest and recharge.'

In this example by Studio Andrew Trotter, earthly pink was chosen for the walls which brings a spa-like aura to the space. The texture is limewash, which creates a matte effect that reduces any shine and again influences a retreat-like feel.

4. Embrace nature

A living room with nods to nature

(Image credit: Malissa Mabey. Design: Susannah Holmberg)

Bringing nature indoors can be as simple as enlisting the help of an indoor tree or houseplant. Do your research to select a plant that removes toxins and purifies the air. But natural living rooms don't just mean potted plants with wonderful qualities. Natural materials can help soothe the soul too.

Other than construction materials such as stone and wood, shades of color found in nature are countless and go beyond blue, green and brown. 'In marble alone, nuances of pink and yellow can be found in its impurities. In wood, we’re familiar with several hues, including soft beige of freshly cut oak or the warm and reddish brown of mahogany.'

'Colors conveyed by natural materials rather than paint and chemical dyes are conducive to our wellbeing.

5. Banish the clutter

A living room with furniture turned in for a conversational space

(Image credit: Jonathan Hokklo. Design: Jessica Gersten Interiors)

Consider smart living room storage options to banish the clutter. If you focus on creating a retreat, you want a space that feels like a haven from clutter and mess. Select furniture solutions that solve this, with a living room TV table with handy drawers, and bookshelves with cupboards on the lower levels. Reduce the number of surfaces that clutter gravitates towards.

Other storage tips from Samantha Struck of StarStruck Interiors include keeping your storage the same color as the walls to cleverly conceal the storage. 'If you have white walls, pick white cabinetry. This will help is visually disappear and give the illusion your space is bigger,' she says.

'Use closed storage wherever possible too. Cubbies or open shelves create visual clutter so closing that off will really help you feel at peace.'

And don’t forget about the spaces you can’t see. 'Use rolling bins for under sofa storage,' advises Samantha. 'We put our kids books under our couch in rolling bins. They keep the space tidy and neat and can easily be pulled out during reading time.'

6. Focus on lighting the space well

A living room with floor lighting

(Image credit: Jonathan Hokklo. Design: Jessica Gersten Interiors)

Get rid of that bright overhead living room lighting, and opt instead for a considered lighting scheme. My favorite trick for a cozy living room that feels like a cocooning retreat is to turn the main light off and instead bring pockets of light to the space.

I make sure that the brightness of the bulb of my floor light or table lamp is hidden, obscured by a lampshade, or even carefully hidden behind a houseplant, diffusing the light equally around the room. Don't forget the candles to bring that aromatherapy element to the space.

'Many lighting plans we receive are inundated with can lights, which we often eliminate if we want to create a calm space,' says interior designer Emily Brown. 'We're not avid supporters of can lighting, given the array of alternatives for more functional and thoughtful lighting.'

'In a living room, where you may be lounging, watching TV, having conversations, or reading, embrace floor or table lamps,' says Emily. 'Add sconces for dark corners or to highlight art, and introduce a chandelier for gentle overhead lighting, creating a more tailored and ambient atmosphere.

We recommend installing fixtures on dimmers whenever possible and maintaining a warm light ambiance with soft white 2700K bulbs.

7. Create a focus

A living room with log burner focus

(Image credit: Chango & Co)

Think about the layout of the space and consider how you can give your room a focus. If this is a retreat, you might want to move your TV to another room and instead install a log burner with a fireplace to function as the heart of the space (flickering flames that omit warmth work as a calming focus far better than the blue light of your TV screen!)

Think about the layout of your furniture too and rearrange sofas to face inwards, creating more of a cozy scheme. Point your sofas inwards, centered around a coffee table that can give the room an intimate set-up that sparks natural conversation.

Create surprising seating areas too - like a window seat that gives you a view to nature or a book nook that makes use of an unused alcove or corner of the room, perfect for a spot for reading.

8. Envelop the senses

A living room with a coffee table candle

(Image credit: Christiane Lemieux)

Create a distinction between this room and every other in the home by using the sense of smell. Aromatherapy is a simple way to relax and soothe, and can be a budget-friendly way to create a feeling of retreat. 'Evoke tranquility with aromatherapy by harnessing the power of scents,' urges Ginger Curtis, CEO and founder of Urbanology Designs.

Make your home smell good by introducing the gentle caress of essential oils diffusing through the air, 'or the soft glow of scented candles imbued with calming fragrances like lavender, chamomile, or eucalyptus, known for their stress-relieving properties,' says Ginger.

3 Buys for a Living Room Retreat

Oonagh Turner
Livingetc content editor and design expert

Oonagh is a content editor at and an expert at spotting the interior trends that are making waves in the design world. Writing a mix of everything and everything from home tours to news, long-form features to design idea pieces on the website, as well as frequently featured in the monthly print magazine, she's the go-to for design advice in the home. Previously, she worked on a London property title, producing long-read interiors features, style pages and conducting interviews with a range of famous faces from the UK interiors scene, from Kit Kemp to Robert Kime. In doing so, she has developed a keen interest in London's historical architecture and the city's distinct tastemakers paving the way in the world of interiors.