Living room furniture ideas – 11 ways to make your furnishings stand out

Try out these expert-approved living room furniture ideas for stylish sofas, coffee tables and more

A living room with a white curving sofa and an organic chair
(Image credit: Design by Studio 11;11. Photo by James K Lowe)

Living room furniture ideas should help you design a stylish and functional space. Since this is a room you spend a lot of time in, you need to get its design right. 

While thinking of creative living room ideas, look at your space and decide how many furniture items would fit within it, without making it a tight squeeze. You want to place seaters in such a way that there is enough circulation space in the room, without you bumping into things. 

For a focus on how to get the most from your living room furniture ideas, we asked a few design experts for their help. Here's what they had to say. 

11 living room furniture ideas for a well-balanced space

'The most essential aspect of any living room is furniture that makes it comfortable to sit around in peace,' says architect Jeanne Schultz. 'Whether it's a sofa, a lounge chair, or a stool, the space needs to have a good mix of seaters to be called complete.'

Ideally, in a standard living room, a sofa, two chairs, and a coffee table should be perfect. If there's space for more, a large, statement chair, an ottoman, or a nest of stools can add functionality. 

Get into the detail of how to select, position and style your living room furniture with these expert tips. 

1. Start with a stand out sofa

A living room with a smart sofa and monochrome artwork

(Image credit: Run for the Hills)

A standard sofa is the most essential living room furniture idea. In fact, a sofa is one of the biggest investments you’ll make for a cozy living room, and it'll last you years. 

Look for quality pieces that feel solid and heavy. If possible, test it out at the store; lift it by the corner and shake it a bit. Choose one that has a frame made from oak, alder, birch, maple, or, high-quality hardwood plywood or marine plywood. Eight-way, hand-tied springs are ideal. 

'A standout sofa is a must,' says Anna Burles, principal designer at Run For The Hills. 'We try and persuade clients to invest in a sofa which makes a statement; not just a neutral shade but something more punchy and exciting. This deep green sofa is gorgeous and its color allows the art to be monochrome.'

2. Have fun with shapes in the living room

A living room with a curved sofa

(Image credit: Design by JMorris Design. Photo Jacob Snavely)

Loving the bold curves going on in this living room? Curving sofas can give your home a bit of a style edge. These are particularly helpful when you have a small space. 'Consider a curved sofa tucked into a corner.  This truly maximizes space as corners are often ‘lost’ and by bringing in an L shape sofa there is plenty of sitting room without sacrificing square footage,' says Jennifer Morris, principal designer at JMorris Design

Speaking of curves, an oval, round or organic-shaped coffee table is a good choice too, to bring in your living room. Give an extra edge to the room by decorating the round coffee table.

Not only are curves a big living room trend, they're a great spatial addition too. Note how in this living room the softness and playfulness of the curves is reflected in the coffee tables but juxtaposed with the cleaner lines of chairs. This contrast gives the room a more formal, elegant, grown-up edge despite all the fun shapes and colors – definitely a modern living room furniture idea to pinch from this space. 

3. Balance the sofa with statement chairs 

A living room with two blue chairs in the corner

(Image credit: JMorris Design)

Long gone are the days of the three-piece suite, who wants all their furniture to match anymore? So once you've got your dream sofa in mind, you want to think about what secondary seating you want to bring into your space. And by secondary seating we mean, armchairs, stools, ottomans, day beds, maybe even a window seat if your room allows. 

'Create individual ‘zones’ in a living room to make it feel like a purposeful space,' says Jennifer.  'Two bright lounge chairs create a conversation nook while a small sofa that includes a chaise will create ample seating and good vibes even in a small living room.  For decorative lighting, go with clear glass to keep things fresh and light.'

If you are after a cohesive look for your elegant living room because your chairs and sofa will sit opposite each other, almost mirroring one another, opt for a statement patterned chair (or two) that contains the color of your sofa. However, if you are after a single stand-out piece that you want to be the focus on, pick an accent chair in a bold, contrasting color. 

4. Don't forget a living room bar unit

A living room corner with a gold-toned bar cabinet

(Image credit: Run for the Hills)

A bar unit can squeeze into any room in your home depending on your space restrictions and entertaining habits. From bar carts that can store bottles and glasses, a dining room buffet that can provide a host-friendly spot for your liquor supply, to even built-in units, or when the space is ultra-tight, a bar can add a design-savvy twist when designing a modern living room.

'City apartments are all about entertaining – whether that's on a weeknight whim or for Saturday night drinks, so a good cocktail cabinet and a special-feeling display piece for bottles and glasses are a must for our penthouse projects,' says Anna. 

5. Use a rug to ground modern living room furniture 

A living room with a blue sofa and brown carpet

(Image credit: Design by Atelier Cho Thompson. Photo by Samara Vise)

When designing, think of creative living room flooring ideas– a great way to add style is with area rugs! A rug is what stops furniture from looking like it's just floating in a sea of the floor, it grounds the furniture, defines the space, and can make a room feel bigger too. 

So when picking a living room rug, go as big as your space can handle. You want only a few inches of flooring exposed around the edge, and all the furniture should have at least two legs sitting on top. 

'A rug can anchor a room,' says Noemie Deed, founder of Cosy Coco. 'It is one of the main pieces used to create a cohesive and stylish space and should therefore be considered at the same stage as choosing your upholstered furniture. When designing a contemporary scheme, you’ll want a rug to set the tone as the key accessory piece. Choose a minimalist design that still acts as a piece that adds visual interest to a room. You want your rug to draw the eye without overpowering, as it’ll be key in tying together your sofa, coffee table, and other smaller accessory pieces. Modern decor is all about effortlessly sleek, clean, and subtle design./

6. Invest in key pieces

Modern living room with green velvet chairs, mirrored coffee table and chandelier

(Image credit: James Merrell)

As we've said before, living room furniture works hard and we spend a lot of time in these spaces, so investing in a few pieces that are going to work for you for years to come is always worth it.

Of course, we'd always advise spending as much as your budget will allow on the pieces that will see the most use, like sofas and maybe armchairs, but investment pieces don't always have to be purely practical either. If a piece of furniture, be it a stunning marble coffee table or a vintage gold cart, is going to make the space feel like a reflection of your style and add a quirky centerpiece it's worth purchasing it. 

7. Don't always buy new

Green living room with built in shelving, armchairs and colorful vintage rug

(Image credit: James Merrell)

The key to creating interesting, unique, modern living rooms is to buy pieces second-hand. Filling a room with brand new furniture can leave space feeling a bit flat and void of any personality, texture, or excitement. So get scouring online or at thrift stores, and antique shops for those special one-off pieces that will bring life into a modern rustic living room

Occasion chairs, rugs and mirrors are all great pieces to look out for when shopping for second-hand living room furniture. We will say, unless you plan to have it upholstered, avoid buying an older sofa as you may find the filling in knackered and so will sag or the color has faded, looking more shabby than chic. 

8. Mix and match style for an eclectic look 

White modern living room with a mix of different style furniture

(Image credit: Future)

And it's mixing these second-hand pieces in with a more contemporary style, that makes a living more intriguing. Rather than sticking to a single style, mix and match different looks, taking your favorite pieces from different eras and bringing them together in your living room. 

See how in this living room, an Eames Chair, meets a very minimalist slubby white sofa. The textures are different, the lines are different, the styles are totally different – Mid-century modern and modern rustic? Sounds like it shouldn't work but it totally does. Even the ottoman and the layered living room rug idea creates a more rustic look. 

Really there are no rules when it comes to mixing different living room furniture styles, just test it out using mood boards so you can ensure it's going to work in your space. And do be mindful of the overall style of your home and the era it was built, as this may dictate what style of furniture would work best. 

9. Pick the right color palette 

White and grey living room with boucle chair and grey sofa

(Image credit: Anna Stathaki)

When it comes to choosing living room colors for your upholstered modern living room furniture, stick to a fairly small color range, say a palette of just two or three hues depending on how many pieces of furniture you have. You want these bigger pieces of furniture to have longevity and adapt to whatever other colors and patterns you throw at them. 

Remember you can always add more colors to your scheme using rugs, drapes and textiles but for sofas and armchairs either keep them all the same or similar shades or combine a couple of colors that really work well together. That's not to say you can't go bold with the colors, just be sure that they are colors you really love and can live with for a long time. 

10. Contrast materials in a modern living room 

Modern living room with patterned sofa, retro furniture and built in shelving

(Image credit: James Merrell)

This modern grey living room is a master class in mixing different materials to create a space that feels welcoming and cozy but also elegant and contemporary.

The key is that mix of soft, unshapely forms of the upholstery and the hard surfaces and clean lines of the coffee table and side table. You want that contrast of hard and soft to break up the space but also to create balance and structure so your living room doesn't just become a collection of squishy seating.

11. Think about storage

Mid-century modern style living room with retro furniture

(Image credit: Future)

Living room storage needs to be practical and clutter-free. Of course, going for built-in means you can get all your storage out of the way on one wall and really customize it to your needs. But built-in storage doesn't suit all styles or budgets, so if you are searching for freestanding storage pieces choose furniture that has plenty of hidden storage and offers as much versatility as possible. 

Coffee tables with deep drawer of shelving, a TV unit that can hide away ugly boxes and wires, elegant console tables to provide both handy storage and an extra surface space for decor.

Don't just rely on shelving for storage. If anything you want to keep your living room shelving as clutter-free as possible and should be used more for decor than a place to cram your TV manual and the remotes. 

Modern living room trends are certainly all about undulating shapes and curved forms for 2021. Bye-bye straight lines, in living rooms we want softness and waves and arcs.  And that trend for softer spaces is reflected in fabric choice too – tactile fabrics like boucle, velvet, and linen add extra coziness. Even the color palettes are softer, more muted, and warmer, a shift away from the greys and whites that have dominated living room furniture trends for years. 

And at the opposite end of the spectrum is maximalism, also making a comeback. So stand-out living room furniture is on-trend. Fringing, bold patterns, and vivid colors are all ways to incorporate this style into your living room. And remember when it comes to maximalism more if more so don't be afraid to really fill your space too, opting for more furniture, more pattern and more color. 

A living room with a yellow sofa and blue bookshelf

(Image credit: Design by VORBILD Architecture. Photo by Chris snook)

How do I pick the right size of sofa?

When thinking of the size of the sofa, use these rough measurements for starters. 

'To measure for your new sofa, it’s always a good idea to note the dimensions of the existing furniture,' says Dani Burroughs, head of product of Snug Sofa. 'You’ll want to make sure your new sofa fits in the space without overcrowding – or underwhelming. Another way to get a real sense of the size is to choose a style you like and map out its dimensions on the floor by laying out cardboard or taping an outline with masking tape. Play around with the different options: try sizing up or down until you find the perfect sofa that fits your home and style.'

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.

With contributions from