As the heart of the home, living room ideas are where decor updates need to begin. As we move from spending our entire lives in them (thanks, quarantine), to using them for relaxation, as home offices to entertain or all of the above, so our decor suggestions change, too.
"With many of us spending an increased amount of time at home, we have begun to demand more from our spaces," says acclaimed interior designer Kelly Wearstler. "Many rooms have needed to become adaptable to a variety of uses, but none more so than the living room. Now, it is not only a place to relax and unwind in after a day at work, or gather together with friends and family, but also a place that we might turn to as a part-time office or even to exercise; we require furnishings that need to suit a multitude of purposes which makes it a complex – but exciting – space to design."
Having designed dozens of world renowned spaces, both residential and in hotels, Kelly knows exactly what's she's talking about. "After the last year of spending so much time in our homes, we are longing for wide open spaces, and a reconnection with the outside world which is feeding through into the way we decorate our living rooms," Kelly Wearstler says. "Green and natural hues work very well in living spaces as they offer serenity and calmness, and plant motifs in the living room are a way to instill fresh energy into and elevate a space."
As ever house plants are key to living room ideas. "Large statement plants bring so much to a living room!" Kelly continues. "Aesthetically, they bring life and color, but they are also healing, bringing in the freshness of the outdoors. I love to watch as they grow and develop over time, transforming the feel of a room. They’re a bold way to blend the outdoors with one of the key interior spaces which we’ll be seeing much more of."
When it comes to color palettes, Kelly sees people becoming a little more daring. "Monochrome living rooms are so chic, they are full of drama and depth – and for 2022, we’re adding flashes of color to them to create a statement," she says. "A single pop of color adds excitement and character to the space, especially against a monochrome backdrop. Introducing a brightly colored rug alongside a selection of cushions in complementary hues is a great way to add characters to a living room without having to change any architectural features. For the ultimate impact I would recommend choosing a ‘star’ piece such as a bold rug, or a luscious sofa – this will help to center the room and create a focal point."
As for how to put a room together, Kelly is the master at knowing where to begin. "A great way to start a living room design is to plan out the room’s balance and symmetry – how well the visual weight of the elements of the room are distributed and repeated," Kelly advises. "An identical set of objects, such as the armchair duos which are on the rise, will draw parallel lines across a room and create a symmetry that ties a space together and offsets other more unbalanced elements."
We've pulled together lots of lovely living room ideas for all styles and all sizes of space. And you'll find plenty of easy updates you can do yourself in just a weekend too, so if you are looking just to quickly update your space rather than have a total overhaul we have you covered too with paint hacks, layout ideas and simple switch-outs that will refresh your space.
1. Choose just the right shade for the walls
"When you have natural light in a room primarily used in the day, it makes sense to keep walls fresh," says Tiffany Duggan of Studio Duggan, who created this comfy yet stylish space using just the right living room color ideas. "Opting for light walls doesn't have to mean white - some nude plastery colors work just as well."
Here, the design looks to the Seventies, the terrazzo flooring and starburst light creating a haven for hunkering down in, and the ultimate in invitingly comfortable living rooms. While the ubiquitous conversation pits have yet to make a resurgence, the era’s cocooning sofas certainly have. Clever styling is key to keep the look refreshingly contemporary rather than turning into a full homage to the past. Think contrasting structural tables, graphic, oversized artworks and minimal accessories. Stick to a restrained neutral colour palette, both to allow the sofa to take centre stage and to keep the space light, bright and modern. For more subtle additional nods to history, look to modern interpretations of vintage lighting, keeping to clean lines and materials.
2. Start with what's on the floor
Living rooms are often full of lots of pieces of furniture - chairs, a sofa or two, a table or three. When you're wondering how to design a modern living room, make sure yours can bring all those pieces together by focussing on what covers the floor.
‘Sourcing the right size rug for a living room is a great way to zone a room. Here we used a very large and sumptuously soft rug to unite the seating area in our client’s living room,’ say Katie Glaister and Henry Miller-Robinson, co-founders of K&H Design. ‘Aim to create seating in groups or have one central point where all the seating faces into. When positioning seating in a living room always remember no one wants to be isolated from the conversation. Create seating in groups or have one central point where all the seating faces in to.’
3. Paint the ceiling, too
‘Using darker hues in a room helps to make it cosy and intimate, especially when used on the ceiling,’ says Lucy Barlow, Founder of Barlow & Barlow, who designed this room, knowing exactly what colors go with blue. ‘A rich velvet always adds an extra element of warmth and softness to a room - particularly in a snug or tv room, the perfect place for cozying up to watch a film or relax with friends. You don't always have to compromise style over comfort or vice versa, they can easily go hand in hand. Adding patterned cushions helps to break up the block colour and boldness of a room whilst adding a bit of fun.’
4. Make a personalized gallery wall
Clean and simple living rooms are the perfect backdrop for creating a head-turning striking space. Utilise white backdrops for your gallery wall ideas by layering up your favourite graphic artworks, rotating the pieces every so often to keep the room fresh and the energy levels high.
Ignore any of the go-to gallery wall layouts for a unique scheme, placing frames at all heights for impact wherever you are in the room. Have a play on the floor, or by using washi tape to stick up prints on the wall before you commit to drilling holes. Bold, primary coloured furniture will bring out the brightest tones in your artworks, so choose these in tandem.
5. Add in some texture
‘Consider texture to be as important as colour and pattern,’ says Camilla Clarke, Creative Director at Albion Nord and the designer behind these beige living room ideas. 'There is nothing worse than a flat design. Interior design is all about evoking the senses and therefore texture is a vital ingredient to every design to get our sight and touch senses going. Try mixing different textures such as natural linens with soft velvets or robust leathers with thick wools.’
Add in a further extra dimension by also ensuring to integrate a splash of colour in even a thoroughly neutral space. In this tonal space, the green sofa and yellow painting help bring the room to life, adding both character and warmth.
6. Pick seating according to how you actually live
When choosing seating for your living room, the go-to for most will be the ubiquitous sofa - and sofa trends are big news right now. While we love a perfect, cosy sofa to curl up on, there are other options. If your living room is more geared towards entertaining than Married At First Sight binges, consider using a handful of armchairs instead. Not only will each guest have their own space, but the layout is quick and easy to change up to create more intimate arrangements when required. Look for swivel armchairs for extra flexibility, allowing you to dip in and out of conversations.
7. Add drama with some clever material choices
Careful consideration of materials and their placement has the ability to transform your living room into something truly spectacular. ‘The living room of this Victorian home is anchored by the dramatic veining of the calacatta viola framed portal to the kitchen,’ says interior designer Tamsin Johnson, who designed this space. ‘These materials add a sense of drama and glamour yet they don’t compete nor do they overpower the room of this size. The pared back soft furnishings help to create an overall feeling of luxurious simplicity, allowing the architectural details and materials to sing.’ The equally big statement behind the ornate living room lighting ideas on display here only add to the sense of occasion.
8. Use low furniture for a welcoming vibe
Take things low for an indulgent and warm feel in a living room. A sectional wall-to-wall sofa can help fill a space horizontally, but remains practical when paired with floor cushions and a low coffee table. Enhance the theme by painting the ceiling in a tonal shade, for extra indulgent warmth, while also drawing the eye up and stopping all the focus from being at the base of the room. Large, statement artworks will also help lift the space. ‘Scandinavian ski lodges were an inspiration for the earthy tones and textures,’ notes Kevin Dumais, Founder of Dumais Interior Design, who designed this home. ‘Leather panelled walls ground the room giving it a welcoming, cozy feel.’ Short of using leather, the same effect can be created with living room wallpaper ideas, too.
9. Mix in some curated vintage pieces
Combining old and new pieces in a space can seem daunting and tricky to balance, but by adding in vintage furniture and accessories a room becomes so much more warm, inviting and real. In fact, antiques often form the basis of the best cozy living room ideas. ‘We love to incorporate different design styles into our spaces, including mixing new with antique pieces. It helps to make the space feel layered and like it has been around for a long time,’ says interior designer Heidi Caillier who created this space. ‘We find that living rooms are more for conversation and relaxing with a book or glass of wine so we like to create different seating areas and tend to bring in a mix of sofas and varying sizes of chairs. It also helps to make the room feel more visually interesting.’
10. Harness the power of art
When designing your living room, it can be all too easy to overly focus on making it look perfect - but learn to enjoy the beauty and energy that comes from mixing and matching unexpected pieces because you love them, rather than to create an Instagram-ready room. Affordable art can be just as perfect for this as collectable pieces - it's really about what you love. ‘Art is always part of the picture for me,’ says interior designer Rebekah Caduwell who owns this home.’ Our collection is simply about who and what we have connected with at times in our life, whether a colour, a mood or an idea. So we have paintings, drawings and photographs and sculptures that make up the story of our lives. For me these final elements are what gives a house soul and a touch of magic.’
11. Use softer tones for a stronger look
More often than not the prettiest spaces in a home are the bedrooms or perhaps an indulgent master bath. Mix things up by embracing this image in the living room, while retaining a definite grown-up feel. Achieve the perfect blend of the two by looking to softer or slightly ‘dirty’ pinks, and layering these using furniture, soft accessories and artwork - retaining clean, neutral walls and flooring stop any princess-y notes from creeping in. Remember, that the best colors that go with pink often work to make it feel like a more sophisticated shade. Structure, too, is key. Reflect shapes from your art in the furniture, adding graphic lines to sofas and coffee tables, or unexpected rounded edges to side tables and spherical elements to pouffes.
12. Use decor to zone an open plan space
Open-plan living spaces will benefit from considered zoning of areas to make the most of the space and create more cozy moments for rest and relaxation among the everyday melee. ‘In this area, wall panelling was employed in the TV nook and ground floor study to create more intimate spaces,’ says Guy Stansfeld, director, 23+GS/318, who designed this home. Zoning a room with wallpaper can also be helpful to demarcate the space.
‘Extensive built-in joinery throughout helped make efficient use of the space available as well as adding accent colours to various rooms.’ Highlight these areas not only through colours, but the use of artwork and bookcases to divide in style.
13. Inject pattern with a mural
Instead of hanging art - or perhaps as well as - why not stencil a mural directly onto the wall? 'We are searching to surround ourselves with more spectacular things in our homes,' explains founder of Ophelia Blake Interior Design, Scarlett Blakey. 'Murals allow us to showcase our individuality, as they stand as one-off pieces that are oozing with exclusivity – which is perfect if you want a space to have a high impact and feel entirely memorable.' Could this be your next living room DIY project?
14. Zone a living room with Crittall-style partitions
Instead of open plan, go broken plan. This offers all the benefits of its predecessor – a sense of light, space and sociability – but with greater emphasis on separation.
Split levels, backless shelves and internal windows are all savvy ways to zone a large space. In this Victorian home, Crittall room dividers preserve the flow of light while providing a feeling of seclusion.
15. Invest in classic furniture to add a focal point
Invest in a classic piece of modern furniture will really add a focal point to your living room and set the tone of the space. Our personal recommendation would be pieces like the Eames lounge chair, the Togo sofa, Saarinen tulip table, Wishbone chair, Barcelona chair, or Chesterfield sofa. Design classics will lend a sophisticated, curated, and timeless look, whatever your decorating scheme.
16. Use rugs as art
We’re getting bolder with our choice of rugs and choosing larger, more colorful pieces. Rugs are becoming less of a finishing touch and more of an investment or talking point within a room.
At Livingetc we love a good rug – but ever thought of hanging them on the walls instead? Statement rug wall hangings are all the rage, as more people are opting for a more textural look for their walls. Because why limit a striking design to the floor, when walls cry out for a little texture? Wall hanging rugs is a fantastic way to give your space a modern, edgy twist, and to fill your vertical space with texture, color and warmth.
17. Paint the woodwork in a contrasting color
We're seeing a rising trend in painted woodwork, skirting, doors, door frames, and cornicing, and it's a great way of introducing smaller pops of color. Rather than trying to make the woodwork disappear, selecting a standout color for a fresh take on a painted interior.
In this whimsical living room, the cornicing was painted in a blush pink paint, adding a quirky twist to the traditional room. The back of the fireplace is painted in same pink used for the cornicing to the color still feels cohesive.
18. Inject joy with bright hues just for the fun of it
‘I looked at a colour chart with my then four-year old and she pointed to that yellow – there was no technical way of doing it,’ says designer Suzy Hoodless of the almost neon yellow architrave that makes up the boldest part of the living room ideas in her house. Painted in Trumpet by Little Greene, it adds a jolt of unexpected joy, a reminder that a living room is truly meant for living in.
Suzy’s use of color ‘doesn’t necessarily have to be bright; it can be muted, too’, she says. So here, a powerful shock of incandescent yellow around the architrave, linking the front living room to the middle sitting room, instantly saves the two spaces from becoming ‘too polite’. Cabinets painted a saturated blue bring an otherwise pared-back space to life, and the combination creates a cocooning space. ‘Colour is an easy way to create a dramatic effect,’ says Suzy.
19. Decorate the ceiling
The trend for painted ceilings is still proving ever-popular. Inverting the traditional formula of painted walls and white ceilings, the ceiling is becoming the hero, often combined with paler tones or off-white walls to make the room feel larger. How fabulous is this ornate grey ceiling, it makes the beautiful design so much more of a focal point? Definitely a modern living room idea we are going to test out.
20. Conceal your TV
Don't make your TV the focal point of your living room - in fact there are plenty of ways to hide your TV. We love this simple solution of fixing bookcases on wheels, sliding them apart to reveal a wall-mounted TV.
21. Build in clever joinery
Maximize space by building in clever storage. Many homes have awkward alcoves. This is one area where it pays to invest in bespoke cabinetry to really maximize the storage.
The bespoke media unit in this open-plan reception room provides essential storage with decorative floating shelves above. Designed by London Contemporary to fit the wall shape without protruding into the room too much.
22. Make a statement with quirky furniture
For a show-stopping piece of furniture to make its mark, it shouldn’t be upstaged. As they say: if everything is important, then nothing is. Paint the walls plain white to allow your chosen item to become the center of attention and then anchor it with a striking rug to ramp up the wow factor.
Browse our guide to the best sofas to find some statement seating options that can add focal-point style and deliver on the comfort front.
23. Go oversized with living room houseplants
Tired of the humble houseplant but still want to bring the outdoors in? Dial-up the drama with and copy this modern living room idea with an indoor tree, the logical and maximalist next step. When choosing your tree, check that it will live happily indoors and consider its care. How much water and natural light does it need? How large will it grow – and how high is your ceiling?
24. Create a cozy feel with a sunken living room
Eventually, everything comes back in style – now it’s the turn of the sunken living room. Perhaps it’s our obsession with all things mid-century or the trend for broken-plan living that’s fuelling the revival. Whatever the reason, a sunken living room is a practical way to zone a large space without erecting walls, as this design proves.
25. Trick the eye with mirrors
Think this small modern living room goes on and on? In fact, a mirror cut to fit the exact measurement of the wall will create the illusion of being twice the size. So be inspired by this modern living room idea and use mirrors to 'expand' your space. Large lean mirrors will make the floor space seem bigger, or wall mount a large mirror opposite a window to bounce more light around the room.
26. Be bold with dark living room ideas
Darker, deeper blues create a bolder, more dramatic living room, and have a cocooning effect. It suits both large living rooms, making them feel smaller and cozier, and small living rooms, emphasizing bijou proportions and giving them a den-like feel.
Love this space? Find more blue living room ideas in our gallery.
27. Go for Mid-Century style
Mid-Century Modern furniture continues to soar in popularity, and these days you don't need to get your hands on vintage pieces to get the look – high street retailers have jumped on the bang wagon too, so they are really easy to source and make part of your living room design.
28. Choose statement lighting
Set a dramatic tone for your home with a decadent statement light– a central piece that you can arrange the furniture around. Head bump-saving tip: remember to factor in clearance room so people can walk beneath the pendant – allow two metres from the bottom of the fixture to the floor.
29. Hang a gallery wall
This clustered gallery wall configuration is a fantastic mix of ornate frames. For maximum impact, ensure the images have a unifying element – maps are the theme here – and try to keep an even gap between the frames for a balanced look.
How can you make a living room more modern?
The term 'modern' can mean so many different things, from traditionally modern, so very minimal and contemporary with sleek lines and striking shapes, to very rustic and cozy modern farmhouse style. Really, the route of modern you take will come down to your tastes and the style of your home, so deciding on this would be the first step. Then its just about picking colors that feel modern and fresh – whites, creams, greys are always a safe choice but don't be afraid to go bold either. Bright colors like vivid reds, green and yellows can really elevate a room and make it instantly feel more modern.
Furniture choice obviously sets the tone for a modern living room too. What we always say makes a room feel more modern is when there's an effortless mix of styles, say very minimalist Mid-century furniture with opulent antique French decor will create a room that feels unexpected and interesting.
What are the best colors for a living room?
Our editor Pip Rich is a big fan of green living rooms. "I think green walls create the ideal mood you'd want in a living room," Pip says. "I was inspired by the work of the interior designer Noa Santos, who used a sage green in one of his New York projects, pairing it with canary yellow and rich woods. It feels both sophisticated and calming at the same time. What more could you want?"
Amy Moorea Wong is a freelance interior design journalist with a decade of experience in contemporary print and digital editorial, previously News Editor at Livingetc. She writes on a broad range of modern design topics from news and interior zeitgeist to houses, architecture, travel and wider culture. She has a penchant for natural materials, surprising pops of colour and pattern and design with an eco edge.
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