Living Room Design And Decorating Ideas

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Before You Start

Your living room is one of the most public areas of your home. In many households, it's attached to your kitchen or foyer, and it's the first room that your visitors will see. It's the place where you entertain guests, and it's the place where you hang out with the family.

Some households are lucky enough to have more than one living room: a public and space for entertaining guests and a more private den for comfortably lounging around.

No matter the size of your home, make sure that you have at least one comfortable living space. You don't necessarily need a formal living room, but you do need a place to hang out with your friends and family.

In homes with only one living room, comfortable living spaces can be just as well-designed, classy, and attractive as a formal living room. It's a myth that you need to be super-wealthy to design a great space for spending time with the family and entertaining guests.

Rule #1 for decorating a living room: As with any other room in your house, let your personality shine through. Your space needs to be functional, especially if you don't have a lot of room for lounging in your home. Bring out the family portraits, artwork, and eccentric couches. Showcase your love for indoor gardening, and let your television or fire place be the focal point of your room. Mount your HDTV and video game console in a place for all to see.

These days, especially with innovations with wireless devices, technology can be just as beautiful as expensive artwork. Reserve at least one space where you and your family can watch TV and movies. If you need to forego the formal dining area-so be it. Formality can wait, but your happiness and comfort can't. If you're lucky enough to have a home with additional space, you'll have more flexibility to design living rooms that you use less often.

Selecting A Living Room Theme

A theme can be anything that you want. It can be characteristic of design theories such as motifs from the Victorian or Modern era. You can pick a theme based on the decorative style from a country such as Japan, France, India, or China. The United States even inspired some design theories, especially during the '40s and '50s. Your room can be fashionable, or it can be minimalistic. You can choose to emphasize nature, or you can choose a layout that highlights your gadget and tech goodies.

(To learn how to decorate in a Japanese theme, read How To Design A Japanese Living Room Theme.)

Themes can be as simple as colors, patterns, or shapes. You may choose a monochrome color scheme with artwork that emphasizes inorganic shapes like rectangles and polygons. You may prefer the same color scheme with a hint of red or teal with an emphasis upon organic, circular shapes.

If you think about your objectives and how you want your space to look, chances are, you'll be happy with your product. Think like a designer and prepare a sketch of your room before you put everything together. Or, you can throw everything together with a basic plan - see what happens. Add the final touches when you are finished.

The Eclectic Comfort Space

Style Tips

Three themes that mesh with a comfortable hangout area are modern, country-classic, or old-fashioned. Most likely, the theme that you select will depend on the overall style of your home. In many situations, this style is related to your home's age and may reflect architectural concepts of a particular era. Embrace your home's architecture: it's one of the reasons why you moved into your house in the first place.

Living rooms come in all sizes, large and small. Before buying furniture and décor, think about how much space you have for wiggle room. If you have a spacious living room, you will likely need bigger furniture items so that your space appears cozy. If you have a smaller space, you will probably prefer smaller items to help your room appear spacious. No matter your room's size, living room layouts are all about striking an aesthetic balance between space and design function.

(For ideas on decorating and designing a small living room, see Small Living Room Design Ideas.)

Always remember: practicality first, trendiness second. With enough planning, you can easily make a practical space aesthetically pleasing. Just think about the room's parts in terms of the whole effect and your overall objectives - which should include key concepts of functionality, practicality, and balance.

Color Schemes

As a general decorating rule, you should choose no more than three or four colors for decorating a living space. Choose one or two bright, dominant colors like pink, red, yellow, blue, orange and purple. The rest of your colors should be neutral shades like cream, black, beige, brown, tan, or white.

Make sure that your furniture, walls, artwork, decorative items, and to a lesser extent - your electronics-fit within your color scheme. Everything means everything from couches to curtains to bookcases, rugs, vases, cushions, and more.

(To get more tips on living room color schemes, check out Tips On How To Choose Living Room Colors.)


Start with the basics that you need for comfort: a couch and a coffee table. Add more depending on the size of your room: an armchair, loveseat, bookcase, dining area table, entertainment cabinets, display cases, floor lamps, and shelving. If you have a large living room, you will likely need to add more furniture so that your room does not look barren.

If your living room is small, you will want less furniture so that the room appears spacious. Don't buy furniture because you think that you should have it - buy it because you need it. Work with your living room's architecture to create a layout for your room's design. If something looks crammed or out of place, then it probably doesn't belong.

Because your home's architecture is unique, you are in the best position to judge what fits and what doesn't. It may be helpful to draw a sketch of your living room layout to plan where to place your furniture. You'll avoid hassle and unhappiness if you plan exactly what you want and where to put stuff before you buy it.

Remember: you can add luxury to a practical room, but you probably can't add practicality to a space that is superficially luxurious.


Wallpaper and paint are the most common options for your living room walls. Some living rooms can pull of finished, hardwood walls as well.


When you plan out your walls, have an idea of whether and where you wish to hang your mounted HDTV, tapestries, paintings, framed photos, and other decorations. Be careful not to over-do it since you may end up crowding your space. For most living rooms, one dominant visual element is usually decorative enough. Smaller photos and artwork are ideal for complementing a dominant visual.

When it comes to decorating a living room, family photos are an absolute-do. Nothing showcases a comfortable and welcoming environment more than photos of your life and family. Your guests will thoroughly enjoy seeing your family photos, memories, and favorite vacations. To add a touch of sophistication to your photos, invest in some high-quality photo frames. Just be sure to select pictures that are flattering!


Choose a floor that looks good and is practical for your needs. The most common options for a living room are finished hardwood floors and carpets. You may prefer the look of one material over the other, but ultimately, you should decide which is right for you.

Hardwood floors are relatively easy to clean and are ideal for people with allergies. With very little planning, they can make a room appear luxurious and spacious.

Unfortunately, the floors may be tough to maintain, depending on your lifestyle. Floors need regular refinishing, and special cleaning supplies are required to prevent the finish from becoming stripped. If you have pets or young children, hardwood floors may become scratched as a result of accelerated wear and tear. If you have a baby or toddler, she may be prone to slipping and falling, especially when learning to walk. Older adults may also have injuries and difficulty walking on a slippery surface. A hardwood floor may be dangerous for people who are not steady on their feet. If you decide to install hardwood flooring, consider investing in a large floor rug to add an element of decorative style.

Carpets add an element of coziness and comfort to any living room. Pastels and neutral colors can make a room look spacious and bright. Plus, carpets are excellent solutions for people who need floor traction and who enjoy walking barefoot.

Like hardwood floors, carpets come with disadvantages. They can accumulate dust and cause breathing problems for people who are prone to allergies. They can also become stained and may require a professional steam cleaning several times a year. If you like to wear your outdoor shoes around the house, carpets can become dirtier, faster.

Dark colored carpets may mask stains, but they can also cause a room to appear crammed and less spacious than it actually is. Try to select a bright color for your carpet. A pet lover's carpet may be ideal for people who foresee substantial wear and tear. You can also explore hypoallergenic options for carpets at you hardware store.

(For more living room flooring options, read Living Room Flooring Ideas For Every Style.)


For a comfortable living room, think of your lighting options in terms of layers. Sometimes, you absolutely need a bright space for visibility, but other times, a dimly lit area is essential for relaxation time.

If you have the space for it, invest in a combination of overhead, floor, and table lighting. Use different bulbs to experiment with lighting color. Compact fluorescent bulbs are usually very white, while LED whites are slightly blue. Halogen bulbs are slightly golden. Compact fluorescent and LED lights tend to be the more energy-efficient options. Experiment with the color and luminosity of your light bulbs to create varying aesthetic effects.

For overhead lighting, you can choose lamps, or you can choose recessed lighting. Consider options for adjustable dimness.

The Children's Place

Style Tips

Imagine this room as the ultimate play area for your kids. This room doesn't necessarily need to be beautiful. Instead, it should be practical -embracing the spills, wear, and tear that affect every home with a child.

This isn't necessarily the room that all of your visitors see, but it's an area of the house where your kids can go watch TV and play videogames with friends. You have to admit that as an adult, you need space that is separate from where the kids do their damage.

You don't necessarily need a kiddie-theme for this type of room. Instead, plan for a room where they can keep their books, favorite shows, video games, and everything else. Keep your theme and furniture practical.

Pay attention to the style tips for designing a comfortable living room, and adapt them to the needs of your kids. Make the room adult-friendly too so that you have a fun place to hang out with the kids.

Your kids will love having their own space to play, hang out with friends, and be free to be young.

The Formal Area

Theme Ideas & Style Tips

This is the room where you showcase your love for all things elegant. Literally: showcase your expensive décor and artwork that you can't keep anywhere else in your home. Wondering where to keep your gorgeous antiques and grandfather clocks? Your formal living room is probably the place. There's no point in keeping your prized possessions in a storage unit. How are you enjoying them there?

If your artwork, sculptures, and elegant dishes are worth a fair amount to you, you may want a glass curio cabinet to keep everything together, protected, and under strict lock and key. This is one piece of furniture that you will want to earthquake-proof. Have it fastened to the wall so that it can't topple over. Secure your artwork, vases, sculptures and dishes so that they cannot move a significant amount.

You could try to incorporate modern elements with your room's design. In general, modern themes are minimalistic with very little décor. Everything in this type of room has a function: the beauty in a modern design has to do with the style of your everyday items. Invest in high-quality designer furniture, a few paintings, and sculptures for a room that brings you beauty in every corner.

(If you're looking for more modern design tips, make sure you read Modern Living Room Design Ideas.)

Victorian themes are common for formal living spaces. A designer rug, elaborate curtains, crystal vases, and elegant couches are what you need to pull off this theme. "Victorian" is a self-descriptive word, so use it when you look for your décor. This type of formal living room is dimly lit, and you may opt not to install overhead lighting at all.

Traditionally, a formal living area is not a room with a television. Instead, you may wish to install a high quality sound system for playing music for guests. As a suggestion, you may want to keep your high quality gadgets in a room that you use more often - chances are that you won't be using your formal living area very often. Think of it as a special occasion area for holidays, family events, and guests. Your comfortable living room will be the place where you should plan on doing most of your everyday hanging out.

Last Updated: March 22, 2012
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About Ritika Puri Based in California, Ritika Puri has worn a number of professional hats ranging from blogger to quantitative researcher, martial arts instructor, and cartographer. No matter what she does, she loves to write and specializes in topics related to home improvement, personal finance, and business. She writes regularly for's Financial Edge section, and her work has appeared on SF Gate, Yahoo! Finance, and The Chicago Sun Times Online. She holds a B.A. from Claremont McKenna College and an M.A. in Demographic and Social Analysis from the University of California at Irvine.  

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