You know it when you see it. You feel it when you walk in. It’s an inviting space that puts the living in living room. To create one that’s comfortable, cohesive, functional, and anything but cookie-cutter follow this expert advice.
When shopping for furniture, consider size before style so you don’t fall in love with a sofa that’s too big—or any pieces that will overwhelm the room or block traffic. A good rule of thumb: Leave about 18 inches between the coffee table and the couch. That way, no one will have to do the sideways shuffle to settle in. And allow at least 30 inches for pathways.
Find the focus
The main spot to sit (usually the couch) should have the ideal view—of a fireplace, window, or favorite framed artwork. If the room doubles as a den, conceal your TV in an armoire, integrate it in a bookcase, or choose one with a screen that turns into art when it’s off (like Samsung The Frame; from $1,300, samsung.com). The big black rectangle won’t beg for attention when you’re entertaining, but will be ready for prime time when you’re not.
Make it look cohesive
What, everything you love isn’t in one style, from one era and one country? Color is the key to making all your eclectic stuff look great together. “You can mix things more easily when you have a focused palette,” says Living home editor Lorna Aragon. Start with a neutral base, and add two accent colors. To make a statement with a favorite shade, group objects in it—say, your collection of green vases. They’ll have a bigger impact gathered on one shelf than scattered throughout the room.
Work Your Windows
They're the eyes into a home's soul. Give them the treatments they deserve, and they'll draw stares. To start, mount curtains just below the ceiling or crown molding to create the illusion of extra height and larger windows, says Virginia-based interior designer Lauren Liess. But don't go too long. Curtains should “kiss the floor,” Aragon says. “You don’t want them to pool and collect dust, or, alternatively, to look like high-water pants.”
To finish your look, add layers. Blinds, sheer panels, or shades under any curtains give a window depth and interest, and have a practical benefit—you can adjust the amount of light streaming in. Aragon prefers solar shades: They have a clean, tailored look, and help keep your home cool and stop furniture from fading. Plus, they roll up and disappear when you don’t need them.
Hang Art Like a Pro
Before you grab a hammer, position art at eye level—or, if the eye levels in your home vary widely, about five feet off the ground, says Michelle Adams, a curator for the online retailer Artfully Walls. “Mark the wall at 60 inches, then center your piece on that point,” she says. That goes for a single picture or the center of a cluster; build the other pieces off of it. One exception: Allow for at least 12 inches of clearance above a sofa or sideboard.
For a graphic display, like a row or grid, keep the distance between each item uniform, at about two inches. Liess picks finishes that bring out an element that’s missing from a room: “To add warmth, I go with gold. If I need more nature, I use textured wood. To make a bold statement, I like painted matte black.” Considering a gallery wall? For a striking display, group “one photograph, one painting, one person or animal, and one graphic or geometric print,” says Adams.