10 Chic and Stylish Living Rooms—and Expert Advice on How to Recreate Them in Your Home
The living room serves as the centerpiece of your home. That's why it should be well-designed—and speak to your personal style—but also comfortable enough for you and your loved ones, since it's also where you unwind. "As much as we always say the kitchen is the heart of the home, I really think the living room can have just as strong a pulse," says interior designer Cortney Bishop. "Think about how much time you and your family spend in there!"
No matter the size of the space, some elements are essential to a snug and stylish living area. "A living room should always have a deep sofa and comfortable seating for guests," adds interior designer Becky Shea. "If your space doesn't allow for a sofa and chairs, add smaller benches, stools, poufs, or a coffee table that can serve as extra seating and offer more surface space."
Once you have your large-scale furniture pieces in place, you'll want to layer in accent items to warm up the room. "Be thoughtful and make investments in the early stages of designing that will create a poignant impact from the start," Bishop says, "such as a foundational rug, strong lighting, and window treatments to create warmth and texture. The layers will come later but landing those key pieces in the beginning will feel like progress."
Searching for more ways to curate an elevated and inviting living room? We reached out to some of our favorite designers for advice on bringing to life a chic and functional living room—and here's what they had to say.
Create a Focal Point
When decorating a living room, designate a single focal point in the space, instead of a bunch of smaller ones. "Create a focal point in the room so you don't mislead the eye with the clutter of smaller décor," says Bishop. "The focus can be a fireplace, a statement piece of art, a light fixture, or even all of them together. The point is to simplify your style and not overdo it. Less really can be more in a living room."
Integrate Your Television Into the Décor Landscape
Let's face it: TVs aren't very fun to look at when they're turned off. "Since incorporating a television set is often a central requirement in a living room, I always try to make the technology part of a broader focal narrative," says Rayman Boozer of Apartment 48. "One easy solution is to utilize a custom shelving unit to display artwork, books, and accessories alongside your latest flat screen. So now, rather than the television stealing the spotlight, a far more interesting and aesthetically pleasing story takes focus."
Create a Friendly Furniture Arrangement
Your living room is the space where you're most likely to entertain guests. That's why it's important to arrange your furniture in a way that promotes conversation. "A chic living room should have a well-appointed layout that encourages conversational seating," Shea says. "This means facing chairs and a sofa towards one another so that you and your guests can sit and mingle without breaking your necks."
Consider a Neutral Paint Palette
You can always count on a neutral paint palette to provide a warm backdrop for art and décor in a living room. "If you're not quite yet ready to commit to a bold color, pattern, or statement piece, you'll never regret a neutral foundation," says Barbie Palomino. "This way you can simply swap out throw pillows, knickknacks, and art to keep your living room feeling fresh and inspired."
Try a Symmetrical Layout
If you're struggling with arranging furniture, interior designer John McClain suggests trying a simple, symmetrical layout. "My go-to layout features one sofa facing the focal point in the living room, two chairs on each side, and a coffee table in the center," he says. "You can easily use an area rug to help designate the sitting area, and if you have enough room, add in end tables with lamps to dress up the space."
Integrate a Variety of Decorative Elements
Not sure what aesthetic direction to take in your space? Interior designer Marie Flanigan recommends using statement pieces, such as an eye-catching rug or sofa, as inspiration for the rest of the room. "Don't feel confined to one style or era," she says. "Layer in textures and different materials, mixing old with new, creating a space that feels collected and curated, but that still allows your statement items to shine."
Think Outside the White Box
A monochrome paint palette can work wonders for opening up a small, boxy living room—which is why our experts suggest incorporating a bold décor item or two to jazz up the space. "I love a good neutral, textural palette, so interesting lighting and decorative accessories are key," says Kate Lester. "Adding even one unique element that pushes your comfort zone immediately takes the space from basic to beautiful. Art, accessories, and textiles are easy ways to crank up your creativity and infuse your own dose of chic into the room."
Avoid Trend Traps
While it's fun to search online for living room décor inspiration, too many options can hinder your design process. "In the age of Pinterest and Instagram, it's easy to fall into trend traps and suddenly have 500 inspiration images that don't speak to each other (or you) at all," Palomino says. "If you're decorating or designing a living room yourself, use these sites as tools to curate your own mood board, and really home in on your design style first, before you go furniture shopping."
Add Ambient Lighting
Ask any interior designer: Good lighting is essential in any style of living room. "Many living rooms have good natural light during the day but ensuring the space is equally well lit at night is key," says Charlie Hellstern. "If you want to create a peaceful, ambient lighting scheme for the space at night, bring in additional sources of warm, soft light to shine on surfaces. Just make sure you can't see any actual light bulbs from a sitting or standing position, as this will harshen the scene."
Designate Distinct Zones
If you're working with a spacious living room, consider carving out small, distinct zones—such as reading nooks and seating areas—throughout the space. "Create stylized niches within your living room to make it more organized and personalized," says Kathy Anderson of Anderson Design Studio.