Having the ultimate living room is something that many people dream about. After all, it’s the place where you hang your head after a long day at the office, and it’s the place where you gather with family and friends on special occasions or just because.
Having the ultimate living room requires some work, though! You’ve got to make a killer design that speaks to your aesthetic; while at the same time providing you all the form and function you could ever want.
In order to assist you with your decision-making process, we’ve assembled this ultimate living room design guide. It goes over all of the key things you’ll need to pay attention to, and if you follow the advice herein, you should be able to approach the entire process like a pro interior designer! We cover everything from approaching the space of your living room and picking furniture, to dressing up your fireplace and selecting the right flooring
So, if you’re considering a living room design, we encourage you to read on! And, be sure to check out the links at the end, as these are further resources that you can use to drive your living room design inspiration!
Table of Contents
1. Getting Started
2. Choosing a Style
3. Dealing With The Room
4. Picking Furniture
6. The Fireplace
1. Getting Started
As with any other design project you’ll undertake in your home, your process should begin with your needs and not with your wants. Think about your living room, and what you’ll need it to do. For example, if you have a burgeoning family, then you’ll need your living room to function equally well for children and for adults. Alternatively, if children aren’t a factor and you’re into entertaining, you’ll want to design a living room that’s conducive to that.
Whatever your needs may be, make a list before you begin the design process. Ultimately, you want a living room that’s as functional as it is aesthetically pleasing, and this will only be possible if you design the space in such a way as to address all of your needs. If you need a pullout couch for guests, then that needs to be on the list. If someone needs an office area in the living room, that needs to go on the list, too! Consider everything from the start, and you’ll thank yourself later.
Now, if you’re designing a living room for a new home build, then your options are only limited by your home’s square footage and how much you want to allot for your living room. But, if you’re remodeling an existing living room, you’re going to be dealing with the space allotted – unless you start knocking down walls, of course! If you’re going to be knocking down walls and doing in-home construction, make sure you’re up to speed on all the local building codes and that any contractors you hire are, as well.
Assuming you’re not dealing with a new space (or a completely remodeled one), any living room design needs to begin with measurements. You need to know exactly how large the room is, as well as how long each of its walls is. This is important because the size of the space will necessarily guide all of the purchases you make, from couches and chairs to tables and décor. What you purchase needs to be able to fit comfortably into the room.
You’ll also need to measure more than the living room itself. A lot of what you may purchase is going to be quite large, and you’ll need to make sure you can actually get those larger pieces of furniture through the doors and hallways that lead to your living room. So measure them, that way you’ll know if that perfect couch you find will actually be able to fit into your home!
2. Choosing a Style
Given how much time you, your family and your friends will be spending in your living room, you want to make sure you have a style that you love. It seems like a simple thing, but the more you see what’s out there and what’s possible, the more difficult it can become.
Perhaps more so than in any other living space, living room styles can vary widely. That’s because the living room is almost always the most “personal” room in a home, the one that reflects the aesthetics, interests, and personalities of the homes owners.
Therefore, it’s always a good idea to begin the process of determining a style by seeing what’s out there. Below, you’ll find some amazing examples of different living room styles that are popular these days.
Given the popularity of open-concept homes these days, many are designing their living rooms with modern, minimal flair.
A rustic style is a perfect choice for those who want a living room for reading or for late-night chats with friends and family.
Believe it our not, the mid-century style is making a comeback, with many homeowners enamored of its sleek geometric shapes.
If the living room of your dreams is one that features dark, stained wood and delicious leather, then the Craftsman style may be what you’re after.
If you’re fortunate enough to own a home in a coastal community, then going for a coastal style is virtually a given!
Those who like to impress will want to consider going with a classically elegant (and luxurious) style for their living rooms.
This list is by no means exhaustive. You can continue your research here, where we’ve collected even more stunning examples of awesome living room designs. Additionally, you may wish to check out the living rooms of friends and family to see what you do and don’t like.
Another factor that you’ll need to consider in choosing your style is the layout, which will be covering next. But, if you’re living room is part of an open-concept living space, then your choice of style will be somewhat dictated by the style of the other living spaces that are a part of the open concept, for example your kitchen or dining room. Alternatively, your choice of living room style may be something you need to carry over to those other living spaces. Even if your living room is not part of an open concept, though, you should always consider how its style will interact with the design style of the rest of your home.
Now, one final note on style: It’s important that, when you’re selecting a style, you think back to your needs. While you may be completely enamored of modern and contemporary living room styles, if you have small children who’ll be running around, those boxy edges can be a hazard! What’s more, all of that low-profile furniture means those expensive décor items you’ve purchased are low to the ground and easy to knock over. It’s just something to keep in mind!
3. Dealing With The Room
When it comes to living rooms, there are essentially three kinds you could be dealing with. First, there’s the open-concept living room, which is so tremendously popular these days. Next, there’s the square (or rectangular) living room, which you’ll find in many older homes. Finally, there’s the long living room, which is something you’re more likely to find in a contemporary home.
Each of these different room shapes offers different benefits and challenges, which will be considering below. After reading this, you may consider remodeling that actual space of your living room into one layout or another. However, this may not be necessary, as it’s possible – with the right design techniques, of course – to make any of these layouts work marvelously.
The Open-Concept Living Room
In designing an open, the biggest challenge you’re going to face is creating a sense of separation from the other adjoining living spaces. The goal, however, isn’t to completely separate the spaces from one another. Rather, it is to create a unique identity for each living space, while at the same time allowing traffic to flow easily from one space to the next.
To this end, you may wish to apply this concept to your open-concept living room. Rather than going for one large seating area – a large L-shaped couch, for example – you may wish to create multiple seating areas. For example, you could have a small table with chairs, as well as a few amply sized ottomans that double as seating.
Using an area rug can also be a great decision for your open-concept living room. One that’s attractive and complements that overall color scheme of the space can visually mark the space, preventing things from looking cluttered and messy.
While you may be accustomed to positing living room furniture along walls, you do not need to do this with an open-concept living room. Instead, you can float furniture in the middle of the room, creating multiple avenues through which traffic can flow through the space.
Here are some excellent examples of open-concept living rooms that apply the design principles we’ve been talking about:
The two brown chairs opposing the white couch work beautifully in this open-concept living room.
Two different but complementary area rugs have been used to divide the living room and dining room in this open-concept space.
This open-concept living room design provides plenty of space for people to mill around.
The Square Living Room
Square living rooms can be the most difficult to design well. Given that they’ll generally be smaller than open-concept or long living rooms, it can be much more difficult to create the convivial vibe that you’re after. However, it’s not impossible, especially so if you avoid making the mistakes people traditionally make with these kinds of spaces!
Commonly, homeowners will position furniture along the walls to maximize the floor space available in these kinds of living rooms. That can actually work against your aims, though, as doing this severely hampers the sense of intimacy most people want. Instead, consider floating a couch and several chairs in the middle of the space to create that intimate vibe you’re after.
You may think this limits your floor space, but that doesn’t have to be the case! When choosing furniture, consider chairs, tables and ottomans that can be moved easily from place to place. This will add a degree of functionality to a small, square living room space that you never thought was possible.
There’s one final thing you can do to really get the most out of a square living room. Consider using lots of colorful artwork on the walls. Doing this will visually fill up the room, which only helps to reinforce the intimate vibe that you’ve given to the space.
Here are some excellent examples of square living rooms that apply the design principles we’ve been talking about:
With the seating floating inside of the room, this square living room achieves a cozy feel.
With multiple décor items on the wall, as well as bookshelves flanking a piano, there’s a lot to draw the eye in this square living room design.
Slight furniture, as well as an ottoman on wheels, ensures that the layout of this square living room can be changed to accommodate different needs.
The Long Living Room
The long living room is similar to the galley kitchen, in that it’s two long walls that terminate at a shorter wall. A space of this shape presents a number of limitations, however there are even more opportunities – provided you apply the right design principles, of course!
With a long living room, you have the opportunity to have a lot of fun, as you can – if you wish – create separate zones within the larger living room space. For example, one end of the room could be dedicated to a work area, while the middle of the room is occupied by a sitting area, and the opposite end is dedicated to a library or bar area.
It’s common for people to choose long furniture that mirrors the shape of the room. This is a mistake. Instead, you should use shorter, plusher furniture to break up the space visually, as this well help to prevent the room from seeming too cavernous. You could, of course, go with longer and thinner furniture pieces. This would be more appropriate for a living room that adopts the contemporary style.
One thing to pay attention to in these spaces is the locations of outlets, heaters and windows, as these will limit where you can place certain pieces within the room. So, as a rule of thumb, it’s a great idea to map out where all of these elements are so that you can think carefully about the pieces you select to fill up the room.
Here are some excellent examples of long living rooms that apply the design principles we’ve been talking about:
With seating placed at multiple angles, there are different individual spaces within the larger space of this long living room design.
By not using long furniture to fill out the space, this long living room design manages to remain comfortable and cozy.
By incorporating one small chair in the foreground, this long living room manages to balance its L-shaped couch quite nicely.
For living rooms that are shaped differently then the three most common types, you will have to adopt a mix of the design principles that are outlined above. However, if you concentrate on maximizing the usage of the space; pay attention to things like outlets, heaters and windows; and design with your mind turned toward the style of the rest of your home, then you should be in good shape!
4. Picking Furniture
Without a doubt, the most exciting part of designing your living room will be picking the furniture. However, before you break out the credit card and head out to the nearest furniture store, there’s something you’ll need to do first: take stock of what you already have.
If you have the budget to allow for it, and you’re willing part with everything you already have, then the decision is already made. But, if you’re on a budget – as most people are – it will be worth taking the time to determine whether or not some of your old pieces can be incorporated into the new design. To do this, you’ll want to ask a couple questions:
Does it have sentimental value? Remember, you want to be comfortable in your living room, and if there’s a piece (however large or small) that fills you with the warm-and-fuzzies, then you should strongly consider keeping it.
Does it fit the style you want? If you’ve got a country-style couch, and you’re trying to craft a contemporary look, then that’s not going to work. However, in some instances you might be able to solve your conundrum by asking the next question.
Can it be changed or adjusted? For pieces that are almost there but not quite, consider that you might be able to turn an old piece into something new. Furniture can be repainted or refinished, and couches can be reupholstered. That might be a much cheaper option than buying new!
Is it worth a lot of money? If you’ve got an antique piece that’s going to appreciate in value, and you love it, then maybe you should keep it around. Otherwise, why not sell it, and apply the proceeds to your new living room design?
Asking these essential questions should help you to decide what’s staying and what’s going in your existing living room. If you’re keeping pieces, then be sure to consider how they’re going to fit into the style and design you’re going for, or even consider building your new design around the existing piece – provided you love it enough!
Once that’s done, there’s one more thing you need to do, something we mentioned earlier but that – like all good advice – bears repeating. You need to measure your living rooms space, and then you need to measure again. You’ll also need to measure all of the doorways, hallways, or maybe even windows that you’ll use to get pieces that you buy into the house. Nothing’s worse than finding the perfect piece, only to discover you’ll need to break a hole through the wall to get it inside.
With all of that in mind, here are some great tips that will help guide your buying process, regardless of what living room style you’re working with.
Don’t be matchy-matchy: Think of every living room you’ve been in where all of the furniture matches. It creates a consistent look, but how boring is that? To get the best look for your living room design, try to match furniture of various sizes together. This can break the space up visual, and give the eye multiple things to be drawn to.
Watch the scale: While you should vary the size of your furniture, you should pay attention that you’re keeping the scale of the furniture consistent. For example, you wouldn’t want to match a thin loveseat with a plush, overstuffed couch.
Work with height: While you’ve probably spent a lot of time looking at where your furniture will be placed on the floor, you’ve got to think about your walls, too. In order to keep the space vibrant and visually interesting, you’ll have to work with different heights. This can be down with pieces like bookshelves, or it can be done with artwork, mirrors, or light fixtures.
Like symmetry overall: If you’re committed to an eclectic look, then you can skip right past this piece of advice. However, most people want a room that has a soothing look to it, and this can only be accomplished by making things symmetrical. This means trying to have pairs of different pieces and placing them in complementary locations within the space.
But use asymmetry, too: However, an overly symmetrical living room will end up looking clean, sterile and boring. Therefore, don’t be afraid to put things askew a little bit. Try placing certain pieces at an angle, or try juxtaposing pieces of varying heights, depths, or widths. It will require some play, but you’ll know when you’ve achieved the proper balance.
Build contrasts: In the same way that matching too much in shape can create a boring, limp space, so too can going overboard with one or two colors. Work to bring different colors together in interesting ways, and forecast them across the room. For example you could have chairs that are different color than your couch. However, the throw pillows on the couch can forecast the color of the chairs.
Compose, compose, compose: When you’re designing your living room, you’re somewhat like an artist. As such, you should apply artistic principles to your design. For example, you should triangulate pieces, whereby two similar pieces flank another different piece that is at a different height or position. Also, think about how your living room is built in layers (one close, one medium, one far) and how those different layers are filled out.
If you’re completely redoing your living room, then you’re probably thinking about switching up the flooring. There are a number of different living room flooring options, all with their pros and cons. We’ll be exploring these options in order to help guide your decision making process.
For those of you with open-concept living rooms, your decision making process should absolutely include the other living spaces attached to your living room. So, be sure that you’re keeping the needs for those living spaces in mind as you consider the needs you have for your living room.
If you’re looking for the most popular flooring option for your living room, it’s undoubtedly hardwood floors. They’re incredibly attractive, and with a range of different hardwoods and finishes available, there’s incredible versatility when it comes to getting the look you desire. However, hardwoods can vary greatly in price, and depending on what you choose, they can become damaged quite easily. Therefore, you’ll want to protect high-traffic areas with area rugs, runners and things of that nature.
Here are some stunning examples of living room designs with hardwood floors.
The light, hardwood floors used in this living room design really allow the craftsman elements to sing.
The darker hardwood used in this living room design really allows the room the build stunning contrast.
When it comes to comfort for your living room, it’s hard to better than wall-to-wall carpeting. However, the look as fallen out of favor some, and it will not add value to your home in the same way that hardwoods can. However, if you have small children in the house, who’ll be running around whether you want them to or not, carpeting can be the right choice. All of that said, it takes a lot of work to keep carpeting clean, and spills can be a real issue.
Here are some stunning examples of living room designs with carpeted floors.
White wall-to-wall comforting really ups the comfortable vibe of this living room design.
The basket-weave carpeting is an unconventional but ultimately rewarding choice for this beautiful living room.
For those looking to create the contemporary look in their living rooms, concrete is an excellent choice. It’s incredibly durable, and there’s a lot that can be done with it in terms of customization through stains, epoxy and staining. Of course, concrete does have a somewhat ‘clinical’ feel to it, and it doesn’t have much give. This means it wouldn’t be ideal for those who do a lot of entertaining where people are standing and milling about or for people who’ll be hosting senior guests quite often. However, these issues can be mitigated with area rugs and things of that nature.
Here are some stunning examples of living room designs with concrete floors.
Here you can see how concrete floors work perfectly for living rooms featuring a minimal, contemporary design.
An attractive area rug is generally all you need to break up the monolithic feel of concrete floors.
Although not incredibly common in living rooms, it’s still used and to great effect. Since tiles of different shapes, sizes, and colors can be arranged in different patterns, the opportunity for customization is great. However, if you’re doing that, you’ll really need to think about how the furniture pieces you select for your living room will work with your flooring. Moreover, tile isn’t always the most even surface, so you may need to find ways of leveling different furniture pieces to ensure things aren’t askew.
Here are some stunning examples of living room designs with tile floors.
Attractively patterned tile can really add cheer to a living room design, as you can see above.
Tile can also be used effectively to accentuate the geometric visual effect of modern and contemporary styles.
If you’re looking to get the look and feel of hardwood floors, tile or concrete, but your budget won’t allow you to part with that amount of money, laminate can be a solid choice. It’s not as durable as solid hardwood floors, but it can generally hold up quite well to most wear and tear. Customization can be an issue, as you’ll generally be limited to what’s “in stock”, but there’s a wide range of options out there, and you should be able to find something that will work, if you choose to go this route.
Here are some stunning examples of living room designs with laminate floors.
As you can see, laminate floors can really look the part of natural hardwood floors.
The darker laminate wood flooring used in this living room design really ties the room together.
The above are the most common flooring options when it comes to living rooms, but there are others that you might consider. For example, you could consider a mix of carpeting and hardwood floors, or you might consider going with cork floors (pictured above). If you are going outside the box, though, be sure to research the material thoroughly so that you can ensure it will stand up to the ways in which you’ll be using your living room space.
6. The Fireplace
Depending upon your needs, you may incorporate unique elements into your living room – like a workspace, wet bar or entertainment center, for example. However, there’s one element that’s common to most living rooms that we haven’t touched on yet, and that’s the fireplace.
In and of itself, a fireplace is an attractive thing to have in your living room. However, there are a number of different things you can do with it in order to really make it sing. Here are some tips you can apply to maximize the value of your fireplace within your living room, helping to make the space as cozy and comfortable as possible.
Exposed Stone: If you’re blessed to have a beautiful exposed stone fireplace in your living room, then you’re already ahead of the game. However, all of that stone can be quite imposing on the space. You can ameliorate this effect by adding a large mirror overhead on the mantle.
Screen It: For a fireplace that’s flush with the ground, you can use an attractive screen to create visual interest for the space. You’ll want to consider how the shape (as well as the color) fits in with your overall design aesthetic, however.
Movie Time: In this day and age, it seems like every room needs to have a television. If that’s the case with you and your family, then by all means install a television above the fireplace. Also, if your budget allows, you can consider installing the television behind a piece of retractable artwork.
Surrounding: Another way to accentuate the fireplace in your living room design is to use tiles (or other material) around the opening of the fireplace. Doing this draws the eye to the fireplace even when it’s not alight.
Cooking With Gas: Even if your home doesn’t have a built-in fireplace with chimney, that doesn’t mean it’s game over! There are a number of gas-burning fireplaces out there that can be installed, which are easy to maintain and that can add an attractive visual element to your living room.
Get Electrical: If gas is out of the question, then there are electrical fireplaces that can be installed, too. These are great because they have an incredibly low profile, and they won’t require venting of any kind. Like gas fireplaces, they’re also good if you have children, as they can be quickly turned off, if need be.
Height: If you’re going with a gas or electric option, remember that you don’t have to place your fireplace flush with the ground! Often, the best decision can be to install the fireplace in the center of the wall, which allows the heat that it throws off to be better enjoyed.
Get Some Inspiration
With the above information, you should be well on your way to designing the living room of which you’ve been dreaming. However, before you get too far ahead of yourself, you should take the time to look at other living rooms that people have created for themselves. Often, this can create the spark of inspiration that you need to design something truly exceptional. To that end, we’d encourage you to check out our collection of living room designs, which run the gamut in terms of style, form and function: