I’m going to teach you how to decorate each area of your home, room by room. Let’s talk about living room design – how to make it a cozy & functional space
I’m working hard on making our living room a cozy, inviting space that everyone would invite people to sit down, snuggle up with a good book, or play a board game together.
Sounds great, right? While you don’t necessarily change the people in your home when you decorate your living room, you’re inviting them in. Giving them a place to breathe, feel cozy, and welcomed in their own home.
Living room design:
Designing a cozy and inviting living room does NOT have to cost a lot of money either. Don’t buy into the lie that you need to have a big budget to create a beautiful home!
If you haven’t seen my plan for a cozy and moody living room in our new house, you can see it here!
Here’s how I approach (and teach other how to approach) living room design:
1. Make it functional
You can have the most beautiful living room, but if it doesn’t function well for your family, then it’s not going to work.
Do your kids need a surface to do their homework on? Do you need a place for your books? What about toy storage? Maybe you need a place to sit & relax?
Consider the needs of your family first when designing your living room.
We personally want to incorporate a surface for kid’s homework, book storage, and a cozy seating area into our living room. Again, your needs may be different, so make sure you consider your family’s needs before making it a beautiful space.
This is the plan for our living room – we will be adding built-ins for added storage & lighting for this darker room. You can see the full design plan here.
2. Cut down the clutter
In America, there is such a huge trend towards MORE. We’re living in a more disposable culture, and people are buying more and more mass produced things and then throwing away and donating less.
Look at the rooms you’ve pinned on Pinterest. There’s a good chance you have pinned rooms that have some room to breathe. There are walls that don’t have things on them, or walls that are filled with character instead of decor pieces.
You know what I mean – you’re probably not pinning a lot of busy walls that are filled with (sometimes very cute) inspirational quotes, plus a gallery wall of family pictures and house keys, and then a shelf with a collection of decor from Hobby Lobby and Homegoods.
There is nothing wrong with those things, but oftentimes, it can go overboard. It can become cluttered, and things just get dusty on your shelves. They become part of the room, and don’t necessarily “spark joy” (as silly as that term is, sometimes it helps to weed out the things we may need to list for sale on Facebook marketplace).
So- I advise you start fresh. Take all the things off of your walls, and see if you REALLY love those things or if you bought them to fill up blank space on your walls. If you don’t love everything, list them for sale on Craigslist or Facebook marketplace. Then you’ll have some extra spending money to spend on the things you DO love to make a cozy and functional living space.
A quick peek at my “great spaces” board on Pinterest – keep scrolling! You’ll notice how uncluttered the spaces are, and how calming that makes them feel. You can follow me on Pinterest here.
3. Consider the walls
One of the biggest design pieces I have for people: stop worrying about what’s going on your walls. Worry about the walls themselves first.
By adding character to the walls, you’re taking away from the desire to fill your walls with stuff (which is the goal after reading that last section, right?)
Even if you don’t live in an old house filled with character, you can fill your house with character! Here’s some of my favorite ways to do this to add to your living room design:
- board & batten
- a beautiful way to add contrast to any room! Do dark board and batten on the bottom and a light color on top, or flip that around like we did in our family room!
- So many people thought our brick was original to our old house, but it was something WE added! See how we did it here.
- shiplap or tongue in groove planks
- you can hang them horizontally OR vertically!
- it’s come a LONG way – and so many are peel & stick … perfect for renters or people who don’t want to commit to having something on their walls long term.
We LOVED our brick veneer (yes it’s real brick, it’s just really thin) that we used in our bathroom. It adds so much character and warmth without adding more STUFF to the walls.
4. Now think about the furniture
Living room furniture can easily look like it came right from the big box showroom. Again, look at the spaces you’ve pinned on Pinterest. Some of my most favorite spaces have mis-matched furniture pieces. They combine soft white love seats and worn leather armchairs. A solid couch and a patterned accent chair.
By using pieces that you don’t buy in a set together, you’re adding a collected feel to your living room. A collected feel is almost always cozy and welcoming!
Again – consider selling something you don’t love. Search for pieces on Facebook marketplace or Craigslist for furniture – don’t be scared of this! I bought my sectional for less than half regular price off of FB marketplace! I’m obviously a huge fan!
I believe that if you want a room to have a timeless feel, then adding in 1 or 2 antique or vintage pieces can really help achieve that goal. If you decorate with only old things, you run the risk of it looking like your grandmother’s house – but if you add one or two strategic pieces it adds depth and character to the room. I love the look of a beautiful antique chest, dresser, or cabinet in the living room!
Do you need a lot of storage in your living room? We’re planning on adding “built-in bookshelves” to our living room in the next year or so, and it will fill a huge need for storage for our family! But guess what – we’re not going to be spending a ton of money adding them to our house. The goal is to make a wall of built in bookshelves for under $500 – which is pretty crazy when you see what it would cost to have someone actually build them in for you!
5. Area rug
If you only had money for an area rug, then that is where I would tell you to spend your design budget dollars. An area rug makes a HUGE difference in any room, but especially your living room! It acts as an anchor for the room, both visually and physically.
If you have a lot of darker elements in your room (furniture or walls) then a lighter accent rug can help add contrast. Or if you have a lot of lighter elements in your room, consider a darker rug.
The biggest mistake I see people making is when they buy a rug that’s too small for their space. I know that when you go up in size, you also go up in price. BUT this is one of the most important pieces in your whole room! It’s more important to get the bigger rug than to buy some more decor pieces for your walls.
6. Paint your walls
Depending on what you wanted to do with building character into your walls, you may or may not be ready to paint next.
Paint is the easiest way to transform your space for under $50. It can make a huge impact in just a few hours!
I see the trend is starting to veer away from all of the beige and neutral light gray paint colors, and everyone is starting to embrace color again. I am personally a fan of very saturated and moody colors, especially in a cozy living space.
7. NOW we can talk about what goes on the walls
Since you’ve taken everything off of your walls, make sure that whatever you put back on them is what you LOVE and what will bring you joy daily!
You can also add a clock if you need to keep track of the time while you’re in your living room. A mirror is an essential for every room in my opinion – it helps to bounce light off your walls and adds character to every room!
Besides a wall clock or mirror, you can add family photos, pictures from vacation, or things that are meaningful to you. I personally love the look of an oversized mat in larger frames. It brings consistency to the space, and helps it to look more high-end.
When you put all of these elements together, you can come up with a stunning, functional, and cozy living room. It will work for your family, look beautiful, and easily invite people to spend time in the room you’ve designed for them.