How to Decorate a Living Room: A Step-By-Step Guide

Published November 5, 2019
Living room house interior

Knowing how to decorate your living room is easy when you follow a step-by-step process. You need to know how much space you have to work with, the color scheme you want to use, any special pieces of furniture or art you want to include, and the theme you wish to follow.The approach to any living room design begins with measurements.

Step One: Take Measurements

The first thing to do when designing a living room is to take measurements. You'll need a flexible tape measure, pencil and paper.

  1. Draw a rough layout of the room, indicating the windows and door(s), fireplace, and any built-ins, such as shelving, cabinets or bookcases.
  2. Using the flexible measuring tape, measure the length and width of your room. If odd shaped, measure along the base of each wall.
  3. Transfer each measurement onto your room layout. You can choose decorating items by scale based on whether your living room is small, medium or large.

Step Two: Color Scheme

The colors you wish to use in your living room begin with the walls, since this is your biggest surface space followed by the floor. If you don't have a color in mind, you can use something like color suggestions for feng shui interior design or you may want to use your favorite color and select two other colors to go with it. This becomes the color scheme for your living room.

  • Decide which color will be your main color and use it on the walls. Carefully consider paint finishes for your living room as well.
  • The trim paint color can be white or off white. You may prefer to use a lighter or darker value of the wall color or a different color.
  • The ceiling is often ignored and painted white, but you can paint your ceiling other colors.
Beautiful Living Room in Estate Home

Step Three: Wall Treatment

Once you've decided on your color scheme, you need to decide on the type of wall treatment for your living room. You may want to use one of the wall paint finishes, stencils, freehand and stamping, or wallpaper.

Step Four: Decide on Living Room Style

Before you go any further, you should decide on the style of living room you want. First decide if you want a formal or informal décor. From there you can choose the period style that best appeals to you, such as French country, Craftsman, Victorian, vintage, traditional, transitional, modern, contemporary, and other styles.

Step Five: Choose Type of Flooring

If you are doing a complete renovation of your living room that includes floors, then you have some choices to make. Some people only want carpeting in their home, while others prefer hard surfaces, such as tile, stone, marble, hardwood, or vinyl. Decide which floor surface treatment you want and then make a decision on the color, style, and if you want light or dark floors.

Living Room with Yellow Walls

Hardwood Flooring

Hardwood flooring is a good investment with countless wood species and finishes. If you choose wood flooring, you may want to consider hardwood flooring accents. You certainly should explore ways to save on hardwood flooring.

Area Rugs

Area rugs add color, patterns and depth to a living room. It's easier to select furniture to go with an area rug instead of vice versa. There are two schools of design thought when it comes to area rugs.

  • The first is to purchase a rug large enough so at least the front legs of the furniture fit securely on it.
  • The better look, the second school of thought is that all legs of the furniture should fit on the rug with no less than 18" of exposed flooring between the rug and walls. Anything less means your beautiful flooring will be covered up.
  • When opting for the second choice, you want the rug to extend beyond the furniture legs at least 6", so it doesn't look as though the rug isn't quite big enough.
  • And finally, never use a small rug between furniture, like a coffee table effect where the furniture legs don't rest on it. This will look odd and make it appear that the rug is floating and was all your budget could afford.

Step Six: Select Furniture for Your Living Room

Once you have a clear idea of the color scheme, style of living room you want, it's time to choose the furniture. The period style you want for your living room will determine your furniture choices. Keep in mind that many people interchange the names living room and family room.

Elegant Floral Wicker Armchair

Choose Furniture Pieces

Decide on the furniture pieces you need, such as sofa, side chairs, end tables, coffee table, and any other pieces of furniture. Use the measurements of each piece to ensure they will fit your living room space. One way to determine which seating furniture you need is to consider how many people you need to accommodate on a daily basis.

  • Informal living rooms may include recliners, sectionals, chaise sectional, and reclining couches.
  • Formal living rooms may include, a sofa, loveseat and side chair(s).
  • Decide if you want wood and upholstered furniture or strictly upholstered pieces.
  • Depending on your choice of style, you may need choose leather upholstery or opt for fabric upholstery.
  • You can match upholstery fabrics with your colors and specifically the area rug you selected.

Decide on Living Room Furniture Arrangement

You can arrange your living room furniture in several ways. It helps to look at different layouts before deciding how you wish to place each piece of furniture.

Step Seven: Window Treatment for Your Living Room

The type of window treatment you make for the living room plays an important aesthetic role. The right window treatment can enhance and bring your room design together. The wrong one can destroy a well-planned living room design.

Cozy Beach Style Living Room with Fireplace

Natural Light Considerations

When determining how to decorate the windows, you need to consider the type of natural light coming through it. If the room receives afternoon sun, you may need a way to divert the intensity of the rays. Blinds and shades are good choices. There are many types of each to consider.

Curtain and Drapery Styles

You can use curtains or draperies to continue the formal or informal style of your living room. You may want to include a valance over the window. Tiebacks are often used for draperies or curtains when using mini-blinds, wood plantation blinds or shades. Layering window treatments offers you several looks while affording greater control of natural light.

Step Eight: Artificial Lighting Options

Just as you want to layer fabrics, colors and textures, adding various types of lighting can give your living room design depth. There are several types of lighting you want to consider, such as recessed lights on a dimmer switch, an overhead light fixture, table lamps, buffet lamps, and floor lamps. All of these lighting fixtures are available in a variety of materials and styles.

Modern stylish interior design

Step Nine: Living Room Wall Art

When adding wall art to your living room, you want to determine the main focal point of the room. For example, a fireplace is a focal point, or a built-in bookcase might be the main point of design interest. You can start with the focal point when it comes to selecting and adding works of art.

modern living room interior design

Decide Which Walls to Decorate

Wall art can include, paintings, photos, relief art, metal or wood plaques, sculpted objects, medallions, etc. While the wall space is the largest hard surface area in your living room, you don't need to cover every inch with artwork. Decide what each wall should have and balance it with any furniture against the wall, such as a server, bookcase, desk, or other pieces of furniture. If a wall gallery is ideal, then create one by keeping frame shapes and object shapes in balance.

Step Ten: Accessorize Your Living Room

You will need to accessorize your living room with two objectives. The first is to repeat your colors, especially your accent color to draw the eye (attention) deeper into the room. This can be done with art objects, vases of flowers, plants, figurines, mirrors, shelving units, and pictures with frames. Pillows are considered accessories and should be selected for size, shape, colors, and patterns.

Living room Interior Design Home

Deciding on How to Decorate a Living Room

Once you have a clear idea on the steps you need to take to decorate a living room, you can begin browsing for each individual item. You'll quickly discover that decorating a living room space that reflects your personality and personal style is very rewarding.

How to Decorate a Living Room: A Step-By-Step Guide