Create the Perfect Living Room with a Plan and These Essential Elements

If there’s any room in that you want to be stylish, it is the living room. It’s a given that it needs to be comfortable, but the perfect living room also needs to be attractive because that’s where family and friends will gather. From the furniture to the decor, it needs to reflect your style and be functional. So before you take out your wallet and start shopping, you need some paper and a pencil to make a plan and a budget for what you need. We’ve pulled together the elements that you need for the perfect living room to make your project easier.

Have a plan

Having a plan helps create a functional and inviting space.View in gallery
Having a plan helps create a functional and inviting space.

As we said up front, you need a plan. This is true whether you are decorating a room from scratch or just redecorating. Make sure that you know what style of decor you want, the size of your room, and the best flow through the space. Is there a window or doorway in an odd location, or do you have other architectural elements that limit your options? Make a list of the furnishings you need to purchase along with any larger accessories or artwork that you want to include. You’ll also need to decide on a budget, and what items would be worth a splurge and which other are less of a priority. If you have a good handle on these issues, you can start shopping.

Create a room that has a welcoming feel

This distinctive sofa from Abbyson Living exudes comfort.View in gallery
This distinctive sofa from Abbyson Living exudes comfort.

Of course, you want any space in your home to be welcoming but nowhere else is this more important than in the living room. Family members and guests should feel at home the moment they walk in. This will come from the overall vibe of the space. Comforting colors, proper furniture placement and proportional decorating will create a space that feels right, not tight.  Often it’s the small touches that help make a space welcoming, so don’t forget this as you decorate.  It doesn’t mean that you need lots of clutter or an abundance of accessories.  You want the space to reflect your personality and lifestyle and not look like a furniture showroom.

Focus on a tightly edited furniture selection

A carefully edited living space from Worlds Away is both elegant and comfortable.View in gallery
A carefully edited living space from Worlds Away is both elegant and comfortable.

Less is more when to comes to furniture in the perfect living room, so you will want to tightly edit the pieces you include. Too many occasional tables or chairs will clutter the space. If you can’t walk through the area with ease or have trouble opening any drawers or cabinets, you probably need to remove some furniture. Cozy does not equal crowded and an overload of furnishings will take away from the relaxed feeling that you are trying to achieve. Carefully consider each piece you are adding to the room, its function, positioning and proportions.

Use color to create a mood or add a pop of brightness

A colorful rug and accent pieces from Global Views liven up a neutral space.View in gallery
A colorful rug and accent pieces from Global Views liven up a neutral space.

Use color in the living room but do it wisely. Are you trying to create a mood? Layering shades of the same color and coordinating them with other hues can create a relaxing mood for the living room. The shade of paint you choose for the walls goes a long way toward creating a certain vibe, but that’s not the only way to incorporate color. Neutral walls and furnishings can be jazzed up with a colorful rug and accessories. In fact, this is a great choice if you like to redecorate frequently because the basic pieces can take on an entirely different look if you swap out the elements that have color.

Make sure you include texture

This seating arrangement from Cyan shows how important texture is for a welcoming living room.View in gallery
This seating arrangement from Cyan shows how important texture is for a welcoming living room.

No matter if a room is neutral or colorful, it needs to have different textures because they help add dimension and a varied tactile feeling. Textural pieces can also help warm up sleek furnishings that might have a less comfy vibe. A rug with a thicker pile, cushions that have embroidery, and accessories like the table lamp whose base is covered in rustic wood pieces – all of these add interest to the room.

Arrange seating properly

View in gallery
These Dovetail chairs are properly arranged across from the sofa, facilitating conversation.

The top rookie mistake that people make when decorating is arranging all of the furniture around the periphery of the room. While this might be your only option if your living room is rather small, in most cases it’s best to break the larger area into more than one seating area. The sofa and loveseat or a couple of chairs can be one, and chairs and an occasional table commonly make up a second area. This helps keep the space between the seats close, facilitating conversation and a feeling of intimacy. If everything rings around the room, it can leave too much space between people when they are seated.

Use art but don’t overlook the value of white space

White space is just as important as the artwork itself.View in gallery
White space is just as important as the artwork itself.

Artwork is an important element for adding personality and a unique vibe to your living room. And, while a gallery wall is a popular way to display lots of images, it’s best to use that concept judiciously. Just as important as the art itself is the amount of white space in the room.  Having enough blank wall space around a focal piece of art makes it stand out far more than if it is crowded with numerous pieces of wall art.

Go clutter-free

A clutter-free living room, like this from Classic Home, is key to a relaxing vibe.View in gallery
A clutter-free living room, like this from Classic Home, is key to a relaxing vibe.

No matter how stylish your furnishings and how appealing the decor, if the room is cluttered it will never feel relaxing. The living room is critical to keep clutter free. Having the right storage for the items you want to keep handy in the living room is key to maintaining a clutter-free space.  Even a simple basket to hold remotes and current reading material or other small items can corral the clutter and avoid a messy-looking space. Use accent pillows — but not too many — and don’t overload the coffee table with accessories.

Life is boring without a little personality

One quirky, stand-out piece can keep a living room from feeling like a generic showroom.View in gallery
One quirky, stand-out piece can keep a living room from feeling like a generic showroom.

A stylish and clutter-free living room does not mean that it should be devoid of personality. In fact, one of the elements that will make the space feel more welcoming is something quirky that reflects you and your fun side. Whether it is a whimsical accessory or a funky chair you picked up at an art sale, a unique piece will keep the living room from feeling like the showroom in a furniture store. The last thing you want is a room that feels generic.

And Speaking of Furniture….

Collectively, the furniture is the most important element of your living room, however, there are a number of pieces you’ll need. When you make the plan for your living room, you can decide which pieces you can splurge on and which ones can be flea-market finds or bargain pieces.

Sofa

A distinctive sofa, like this from KGBL, is the room's focal point.View in gallery
A distinctive sofa, like this from KGBL, is the room’s focal point.

A sofa is the focal point of a living room so it needs to be attractive and comfortable. Once you’ve decided on a style and color, you also need to consider the size because not all sofas are created equal. The most common sizes are the two- and three-seaters, along with the 2.5-seat models. If you have a large space — or a small one that can’t accommodate a long sofa — a sectional may be the best bet. In any case, measure the space where you want to put the sofa along with any odd characteristics of the entrance to the home and the living room to make sure you can get the sofa into the room. The sofa is also the most likely item for a splurge since it really is an investment piece.

Chairs

An armchair from Fogia is a good example of a comfortable living room chair.View in gallery
An armchair from Fogia is a good example of a comfortable living room chair.

Unless you live in a very tiny home, chairs need to be part of your living room arrangement. These can be plush armchairs or more streamlined options that are easily moved to another area.  Ideally, you will want to use two chairs to complete your sofa seating area. If you have the space, additional seating areas can make a large living room feel more intimate. This is particularly true in large, open-plan living rooms that can feel a little undefined without being divided into more than one seating area.

A bench

Benches like these from Coolican are colorful and versatile living room pieces.View in gallery
Benches like these from Coolican are colorful and versatile living room pieces.

If you have the space, a bench can be a versatile addition to the perfect living room. Not only does it offer extra seating, but the bench can be used as a footstool or even an occasional table with the addition of a tray. You can stash attractive storage bins underneath or stack some of your favorite coffee table books on the top. It’s easy to move around when guests come, or even to another room for other uses.

Rug

A Jonathan Adler rug is both a distinctive and unifying addition to the perfect living room.View in gallery
A Jonathan Adler rug is both a distinctive and unifying addition to the perfect living room.

For some people, the living room rug is almost an afterthought, but it’s actually just as important for making a statement as the sofa. Solid, graphic or wild abstract — the rug can add a bold touch to the living room. It’s important to measure not just the size of the room, but also the dimensions of the floor the rug will need to cover.  Any rug you purchase has to be large enough to go under the legs of the sofa and any other seating around the periphery, This will “anchor” the furniture in the room, otherwise, it all seems to float untethered if it is not touching the furniture.

Coffee table

Think outside the box when it comes to a coffee table -- as with this one from Dovetail.View in gallery
Think outside the box when it comes to a coffee table — as with this one from Dovetail.

This is truly a must-have piece for the perfect living room. A coffee table is a strong visual element but also a very useful one for setting down a cup, book or snack. Ideally, the table is the same height as your sofa seat and proportional to its size. It used to be that most coffee tables were rectangles or perhaps squares, but that has now changed. In fact, the current trend is to group smaller tables of various sizes, shapes or finishes in place of a standard coffee table. This can be super functional if you often entertain and need more occasional tables and can be helpful in a smaller space. An ottoman can also replace the usual coffee table. Whichever you choose, you need something to anchor the space in front of the sofa.

Side table

Souda's side table is colorful, funky and versatile.View in gallery
Souda’s side table is colorful, funky and versatile.
These Skylar Morgan occasional tables are super functional.View in gallery
These Skylar Morgan occasional tables are super functional.

While a side table — also called an occasional table — is not necessarily a requirement for a stylish living room, it is for a comfortable one. It’s awkward to be nestled into a chair or loveseat and have no place to put a cup or glass. Side tables are also key if you want lighting alongside seating. Whether you choose a basic or artful side table, it should be at a height that is convenient for the chair or sofa paired with it.

TV

There are different ways to minimize the visual impact of the TV when it's not in useView in gallery
There are different ways to minimize the visual impact of the TV when it’s not in use

It’s the hulking black spot on the living room wall — the television. Situating the TV for optimum viewing means putting it front and center — which also creates an eyesore in the opinion of some people. There are different ways to minimize the visual impact of the TV when it’s not in use. If it’s small, putting it on a shelf or in a media center can de-emphasize the screen. Big screen lovers can use artwork, sliding doors and drapes as a decor element that also serves to camouflage the TV.

Lighting

Table lamps, like these from Stone and Sawyer, come in all styles and sizes.View in gallery
Table lamps, like these from Stone and Sawyer, come in all styles and sizes.
Many living rooms need some sort of lighting at the ceiling. These pendants are by Migaloo.View in gallery
Many living rooms need some sort of lighting at the ceiling. These pendants are by Migaloo.
A Flos floor lamp provides lighting and an artful twist for the living room.View in gallery
A Flos floor lamp provides lighting and an artful twist for the living room.

Different types of lighting are another “must-have” element in the perfect living room. Task lighting and ambient lighting are both important for a warm yet functional space. A combination of ceiling fixtures, table lighting and floor lamps create the right mood. Your choices will depend on the layout of your space and where you spend the most time reading and how the lighting affects TV viewing.

Bookshelves

If you have the space for them, bookshelves can really personalize the living room. Whether it’s a simple, slim tower or a wall full of shelving, a bookshelf allows you to display favorite accessories as well as stash books. Part of the bookshelf can also serve as a make-shift bar for entertaining and discretely hold wireless speakers or voice-control assistants. Small lighting fixtures can also be an attractive addition to a bookshelf.

Union Home's bookshelves are ideal for a warm, inviting living room.View in gallery
Union Home’s bookshelves are ideal for a warm, inviting living room.

As you can see, there are plenty of things to consider when creating your idea of the perfect living room. Don’t let the list intimidate you. It all comes down to putting some thought into what you include and how you arrange it. Planning doesn’t have to mean spending an enormous amount of money. Actually, a good plan will save you money in the long run.