Living room design: A step-by-step style guide (2024)

Living room design: A step-by-step style guide (1)

By taking a thoughtful approach to living room design you can create a room that provides the perfect ambience for relaxing and coming together with family and friends.

Whether it is small living room ideas you are after or ways of dealing with a lack of natural light, taking the time to really think about how you will be using the space, which members of the household will spend the most time in there and considering how you will deal with the room's individualities, such as alcoves, low ceilings, awkward angles and so on, will ensure you are really making the most of the space you have.

In this guide to living room design, we cover the main areas you will need to consider when it comes to making this area of the home work for you.

Living room design essentials

Before you start buying furniture and selecting colours for your living room, you should list everything you want from the space. It helps to begin by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Who will be using the room? Will it be a mainly adult space, or is it a room to be enjoyed by the whole family?
  • Will you be using the room for entertaining guests?
  • What kind of feel do you want the space to have? Relaxed, vibrant, welcoming?
  • How much natural light does the room get? Look at where light enters at different times of the day?
  • What shape and size is the room? Very large living rooms need just as much thought when it comes to layouts as small.
  • What activities will be going on in the room? Watching television, playing games, working from home, playtime for young children, gaming?

Living room design: A step-by-step style guide (2)

Getting living room layouts right

One of the first things you need to think about when designing your new living room is its layout. This is particularly important in awkwardly shaped rooms –such as those that are long and narrow – as well as in small spaces and those that are very large.

When considering your options when it comes to living room layout ideas, your main priorities should be how to ensure you are making the most of your particular room and how you can ensure it feels comfortable, relaxing and somewhere you look forward to spending time in.

In small living rooms, a symmetrical layout can work well, keeping the space feeling uncluttered and neat. Using two matching sofas with a central coffee table is the ideal way to get the look. Bear in mind that the best distance between a sofa and table is 14 to 18 inches and do think about how much space you need to manoeuvre around various items of furniture.

In larger spaces, it can be helpful to create a 'zoned' layout with larger items of furniture. Through clever placement of sofas, shelving and side tables, you can split your space up —a space for watching television or hanging out with friends and one more restful space for curling up, for example.

This idea can also work well in long, narrow living rooms —you can treat the room almost as two separate areas — a cosy, snug space at one end, and a more vibrant entertaining spot at the other.

Whatever your approach, remember that the living room needs to feel welcoming and warm. Foster a sense of togetherness by ensuring seating is set out in such a way that people can face each other comfortably.

Living room design: A step-by-step style guide (3)

Living room design: A step-by-step style guide (4)

Lighting a living room well

Your living room lighting ideas will form an important part in both the way your living room feels as well as how you can use it.

"Layering lighting in your living room will create a more flexible lighting scheme," says Luke Thomas, design director at John Cullen Lighting. "Consider positioningLED downlightsthat are angled towards curtains, artwork and any joinery so that the reflected light comes back into the room, enhancing the feeling of space.

"Always try and avoid a grid of downlights as this makes a room look flat and dull," continues Luke. "It is important to create focus within any room. Quite often the simplest way to achieve this in a living room is to pinpoint a coffee table or decorative object with a narrow beam of light.

Luke also suggests using lighting to bring the features within the room to life. "Consider lighting joinery and shelving to highlight books or objects. This can be done in a number of ways: highlighting specific items with a miniature downlight or using a linear LED strip concealed within the depth of the shelf for an even glow at the front of the shelf, or used at the back for a dramatic back light effect. Discreet low glare uplights can add a magical touch to window reveals, fireplaces and architectural details."

For maximum control over the mood of the room, look to the type of lighting controls you fit.

"Using lighting controls so that each effect can be individually controlled separately is the key to setting the mood," advises Luke. "At a minimum add dimmer switches so you can manipulate the light levels. If budget allows, a pre-set system is ideal, as at the touch of a button the lighting will readjust to the pre-set setting to suit the mood and time of day."

Living room design: A step-by-step style guide (5)

The best flooring for living rooms

Although your living room flooring ideas will heavily influence the overall look of the room, they will obviously also need to be considered on a practical level. There are, in fact, various flooring materials that are suitable for this room.

"Wool floor coverings are ideal for living rooms as they are hardwearing and soft underfoot," says Jon Flannigan, product manager at Kersaint Cobb. "As a natural fibre, wool is also breathable, it will be warm in the winter but remain cool in the summer.

Some other types of natural flooring also work well in living rooms.

"Sisal, seagrass and mountain grass all have smooth fibres and offer a crisp, neat effect," says Jon. "Coir is suitable for those seeking a rougher, more casual effect. Jute is the softest of the natural floor coverings, giving a comfortable feel underfoot. However it is less hardwearing and more absorbent."

“Choosing the right living roomflooringcan make or break your room," says Johanna Constantinou, brand and communications director atTapi. "Nailing that perfect mix between style and comfort can turn your space into the ultimate place to relax and unwind after a long day.

"For many, carpet is understandably the number one choice offlooringfor a living room, and asthese areas generally see lower traffic, you can invest in a thick, luxurious carpet without the worry that it will get trodden down or marked as much as it might in a hallway or on stairs.

"However, the one downside to carpet is furniture marks being left around the room should you change the layout and positioning," continues Johanna. "Although there are preventative measures such as placing furniture coasters under your sofa, firmer carpet types are less likely to show dents, such as twist pile carpets.”

Of course wooden flooring is also suitable for the living room, being hardwearing and very beautiful. Placing a large rug on top of wood flooring in areas where comfort is paramount is a good idea.

Don't forget the influence the colour of your flooring will have on the room either.

“Shades of blue evoke a calm feeling. It is an uplifting colour and an ideal choice for the living room as its tranquil qualities create a relaxing atmosphere within the home," says Sarah Jenkinson, Kingsmead product manager. "Reminiscent of the beauty of nature with the sea and sky, the shades that sit within the blue colour palette are best placed in areas where we wish to wind down.

"Partner this with sandy-coloured shades to breathe life into the room and create the illusion of space," continues Sarah. "Choosing a lighter or neutral flooring options helps to create a cohesive room scheme. Muted tones will instantly uplift the space whilst remaining timeless, creating a welcoming feel.These two are a well-loved pairing that’s perfect for those neutral-loving homeowners who search for a serene home environment or those who want to introduce just a hint of colour.“

Living room design: A step-by-step style guide (6)

Choosing paint colours for living rooms

The shades you choose for your walls and ceilings in the living room will really set the tone for the whole space and have the power to completely transform the way it feels.

Whether you choose to paint or paper the walls or like the idea of using timber panelling, the shades you use need to be carefully considered.

"Choose your paint colour in tones that are right for the orientation of your room," says Cathryn Sanders, head of creative at Earthborn. "North and east facing rooms will benefit from warmer shades compared to south or west facing living rooms. Then decide whether you want to create a bright and airy space, a bold statement or a dark and cosy room, as this will also impact your colour choices.

"If any room in the home can take a deep shade, it’s a living room," continues Cathryn. "Darker tones, such asHobby Woodor Lady Bug from Earthborn, will cosy up a large space, helping to make it feel more intimate and inviting. And if the thought of painting the whole room in a dark colour feels a bit too much, introduce it in small areas like alcoves or table legs for a subtle effect. Alternatively, another way to add colour to a living room is by painting just the lower walls. You could opt for a paler colour on the top half of the walls and a darker colour at the bottom — ideal for disguising scuffs and marks in these busy areas.

"Green tones are the perfect choice for almost any room of the house, especially living rooms. Bright, bold shadescan energise and add ‘zing’, whilst soft muted greens create feelings of calm and relaxation. Secret Room and Fiddlesticks are consistently popular shades for this area of the home," says Cathryn.

Soft neutrals can be a great choice for a sophisticated and relaxing colour scheme. "Using panelling or painting woodwork in a complimentary hue helps to add subtle texture to the space so it doesn’t look bland," suggests Cathryn. "If you’re just wanting to do a quick update, consider selecting a wall that you want to highlight in a room, for example a picture gallery wall. Feature walls can simply be painted a different colour from the rest of the room and this is an easy way of updating your living room without much time or effort."

"The living room is the perfect place to play with colour," says Chelsea Clark, head of brand at Lucie Annabel. "If you’re looking to create a relaxing space, soft pastels and natural tones are the perfect options to make the space feel light and airy. Greens and blue tones in particular are noted as being the best for creating relaxing spaces, due to the colours' link to nature.

"If your living room has lots of natural light, you can consider going a bit darker with your colour scheme and play with busier floral wallpapers.If you’re looking to create a cosy feel, a darker colour such as a deep blue or grey is great, making the space feel more enclosed, and will add an element of sophistication or drama."

Living room design: A step-by-step style guide (7)

Living room design: A step-by-step style guide (8)

How to make a living room feel cosy

If there is one room you want to feel welcoming, warm and snug, it has to be the living room —and there are several design tricks to ensure your space feels cosy.

Firstly, introduce a focal point or two. While living room fireplace ideas are guaranteed to add instant character and charm to the room, those without a fireplace need not despair. Large pieces of eye-catching artwork or a picture wall, a stunning picture window framing a view, a feature wall or even a stand-out piece of furniture can all become focal points that ensure the room doesn't feel bland.

Comfy furniture such as squashy chairs and sofas that beg to be sat on, something soft underfoot, the soft glow of side lamps and lots of different textures will also inject a cosy feel.

In very large living rooms it can be hard to steer away from the space feeling empty or cold —use your furniture placement to section off comforting little corners for nestling down rather than leaving the whole room open.

Living room design: A step-by-step style guide (9)

Keeping clutter under control with living room storage

For any room –living rooms included – to feel restful, clutter needs to be kept under control.

“The living room is often considered the heart and soul of the home," says Cari Bateman, designer atNeville Johnson. "As well as being somewhere to relax as a family or entertain with friends, it’s a room that also needs to be functional for everyday life. This includes providing a space to store belongings, whether that’s your book collection or spare blankets.

“There are plenty of ways to incorporate living room storage units that not only look effortlessly stylish but also provide you with plenty of cupboards, drawers, and shelves," continues Cari. "A sumptuous storage cabinet helps hide various things that commonly clutter up the lounge, from books and board games to electronics and candles. There’s also the option of a fitted living room storage cabinet with doors or even a whole wall of units.

“Many homes have alcoves on either side of a fireplace or chimney breast. These are brilliant places for bookcases or fitted shelving units, including those with doors that effortlessly hide any clutter you don’t want to see. A modular shelving unit is a brilliant option, too. Not only will it provide you with ample space to store your belongings, but you’ll be able to display ornaments, books, and decorative items stylishly."

Living room design: A step-by-step style guide (10)

Designing a multi-functional living room

Very often living rooms also have to perform functions other than just providing somewhere to unwind.

They might need to include a spot from which to work at home or for children to do their homework, they might have to double-up as a dining area or play area for younger members of the family, for example.

It is important that you plan for these additional needs well in advance as it will probably have a big effect on things such as how many electrical sockets you require, your lighting scheme, the kind of storage you incorporate —even placement of radiators and the fireplace.

Once you know exactly what is going to be happening in your living room you can approach its design in a more considered way that means you won't have clutter building up in the corners, cables snaking all over the floor or too little space for your chosen sofas and side tables.

Living room design: A step-by-step style guide (11)

Get the Homebuilding & Renovating Newsletter

Bring your dream home to life with expert advice, how to guides and design inspiration. Sign up for our newsletter and get two free tickets to the National Homebuilding & Renovating Show (21-24 March, NEC, Birmingham).

Living room design: A step-by-step style guide (12)

Natasha Brinsmead

Natasha is Homebuilding & Renovating’s Associate Content Editor and has been a member of the team for over two decades. An experienced journalist and renovation expert, she has written for a number of homes titles. Over the years Natasha has renovated and carried out a side extension to a Victorian terrace. She is currently living in the rural Edwardian cottage she renovated and extended on a largely DIY basis, living on site for the duration of the project. She is now looking for her next project —something which is proving far harder than she thought it would be.

More about design ideas

10 kitchen lounge ideas for creating the ultimate sociable homeYour complete guide to different types of windows


Best conservatory heater: We look at the options to help you make the right choice
See more latest►

Most Popular
6 easy ways to get your kitchen cabinet design spot on

By Natasha Brinsmead

How to stop condensation on walls with these five easy and effective solutions

By Steve Jenkins

Tiling a bathroom for a flawless finish: What to consider before you start

By Steve Jenkins

I'm a planning expert and this is my verdict on buying land without planning consent

By Simon Rix

What is interstitial condensation and how can you prevent it?

By Natasha Brinsmead

What is the ideal kitchen worktop height?

By Natasha Brinsmead

Types of boiler: We explain the options and which one might be best for you

By Steve Jenkins

What is a Waste Water Heat Recovery system?

By Joseph Mullane

Learn how to fit thermostatic radiator valves to control temperature and save money

By Steve Jenkins

How to get rid of condensation inside double glazed windows

By Natasha Brinsmead

What is dMEV? We explain decentralised Mechanical Extract Ventilation and its benefits?

By Joseph Mullane

Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts

As an expert in living room design, I can provide you with valuable insights and information on the concepts mentioned in this article. Let's dive into each concept and explore them further.

Living Room Design Essentials

Before diving into furniture and color selection, it's important to consider the following factors:

  1. Usage: Determine who will be using the room and for what purposes. Will it be a space for adults, the whole family, or entertaining guests?
  2. Ambience: Decide on the desired atmosphere for the room. Do you want it to be relaxed, vibrant, or welcoming?
  3. Natural Light: Assess the amount of natural light the room receives at different times of the day. This will help you make decisions about lighting and color schemes.
  4. Room Shape and Size: Consider the room's dimensions and layout. This is crucial for planning furniture placement and creating an optimal flow.
  5. Activities: Identify the activities that will take place in the room, such as watching television, playing games, working from home, or children's playtime.

Living Room Layouts

The layout of your living room plays a significant role in maximizing the space and creating a comfortable environment. Here are some tips:

  1. Symmetrical Layout: In small living rooms, a symmetrical layout can create a sense of balance and openness. Consider using two matching sofas with a central coffee table.
  2. Zoned Layout: In larger spaces, you can create different zones within the room. Use furniture placement to divide the space into areas for different activities, such as watching TV and relaxing.
  3. Long and Narrow Rooms: For long, narrow living rooms, you can treat the space as two separate areas. Create a cozy, snug space at one end and a more vibrant entertaining area at the other.
  4. Seating Arrangement: Arrange the seating in a way that encourages conversation and interaction. Ensure that people can comfortably face each other.

Lighting a Living Room

Proper lighting is essential for creating the right atmosphere in your living room. Consider the following tips:

  1. Layered Lighting: Use a combination of ambient, task, and accent lighting to create a flexible and inviting space. This can be achieved through a mix of ceiling lights, floor lamps, table lamps, and wall sconces.
  2. Avoid Grid of Downlights: Instead of using a grid of downlights, angle LED downlights towards curtains, artwork, and joinery to enhance the feeling of space.
  3. Highlight Features: Use lighting to highlight specific features in the room, such as bookshelves or decorative objects. Consider using miniature downlights, linear LED strips, or low glare uplights for different effects.
  4. Lighting Controls: Install lighting controls, such as dimmer switches or a pre-set system, to adjust the light levels and create the desired mood.

Flooring for Living Rooms

Choosing the right flooring for your living room is important for both aesthetics and practicality. Consider the following options:

  1. Wool Floor Coverings: Wool carpets are hardwearing, soft underfoot, and breathable. They provide warmth in winter and remain cool in summer.
  2. Natural Flooring: Other natural flooring options, such as sisal, seagrass, mountain grass, coir, and jute, can also work well in living rooms. Each material offers a different texture and effect.
  3. Wooden Flooring: Wooden flooring is durable and beautiful. Consider placing a large rug on top of the wood flooring for added comfort in certain areas.
  4. Color Selection: The color of your flooring can significantly impact the overall look and feel of the room. Shades of blue can create a calm atmosphere, while sandy-colored shades can add a sense of space and cohesion.

Paint Colors for Living Rooms

The choice of paint colors can greatly influence the mood and ambiance of your living room. Consider the following suggestions:

  1. Orientation: Select paint colors that complement the orientation of your room. Warmer shades work well in north and east-facing rooms, while cooler shades suit south and west-facing rooms.
  2. Bright and Airy Spaces: Lighter shades and pastels can create a bright and airy feel in the room. Greens and blues, inspired by nature, are particularly suitable for creating a relaxing atmosphere.
  3. Dark and Cozy Rooms: Deep blues or greys can add a sense of coziness and sophistication to the space. Consider using darker colors on feature walls or in specific areas to create a subtle effect.
  4. Neutral Color Schemes: Soft neutrals can create a sophisticated and relaxing color scheme. Consider using complementary hues on woodwork or highlighting specific walls to add texture and interest.

Creating a Cozy Living Room

To make your living room feel cozy and inviting, consider the following design tricks:

  1. Focal Points: Create focal points in the room, such as a fireplace, eye-catching artwork, or a stand-out piece of furniture. These elements add character and prevent the room from feeling bland.
  2. Comfortable Furniture: Choose comfortable and inviting furniture, such as squashy chairs and sofas. Incorporate soft textures and add rugs for extra coziness.
  3. Warm Lighting: Use soft, warm lighting to create a cozy atmosphere. Side lamps and dimmable lights can help achieve the desired effect.
  4. Sectioning in Large Spaces: If you have a large living room, consider using furniture placement to create smaller, comforting corners within the space. This prevents the room from feeling empty or cold.

Living Room Storage

To maintain a restful and clutter-free living room, effective storage solutions are essential. Consider the following options:

  1. Stylish Storage Units: Incorporate stylish storage units, such as cabinets, shelves, and modular systems, that provide ample space for belongings while adding visual appeal to the room.
  2. Utilize Alcoves: Make use of alcoves for bookcases or fitted shelving units. These can help hide clutter and provide a decorative display area.
  3. Functional Furniture: Choose furniture pieces that offer hidden storage compartments, such as ottomans or coffee tables with built-in storage.
  4. Multi-Purpose Furniture: Opt for furniture that serves multiple functions, such as a sofa bed or a console table with drawers.

Designing a Multi-Functional Living Room

Many living rooms serve multiple purposes beyond relaxation. Consider the following tips for designing a multi-functional space:

  1. Plan in Advance: Identify the additional functions the room needs to accommodate, such as a home office, dining area, or play area. This will influence decisions regarding electrical outlets, lighting, storage, and furniture placement.
  2. Flexible Furniture: Choose furniture that can adapt to different uses. For example, select a dining table that can be extended or folded when not in use.
  3. Zoning: Create distinct zones within the room for different activities. Use furniture placement, rugs, or room dividers to define these areas.
  4. Consider Practicality: Ensure that the room design allows for easy transitions between different functions. Plan for sufficient space and storage solutions to accommodate each activity.

I hope this comprehensive overview of living room design concepts helps you in creating a space that perfectly suits your needs and preferences. If you have any specific questions or need further assistance, feel free to ask!

Living room design: A step-by-step style guide (2024)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Clemencia Bogisich Ret

Last Updated:

Views: 5999

Rating: 5 / 5 (60 voted)

Reviews: 83% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Clemencia Bogisich Ret

Birthday: 2001-07-17

Address: Suite 794 53887 Geri Spring, West Cristentown, KY 54855

Phone: +5934435460663

Job: Central Hospitality Director

Hobby: Yoga, Electronics, Rafting, Lockpicking, Inline skating, Puzzles, scrapbook

Introduction: My name is Clemencia Bogisich Ret, I am a super, outstanding, graceful, friendly, vast, comfortable, agreeable person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.