You’re in need of some living room design ideas but hiring an interior designer or contractor to revamp the space sounds daunting (and expensive)? Before you resign to spending yet another evening in a lackluster living room, consider this: It’s possible to transform the core room in your home with a modest budget and minimal heavy lifting. Noz Nozawa, principal designer and owner of Noz Design, knows that a little bit of savvy can go a long way. “You can absolutely make meaningful improvements to your living space without completely overhauling what you have today,” the San Francisco–based designer says. Nozawa has rearranged, repainted, and replaced items in her living room more times than she can remember.
Susannah Watts, owner and lead designer at Swatts & Co Design Studio in Grand Rapids, Michigan, echoes the sentiment that an outdated space can be spruced up with new living room design ideas. “You don’t need to knock down walls to knock the socks off your visitors,” she says. “A little paint, a little pattern, and a lot of daring and funky additions can totally recast a space.”
Ready to renew and improve a living room space? Below, interior designers reveal their go-to tricks that update living room design without trying too hard.
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Highlight the coolest feature
Pinpoint the main feature of a living room and draw attention to it, Watts recommends. It could be a fireplace, a unique ceiling molding, a cool light fixture, or even not-so-boring window sills. Work with what you already have. “The options [for updates] are endless,” she says. To spruce up a run-of-the-mill brick fireplace, Watts’s design team painted the brick a metallic silver and added tiles around the hearth.
Rearranging existing furniture makes your living space feel new, Nozawa says. She has experimented with four or five furniture plans in her small living-dining area. “I have learned more about how I most like to live with each new arrangement,” she adds. Unless you have a corner-to-corner custom sofa, there is probably room to try floating your furniture off the walls or to explore a different seating and table arrangement in the window, Nozawa continues. As the trend to live and work in what was once an official living room continues, discover that a quick furniture switcheroo helps breathe new energy into a space. An increased WFH productivity may even be a welcome side effect.
Move wall art
Rotate your art as if you’re in a gallery. You’ll be amazed at the difference a simple tweak can make. Changing the location of your art can dictate a novel approach to transforming the rest of your living room space. Denver-based Nadia Watts of Nadia Watts Design brought in a grouping of artwork from other rooms to curate a new aesthetic by pulling colors from the paintings into the pillows. “This created a new relationship in the room that was not there,” she says.
Swap pillow covers
Swapping pillow covers is a simple way to shift living room design. Nadia Watts likes to “freshen up” a room by changing all the printed throw pillows to bold and solid colors. Color blocking sends a message that the room is polished and no-nonsense. Patterns, on the other hand, create playfulness and exude a certain personality.
Gather treasured objects
Andrew Gillick, the principal designer at Concordia Design, based in New Canaan, Connecticut, considers “highlighting a collection of items that might be important to you” a must for living room design. Doing so, he says, creates a focal point that either breaks up a monotonous space or turns a dead zone into a special place for the eye to travel. Plus, “It can infuse a room with some history and gravitas” and draws attention to “a nook with a special architectural feature. It can also make a beautiful piece of furniture pop, he says. “For example, I started collecting Delft pieces many years ago. By grouping them together I’ve livened up a corner of this very large, rectangular living room that once felt like wasted space,” Gillick says. “The collection creates a special vignette in the room that always garners compliments (and starts conversations!) and also highlights a beautiful 19th-century console table I found at an estate sale.”
Riffing on that, Casey Putney, owner and principal designer of Putney House Interiors in St. Augustine, Florida, stresses that a home should be a reflection of its inhabitants, so such a corner or display of a personal collection is a wonderful way to add personality to your space. “The best part is that you won’t have to run out to purchase anything. Decorating with items that hold special meaning adds character and warmth to any space,” she says, adding that she likes to use a bar cart to display little collections like matchbooks or shells and hang larger items like art and photos on the wall above the cart. Not only does it create a focal point in your living room, but it also “serves as a great way to use a small space creatively that may have otherwise been unnoticed.”
Add visual intrigue
Making over your living space can be as easy as layering a coffee table with books or accessories. Add movement, even if it’s subtle. “It can be in the form of a ruffled ceramic bowl, a wavy tray, an imperfectly styled throw blanket, or in a floral arrangement,” says Cindy Ngo, founder of Ink + Porcelain, a design studio based in Oakland, California. “Branches add beautiful movement, and florals add delicate form.”
Jazz up shelving
Give built-in bookshelves extra TLC by incorporating a wallpaper for eye-catching design in an unexpected place. The low-effort metamorphosis can be completed in a few hours or less, especially if you use peel-and-stick wallpaper like this Pollock-inspired abstract print by Chasing Paper. To update white bookcases, Sharon Falcher—co-owner and lead designer at Interior Design by S&S in Atlanta—added a subtle pop with graphic wallpaper. “This project was all about color placement and texture,” she says.
Update window treatments
Plastic blinds are the hallmark of a dated living room. “Window treatments can add a jolt of vibrancy and color to a room,” says Kristina Phillips, founder of Kristina Phillips Interior Design in Ridgewood, New Jersey. Drapes can enhance a living room’s architectural elements, infuse pattern and color, and even camouflage awkward angles. Phillips suggests mounting the window treatments—either Roman shades or panels—well above the window trim but beneath the crown molding to give the illusion of taller windows and higher ceilings. Alternatively to downplay loud living room design, Phillips suggests drapery fabric in the same hue as the walls.
Invest in a large rug
Purchasing a rug that is too small for the room’s dimensions is one of the biggest mistakes people make when furnishing a living space, according to Oshri Adri and Jillian Dahlman, cofounders of Adri + Dahlman Interiors out of Great Neck, New York. “Ideally, all the furniture should sit on the rug completely,” Adri says. To make sure you are purchasing the correct size rug, arrange the furniture exactly as you want it placed in the room and measure how much space the perimeter surrounding the furniture takes up. If you can’t find a premade rug that suits your room, visit a carpet store and ask to have a broadloom carpet cut to the exact size you need.
Elevate interior architecture
Dawn Gepfert, principal at Dawn P. Gepfert Design in Southport, Connecticut, is a big proponent of evaluating and updating the interior architecture of the existing living room as needed, including molding, windows, and built-ins. “If your room lacks architectural interest, think about adding it,” she says. In the case of the living room pictured here Gepfert notes, “There was too much oddly placed trim that needed to be removed and updated.” To address this, Gepfert tackled this in a variety of ways such as judicious use of moldings and trim and redesigning the mantle and overmantle. They also replaced the coffered ceiling with a more contemporary wall covering. “One of the strong architectural elements is all of the windows and French doors with views to the garden. Because privacy wasn’t an issue, we simply left the windows alone so as not to obstruct the view and light,” Gepfert says. “Sometimes less is definitely more.”
Paint the room white
White walls in a living room are full of possibility. A new paint job can completely transform a room. “White walls instantly create a bright space that allows for a blank canvas to decorate,” Dahlman says. “To dress up the walls, hang large scale art centered over the furniture.” The Adri + Dahlman Interiors team favor Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace (OC-65), a crisp white. “Nothing freshens up a space more,” Dahlman adds.
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest