How to Decorate a Living Room So It Looks Photo-Ready
Including the right way to arrange your furniture.
While we all want a living room that looks good, it’s more important that it feels like home. The way the space is set up, the decor, and the accessories all contribute to making a room feel like a place where you'll want to spend time. The difference between your living room looking like a showroom and your favorite spot to curl up with your morning coffee is all in the details. If you’re trying to figure out how to decorate a living room so it feels photo-ready yet cozy and inviting at the same time, we’ve broken it down into a few helpful pointers to get you started.
Choose a rug (and make sure it's the right size!).
Picking the right rug is essential because it ties the whole room together. The most important tip for choosing a rug has less to do with style and more to do with size. All too often we buy rugs that are too small for the space—and we get it, it’s a money saving move for sure. The problem is that a postage-stamp-size rug looks silly plunked in the middle of a spacious seating area. To make sure your rug is largest enough, follow this simple rule: At least the front legs of each piece of furniture should be sitting on the rug.
As far as color and texture, you really want to embrace contrast. If your furniture is boldly colored or patterned, a more neutral rug might be a safe bet and vise versa. If your furniture is plush velvet, a less textured rug might provide just the right amount of balance. You also want to keep kids and pets in mind: think about how easy (or hard) the rug will be to care for. You may even want to consider a machine-washable rug.
Pro tip: If you're not sure what color rug to pick, pull a color that you love that already exists in the room. This way, you'll be sure to love the combination.
Select the best sofa.
It might sound unsexy, but the type of couch you should choose largely depends on the space you have. A sectional (here are some of our favorites) works well if you have plenty of room and if you want to log some couch time without fighting for the best seat in the house. A classic sofa takes up less space but can be just as comfortable—especially if you have room to add on an ottoman so you can still put your feet up. A loveseat works best as an addition to a larger couch or if you’re really tight on space (hey, city apartment dwellers).
Invest in a piece made with durable fabric and read the care instructions before purchasing. If you have a particularly messy household or pets who like to jump up on the sofa, you may want to look at options with removable, machine-washable covers. Staining, piling, and wear happen more easily when the fabric is lackluster. Also, because of the higher price tag, unless you really, really love a vibrant sofa, consider investing in a neutral piece that you can accent with bold accents like pillows or throw blankets, which are easy to swap in and out over time.
Figure out your other furniture.
You know that phrase mix and match? Forget the matching. Having your living room look like it was lifted right out of a showroom is so boring. You want your accent pieces to relate to one another without looking exactly the same. For example, you wouldn’t want a leather couch and matching leather accent chairs. Mix it up and play with textures and fabrics. Don't be afraid to mix furniture styles, either. Modern mixed with traditional pieces yields surprisingly attractive results.
Find the best arrangement.
Before you pull out your ruler and start measuring, relax. Again, there are no hard and fast rules when you’re arranging your furniture—only suggestions and guidelines. Suggestion #1: Don’t make the newbie mistake of pushing all of your furniture against the wall. Instead, choose a focal point and create areas within the room that feel like conversation zones, or arrange chairs and sofa strategically to encourage people to talk to one another. Or if you love to read, creating a little reading nook that’s out of the way. You also want to make sure that there’s enough space between pieces so you can easily move through the room.
Sometimes the best way to figure out what works is to play with the arrangement. It’s not like you’re nailing anything to the floor! So see what looks and feels best for you, test it out for a day or two, then don't hesitate to switch it up if it isn't working.
Introduce the ultimate coffee table.
It’s pretty awkward when someone has a coffee table that’s too low or too high. A good rule of thumb is that you want it to be roughly the same height as the top of the seat cushions on your couch or chairs. Keep proportion in mind too. You want the coffee table to be roughly two-thirds the length of the sofa. Once you’ve chosen your favorite, make sure you place it properly: You want there to be enough clearance on all sides so you’re not constantly bumping into it.
Don't forget the details.
The warmth of a room is all in the details that you add after you have the basic layout and the larger pieces of furniture chosen. Plants, pillows, throw blankets, candles, books, sculptural objets, and artwork add character to the room. When you’re figuring out how to decorate your living room, remember to keep it personal. Your story, your likes, places you’ve been can all be showcased through your home decor, and open shelving, cabinet tops, and the coffee table are all great places to display objects that hold meaning to you. Surrounding yourself with objects you love will help create a living room you love.