I wish I could remember who threw out this blog post title in our last brainstorm. Originally it was simply “How To Make Your Living Room Look Good” and we all laughed it off… at first (even the person that jokingly said it). But then, as if the same lightbulb unanimously lit up above all of our heads, we looked at each other and said, “wait is this kinda an awesome post title/idea??” Sure we have covered all of these tips on the blog more than a few times, but it’s kinda nice to have them all in one place, right? Like a living room design checklist that’s easy and not at all intimidating. Like a “Living Room Design For Dummies” expect no one’s calling anyone a dummy!
I think we’ve all been there, staring at our living room, scratching our head as to why it’s just not “right”. Well, that is allllll about to change because baby, you now have a crystal clear list of only seven things to do to fix all (ok, most) of your living room design woes. First up is our NUMBER ONE…
1. DON’T: Have A “Too Small Rug”
Look, large rugs don’t usually come cheap which is a very understandable reason for not being able to “go big or (don’t) go home because your rug is still too small”. But I promise there are affordable options if you dig, wait for sales (remember Black Friday is only 2 months away but also HOW?! WHAT IS TIME?!), or take a little extra time to save up for the right one. This post goes into all of the things you need to know for choosing your perfect rug and has some shopping options (or at least some great places to look if you don’t see something that grabs you). It’s our #2 Design Mistake so we are passionate about it.
THE GO-TO EHD RULE CHEATSHEET
- Typical living room rug sizes are 8’x10′ and 9’x12′.
- Make sure your rug is at least 6″ wider (8″ is ideal) than your sofa on both sides.
- Typically run the rug the length of the sofa.
- Give 30″ to 36″ of a walkway between large furniture pieces (if your living room allows for it) if not then at least 18″-24″. That will help to inform your rug size.
Painless right? Well, this next one might not be so easy for some of you.
2. DON’T: Clutter Your Space With Too Much Stuff
I am a HUGE offender when it comes to buying wonderful little things I don’t necessarily need. If I turn my desk chair around right now, I am staring at three, yes THREE candelabras. I’m getting better but it’s a constant struggle.
And this tip may have maximalist UP IN ARMS but let me make my case/you don’t have to follow every rule if you are happy with what you’ve got going on. But sometimes it’s easy for things to get “bitsy” and too “visually busy”. If you want to keep your maximalist style going just make sure there’s a good variety of scales in your decor. That is going to really help your eye bounce around instead of getting a wall of “the same”, where nothing really stands out.
But for those not wanting to go maximalist and prefer mediumism (that’s me!) or minimalism, this is for you. You want to let the things you really love have some breathing room because that will let you breathe a little easier. For me, clutter or having too much stuff in a space gives me low-grade anxiety. Sadly, I’m not kidding. I promise how your home looks affects you both good and bad depending on how happy you are with it.
Look at this photo of Emily’s old living room. The color palette is SOLID, helping it to look less chaotic but still interesting with the varying tones, materials, and shapes, yet nothing is packed together (like in her old old old living room in the first photo). They’re still plenty of beautiful pieces but it’s less crammed so you can take it all in.
FYI this also VERY much goes for furniture too! Julie wrote a great design mistake post about that particular topic so if you feel like that might be one of your issues here’s some help🙂
Ok, now for an easy break!
3. DO: Add A Hit(s) Of Black
If you don’t have some solid hits of black in your living room may I suggest you rectify this STAT. Sprinkling black pieces of decor around your living room will really help to add some awesome visual weight and probably some needed contrast. If you reeeeally love a light, neutral space just go delicate like with a small vase, an accent in a pillow, or a piece of art. We promise that your room will just look more elevated and balanced. Shall we take a look at Em’s LA living room?
Not one black decor piece in this living room feels heavy. Instead, they all help to ground the design perfectly. See how it’s used in the art, lamps, vases, shelf decor, and furniture accents? They are all spread out evenly so your eye can rest. A balanced design is a happy design in my opinion.
But also don’t feel like you can’t go bolder! Just make sure that you have other pieces that can stand up to it and yes, balance it visually. Ok done saying “balance”… or am I???
4. DO: Style A Throw Blanket (Or Two)
SO simple but so easily forgotten. A styled throw really makes it look like your living room’s got its SH*$ together. But there are A TON of ways to do it and I’ve laid out our favorites.
On the left, we have the more “organic” look. This is the equivalent of the perfect messy top bun. It may take you 15 tries, but once it’s just right, it looks perfectly effortless. EHD (and now AD) stylist, Emily Bowser’s fun hack for this is to grab the throw slightly off-center, pick it up, and then gently toss it onto the sofa. Well, that’s at least how Emily Henderson remembers it and honestly, it works!
If you are wanting to style your throw in the organic look consider the thickness of your fabric. If it's too thick it's going to be very hard for it to not just look bulky.
On the right, we have a slightly less organic look but it still has a casual vibe. Just fold longways then in half, slightly separate those halves, then lay it nicely onto your seat cushion under your throw pillows. BOOM! Style throw perfection.
Ok, let’s get structured:)
On the left, we have the “folded nicely over the chaise” look that Arlyn did for her MOTO shoot. It’s a great way to easily have your throw looking intentional and well designed. Plus, it’s nice to give your chaise some attention.
On the right, is the ” folded nicely over the arm” look which is how my sofa throw is currently styled. It’s SO EASY. Plus if you are entering your living room and are “greeted” by the side of your sofa, it’s a nice way to add some pattern and texture. But if you have a decent-sized side table next to your sofa it might look a little strange.
If you are a person that’s more of a video visual learner, Emily made a great IGTV on how to “throw a throw”. Enjoy!
5. DO: Put A Tray On Your Coffee Table
If you’ve been following EHD for a while you know we are tray LOVERS. They add more texture, look super pretty, and corral your things. A practical decor item does exist! Just kidding, there are a bunch but this one is our favorite. Plus it can be super affordable. Trays come at almost every price point.
We like to contrast our tray shapes to our coffee table shapes. It keeps things visually interesting. Look at how great this rectangular wood one is on Emily’s beloved coffee table. It also perfectly holds some books, coasters, and a snack bowl (mandatory in my opinion). But you could also replace the bowl with a candle, small plant (if there wasn’t already foliage on the table), and/or of course, add your TV remotes.
Oh, and you can also use trays on your credenzas for a little mini-bar setup. It looks very cute, intentional, and obviously fun. See Em’s version in the photo above?
Also note how Emily Bowser also contrasted the shape of her tray to her coffee table? If she hadn’t corraled those pretty decor pieces, they may have looked a little all over the place. It’s a really great trick I promise. Just try it if you haven’t already.
6. DO: Add A Standing AND Table Lamp/s
Oof lighting is so important. So since you need light to you know, use your living room, you might as well use it to your advantage. Emily thinks that it’s important to have both a floor AND at least one table lamp (depending on your room size). Varying heights will make your room look interesting and having more than one lamp will balance the light throughout your room. Plus at night, if you have enough lamps, you can turn off your overhead lighting which helps to calm you down for the night. If you need proof that this is important, have a listen to this incredibly interesting Armchair Expert interview with neuroscientist, Andrew Huberman. It kinda blew my mind.
Hey, that’s my old living room:) See how having a tall and short lamp makes your eye move around? They also speak to each other in terms of color but are totally different styles. That’s a very important thing to note too. Don’t go too matchy-matchy (aka don’t have two tripod lamps in the same room).
We’ve almost made it to the end y’all! Last one…
7. DO: Create Conversation Area With Furniture
I’d say the main purpose of a living room is to have a place to hang out with people you like and want to talk to. Ok ya, if there’s a movie on then everyone pipe down. But regardless of movie night, you want to set up your living room to encourage conversation. Size obviously matters. You can’t pack in a sofa, two chairs, and a bench seat if your living room is tiny. BUT if you can have more than just a single sofa, make sure all of your seating isn’t all in a line on one side of the room.
In Sara’s living room above, she was able to have her sofa and two chairs across from each other. A great conversation layout. But Mel didn’t quite have the same amount of square footage in her old place…
So instead, she put a chair on each side of her sofa facing in. They aren’t across but they also aren’t technically on the same side of her sofa. (When she lived there, she and her guests could happily converse without having to turn their entire bodies to the side. Win-win-win.
Alright, class dismissed! Did you learn anything? Reminded of some hot tips maybe? I actually ended up storing some of my many pieces of art that were just leaning against the wall out of my living room to make it look less cluttered. I can’t tell you how much that small change made me feel so much better. How about this. Unless you are 100% in love with your living room, I challenge you to try one before next week. Deal? Let me know which one you are going to try in the comments!
Love you, mean it.
Opening Image Credits: Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: A Quick Update: The Changes I’ve Made to My LA Living Room