Regardless of whether you have the money or the will, it's hard to get a living room looking professionally designed -- even color-coordinated, for that matter -- unless you've got professional guidance. Sure, there are those outliers who just have an eye, and maybe some DIY skills or a good thrift-store network, and have magicked their living room into something Pinterest-worthy. But those people are probably professional home stagers, house-flippers, or social media influencers. The rest of us don't find that it comes easily. So if you're getting ready to show your house or flip a house or just get a new house ready to invite company over, where do you begin?
If you have the means, you might walk into a showroom or click over to a virtual showroom page and order every matching piece in a set. That's a good start. But making it all work -- whether matching new items or thrifted items or a dozen things that grabbed your eye on Wayfair -- always comes back to the question of "How do I make it all come together?" The search for an answer has launched multiple TV networks. I won't pretend I can answer it here. But I will share some good methods and places to begin.
How to decide on a design style?
There really isn't a rule that dictates how you should decide on a design style. You could watch a season of a current HGTV show, consult an interior decorator, read a current design publication front to back, or go look at the latest featured styles in a home décor catalog. All of these methods will get you started and give you some context. Beyond that, there are styles tied into a particular geography or culture (coastal), styles that epitomize a certain era (mid-century modern), and styles that are defined by an aesthetic (shabby chic).
Most popular living room design styles
The most popular living room design style, according to HGTV, is "modern." And this follows logic. Modern is whatever's in mainstream stores right now. Generally speaking, that means on the neutral side, with shapes that make sense in most people's living rooms, and with an affordable entry point. Also, the definition of "modern" changes according to what year it is. Fifty years ago, modern living room design featured tulip chairs, macramé accents, and shag carpet. Today, you could still get all those things, but they would be tougher to find and perhaps more expensive. That's not because the design was more high-end, but simply because it's become retro and harder to source as the decades progress.
Other popular living room design styles:
Depending where you refer, there's anywhere from eight to 80 design styles that have some popularity with homeowners of today. And definitions are fluid -- one person's "vintage" is another person's "hand-me-downs from grandma."
Online resources for living room design ideas
While there are many "shelter" publications that cover décor every day, the online retailers themselves do a pretty great job of providing content. Of the publishers, these are the best known:
Some online stores that also provide great information and ideation:
Resources for finding living room décor professional help
Of everything online, Houzz is the go-to for great design inspiration rolled together with vendor advertisements, reviews, and in-depth information. Basically anyone that works in consumer interiors has a presence on Houzz. However, it can be overwhelming.
And speaking of overwhelming, for those with days or weeks or their entire lives to go down the rabbit hole of stunning, eclectic, perfectly-staged home style, Pinterest is a universe unto itself. Browsing the boards of enthusiasts, influencers, and DTC retailers, you will soon get lost and not know who or where things came from, but with some methodical clicking you can figure it out and maybe even find some items for your own living room. However, it's more for inspiration than to put together a shopping list.
If you want to match up virtually with a design professional who can help you out, you might want to check:
How do you start designing?
You start by calling professionals, or buying a few pieces from a collection, or looking at living rooms you like and sleuthing around to find out where that décor originated. While there is certainly a method that certified design professionals use -- and you might want to emulate it when designing for professional reasons -- designing for smaller jobs is something you can freestyle to a certain extent. And if you'd prefer to take a professional approach but don't want to hire a consultant on retainer, think about using one of the online services that will design a room starting at just a few hundred dollars.
Key elements to consider when you start designing:
- What wall paint color or paper will you use?
- What is the color palette for the room?
- Will you keep the flooring visible just as it is, or add an area rug?
- Are the big living room furniture items such as sofa, coffee table, and TV stand going to be a perfectly matched set, or are you choosing them separately?
- Do you want a design that fits your geographical region, or are you more drawn to a particular time period or craftsmanship?
- Will you stick with ceiling lights or add in floor and table lamps?
Living room decor should showcase the space
Whether you hire a professional or find inspiration online or choose a coordinated collection from a retailer, living room decor should create a more appealing space. Even if the furnishings don't match the potential buyers' or renters' personal preferences, a designed room still gives people the feeling of what it will look like when lived in, much more compellingly than what an empty space can convey.