How to Design a Living Room from Start to Finish

Apr 21, 2022

Living Room

Gray Sofa in Living Room | How to Design a Living Room

Decorating a living room isn’t always easy, especially if you don’t have an eye for interior design. But it doesn’t have to be stressful! This step-by-step guide to how to design a living room from start to finish breaks down how to create a stylish and functional living room that will continue to bring you joy for years to come.  

Measure Your Space

Whether you’re designing a living room, dining room, bedroom, or another room in your home, the first step should be to measure the space. Not only will you want to get an accurate sense of square footage but measuring the space can also help you understand what will fit where. In fact, once you have the dimensions, you can utilize our free room planning tool to help you figure out potential living room layout ideas. In addition to measuring the dimensions of the room, you’ll also want to measure the windows so you have a better idea of the size of your window treatments. Remember, completing this step before purchasing furniture will prevent you from ordering and returning furniture items that don’t end up fitting in your space.

Determine Your Budget

Your living room design isn’t just dictated by your space, it’s also dictated by your budget. Before you can start decorating, you’ll need to determine your furniture budget. While this number can be a range, you’ll want to make sure to have a hard and fast limit to what you’re willing to spend so you won’t be tempted to go over. You might even consider breaking down your budget into categories that include a range of what you’re willing to spend for each item to make sure you can properly spread out your budget without missing out on any living room essentials, like sofas, tables, TV stands, lighting, and décor.

Consider the Function

Before you start picking out individual furniture items, you’ll want to consider how you want to use your space. If your living room will predominantly be used as a space to gather and watch TV with the family, for example, you might need to prioritize different furniture items than if your living room is predominantly used for hosting parties. You’ll also want to factor in if your space will have to double as a dining room, home office, or playroom, and whether it will have to accommodate any other activities like crafting or other hobbies. Once you have a solid understanding of the way you plan to use your space, you’ll be better able to make decisions about what types of furniture you’ll need.

Make a Shopping List

Once you’ve measured your space, determined your budget, and considered the function of your living room, the next step is to make a shopping list. That way, you have a better idea of what you need and how far your living room furniture budget will have to go. You’ll want to be as detailed as possible during this stage, and you may want to further break down your budget by including a range of how much you’re willing to spend on each item. If you’re not sure how much specific items might cost, you can browse some inventory online to get a better sense for a realistic price range. That said, the range for different items can be quite significant, and you’ll likely want to spend the most on the items that are the most important to you, rather than just trying to stay in the lowest range for every piece of furniture.

Determine Your Interior Design Style

Now that you know what furniture you need, it’s time to figure out how to design your living room in a way that suits your individual style and personality. That’s where it can be helpful to understand your interior design style. To get started, check out our home inspiration blog, where we have a helpful guide to interior design styles that can help you figure out whether you gravitate toward modern, traditional, casual, or contemporary style. While there’s always room to mix interior design styles, understanding what you like will go a long way toward helping you make smart living room decorating decisions.

Look for Design Inspiration

Once you’ve determined your interior design style, you can start looking for design inspiration. Not only is Pinterest a great resource, but you can also browse our huge online inventory of living room furniture. You might, for example, search our style categories to find modern sofas, traditional sofas, contemporary sofas, and casual sofas. By saving lots of photos that inspire you, you can start to see what they have in common, which will give you a better idea of your taste. Write down any commonalities you notice, whether it’s color palettes, furniture shapes, or furniture arrangements. Then, try to incorporate that information as you start designing your living room. While it’s tempting to just start buying things you like, doing your due diligence will help make sure that you’re not settling before understanding all of your options.

Play with your Living Room Layout

While you can’t officially decide on a living room layout before purchasing your furniture, you can play around with different arrangements to see what might work best for your space. And because we offer a free room planner tool, you can easily visualize what your room might look like with different sized and shaped sectionals, sofas, accent chairs, and more. If you’re dealing with an awkwardly shaped living room, you may be able to find helpful layout ideas that will help you best take advantage of your space. Splitting up long, narrow living rooms into distinct zones, for example, might help the space feel more curated. You might even find that different types of furniture work better in different types of space. Round furniture, for example, can help soften living rooms that suffer from the bowling alley effect, and large sectionals can help fill large living rooms. Don’t be afraid to look for suggestions online to help you make the most of your specific living room.

Start with the Sofa

When designing a living room, you’ll want to start with the sofa. Not only is it typically the largest item in the room, but it’s also often the most expensive. Plus, it’s usually the first thing people notice when walking into a living room. By choosing the sofa first, you’ll make it easier to understand your budget for the rest of the room, you’ll have a better idea of what other types of seating you need, and you can start thinking about your living room layout. It can even help you choose a color palette. When choosing a sectional or sofa, it’s good to follow the two-thirds rule of interior design. That means you’ll want the sofa to be around two thirds of the length of the wall where it’s positioned.

Choose a Color Palette

In interior design, a color palette is a collection of colors that complement each other and are used together throughout the room. While it’s not a hard and fast rule, many designers suggest choosing a dominant color that makes up roughly 60% of the room, a secondary color that fills roughly 30% of the room, and accent colors that can be used sparingly throughout the rest of the room. To get started, use your inspiration board to find out if there are any color schemes you tend to like. You can also use your sofa, or whatever piece of furniture you purchase first, to help dictate the color scheme you’ll use throughout the whole room. Need more help? There are plenty of apps available that can help you come up with a color scheme that works for you, just remember that it’s easier to find furniture in some colors than others. Accent furniture, rugs, and artwork are a great way to incorporate the less common colors into your décor.

Fill in the Furniture

Once you’ve determined your budget, picked out your sofa, and decided on a color scheme, you’re all set to start filling in your furniture gaps. For many, coffee tables, side tables, and sofa tables are living room essentials because they give you a spot to set your drinks, reading materials, and remotes when you’re sitting on the couch. If you tend to eat dinner or work from your sofa, you might want to consider a lift-top coffee table that will also serve as a convenient and functional surface. You’ll also want to decide on some additional living room seating like accent chairs, loveseats, recliners, ottomans, benches, and poufs. If you tend to watch TV as a family, a TV stand or entertainment center can hold your TV and provide some creative living storage solutions for your space.

Address Your Walls

While furniture tends to be top of mind when designing a living room, you don’t want to forget about the walls. Wall art, for example, is a great way to showcase your personality, add a splash of color, and make your space look great. Depending on your wall and your style, you may want to opt for one large piece of wall art, a triptych of related artwork, or a gallery wall full of curated artwork and photos that showcase your unique personality and style. You can also find spots for family photos, stylish textiles, hanging shelves, and plenty of other wall décor that will make your place look cozy and curated. Want to really draw your visitors' eye? Consider creating an accent wall. You can also check out our helpful guide on how to choose the right wall art for your wall if you’re having trouble getting started.

Consider Storage Solutions

Living room storage solutions are key if you want to have a clutter-free, functional living room. That’s why it’s so important to consider storage furniture when designing your living room. Whether it’s an entertainment center, a cabinet, a console, or multi-functional furniture like a storage bench, a storage ottoman, or a storage coffee table, prioritizing storage furniture can go a long way toward keeping your living room organized and tidy.

Layer Your Lighting

When it comes to living room décor, you can’t forget lighting. While it’s tempting to set up some overhead lighting and move on, layering your lighting will go a long way toward making the room stylish and functional. To get started, you’ll want to start with ambient lighting like overhead lighting, wall sconces, and natural light. To take advantage of the natural light in your room, try hanging mirrors across from any windows. Not only does this brighten the room, but it also creates depth that can make the room feel larger. From there, you’ll want to focus on task lighting, which includes desk lamps, floor lamps, and table lamps. Task lighting lets you see what you’re doing. From there, you’ll want to focus on accent lighting, which adds depth, dimension, and style to the room.

Now that you know how to design a living room, it’s time to start decorating. Browse our huge selection of living room furniture, including sofas, sectionals, loveseats, recliners, accent chairs, console tables, coffee tables, end tables, and more. In the meantime, check out our interior design blog where we cover everything from our favorite cozy living room ideas to our Star Interiors high-end furniture collections.