Is your living room looking a little tired, dated, or uncoordinated? Do you just need to bring some new energy into the space? While it would be lovely to have an unlimited budget and a team to make your vision come to life, reality tends to keep our projects smaller. Still, there’s a lot you can do to give your living room a refresh without starting from scratch.
Follow our step-by-step guide to give your “same old” living room a whole new look.
Table of Contents:
1. Notice what works and what doesn’t.
First, reflect on the living room you have right now. What works? Do you love the comfortable angle for watching TV? Is the rug still beautiful? Is there plenty of play space for your kids or your dog?
Next, make a list of the things that don’t work. What piece of furniture makes you shudder? What can’t you do now that you want to do in the room? Which color are you sick of?
Once you have your lists, refer to them at every step so you’ll know what to keep or replicate and what to avoid.
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2. Strip the current décor.
Create a blank slate by removing rugs, curtains, wall décor, decorative items on shelves and tables, pillows and throws. If you have enough space, move accent furniture like small tables and chairs to a different room. This will give you a blank slate to work with.
Don’t worry; you can bring back anything you still like, but this way you’ll be making decisions intentionally instead of by default.
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3. Create your vision.
Now that the room is fairly empty, it’s time to find an inspiration image or item (or a few). You can browse your favorite stores, look around online for inspiration photos, or pull favorites from the collection of décor items you just removed from the room. What speaks to you?
Next, create your color palette. Look at your inspiration alongside the large furniture items you’re planning to keep. What colors do you see? What colors would go best with them? You’ll want to choose three to four colors: one for the walls (if you’re painting), one or more for major upholstered pieces like your sofa, and one or two accent colors.
Next, decide if there’s a particular design style you want to emulate. Modern? Farmhouse? Traditional?
Keep your color scheme, style, and inspiration in front of you anytime you introduce something to the space. Each item should fit into your vision of decorating your living room.
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4. Paint the room.
Compared with things like flooring and furniture, paint is a relatively inexpensive way to make a huge difference in a space. If you are going to paint, push your furniture toward the center of the room and make sure to use drop cloths to protect your floors and anything you don’t want to splatter.
Get a few paint samples from the store so you can see the colors in different light throughout the day. In many cases, you’ll find that a muted or shaded version of a color works best on a wall, rather than a pure, bright color.
Be careful to look at your paint choices next to the trim in the room, too. While white trim can go with almost anything, stained trim can have a big effect on how you perceive the colors around it. For example, brown wood can make grays read as blue.
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5. Place your furniture.
You might have an intuitive sense of you want the furniture to be laid out, or you may want to use trial and error. If you are a precise planner, measure the room first and mock it up on paper or using a web tool. Don’t forget to leave plenty of space to move around the furniture!
If your room is large enough, consider designating certain zones for certain activities. Even if you don’t have enough space for specific zones, make sure there is a place for every activity you want to do in the room (such as reading, talking, watching movies, playing games and eating dinner).
If you plan to add any large pieces—such as a new sofa, chair, storage unit or coffee table—this is the time to do it.
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6. Add larger items.
The first things to add back into the room are area rugs and window treatments. But first, ask yourself whether the old items still serve the room. Do they work with your new style and color scheme? If not, you’ll want to use some of your budget for new ones.
Next, move in accent furniture such as reading chairs, ottomans and side tables. Again, evaluate each item before putting it in the room. If it doesn’t fit physically or aesthetically, it’s time to replace it.
Once the furniture is in place, turn your attention to large pieces of wall art or mirrors. Does that painting suit your new design, or should you look for a new piece of art? Does the frame on the mirror clash with your new finishes? If it doesn’t work, leave the spot blank until you can come back to it with new options.
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7. Bring in lighting.
The key to good lighting is to layer different kinds of light: overhead, accent and task.
If you’re going to replace your overhead light fixture, do it now. Even if you’re not, you can change the mood of the room by switching up the bulbs. Perk things up with a higher wattage, or make it feel cozy by choosing a warmer white.
Next, add accent lighting. You can get some of the same effects of built-in accent lighting with floor lamps. Traditional floor lamps cast their light mostly downwards, while torchieres can light up a dark corner and bounce light off the ceiling.
Finally, add task lighting for the activities you plan to do in the room; for example, a table lamp next to a cozy chair for reading.
When you think you’re done, look around the room. You’ll want to have some dark-to-light variation, but if there are large areas that still seem to be in the dark, you might need to add another lamp.
Pay attention to shadows, too. They should be soft, not stark or obtrusive.
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8. Add accents.
If you love to shop, this may be the most exciting step in your redecorating adventure. But first, shop the pile of decorative items you previously removed from your room. Is there anything you love and want to keep? Is there an item you can put in a new spot or repurpose in some way?
Don’t forget to check everything against your inspiration — don’t put anything back if it doesn’t go with your color scheme or style.
If you’re on a budget, you may want to shop the rest of your home, too. Is there an item you can bring in from another room? Beautiful books, attractive containers (bottles, tins), and even outdoor finds like rocks and branches can become part of your decorating.
Finally, spend some of your budget on a few new items that you love. As you buy them, keep in mind your color scheme and style, and make sure you have a place for everything you bring home.
If you don’t have an eye for decorating, you can find all kinds of inspiration online. Search for your décor style along with “mantel,” “bookshelf,” “coffee table,” and so on.
When you think you’re done, look around the room and see if anything is missing. Are there any accent colors you’ve used fewer than three times in the room? Add another item of that color. Does the room look too flat? You may need more texture; try some throw pillows or blankets in different materials and patterns or add some mirrored or metallic items if the overall look is too soft. Plants are a great way to add texture and new shapes to a too-simple room.
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9. Salute the season.
Once you have your basic décor in place, have a little fun with the current season. Warm things up in winter with twinkling lights, candles, and cozy throws and pillows (you can never have too many pillows and blankets, right?). Evergreen boughs, pinecones, and paper snowflakes can make the room feel seasonal and festive.
In the spring, nothing beats fresh flowers; budding branches are another favorite. Switch out heavy colors for lighter ones; yellow for red, for example.
Summer calls for bright items and maybe a beachy accent or two.
And in fall, bring in autumnal colors, knit items, and natural textures like dried grasses or even little pumpkins.
Redecorating a room has never been easier, thanks to all the inspiration available online. Now you just need to make the time to do it. If you need help remembering, put a reminder on your calendar to refresh the space with each new season.
Keep the process in mind: evaluate, clear the space, paint, replace furniture, then add larger items, lighting, accents, and seasonal touches. Then sit back and enjoy the fresh feel in your revived space!
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