How to design a living room – from choosing colour and flooring to layout

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  • As the main hub of the house the living room plays an integral part to how our homes functions. How to plan a living room comes down to how you wish to use the space, and indeed how much area you have to work with.

    The basics are generally the same when considering living room ideas for rooms of all sizes; style, layout and costs.

    How to design a living room – decor and layout

    ‘When setting out to design your living space it’s worth considering whether you’d like it to be a formal or more informal space’ advises Jessica Robins, Senior designer at LUXE by Andrew Henry Interiors.

    ‘It’s best to start thinking about your largest or most impactful pieces first i.e. the sofa, wallcoverings and whether you have any existing pieces you particularly would like to include within the room. Once you’ve decided on the finishes of your largest items, and whether these will include any bold patterns, you can then layer textures and hard finishes to add depth to your design.’

    ‘When choosing your finishes, neutral tones mixed with multiple textures compliments a more informal relaxed scheme. Alternatively using deeper, jewel hued textiles alongside textured glass and brushed brass, helps to create a sense of luxury for a more formal living space.’

    1. Set a budget

    grey living rooom with window shutters colourful rug and grey sofa and armchairs around coffee table

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Robert Sanderson

    The key to good planning, for any room of the house, is to set a strict budget. It’s good to be realistic at this stage of planning, make the best of what you can afford. If your budget can’t stretch to all the thing you want simply work in preference, invest in the most important things now – like flooring and good electrics for lighting. Where you can live with certain elements do so for now, with the intention to change things at a later date.

    Having a budget allows you to plan exactly where to spend, and where you can afford to save. Look for smart and simple living room ideas to keep costs on track.

    ‘The seating will make a huge difference to your living room and will also take up a considerable amount of the budget, so do as much research as you can on the key pieces’ advices Katie Lion, Interior Designer, Kitesgrove.

    2. Choose a colour palette

    Colours for Calm -

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Joanna Henderson

    Firstly choose a colour palette for the walls to create a backdrop on which to build a decorating scheme on. Look to the latest paint trends to see what’s trending in the world of design experts, to try a bold new shade to set the scene for the seasons ahead. If you’re looking for timeless appeal go for a neutral living room idea to create a blank canvas to add pops of colour through furniture choices and soft furnishings.

    ‘We have seen that creating a statement in a room with a feature colour or palette of coordinating colours continues to be really popular in our decorating community’ explains Marianne Shillingford, Creative Director at Dulux. ‘Using colour on the ceiling, layering colours and using blocks, bands, stripes and arches to define areas in which we do different things is also a growing trend that we are thrilled to see!’

    ‘Nothing defines a room or the person who lives in it more than the creative joyful use of colour. It results in a look that is completely unique and intensely personal, with no other design quite like it to compare your home against.’

    Whatever the colour be sure to test the shade in different lights, from early morning to night time with only artificial light.

    3. Select the right living room flooring

    Living room with painted wall mural with coloured carpets

    Image credit: Carpetright Ardent ‘People and Planet’ Carpet, Burnt Orange, £29.99m2, Maestro Primary Ochre Rug, £79.99m2

    When it comes to choosing the right living room flooring idea consider what best suits your needs. Are you looking for practicality with a vinyl flooring for a busy family living room idea? Or perhaps supreme luxury underfoot from a plush carpet? Alternatively a change of style with a polished concrete floor for a more modern living room idea?

    Whatever style you choose be sure to consider all the implications, does it insulate? Will it reduce noise for the floor below, a valid factor if you live in a flat or a beside house with an unconventional layout.

    ‘As a social space to both enjoy and relax in there are no steadfast rules when it comes to decorating living rooms’ says Punam Chada, Buyer at Carpetright. ‘Although neutrals remain flooring favourites there is an interest in aspirational prints, patterns and colours that bring joy and make a statement.’

    ‘A rug can really ground the room to bring warmth and effectively “zone” the space’ says  Katie Lion, Interior Designer, Kitesgrove. ‘A good tip is always measure the room and consider the furniture which will be framed by the rug – a rug that is too small or big can make a room look unfinished or unconsidered.

    4. Consider living room lighting options

    teal living room with teal velvet sofa tan leather sofa and gallery wall with artwork and wall hangings

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Simon Whitmore

    As a multifunctional space the lighting has to be well considered so it caters for all purposes. The right living room lighting idea will ensure the space is useable at all times of the day, and for different uses.

    When putting lighting in place consider dimmer switches to allow control over the light levels, enabling the freedom to create ambience for more intimate occasions when entertaining. Living rooms can be completely transformed by adjusting the brightness. Play with different levels to make your lounge as comforting as possible, both floor and table lamps are crucial for adding soft illuminations to darker corners or over side tables to make them more user-friendly.

    ‘Make sure you have varied sources of lighting’ advises  Katie Lion, Interior Designer, Kitesgrove. ‘Overhead spotlights are usually too harsh for a living room, so I’d recommend having a mixture of different light sources which can be floor lights, table lamps, wall lights or pendant lights. This makes it much more interesting visually by introducing more materials to the scheme and atmospheric with various lighting levels and focal points. If possible, also instal a dimmer switch so you can adjust the light according to the time of day.’

    5. Invest and measure for the right furniture

    white living room with grey armchair tall houseplant

    Image credit: Douglas Gibb

    Furniture is never cheap, unless of course you are that savvy shopper who turns to Facebook Marketplace for a bargain. The main thing to consider when investing in living room furniture is how long it will last, buy cheap buy twice is the old saying. For things like sofas and storage solutions, where the investment is high, look for seasonal sales to take the edge off when outlaying big costs.

    ‘Whenever possible, try out the sofa first to make sure you find it comfortable – it’s not just about how it looks’ advises Katie Lion, Interior Designer, Kitesgrove.

    Be sure to measure the space accurately to trust that any piece you buy will fit comfortably. Consider access into the property too, as this will factor into what pieces you can furnish your living room with – whatever the size.

    6. Be mindful when arranging living room furniture

    living room sofa and arm chairs facing each other on rug in front of fireplace

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Alun Callunder

    This element of designing a sitting room needs much consideration as it determines how you’ll use the space. Ask any interiors expert and they will share the opinion that how you arrange the furniture changes the layout entirely. The beauty is, you change up as frequently as you like to transform the space without it costing a single penny!

    When talking to Ideal home about how to arrange living room furniture Lisa Mitchell, Design Director and Founder of Interior Style Studio advised, ‘Always give your furniture space to breathe. Stand back and check nothing is getting in the way.’

    ‘Decide where you want the eye to focus,’ says Lisa, ‘and layer around it. Stand back and contemplate the room as you would a picture. Sometimes a 10cm nudge to one side can make all the difference. A two-or three-seater sofa and a pair of armchairs opposite with upholstered pouffes always works well to balance a room.’

    ‘Often the living room is dictated by the tv,’ says Martin Waller, Founder of Andrew Martin. ‘And for the film fanatics the technology will likely be the focus. But if it’s going to be a sociable space to entertain friends and family then an abundance of seating facing towards each other will facilitate this – creating a warm and inviting feel.

    7. Get the right window treatment in place

    Living room curtain ideas with green curtains in neutral room

    Image credit: Hillarys

    ‘For a subtle look, pick a fabric for your curtains that is slightly lighter or darker than your wall tone’ advises Debbie Leigh, Design Manager at ILIV. ‘If you prefer a contrasting colour, choose an accent colour from in the room, drawing a shade from a cushion or throw for example.’

    Another brilliant living room curtain idea is to hang thermal lined curtains, as Debbie explains ‘Good quality, lined curtains are worth the investment. They are suitable all-year-round offering temperature control and privacy and their ability to help keep the cold air from seeping into the home makes them particularly useful during the autumn and winter months.’

    8. Retain order with storage

    dark grey living room with storage wall unit

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Dominic Blackmore

    Create a clutter free space to ensure the element of relaxing is not disturbed. Look for plentiful living room storage ideas to make sure everything has a place to be tidied away, out of your eye line.

    ‘If your living room is also doubling as a home office at the moment, think about storage’ advises  Katie Lion, Interior Designer, Kitesgrove. ‘Ideally you should be able to tidy away your work things at the end of the day allowing you relax in the space.’

    9. Add a personal stamp

    Living room feature wall with yellow walls and picture ledges

    Image credit: Neptune

    Style the space to make it your own personal sanctuary. From hanging artwork to form a living room feature wall idea that speaks to you to layer sofas with oodles of colourful cushions, make it personal.

    ‘A combination of small changes can create a big impact to your home, helping to uplift your interiors and make the most of your space’ explains Sabina Miller, Head Buyer at Heal’s. ‘Opting for pieces you really love will quickly transform the overall look. Statement accessories such as Raawii’s Strom Jug or Tom Dixon’s Tank collection can help to build a sense of strong decor and add an injection of personality and colour.’

    ‘Gallery walls are fun, or for something simpler but very dramatic a large giltwood antique mirror hanging on its won will be a talking point’ suggest Benji Lewis, interior designer and founder of Zoom That Room.

    ‘Scatter cushions are a great way of ringing the changes, consider ones with fringed detail to add a luxurious flourish. If you’re after an opulent vibe, look at velvet cushions in tones of green, rusty gold and scarlet; alternatively for a more pared back look, then soft greys, tan and ballet pink would work well.’

    10. Live with your scheme to get a feel for it

    Neutral living room with flowers

    Image credit: Future PLC

    Where you place your furniture of course is an easy one to change, while redecorating has cost implications. Time will tell, so the best way to determine if your new look living room is right for you is to live with it – see how it makes you feel as you spend quality time in it.