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The New Way to Decorate Your Living Room

Produced by Architectural Digest with The Home Depot.
Throw the old rules out the window for a living room that’s totally of the moment no matter what your style.

It wasn’t so long ago that living rooms seemed more conducive to showing off than, well, living. Not so anymore. The new way to decorate your living room takes into account your lifestyle and how you want the space to function, with the idea that the more lived in it feels, the better. There’s also an emphasis on creating a look that’s unique to your own personal style, whether that’s traditional, modern, or both. From establishing a color palette to varying the styles and shapes present, here are 10 tips to help you create a contemporary living room that’s completely one of a kind.

Don’t play matchmaker.

Gone are the days when everyone purchased a matching sofa-loveseat set and called it a day. The best living rooms are more personal, blending furnishings from a multitude of styles and sources—antique stores, home décor brands, your parents’ attic—for an aesthetic that feels like it’s been collected over time.

Encourage variation.

Remember that point about avoiding anything too matchy-matchy? It also applies to textures. Pair different fabrics and finishes—for example, cotton and faux fur, leather and velvet, metal and wood—to give your living room subtle contrast. Likewise, vary the size and shape of furnishings to create visual interest and achieve a balanced look.

Create a palette.

That is to say, decorate within a family of shades rather than one or two distinct colors. For a neutral room, go with a series of creamy white and off-white hues; for something more colorful, go for a range of similarly themed hues—pink, fuschia, and rose, for example.

Consider multifunctionality.

If your living room tends to be the gathering space during celebrations, holidays, and other social events, decorate with pieces that can serve a variety of functions: an ottoman that doubles as a coffee table, a side table that becomes a stool when company drops by.

Don’t be a wallflower.

Contrary to popular belief, a living room’s partitions aren’t always your friend. Pull furniture a few inches away from the walls to make a space look larger, and arrange sofas and chairs so that they form natural conversation areas and take advantage of focal points like mantels and windows.

Design for durability.

Performance fabrics have come a long way. Available in a range of colors, patterns, and textures, they make it easier than ever to decorate for kids, pets, or messy roommates.

Add a dash of the unexpected.

Whether it’s incorporating a richly patterned area rug (or two) in a neutral living room or painting the ceiling a shade brighter than the walls—pink is surprisingly flattering—an unpredictable design element can help bring details together while providing a pop of color.

Light it up.

No living room is complete without a thoughtful lighting scheme that pairs overhead illumination with strategic accents. Instead of the usual high-hats, opt for a statement making chandelier, then sprinkle in a few floor and desk lamps for a moody effect.

Design for your lifestyle.

Who says every living room needs a coffee table—or an armchair for that matter? Decide which elements are most important to you—an ottoman to provide additional seating during parties, a daybed instead of a sofa—and don’t look back.

Get artsy.

If there’s one rule when it comes to hanging art, it’s that there are no rules. Gallery walls, single landscapes, portrait pairings—anything goes. Just don’t hang anything too close to the ceiling.