How to design a living room - colour, flooring, and layout tips to level up your lounge

Easy to implement advice from experts on how to design a living room to make your space feel stylish yet homely

teal living room with teal velvet sofa tan leather sofa and gallery wall with artwork and wall hangings
(Image credit: Future/Joanna Henderson)

As the hub of the home, knowing how to design a living room will play an essential role in how your lounge not only looks but also feels. You want it to be a spot to relax in come evening or daytime, as well as a place to host friends and family in a more sophisticated setting. 

As well as choosing the best sofa or TV for your living room, there are a few expert-approved considerations to take when planning the overall scheme. From defining a living room colour scheme to finding the ultimate feng-sui set-up for furniture, these interior tips will ensure that your living space feels stylishly curated and designed for switching off. 

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.

'With how to design a living room, 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


(Image credit: John Lewis)

The key to how to design a living room and, really, 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

living room with round mirror fireplace and armchairs

(Image credit: Future PLC/Joanna Henderson)

When deciding how to design a living room, the colour palette holds a lot of sway, as your walls 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 ideas 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 dark wood herringbone flooring, a coffee table and armchair.

(Image credit: Future PLC)

When it comes to choosing the right living room flooring ideas 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 that will affect how to design a living room and onwards. For example, 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.

'We're seeing a rise in luxurious warm woods in a variety of different ways, from sleek, modern spaces to traditional, cosy living rooms. Timeless and versatile, warm wooden floors are the perfect addition to any home,' says Natalie Mudd, creative director for The Wood Flooring Co.

'When searching for the right wood for your own home, ordering samples is the perfect way to make an informed decision. By testing out different tones and finishes in your own space, you can get a feel for how the floor complements your home and existing aesthetic.'

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 ideas 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 when figuring out how to design a living room,' advises Katie from 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: Future PLC/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.

Be sure to measure the space accurately to trust that any piece you buy will fit your large or small living room ideas comfortably - both physically and aesthetically. Consider access to the property too, as this will factor into what pieces you can furnish your living room with.

'Proportions are key - You’ll want to make sure your new sofa fits in the space without overcrowding -or underwhelming. A great way to get a real sense of the size is to choose a style you like and map out its dimensions on the floor by laying out cardboard or taping an outline with masking tape,' says Dani Burroughs, head of product for Snug. 'Play around with the different options: try sizing up or down until you find the perfect sofa that fits your home and style.'

6. Be mindful when arranging living room furniture

Living room with pink and red accents and gold standing lamp./

(Image credit: Future)

The how to arrange living room furniture element of how to design a living 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, that you can change up as frequently as you like to transform the space without it costing a single penny!

'Always give your furniture space to breathe,' advises Lisa Mitchell, Design Director, Interior Style Studio. 'Stand back and check nothing is getting in the way.'

'Decide where you want the eye to focus and layer around it.' says Lisa. '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.'

Dani adds, 'Give your furniture room to breathe – If you are having to work around structure elements such as a window, you ideally want to give the sofa around 12 inches breathing room from the window.' 

'Measure your space to get an idea of what you’re playing with and leave enough room to walk around comfortably – it can be snug, but no one wants it to be a squeeze! If you find that you have extra space, a side table makes a great practical and stylish addition. It’s the perfect spot for a table lamp, your favourite plant or as a place to rest your cup of coffee.'

7. Get the right window treatment in place

living area with black wall and open shelves

(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.'

Thermally lined living room curtain ideas are definitely worth considering. 'Good quality, lined curtains are worth the investment,' explains Debbie. '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

Beige living room with oak built-in shelves.

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Create a clutter free space when planning how to design a living room to ensure the element of relaxing is not disturbed in the finished space. 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 from 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 living room feature wall ideas, to layering sofas with oodles of colourful cushions, go personal with how to design a living room of your own.

'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, 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' suggests 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

Modern living room with concrete-effect wall and plants.

(Image credit: Future/Anna Stathaki)

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. Especially when designing a living room for a family home, you'll want to know where each person naturally gravitates to sitting and spending time together, to ensure it works for your household. 

'When decorating your family living room, always remember that the living room needs to be accommodating for everyone in the family as it’s a space where everyone will be together,' adds Kate Conrad, interior design expert at Madison & Mayfair.

'Also, common mistakes include filling the room with too much décor and furniture which makes it look cluttered and not having enough lighting options which can hinder you when you want a cosier atmosphere.' 

By simply living in the room,  you'll understand where you require additional lighting, storage and where there is room for more decor. 

How to decorate a small living room

Small living rooms require slightly more planning consideration than larger spaces, as you have to be clever with including everything you need, with less room to work with. You want to carefully choose furniture so that is has more than one purpose, as opposed to being purely decorative. And when it comes to small living room lighting ideas, look to slimline options and make use of walls for added illumination. 

'When you’re working with a smaller space, I’d suggest choosing a coffee table with clever storage options, or an ottoman that fits and complements the style of your sitting room. Those with lift-top lids are ideal for stowing away blankets and books so you can get the most out of your space,' says Sue Jones, luxury interiors expert and co-founder of Oka.  

'Ensuring you have your room measurements correct when selecting larger pieces of furniture to purchase, such as sofas and coffee tables, is also key. You want to make certain you are not choosing items that are too large and might overwhelm the space.'

With these tips in mind, the best way to design a living room that you love is to go with your gut. Living in the space and taking your time with the purchases will ensure that it reflects your personality and your purchases last for years to come. 


Tamara was Ideal Home's Digital Editor before joining the Woman & Home team in 2022. She has spent the last 15 years working with the style teams at Country Homes & Interiors and Ideal Home, both now at Future PLC. It’s with these award wining interiors teams that she's honed her skills and passion for shopping, styling and writing. Tamara is always ahead of the curve when it comes to interiors trends – and is great at seeking out designer dupes on the high street. 

With contributions from