How to make your living room look expensive when you're on a budget

Design experts show how you can update your living room to achieve a luxe look on a budget

Living room with cream sofa, patterned rug and rust armchair.
(Image credit: Future PLC)

With so much inspiration on social media and in magazines, it's easy to want to create a living room with the wow factor, but the reality of working to a budget will impact this. Luckily, we've rounded up the top tips from home interior experts on how to make your living room look expensive no matter how much you want to spend. After all, everyone deserves a decadent space to relax in. 

When browsing through living room ideas, the question may cross your mind, how on earth can I achieve the luxe look without breaking the bank? Or perhaps you just simply don't know where to even start with revamping your living space. From soft furnishing updates to weekend DIY projects, there's a range of high-end inspired tips here to get you started. 

How can I make my living room look expensive?

Many of us may be wondering how to design a living room to give it the impression of a higher price tag, in fact, there are plenty of ways you can elevate your living space without having to spend a fortune on furniture and decor.

We've teamed up with interior design experts to give you the lowdown on how you can elevate your living space and instantly make it look more luxurious.

1. Add a dramatic flair with curtains

Living room with grey sofa and large full-length curtains over sash windows.

(Image credit: Future)

Creating a high-end living room scheme is all in the details. Adding rich-looking soft furnishings will instantly make a space look more expensive, and living room curtain ideas are a great place to start.

'When it comes to the length of your curtains, they can be too long, but never allow them to be too short. Curtains should always touch the floor and for an added touch of luxury, let them pool slightly onto the floor,' says Amy Wilson, interior designer for 247 Curtains. 'To create the perfect curtain pooling you should allow an extra couple of inches to your measured drop when measuring your made-to-measure curtains.'

'The beauty of curtains is there is margin for error when using a pole or track as you may be able to lower this if your curtains are falling a little too short. If you prefer not to have curtains all the way to the floor then consider a roman blind instead of short curtains.'

2. Decorate with second-hand, vintage, and antique pieces

Living room with vintage-inspired green armchair and curved stainless steel standing lamp.

(Image credit: Future)

Long gone are the days when high-end furniture and home decor were the only ways to make a space look chic. Take a pass on the high price point for your living room furnishings and opt to deck out your space with second-hand, vintage, and antique pieces.

Harriet Pringle, founder at Narchie notes that 'this is a great way to make a room look more expensive as you often get better quality and unique designs at a fraction of the price.' As an add-on, it's often that getting your hands on vintage, antique pieces will also instantly bring about added character and uniqueness to your space. 

3. Don't be afraid to mix patterns

Living room with cream sofa, patterned rug and rust armchair.

(Image credit: Future)

One trick that interior designers use to professionally decorate a room is layering multiple patterns and textures through soft furnishings such as a sofa, cushions, curtains and even a rug. 

Choosing a living room rug idea that is in the same colour palette as other decor, but with a slightly different pattern, will create a premium layered look. If you have a large-scale pattern on your window coverings or on a throw, opt for a rug with a smaller floral design in similar tones. 

4. Skip mass-produced pieces and be unique

living room with light colour system

(Image credit: Future PLC)

This one may be a tad bit trickier to achieve given that some of our favourite budget-friendly homeware brands release pieces we all love and want to get our hands on! But when your home isn't furnished with the same decor everyone else is using, it almost alludes to the idea that everything is a bit more luxurious, if you will.

Jane Reik, buying and design director at Joe Browns advises homeowners to 'keep an eye out for interior decor that feels unique rather than mass-produced.' She urges homeowners to not just go for cheap versions of items out of convenience, but to shop quality - don't get it twisted though, you can still shop for quality whilst being on a budget! If you're going to go all out to achieve uniqueness, budget decorating ideas such as upcycling is a great option.

'Open your home to curated pieces you love that complement each other and possibly have a story to tell – pieces that intrigue people and appear to have been picked up on far-flung travels – things you love that you want to look at every day', says Jane Reik. She says that these are the things that keep your interior authentic, and in turn, looking expensive.

5. Reupholster soft furnishings for a fresh look

Living room with patterned armchair and built-in sofa.

(Image credit: Future)

You don't need to buy brand new furniture in order to create an expensive-looking living room design. However, your current seating options might be looking a little bit tired and in need of a refresh.

In this case, consider reupholstering an armchair in an on-trend or luxe fabric. Revamping one armchair as a feature piece means the cost will be lower, yet you can still incorporate a more high-end material. 

This will cast an impact on the rest of the room, making it feel much more luxurious. Plus, it makes the perfect reading corner designed for whittling away hours on a Sunday afternoon.

6. Opt for warm wood tones

Living room with wood panelling, black sideboard and white boucle armchair.

(Image credit: Future)

Panelling is an easy DIY project that we've seen transform a number of homes into chic Insta-worthy abodes, and one thing even simpler than this is purchasing off-the-shelf wooden panels. 

They come in strips from many retailers such as B&Q and while they offer the look of a stylish Scandi chalet, they're super easy to attach and relatively inexpensive. The warm appearance of wood has a rich look that will make a living space feel instantly inviting, so all you need to do is add a couple of affordable finishing touches and you're good to go. 

7. Never underestimate the power of art

living room with two single sofas, fireplace and large wall art

(Image credit: Future PLC)

If you've got bare walls in your living room, they're probably one of the key factors as to why your space may feel empty. 'Adding colour, texture, and height is one of the best ways to change the mood and feeling of a room', notes Harriet Pringle. 

If you're feeling a little underwhelmed in your space, consider bringing your living room wall art ideas to life to add a bit of spice to your living room.

We think the main reason why there's quite a bit of uncertainty when it comes to decorating with art is the huge misconception that unique pieces will cost you an arm and leg, which absolutely isn't the case! There are plenty of affordable pieces out there if you just know where to look. And while you're browsing through wall art, it's good practice to also consider how it will look with your living room wall decor.

Home staging expert Elaine Penhaul, director at Lemon & Lime Interiors believes that art ultimately sets the ambience and feeling of a space, encouraging homeowners to 'introduce art as a tool to make your home more appealing and more expensive, as it is associated with individuals who have expensive taste and high net worth incomes.'

8. Add panelling to your walls

blue single sofa with decorative table, lamp, and grey wall panelling

(Image credit: Future PLC)

If you're looking to elevate your space and make it look more expensive, it's wise to consider touching on the architectural features of your home. When utilised correctly, living room wall panelling ideas can add immediate value to your space, creating depth and interest in what was once old, plain squares.

Elaine Penhaul notes that 'interior wall panelling, especially that made with a moulded beading is formerly associated with luxurious and historic buildings.' 

9. Play with textures

grey hallway with decorative items, metallic table lamp and furnishings

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Textures play a huge role in making something look and feel luxurious. Consider adding interest to your space by pairing your more antique pieces with modern furniture to create contrast, adding metallic luxe, taking risks with patterns, and mixing and matching different kinds of textiles. Textures can even be brought in via furnishings such as surface finishes, curtains, and cushions.

All of these elements are what bring people through a tactile journey inside your home, creating an atmosphere of luxury and elegance.

It's not that difficult to do either, as Jane Reik advises that 'you can give tired, old furniture a new lease of life with the simple addition of a plush throw and cushions, not to mention making the space way more comfortable too.' If you're looking for new items to mix in, then it's well worth your while searching through current home furnishing discounts to make some savings on these extras.

10. Pay attention to details in textiles

statement cushions on sofa wooden sofa in beige coloured living room

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Following on from our previous tip to make your living room look more expensive by playing with texture, we encourage the practice of paying extra attention to the details within your assortment of textiles.

When on the hunt for the best cushions, Jane Reik reminds us to 'look for the extras such as embroidery, piping, tassels.' It's the intricate details that provide added value to your homeware choices, as these little things are what indicate added craftsmanship, giving the impression of a higher price tag.

11. Switch off your 'big light' and perfect your lighting

dark grey living room with rocking chair, sofa, fireplace and candlesticks on mantlepiece

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Lighting can have a big impact on a space, adding warmth and dimension. Setting the tone and atmosphere in a space is integral to the vibe that others will feel when occupying the space - and given that your living room will likely be where you host guests, ensuring you create the perfect mood ranks pretty high in importance when considering living room lighting ideas.

Jane Reik at Joe Browns suggests simple things like switching off your 'big light' and swapping it out for the best table lamp or lighting a decorative candle or two can instantly make your living room feel more luxurious, creating the ambience you've been craving. She also highlights the importance of considering the tone of the light bulb and the type of light used, advising us to 'favour warmer tones and less waiting room brightness.'

'Focal lighting above tables, reading corners, or even up-lit artworks and bookshelves can create a luxurious mood and intrigue for visitors', adds Elaine Penhaul. 'Decorative pendant lighting or long-stemmed candlesticks can be used to create ambience and suspended centrepieces are becoming increasingly popular to create an inviting and natural decor.'

12. Hone in on colour schemes

sofa and coffee table in beige coloured living room

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Colour plays a huge role in determining how we feel within the environment around us, so if even we ourselves are feeling unimpressed by the four walls in our space, how much more are our visitors? This is why we ought to carefully consider living room colour schemes before rushing into one.

Elaine Penhaul claims that 'luxury living is all about creating a lifestyle', and this can be achieved through colour schemes. She says to 'think luxe opulent colour ways such as dark charcoals, emerald greens and metallics or more neutral and calming whites, beiges, and greens.' Bold can be beautiful, but it doesn't always have to be. So long as it's cohesive and streamlined throughout the space, the choice is yours.

13. Make a statement with stone interiors

marble fireplace with mantlepiece with four wall artworks displayed above

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Stone interiors are a foolproof way to elevate any space - from stone fireplace ideas to the addition of a statement coffee table (while you're at it, it pays to know how to style a coffee table).

However, we do recognise that stone interiors can be on the pricier side, so consider smaller decorative items like these marble trays from Amazon, or even having a go at an easy DIY project and using this self-adhesive grey film from Wilko to cover existing surfaces and furniture to get the look at a fraction of the price.

'Whether it's travertine, marble or onyx, I always think natural stone looks so timeless and chic in any space', says Harriet Pringle.

14. Ditch the handles to create a seamless finish

grey sofa in living room leading to carpeted staircase with white banister

(Image credit: Future PLC)

'Modern handleless furniture has proven extremely popular, especially as the design needs to cater to open-plan living that requires a more 'lived-in' feel and blurs the boundaries between the kitchen, living, and dining areas', says Simon Bodsworth, managing director at Daval

This style of interior design is reminiscent of the Danish art of 'hygge', easily identifiable as their interiors are renowned for their simplicity, beauty, and function - characteristics that are spot-on for wanting to make your living room look expensive.

What makes a space look luxurious?

'When you think of luxury, a lot of us think about an experience, so identifying an area for entertaining guests, such as an open plan and beautiful dining space accessorised with textured glassware, floral centrepieces, and quality cutlery will help to identify the space as more lavish and aspirational,' states Elaine Penhaul at Lemon & Lime Interiors.

She adds that 'simple changes to old-traditional furnishings such as door handles and drawer knobs can also enhance the luxury feel of a room - more and more designers are opting for modern textured brass or matte black finishing over pewter or stainless steel.'

Additionally, 'simple touches such as decorative candles, or really beautiful cushions and throws can add a luxury feel to a space', says Harriet Pringle at Narchie.

grey sofa with patterned cushions and coffee table in living room

(Image credit: Future PLC)

What colours make a home look expensive?

'Plum is a violet hue and violet is the most complex and interesting colour in the spectrum. It's associated with creative problem-solving, dreaming, and mysticism. It was also once the most expensive colour to produce, so only royalty and people of the highest status could afford to have it', advises Marianne Shillingford, creative director at Dulux.

On the other hand, Elaine Penhaul at Lemon & Lime Interiors warns us of what colours to avoid if our goal is luxe. 'Vibrant reds in curtains and carpets for instance can look old, or even like a pub setting.'

plum coloured living room with sofa, coffee table, and furnishings

(Image credit: Future PLC)

What makes interior look cheap?

Harriet Pringle at Narchie warns us that 'a cluttered space can always make a room feel chaotic. Invest in great storage pieces that are functional but also decorative in their own right, so you don't have to compromise on style.'

Although we're all for decorating your living room walls with art and filling your space with unique decorative pieces, this could also come as a double-edged sword. 'Surprisingly, framed photos if done poorly can make an interior look cheap. Low-quality phone images and clashing of colourways throughout photos could be distracting to the eye', says Elaine Penhaul at Lemon & Lime Interiors.

Jane Reik at Joe Browns adds that 'non-curated knick-knacks can make a space look and feel messy', then warning us to proceed with caution when using crushed velvet, bling, sequins, and diamante - textures all infamous for producing the opposite effect of the luxe they're intending to exude.

Lastly, while geometrics and written slogans are often seen as a modern way to decorate a wall, they just don't work well in a home. Elaine Penhaul at Lemon & Lime Interiors says that 'you want your home to feel cosy and calming, therefore, these harsh trends can become a little overpowering', especially as we may often associate this choice of wall decor with office settings.

Jullia Joson
Junior Writer

Jullia Joson is a Junior Writer at Ideal Home. She's always loved all things homes and interiors, graduating with a bachelor's degree in Architectural Studies from the University of Nottingham where her love for journalism blossomed following her internship at ArchDaily. Now focused on home tech, Jullia works on writing features and explainers to help people make the most of their home appliance investments. When she isn't writing, she loves exploring the city, coffee shop hopping, and losing hours to a cosy game.

With contributions from