How do you design a stylish living room?

Aside from the bedroom, the living room is where we spend the bulk of our time at home. If you’re a television and movie fan, it’s where you are when Netflix pops in with that pesky question: Are you still watching? (Of course I am.) In the winter, enjoying a cup of coffee by the fire on a Saturday morning is the perfect antidote to the busy workweek. It’s here that the kids perfect their fort-building skills and the teenagers collapse after a stressful driver’s ed test. While formal sitting rooms may not broadcast sporting events, these spaces still serve their purpose well; having a tech-free space in the home has become much more common—a remedy to balance out our hours of screen time. No matter what it looks like, the living room is your unofficial home headquarters; this is the place to feel most comfortable.

One thing I noticed while compiling my favorite living spaces is that no one-size-fits-all formula for the design exists. There’s no checklist to follow, where ticking off items will result in a picture-perfect setting. A living room is deeply personal, and everything from the type of sofa you buy to the art you hang on the wall is entirely dependent on your lifestyle and individual tastes. Just as you would when designing a kitchen, start the decorating process by compiling a list of your must-haves. If you spend a lot of time on the sofa, comfort is key and a slim mid-century modern sofa could be an unwise choice for movie marathons. If you love to entertain, make room for a bar cart and maybe a record player. If this is where you do your reading, bring in bookshelves and a great lamp.

In this chapter, you’ll see European-inspired sitting rooms alongside uber comfortable family rooms with sectionals that could fit a small army.

Which space resonates most with you?

You would never guess that a room as elegant as this one would be so family friendly! The microfiber ottoman can easily be wiped clean, while the upholstery of the gray sofa has more than two thread colors. This adds dimension, and the depth of the fabric hides stains better than a flat cotton.

Though the color palette in this living room is very neutral, interior designer Maayan Kessler brought in an abundance of texture, making this a multi-dimensional design. The fluted finish of the fireplace surround, the nubby upholstery on the sofa and chairs, and even the burl wood side table all bring in interesting visual elements that keep the room from feeling too “black and white.”

When choosing throw pillows, it comes down to size and scale. Choose a few different sizes of pillows to nestle together, as designer Tiffany Leigh did here. (If they’re all the same size, it will look a bit flat.) For patterns, you want variety: for example, a medium print with organic shapes, an orderly stripe, and a busier plaid all work well together.

Designer Max Humphrey worked with the architects at Beebe Skidmore to create a comfortable bench that wouldn’t obstruct the stunning views of the Pacific Ocean in this Oregon Coast weekend home. They used a durable, fade-resistant outdoor fabric on the cushions to avoid any long-term sun damage. The material also repels stains and is easy to clean, so the homeowners don’t need to worry about sandy feet or spills.
The large-scale art could have been centered over the sofa, but the bare wood wall adds much-needed warmth to the sleek, modern room. And though I don’t subscribe to the idea of “rules” when it comes to decorating your own home, I do think it’s important to design with respect to the home’s original style. The clean lines of the mid-century modern architecture are mirrored in the furniture selection (the chairs match the angles of the roof line; the glass tabletop has the same reflective qualities as the tile floor), so each piece looks as if it were made for this house.
A coffee table wrapped in a vintage kilim means no hard corners for little ones to bonk their heads. Trays and books offer a hard surface to set drinks or snacks. A lot of retailers sell similar pieces, but it’s an easy DIY. Snag an existing ottoman at Home Goods and recover it with a fabric or rug of your choice. (All you need is a strong staple gun and some good scissors!)
To keep your home from looking like a furniture catalog, layer old with new. That’s what makes this Manhattan Beach, California, living room by designer Rita Chan feel so welcoming! Vintage pieces sit alongside plush furnishings, which adds warmth and character.

In my opinion, the coolest spaces aren’t filled with accessories from big box stores. Just like Mrs. Maisel had a “weird ask,” don’t shy away from art and objects that are on the funky side—or even plain old weird. If it speaks to you, it has a place in your home.

You don’t have to stick to one medium when it comes to art. A blend of photography, illustration, and even framed textiles are what makes this living room so intriguing.
Wood paneling can appear ornate, but this Hollywood Regency library doesn’t feel too formal thanks to a neutral sofa and deep-seated armchairs. Laura Muller of Four Point Design Build says well-edited, simple furnishings were intentional here. “Wood breathes so much life into a space, so let it. Keep the lines in the space clean and rhythmic.”

For a large sectional, round nesting tables serve as a nice contrast to all the angles, and you can worry less about the dimension and scale of a traditional coffee table. Place the round tables roughly in the center of the room and easily access all areas of the sofa—no bruised shins here.

If you love an all-white, airy space but crave a punch of color, one statement piece (like the ochre velvet sectional here) should do it. Just make sure to bring home a swatch of the fabric before committing to see how the color translates in your space. Natural light is very different from the harsh florescent glow that furniture showrooms are known for.

This formal living space is perfect for parties. The built-in bench at the bay window gives guests a soft place to land, and small drink tables flank the elegant, curved sofa. No guarantees that the light fixture won’t beam you up at the end of the night though!

In a larger living space like this one by Laura U Design Collective, a custom serpentine sofa anchors the room. Having seating on both sides connects the large space while offering two different conversation areas.

In this living room by designer Montana Labelle, window coverings go all the way up the wall, which tricks the eye into thinking the ceiling is higher than it is. This white linen ripple-fold curtain is on a recessed drapery track invisible to the eye.

The reality is that most of us use our living spaces to watch television. (And with so many epic shows available at the click of a button, who could blame us?) It’s always been a big trend to camouflage the TV, which is a fantastic solution if you’re rarely using the remote. If you never miss an episode, don’t go through the trouble of hiding it! This white oak TV surround looks like art in itself.