The Beginner's Guide to Decorating Living Rooms

Figure out your style and then get guidance on major elements

If you've just started thinking about decorating your house, and first on the list is your living room, you might be overwhelmed with putting all the pieces together to make a harmonious and appealing whole. You have to consider paint colors for the walls, what kind of furniture you already have and what you need, and how to arrange and accessorize it. But the first thing to figure out about yourself is what your decorating style is. Looking at photos of living rooms helps you do that. Knowing this gives you signals along the decor road to help guide your decisions on furniture, paint colors, window coverings, floor covering and accessories. Read these tips on how to get started with your decor style in mind.

  • 01 of 06

    Furniture

    Living room arrangement
    Chuck Schmidt / Getty Images

    A common problem people have is not knowing how to arrange their living room furniture. More often than not people push a sofa against one wall, a couple of chairs against another and that’s it. But arranging furniture is something that requires a little more planning. There are important considerations like choosing a focal point, creating conversation areas, and considering traffic flow. 

  • 02 of 06

    Area Rugs

    Living room rugs
    Hoxton/Tom Merton/Getty Images

    Area rugs can be a huge trouble spot and a challenge to get right in your room. There are a number of reasons why it’s important to use them, but before buying something simply because you like it, make sure you know all the rules of thumb for area rugs. The most important consideration with any area rug is size. When an area rug is too small it can make the entire room look disjointed so make sure you know the best size for your room and the way your furniture is arranged. All the furniture should be sitting on top of the rug and ideally, there should be about 10-to-20 inches of bare floor between the edges of the area rug and the walls of the room.

  • 03 of 06

    Art

    Living room wall artwork
    Lauren Flanagan

    Empty walls are a sign of an incomplete room. This doesn’t mean you need to fill every inch, but decorating the walls with art is important. It's important, but it does not need to be expensive to create an enticing and cohesive look. What one person considers art might be drastically different from what someone else thinks. The best thing to do is to follow your instincts when it comes to what you like and what will go in your room. Get informed on the basic rules of what to hang and how to arrange it, and then let your heart be your guide.

  • 04 of 06

    Lighting

    Living room light
    Westend61/Getty Images

    Lighting is a somewhat complex element of any room. In living rooms, it’s less so than in more utilitarian rooms like kitchens, but there are still some important considerations that should not be ignored. Most importantly, you should include each of the three main types of lighting: ambient, task, and accent. Light sources should be placed at different levels throughout the room. Consider overhead chandeliers or recessed lighting, table and floor lamps, and wall sconces.

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  • 05 of 06

    Paint Colors

    Painted Blue Wall
    Getty Images

    Choosing just the right paint color is something a lot of people struggle with, and if there’s one thing that most people do wrong, it’s choosing the paint color first. Painting is relatively easy (painting can be a pain, but it’s not difficult), and it’s inexpensive, so choose your more expensive pieces first and then choose a color based on them.

  • 06 of 06

    Measurements

    Living room scale
    The Hufington Post

    No matter what part of the room you're working on, be it the rugs, window treatments, or furniture arrangements, make sure you know their ideal measurements and the size of the space where you want to place furniture pieces. No one has it all memorized and nothing is set in stone, but it's a good idea to have a handy guide so you can consult it when necessary. Rules offer good guidance, but ultimately you need to do what works best for you in your space and is the most pleasing to your eye. That's what counts the most.