Well-lighted flat interior with plants and couch

Don't forget long drapes and attractive lighting when designing your living room. (Getty Images)

You want to improve the space your family spends the most time in, but the thought of knocking down walls to create a more open floor plan in your living room sounds expensive and time-consuming.

Fortunately, there are simple ways to revamp this gathering space in your home without a major renovation.

Living room decor doesn't need to impress the masses, just offer comfort and showcase your individual style, which makes it both an easier and cheaper project to complete. "You can arrange simple accessories for depth, inspiration (and) a sense of calmness," says Alyssa Rosenheck, interior and architectural photographer and interior stylist based in Nashville, Tennessee.

Here are eight steps for decorating your living room to encourage better conversation, increase comfort and embrace design trends:

  • Build your decor collection.
  • Choose a color scheme.
  • Paint to add depth.
  • Pick lighting.
  • Add ambiance.
  • Select furniture.
  • Hang drapes.
  • Find the focal point.

[See: 10 Home Renovations Under $5,000.]

Build Your Decor Collection

Whether you’re starting from scratch or refreshing a living room that looks dated, resist the urge to buy everything from one home decor store, which could end up making your space look staged. Instead, Rosenheck says you should let your decorating style take shape over time, and only buy pieces like vases, lamps or art that you really enjoy.

“Buying what you truly love allows your home to evolve organically,” she says.

With vintage items or one-of-a-kind pieces, your decor can serve as a conversation piece and window into your personality. “Use a coffee table to showcase new loves, old treasures and ornaments that tell a really good story,” Rosenheck says.

Choose a Color Scheme

Whether the goal is to put the house on the market or give it a more HGTV-ready look, consider a neutral palette of gray, beige or a similar color. These are the most common choices for homeowners painting their living rooms, says Tina Nokes, co-owner of Five Star Painting in Loudoun County, Virginia.

But Nokes stresses that personal preference should drive the paint-color decision. If a bold, bright color in your living room makes you happy, go for it. "This is your home to do what you want. Whatever you love is really the best thing," Nokes says.

If you stick with neutrals on the wall, that doesn't mean your color scheme has to be muted. Choose complementing colors for the rest of your decor, such as area rugs, throw pillows and art, to keep the room looking monochromatic.

[Read: 7 Reasons Why Renovating Is Better Than Buying a New Home.]

Paint to Add Depth

You paint choices can also make the room pop. An accent wall is a way to introduce a new color without overwhelming the entire space. You could even create a toned-down accent wall by opting for a color that's a few shades darker than the primary shade in the room “to add some depth,” Nokes says.

Another popular choice for homeowners looking to update the living room is to paint over the bricks of a fireplace. Nokes says white and gray are the most popular options, and they have the effect of brightening an otherwise neutral room.

Pick Lighting

If your living room has high ceilings, embrace the extra space and choose a chandelier or large light fixture that can become a focal point.

“In the higher-end homes that have higher ceilings, maybe even a 12-foot ceiling, they are going with more big fixtures as opposed to ceiling fans,” says Jay Weaver, service professional at Mr. Electric of Grand Prairie in Cedar Hill, Texas.

Also consider switching from a single light fixture to recessed lighting. “By taking the light out of the center of the room and moving them into the corners of the room, you get better light distribution,” Weaver says.

However, installing new recessed lighting is a renovation project that involves a professional cutting holes in your ceiling or replacing the drywall entirely. For one room, six lights and a dimmer switch could cost $1,200 or more, according to home improvement cost comparison site Fixr.



Add Ambiance

Transform your living room by installing a dimmer switch for your lighting, which will allow you to soften the lighting or brighten it depending on your mood. “It changes the whole look of the room completely,” says Gary Dagley, owner of Mr. Electric of Grand Prairie.

Make sure that any lamps you purchase are rated to be dimmable, Dagley points out. Otherwise, the dimmer will not be effective.

Select Furniture

When it comes to selecting your primary furniture, such as the couch, coffee table and chairs or love seats, Rosenheck recommends sticking with a neutral color: “a blank canvas to layer different color schemes over and over again.”

Once you select your core pieces, it’s easy to add color with throw pillows, blankets, wall color and additional tabletop decor. These are all easy to switch out as your preferred color scheme shade changes with time.

[See: The Best Free Interior Design Apps]

Hang Drapes

Make your living room feel bigger by raising your curtain rods at least 4 inches above the window frame. With long drapes that reach the floor, the window and the entire room will appear larger.

“I want my eye to be continuously able to move around the room … and the ceiling-height drapes allow the eye to do this,” Rosenheck says.

Find the Focal Point

When it comes to staging your furniture, the setup should help foster conversation. A fireplace is often a natural focal point, and couches and chairs surrounding it make fireside chats easy. Similarly, if you have built-in shelves showcasing items from places you've traveled, consider orienting your furniture toward the shelves so your treasures are in the spotlight.

While a TV is a given in many living rooms, you may struggle to incorporate yours without making it appear that your family worships it. In Rosenheck’s home, the wall-mounted TV is covered by artwork when no one is watching a show or movie. Alternatively, she recommends keeping the TV accessible but away from the center of attention by placing it off center – for example, in a corner next to the fireplace, with the couch centered facing the fireplace.


10 Interior Design Trends for 2020

It may be time to update your decor.

A marble beige painting and a sunburst golden mirror on a gray wall with molding in a stylish living room interior with a velvet, powder pink sofa and retro furniture

(Getty Images)

You may not be moving into a new house in 2020, but you can make your home feel new again by taking stock of each room and updating the design. You may want to make your living room more functional by finding a better furniture layout, brighten up a guest bedroom with new paint or go big with a full renovation of your kitchen for a more modern style. To make any design changes a success, however, you’ll want to know what styles will become more popular in 2020 and what fads are on their way out. Here are 10 interior design trends to consider in 2020.

Updated on Dec. 6, 2019: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

Zen dens break up floor plans.

Zen dens break up floor plans.

Hygge, Zuhause, Entspannung, Muenchen, Bayern, Deutschland

(Getty Images)

Open floor plans may be here to stay, but many homeowners are interested in creating a room that lets you separate yourself from the goings-on in the rest of the house. For some people, open floor plans are "too open,” says Tim Bakke, publishing director of online home and design plan company The Plan Collection, based in Scarsdale, New York. “If you have the TV on in the living room, everyone in the kitchen and the dining room is hearing it and seeing it.” Bakke says separate, closed-off living spaces called “zen dens,” are ideal for reading a book or having a more private conversation, and he thinks they’ll gain popularity in the coming year. “It’s not splitting up the house, but you have someplace where you can kind of get away from it,” Bakke says.

Master suites expand.

Master suites expand.

(Getty Images)

As wellness gains emphasis, more homeowners are looking at spaces where they’ll most likely benefit. As a result, master bedrooms and bathrooms are getting more love. “Maybe a little bit of square footage is taken away from other parts of the house and put into the master suite,” Bakke says. Whether it’s to expand the bathroom and add a soaking tub or to make room for a sitting area in the bedroom, homeowners are considering their bedrooms as a space where they can spend more time beyond sleeping and getting ready for the day.

Inside and outside continue to blend.

Inside and outside continue to blend.

Friends having fun at dinner party in backyard.

(Getty Images)

Outdoor living has been gaining popularity over the last few years, and designers continue to see blurring the line between outdoor and indoor as a desire among homeowners. Gena Kirk, vice president of design for homebuilding company KB Home, based in Los Angeles, describes successful interpretations of the trend as “extending the great room into the backyard,” which not only makes entertaining easier, but also allows you to relax on comfortable seating on the patio when the weather is nice. For homes that experience colder seasons, a fire pit, outdoor fireplace or outdoor heaters allow for snuggling under a blanket while still enjoying the outdoor living space when the weather is chilly.

Organic elements are here to stay.

Organic elements are here to stay.

modern table scene restaurant urban style

(Getty Images)

Indoor plants have made a resurgence in recent years because they add life to a space. Meanwhile organic elements are expanding into furniture and decor as designers incorporate more natural wood tables, natural fiber rugs, coral, dried flowers and branches into decor. While these items are no longer living, they offer a connection to nature and the outdoors. Keep an eye out for sisal, jute or seagrass rugs, which can be found at major retailers like Home Depot, Ikea and Wayfair. While it’s easy to find faux coral tabletop decor, you need to read product descriptions carefully to find real coral for purchase.

Wallpaper and texture provide depth.

Wallpaper and texture provide depth.

Contemporary  lounge / living room with sofa and ornaments in front of large window with curtains

(Getty Images)

Rather than sticking to traditional eggshell wall finishes and basic cotton throw pillows, design experts are looking to patterns and textures to make rooms feel more dynamic and personal. Interior designers particularly encourage wallpaper in a half bathroom, where you can have a bit more fun without overwhelming the space. Wallpaper is making a comeback in other parts of the house as well. Barbara Kavovit, CEO and founder of Evergreen Construction in New York City, says wallpapering a room makes a great do-it-yourself project, requiring little skill – just the patience to do it right. You can also experiment with texture on walls, whether it means creating a faux stucco look with plaster and paint or incorporating upholstered panels or reclaimed wood.

Velvet becomes a staple.

Velvet becomes a staple.

Europe, UK, England, London, Belgravia: View Of Hand-Made Custom Fabric Couch With African Hardwood Flooring

(Getty Images)

Velvet is becoming a preferred furniture fabric over microfiber or leather, since it offers a soft texture that looks luxurious in bright, bold colors. Expect to see more bedding accessories and throw pillows in velvet, which can provide additional texture in a bedroom or living room. This trend isn’t just for winter, either – if it's the right color and paired with other textures and materials, velvet works in a room year-round. Light pink or mustard velvet pairs well with just about any color.

Blue is the color to incorporate.

Blue is the color to incorporate.

Modern interior of living room with armchairs on white flooring and dark blue wall

(Getty Images)

Both Pantone and paint company Sherwin Williams have announced that their colors of the year for 2020 are dark shades of blue: "classic blue" for Pantone and "naval" for Sherwin Williams. Dark and navy blues can serve as neutral colors for a room and pair well with lighter colors, bold jewel tones and even metallics for an art deco look. Lighter blues and greens are also popping up more in furniture, decor and paint palettes, which can make for a soft look or a bold statement in different combinations. As a wall color, navy creates a darker setting, leaving room to play around with lighter neutrals and pops of color in the decor. It can also be used as an accent in a lighter room.

Say goodbye to gray.

Say goodbye to gray.

London, England.

(Getty Images)

If you’ve been watching HGTV renovation shows or have toured homes at just about any point over the last decade, you know that gray has been the go-to neutral for walls, furniture and even home exteriors. But over the last couple of years, other neutrals have been threatening gray’s domination of the color market. “Those very cool grays – they’re dying. They’ve been dying. Everything’s starting to warm up,” Kirk says. Interior designers are seeing a return to shades of brown and beige, as well as navy, to offer a warmer palette. Don’t be afraid of looking outdated if you use gray in your color scheme for a room, but if your entire house is painted in the same gray shade, it’s time to add some variation.

Computer rooms are out; charging stations are in.

Computer rooms are out; charging stations are in.

Men connected charger to tablet computer after four digital devices already charging

(Getty Images)

If you’re still dedicating part of your kitchen to house the family desktop computer or it has its own designated room, rethink that space. With everyone using laptops, tablets and smart phones to browse the internet, do homework and pay bills, there’s no need to take up space with a bulky desktop that no one’s using. A family computer room can be converted into the "zen den" your house has been missing, a guest bedroom or another space your family would use more. But there’s still something you can do for the family electronics: “Phone, tablets – all those things need to be charged,” Bakke says. He recommends creating a charging station with enough outlets to plug in multiple devices, located in a common drop zone where people enter and exit the house like the mud room.

Minimalism moves over.

Minimalism moves over.

Living room with high ceilings and architectural featuresLiving room with high ceilings and architectural features

(Getty Images)

People still like clean lines, but these days designers are seeing more homeowners embrace eclectic decor styles, with modern vases and bowls as well as imperfect antiques that add variety. While a simplistic, uncluttered look is still popular, designers and homeowners now look to "incorporate focal points with an older piece," says Jim DiGiacomo, board member for Olde Good Things, an architectural salvage store based in New York City. Flea markets and antique stores are prime shopping targets. The opportunity to find one-of-a-kind pieces has expanded online as well, as eBay, Etsy and more specialized stores like Olde Good Things offer extensive online inventories, allowing you to find vintage prints, vases and even architectural gems like mantels, doors and ceiling tiles to incorporate in a room remodel or new home design.

Interior design trends to keep an eye out for in 2020 include:

Interior design trends to keep an eye out for in 2020 include:

Interior decor photographs of stylish luxury bohemian style home

(Getty Images)

  • Zen dens break up open floor plans.
  • Master suites expand.
  • Inside and outside continue to blend.
  • Organic elements are here to stay.
  • Wallpaper and texture provide depth.
  • Velvet becomes a staple.
  • Blue is the color to incorporate.
  • Say goodbye to gray.
  • Computer rooms are out; charging stations are in.
  • Minimalism moves over.

Read More

Tags: real estate, housing, home improvements


Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes consumer-focused articles about the homebuying and selling process, home improvement, tenant rights and the state of the housing market.

She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.

Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at dthorsby@usnews.com.

Recommended Articles

Is there a Better Time to Sell a House?

Dima Williams | Feb. 18, 2020

Winter isn't keeping homebuyers at bay anymore. You may want to consider putting your property on the market before spring hits.

How to Find a Reliable Contractor

Teresa Mears, Devon Thorsby | Feb. 14, 2020

This expert advice will help you find a contractor to get your renovation done right.

Homebuyer Programs for Marylanders

Devon Thorsby | Feb. 12, 2020

These loan, payment assistance and education programs may help you buy a home this year.

6 Tile Trends for Your Home

Lisa Larson | Feb. 12, 2020

These popular tile options can introduce new colors, patterns and textures to your home.

8 DIY Bathroom Remodel Projects

Devon Thorsby | Feb. 7, 2020

These projects can be simple updates or combined for a full DIY bathroom transformation.

The Guide to Living in a Van

Devon Thorsby | Feb. 5, 2020

What you need to know when comparing costs and plans for your dream of living full time in a van.

Are Your HOA Fees Too High?

Wendy Arriz | Feb. 4, 2020

Here's how you should evaluate the monthly fees or carrying costs for a building or neighborhood.

The Best Virtual Room Design Tools

Devon Thorsby | Jan. 31, 2020

Use these tools to create floor plans, 3D models and other details to boost your room design.

What's That Smell in My House?

Devon Thorsby | Jan. 29, 2020

Figure out the likely causes of unpleasant smells in your home.

Why Move to Lower Your Property Taxes?

Steven Gottlieb | Jan. 29, 2020

A rising property tax bill may have you considering moving somewhere new. Consider these three things before making the change.

The Best Free Interior Design Apps

Devon Thorsby | Jan. 27, 2020

These apps help you brainstorm, budget and plan your next renovation or room design.

6 Simple Ideas for Your Home Office

Deanna Haas | Jan. 24, 2020

Here's a list of tips for designing your home office, maximizing productivity and getting more work done while you're working from home.

What You Should Know About Tenant Rights

Devon Thorsby | Jan. 23, 2020

Know what protections you have when you and your landlord get into a dispute.

How to Save on Hardwood Flooring Costs

Geoff Williams | Jan. 22, 2020

Consider these tips and tools to save on expensive hardwood costs.

9 Basement Renovations on a Budget

Devon Thorsby | Jan. 21, 2020

Make your underground space a little more welcoming without going beyond your budget.

What to Know About Moving to California

Devon Thorsby | Jan. 15, 2020

No other state offers such a variety of places to live and job opportunities, but expect to pay more.

Which Home Is the Best Layout for You?

Devon Thorsby | Jan. 10, 2020

Before you buy or build a home, consider how the footprint and floor plan fit with your lifestyle.

Why You Should Sell Your Home in 2020

Devon Thorsby | Jan. 8, 2020

The housing market may not be as hot as in previous years, but selling now could be your best bet.

What to Know Before Renovating a Garage

Deanna Haas | Jan. 6, 2020

A garage renovation can add value to your home – here's what you should keep in mind before starting the project.

Best Interior Design Instagram Accounts

Devon Thorsby | Jan. 3, 2020

These interior design Instagram accounts offer advice, inspiration and resources to elevate your home design.