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.

9 Interior Design Trends to Look Out for in 2019

It may be time to update your decor.

Modern interior living room.

(Getty Images)

An October 2018 report from the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University projected that remodeling spending is expected to grow to more than $350 billion in the third quarter of 2019. While it’s certainly an increase from the $331 billion of remodeling spending during the same period in 2018, the expectation shows a slowing in growth compared to recent years. Whether you’re renovating your home for yourself, updating your home to sell or looking to spice up a living space that you rent, you’ll see some new trends entering the interior design field this year – and others easing out of the spotlight. Here’s what to keep an eye out for in 2019.

Updated on March 8, 2019: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

Trends are getting a longer shelf life.

Trends are getting a longer shelf life.

living room or saloon interior design with big wall yellow seat or sofa and picture frames watch 3d rendering

(Getty Images)

An interior design trend, by definition, is the temporary popularity of a style, pattern, color or approach to decor. But as the cost of homes continues to climb and the cost of renovating spikes as well, trends are sticking around longer, explains Anna Starmer, U.K.-based author of “Love Color: Choosing Colors to Live With” and founder of color and trend forecasting company Luminary Colour. “The interesting thing about trends right now is that they are slowing down,” she wrote in an email. “A colour family is popular for longer than (one) season. This is down to many factors, but one of the main reasons is that people are living real lives – they do not have enough time to redecorate every (six) months.”

Well-being comes into play.

Well-being comes into play.

Hygge, Zuhause, Entspannung, Muenchen, Bayern, Deutschland

(Getty Images)

The Danish concept of Hygge – being cozy and content – has been popular in the U.S. for a couple of years, particularly in the cold winter months when people bundle up to stay warm. But Starmer suggests that the current social or political mood is also encouraging people to make their home a comfortable safe haven of sorts: “(I)t is no surprise that in recent times of uncertainties in the world, we are all starting to favour comforting shades and warming colours in the home.” That extends to softer textures in furniture, pillows and blankets, rich scents like pumpkin or citrus and a setup that encourages relaxing.

[See: Best Home Security Systems of 2019.]

Design in all spaces and sizes.

Design in all spaces and sizes.

Warm, feminine living room interior with gray armchair, beige sofa and small, woolen coffee table

(Getty Images)

Whether you’re still holding onto your dream of a tiny home or you simply can’t afford a bigger apartment, interior design is trending toward emphasizing conscious design in all spaces – not just the palatial homes of the wealthy. For example, Pottery Barn launched its small space collection, PB Apartment, in early 2018 to cater to customers who have less space to deck out. You’re also likely to see a growing number of companies offer furnishings and design aesthetics that serve more than one purpose and can be used in a variety of rooms.

Don't be afraid to be bold.

Don't be afraid to be bold.

White interior of living room with colorful pillows

(Getty Images)

Everyone’s comfort level is different, but those who are willing should feel free to embrace a bold, eclectic look at home in the coming year. HGTV star and interior designer Taniya Nayak says to go for bright accent colors, such as jewel tones and colors that contrast – think blue and orange – and don’t be afraid to layer. “I love doing paint techniques, and I love wall coverings too, but some people are really petrified of wall coverings,” says Nayak, who partners with FrogTape painter’s tape. When in doubt, make your statement by adding color with different types of wall decor (not all photos and prints), painting an accent wall or layering throw blankets and pillows in bright, contrasting colors to create a new focal point in the room.

Shades of green will pop up everywhere.

Shades of green will pop up everywhere.

Green living room

(Getty Images)

Expect interior designs to pull more inspiration from nature in the coming year, bringing lively green into the foreground. Starmer is predicting different shades of green to be more visible not just in interior design, but in fashion as well. However, she warns that you should keep texture and light in mind any time you select a color for a space. “A shade of emerald may look fabulous on a velvet-covered chair but hideous on the wall of a bathroom,” she says.

Neutrals are warming up.

Neutrals are warming up.

3d rendering illustration of living room with luxury wooden wall panel and hardwood floor. Classic interior decorated with tree fashion vases of black, gold and white ceramics. Gorgeouos texture of squares.

(Getty Images)

Gray, stark white and the gray-beige combo color “greige” have been go-to neutrals for a few years. But Starmer says neutral shades in the home are going to warm up as people look to evoke the feeling of more natural settings in the home. “Neutral and natural colours now need to be soft and warm like a favourite cashmere sweater – or the colour of a baby deer,” Starmer says. Capturing these neutrals with natural items like wood, real stones and ceramic pieces help “counteract our very unnatural lifestyles,” she says.

Floors are getting more natural.

Floors are getting more natural.

Modern interior. Render image.

(Getty Images)

In 2018, dark wood floors have been on the decline, according to Lee Crowder, design gallery and model branding manager for Darling Homes, a subsidiary of homebuilder Taylor Morrison Inc., based in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Looking forward to 2019, wood floors should continue to stay on the lighter side, but many manufacturers are noting that a matte finish is gaining popularity, which makes the floor look more natural. Recycled and engineered wood remain a more sustainable alternative to the typical wood floor, and manufacturers are even increasing the variety of tile or vinyl floors that convincingly look like real wood.

Mixed metals are officially a look.

Mixed metals are officially a look.

Modern  luxury kitchen penthouse condominium home. Modern kitchen house interior.

(Getty Images)

Finding the perfect match to existing hardware in your bathroom or kitchen can be difficult, which is part of the reason why mixed metals started trending to begin with. But now it’s not just about convenience. With the right balance, you can bring multiple metals into a room and create a rich, glamorous look. Nayak notes that metals don’t have to be restricted to fixtures, lamps and coffee table legs; opt for metallic paint colors and incorporate geometric shapes on the walls to tie metals into other parts of the room.

Trends are catering to comfort levels.

Trends are catering to comfort levels.

Open plan apartment of family living-space with wooden kitchen countertop, purple radiator, communal table with turquoise chairs and spacious living room with beige couch

(Getty Images)

Some of the looks Nayak expects to see more in the coming year vary widely, from soft, romantic pastels and textured palettes to bolder jewel tones and metals. Rather than focusing on one widely accepted trend, you have the opportunity to embrace what works for you and keep it more unique than in years past. How do you know which trend to embrace? Look at your closet. “Whatever your wardrobe says about you is very much how you should approach your design,” Nayak says. If you’re big on patterns and bright colors, the eclectic trend can make your house feel like home again. If you’re a solids-and-neutrals kind of person, working in more of a natural look at home can provide the update you want and need.

Interior design trends to keep an eye out for in 2019.

Interior design trends to keep an eye out for in 2019.

the modern living room interior.3d design concept

(Getty Images)

Interior design trends that will be big this year include:

  • Longevity of trendy pieces, colors and patterns.
  • Comforting shades and warming colors.
  • More furnishing options for smaller spaces.
  • Bold accent colors.
  • Shades of green on walls, furniture and in fashion.
  • Warmer neutral colors with less focus on gray.
  • Lighter wood floor finishes for a more natural look.
  • Mixed metals to make replacing kitchen or bathroom fixtures easier.
  • Focus on comfort in design choices.

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.

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