How To Design a Living Room

*Photo courtesy of Amber Lewis Interiors

Have you ever had the itch to redesign your living room? Or, what if you have a new space but aren’t quite sure where to start?

In today’s post, we are talking all about the simple formula you can follow to create a living space you absolutely love. Whether you are starting from scratch or reworking an existing space, here are your expert design tips to help you on your journey!

Step 1

Create a Vision Board

When first starting any creative process, it is helpful to start a vision board. Start with the overall feel you are wanting to project into the space. This could be a rug you love, a couch, pictures of nature, or a vintage piece of furniture you have always adored. It doesn’t have to be something you will have included in the space but just something that gives you that feel you want to portray.

I like to use Pinterest, canvas, Instagram, and other brands I like to shop with when coming up with a vision for the space.

Step 2

Measure the Space

I KNOW! It sounds boring as all get out and it’s something I have learned the hard way but you really want to get good measurements of your space. It would be a crying shame if you bought a beautiful, $4,000 sofa and the scale just did not work with your space.

I love using graph paper to draw a rough sketch of my room. Then, grab a tape measure (some extra hands to help) or this handi laser measurer I use. When you are measuring, take note of any HVAC, outlets, door openings, or features in the room such as a fireplace. Make sure you take note of where these are located.


Step 3

Sketch the Floor Layout

No need to complicate this, transfer your rough sketch of the shell of the room to a cleaner version on graph paper. Use the ¼” scale, meaning one box on the graph paper is going to equal 1 foot. Redraw the shell of the room accurately with the measurements you collected.

Next, if you have furniture already picked out, start drawing in those furniture pieces using the ¼” scale. You don’t need to be flashy here, for the sofa, you can literally just draw a rectangle the same dimensions as the sofa you love.

Don’t forget to leave good walking space in the living room. For example, the main walkways should be 3 feet wide at a minimum and a coffee table should have at least 18 inches between the table edge and the sofa.

Design tip: When deciding on an area rug for your space, make sure you go big. You want all the furniture pieces to either sit on the rug or at least have the front legs on the rug. This helps “ground” the furniture and prevent it from looking like it is floating in space. Also, don’t be afraid to shift the furniture off of the walls.

Let’s also mention scale here. You may have heard someone speak of scale and it all has to do with the visual weight of the room. A general rule of thumb is that a side table should be the same height as the sofa arm or within a few inches. A coffee table should be the same height as the sofa seat and roughly two-thirds the length.

Scale also pertains to artwork and as previously mentioned, rug size. You want it to fit the space and the wrong side of art and rug can throw a room off.

Step 4

Determine Your Color Scheme

I know it may seem strange, but the paint color of the room should always be one of the last things chosen in the room. The reasoning is…there are a billion paint colors out there but maybe only one color of your favorite sofa or rug.

How to begin with a color palette?

Choose a starting point…Maybe the inspiration for the color palette comes from a rug you love (this was my starting point), a picture you adore, or a piece of furniture you already have. Choose that one color and then start playing off that color with other colors.

Don’t be afraid to choose complementary colors, textures, and patterns. For example, maybe you want mostly neutrals but you could pull a green with a fun textured or patterned pillow. This space is yours after all so make it YOU!

Step 5

Choosing Your Furniture

Back in Step 2, you had a general idea of what furniture layout you were looking for but maybe you didn’t have the exact accent chair or sofa in mind. Now is the step to really figure out what furniture pieces you want to include.

I always love adding in some vintage pieces as it adds so much character to the space. I also love pieces that will last a lifetime rather than buying “fast furniture”.

Go with a quality sofa that has kid-proof fabric so you can wash or wipe clean in case you have kiddos or pets. I love working with Robin and Bruce sourcing my sofa’s…they are the comfiest too!

Some brands I love to shop with:

Amber Lewis
Lulu and Georgia
Pottery Barn

Step 6


This is a piece I really didn’t give much credit to earlier on. It was the “what budget do you have leftover” scenario where I skimped on the lighting.

You want multiple sources of light to give you the flexibility to set the tone of a room. You also want to vary the height of your lighting.

The overhead lighting is the lighting you probably don’t forget about. It comes in the form of recessed lighting or chandeliers. I prefer a beautiful light fixture as sometimes recessed lighting is distracting to me.

*Design tip: As a rule of thumb, your chandelier/fixture should be roughly 7’ off of the floor. If you have tall ceilings or vaulted ceilings, you may need to order extra connector length to drop that fixture down more. If ceiling heights are low, you may want to opt for a flush mount fixture. Scale is also important here, don’t skimp on size.

Task lighting- consider areas where you may need some additional lighting for certain tasks. Maybe this is a lamp for reading or maybe a picture light to illuminate beautiful artwork.

Last is ambiance lighting. When the sun goes down, the best lighting to use in a living room is lamps. It provides this comforting, moody lighting that everyone looks beautiful in…win/win.

Step 7

The Finishing Touches

YES! My favorite part is bringing it all together! We do this by adding in textiles, accessories, and artwork.


It is best to go with artwork that means something to you. This can be a beautiful painting that you love, a family heirloom framed, a beautiful family photo, or even an architectural piece. Whatever it is, can really add to the feel of the home.


I know these can feel like an expense you are not sure you want to splurge for. I was in the same boat until I started adding window treatments into my projects! The window treatments are the mascara for the space! The window treatments can also help add warmth and softness to the space.

We love roman shades and curtains. If you are on a budget, I have an amazing curtain company that is ½ the price of other custom products! Shop their curtains here!

Design tip: Make sure you hang the curtains high to give your eye the illusion of an elongated wall.


We love to accessorize with books, small pieces of artwork, little clocks, antique pieces or collectibles, vases, or candles. It is all about layering!

Design Tip: Group things into 3’s…this is more pleasing to the eye.


We always, ALWAYS add life to our spaces either through plants or flowers. There is something about the real life ones that bring the outdoors in and just make you feel good.


Last but not least, add in your soft elements to give the space a more cozy feel. This is also where you can bring some pops of color and different textures into the space.

I love mixing stripes with florals and bold patterns for a dramatic look. Some of my favorite pillows are those that are textural and made with vintage rugs!


What is the best element to splurge on?

I would spend my money on a quality rug, sofa, or antique furniture piece that you will love forever.

How do I decide on the layout?

It is best to have a focal point to design around. The focal point could be a fireplace, the tv, a view outside, or maybe it’s more of a conversation living space where you have the furniture pieces facing one another.

Can you use different types of fabric on couches in the room?

If a sofa has a similar silhouette, I think it is perfectly fine to use two different fabrics. For example, I have a couch I love for my living room space and I am thinking of going with linen for one of them and velvet in a moody green for the other. They have the same body style but just different fabrics.

If it still feels overwhelming to you and you would like help designing your perfect space! Reach out here and we would be happy to help!

Happy Designing!


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