How to Start Decorating a Living Room

A quick breakdown of simplified step by step tips to help you start decorating a living room for a cohesive design that suits your unique style.

fall living room with blue curtains, vintage rug, and fall art on tv above fireplace

Have you ever had an “ah ha” moment when decorating your home?

Like when you’re out shopping (or often in my case scrolling on Facebook Marketplace 😉) and stumble upon the perfect rug or piece of art that is exactly what your home was missing?

That was the case for our living room. After years of small changes, the latest version of this room is by far my favorite ever! And it all started because of this vintage rug I stumbled upon one day.

vintage rug with blue, green, burgundy, blush, and cream

Where do I start decorating my living room?

Most of the time, the best place to start decorating a living room (or any room for that matter) is with one dynamic piece to inspire the rest of the space like a rug, piece of art, wallpaper, or patterned fabric.

If you ever feel stumped on where to begin decorating, THAT is the secret. The recipe for success with interior design is often in the order you plan a space.

Pick one piece filled with colors, texture, and/or a print you absolutely love and use that as your jumping off point for the rest of the room.

Your living room is often the heart of your home, a place where you gather with family and friends, relax after a long day, and express your personal style.

Decorating this space can be both exciting and challenging, especially if you’re unsure of where to start.

But fear not! I’ll guide you through the essential steps to show you how to design a living room and create a space that reflects your personality while meeting your functional needs.

Related: How to Decorate a Room from Start to Finish in 13 Steps

vintage rug in a modern traditional living room with marble coffee table

Step 1 – Define Your Style

Before you dive into the world of furniture and decor, take some time to define your style.

Are you drawn to modern minimalism, cozy farmhouse, or perhaps a blend of several styles?

Pinterest and interior design magazines are great sources of inspiration, so create a mood board or save images of living rooms that resonate with you.

This step will serve as a foundation for your decorating decisions.

Related: How to Find Your Decorating Style

white living room sofa with marble coffee table decorated for fall with burgundy flowers

Step 2 – Set a Budget

Deciding how much you’re willing to spend is crucial.

Home decor can range from budget-friendly to high-end, and setting a clear budget will help you make informed choices without overspending.

Don’t forget to factor in costs like paint, furniture, decor items, and any professional help you might need.

french doors leading into a living room decorated for fall

Step 3 – Assess Your Space

Take stock of your living room’s layout, size, and architectural features.

Measure the dimensions of the room and existing furniture, as well as the locations of windows, doors, and outlets.

If you have a small living room, plan for plenty of storage and furniture that can serve multiple functions.

Understanding your space’s limitations and possibilities will prevent costly mistakes and help you make better design choices.

modern traditional living room with brass floor lamp and plaid blanket on back of couch

Step 4 – Choose a Color Scheme Based on Your Starting Point

Pick a rug, piece of art, wallpaper, or patterned fabric you love (like curtains, bedding, or a pillow) as a starting point that you can pull color inspiration from for other pieces in the room. Color plays a significant role in setting the mood of a room, so choose that starting point wisely.

Decide on a color palette that aligns with your style and complements your existing furniture or any new pieces you plan to purchase.

Remember that neutrals provide a versatile backdrop, while accent colors can add pops of personality. The more neutrals you have, the more calming the space will be. The more colors you have, the more dramatic the space will be.

I love having white walls in our living room because it allows flexibility for all kinds of color changes.

Related: Our Calming Whole House Paint Color Scheme

fall art on samsung frame tv above fireplace

Step 5 – Invest in Key Furniture Pieces

Start with the essential furniture pieces: a sofa, coffee table, and possibly an accent chair or two.

Consider the scale and proportions to ensure they fit comfortably within your space.

Quality pieces can make a significant impact on both aesthetics and comfort, so invest wisely.

Tip: I tend to make a plan in our budget to splurge on sofas and chairs but shop used at thrift stores and classifieds for coffee tables, end tables, and lighting.

Related: Pottery Barn Sofa Review: What You Should Know

fall coffee table decor in a living room with limewashed brick fireplace

Step 6 – Arrange With Care

Arranging furniture can be a puzzle, but it’s worth taking the time to find the best layout for your space.

Consider traffic flow, focal points, and the balance of the room. Don’t be afraid to experiment until you find a layout that feels just right.

Tip: Move as much out of the room as you can and test out possible furniture arrangements by using painters tape on the floor to see what flows the best.

white living room sofas with navy floral pillow

Step 7 – Lighting Matters

Good lighting is essential for creating the right ambiance.

Layer your lighting with a mix of overhead light fixtures, task lighting, and ambient lighting.

Think about table lamps, floor lamps, and even candles to create a cozy atmosphere.

Related: DIY Rustic Table Lamp Makeover & Inexpensive Designer Dupe Lamps

end table decor with mini bust planter, french gold frame and pleated table lamp

Step 8 – Personalize With Accessories

Accessories bring character and warmth to your living room. Add throw pillows, area rugs, window treatments, and wall decorations to tie your color scheme together and inject your personal style.

When choosing accessories, don’t hesitate to mix textures and patterns for visual interest.

Tip: See more tips for how to style the coffee table and decorate end tables using “visual triangles”.

fall coffee table decor with vase of flowers and candle

By following these steps, you can start your decorating journey with confidence. Remember that it’s absolutely okay to take your time, and don’t rush the process.

Hiring a professional interior designer would be great and all, but there’s something extra fulfilling about seeing a completed room designed by you.

The most important thing is to create a living room that feels like home and brings you joy every time you step into it.

Living Room Before & After

Can you even believe this before and after? It definitely didn’t happen overnight. I can’t even believe that “before” shot was 6 years ago.

Home takes time and this living space is proof of that.

living room before painted yellow
white living room with black windows blue curtains white sofas and fall decor

Living Room Decor Sources

If you want to know where to find some of the items in our living room, they’re listed below. (Some items are vintage/thrifted so similar items are linked.)

living room fireplace with fall decor

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    1. Hi! We added a functional door along that wall to our porch. I’m debating selling them since we added the new exterior door beside the fireplace We haven’t removed them entirely yet.

  1. Thanks for all your “step by step” tips! You always have great advice for us. Lauren, your Living Room is so beautiful! I love the rug you bought. You have done so much in your home — inside and outside. Everything you and Robert have done is amazing. Enjoy your gorgeous home! Your home needs to be in a magazine!

    1. Hi! Thank you so much. We are blessed to have your encouragement and support as you follow along. We have been honored to be featured in several print magazines on several occasions. It is always a fun treat to have it happen.

  2. Thank you for the most informative post…as usual! Can you tell me about the curtain rod and how you managed to cover the bank of doors?

    1. Hi! We used a very specific curtain rod made for long widths. We only have the panels to set between each door set. We actually never close the curtains. Our back porch is covered so the heat doesn’t come through. This is our fenced in back yard so we do not feel the need to close them for privacy either. Here is the link to the curtain rod we used.


  3. What great tips! I love what you have done with your living room. Although you started out with a great floor plan with all those French doors and light streaming into the space, you’ve made the most of it with your serene, elevated design aesthetic. Thanks for the inspiration!