The 6 Essentials of a Great Living Room
Updated: Sep 21
A beautiful, welcoming living room is what home dreams are made of. This is the space we spend time as a family!
I love my living room. When we moved into this home, we were lucky enough to end up with both a family room and a living room on the main floor. I have always wanted a living room for reading, visiting and playing piano separate from a tv space. In this new home I definitely got the relaxed reading room I had imagined!
In the morning, the sun shines in and it is a beautiful place to have my coffee. In the evening it is quiet and is the perfect spot to snuggle in with a good book or sit in silence after the day. I joke all the time with my husband that the only thing that is missing is a brown leather recliner, or "Grandpa chair". Doesn't every good living room have one of these??
We're here to talk essentials! I consider essentials to be items that are necessary for you and your family to feel at home, and also for others to feel welcome. One of my biggest goals as a homeowner is that everyone who visits realizes this is OUR home and that we are reflected in every piece of furniture and every item we choose for decor. I would also love for people to feel at home in my space, and want to return!
So what are the essentials of a welcoming living room? Let's have a look!
A comfortable and inviting place to sit is the backbone of any living room space. You need a place where your family and any potential guests feel comfortable to sit down and pick up a book. If you find people curled up asleep on your couch? Bonus points! Some of the best memories of being home at my Mom and Dad's house are those times I curled up on that big comfy couch and had a great nap. You need a space where those memories can be made!
Choosing the right furniture for your space can be daunting, especially if design is something that you are unsure about! Depending on the size of your room and the ideal number of people you would like room for, it can be difficult to find the perfect pieces.
Some spaces will have room for a couch and 2 chairs, and other spaces will have room for only a sectional or a love seat. One of the things I try to encourage my clients to do is to pick pieces that speak to you and show your personality. Matching furniture items are no longer required! Place an upholstered couch with a leather chair and embrace the eclectic look that you are creating. It is a reflection of who you and your family are!
I am so in love with the brown leather chairs in the first photo, but also love the look of this soft grey sectional. I would absolutely pair the two together in a space.
If you require extra seating but do not have the space to do so, consider throwing in a pouf that can be pulled out whenever needed. 3 poufs or cube seats grouped together in the middle of the living room can look beautiful as a coffee table replacement when not in use. You can also add a small bench under a window for extra seating. Throw on a pillow and you have a chic window seat!
This living room is so dreamy! It sets the tone for bright, beautiful sunny mornings enjoying your coffee while sinking into those soft cushions.
I just love natural light in my space. I know when I am looking for a home that I am happiest in spaces with lots of natural light. I believe in adding curtains to soften the look of a room, but also love when curtains are open so the light can flow in!
Even with natural light, there are times during the day when your space will get dark. It's important to consider the light at all times of day, and this means you need to add a light fixture (or fixtures) that you love!
If you are lucky and have a ceiling electrical box, then go for something bold that suits your style! Whether that is a modern farmhouse style like the one above, or a more beach version made of macrame, make it your own!
Our home is older, and therefore does not have any electrical boxes in the ceiling which means I need to accept that there will be no chandelier in my living room.
A lot of older homes were built without lighting in the living room which can be more difficult to work around. But it also an opportunity to make a more cozy space!
If this is your situation, your best bet is to add lighting in the form of a floor lamp and/or lamps for the end tables. Depending on the purpose of your room, you can decide how much light you need. A room whose main purpose is reading may require a bright side lamp whereas others that have a piano may require a piano light as well.
Assess what lighting needs you have and remember to add mood lighting! Candles can bring a space from cold to cozy in an instant. If you have many lights, you have the option of having it bright for game night or dim for a chill evening. Be sure to assess the light in every hour of the day!
Artwork and Photography
Artwork is a very personal choice and as such can clearly reflect the owners of the home and what brings them joy.
I encourage you to make sure you love every piece of artwork or photography that is in your home! This painting above gives off a very relaxing vibe, where as a painting with a lot of bright colours may give off a more lively feeling. Choose your art for what you want to accomplish in the room, and for the feeling you are going for in the space!
My favourite tip with artwork is to take your time! Rome was not built in a day my friends. Don't head out to Home Sense just to find a painting. You may not find it for a while but when you do you will know and I promise the wait will be worth it. Curate the items in your home like you are picking a dress for your wedding. Don't settle!
When you find the perfect item you will be so glad you waited, and it will the cherry on top for your room. Living with blank walls waiting for the perfect find is better than putting an item on your walls that does not stir your soul.
Photography is also a great choice for your living room walls. I encourage you to think outside the box with the photos you choose to display. Sometimes candid photos, the ones that are shot when no one is looking, make for the best decor. Something that no one else would love but brings back a feeling or a memory can be so special when displayed.
I love how in this living room space, the homeowner placed blown up candid photos of each of her children. I have a picture of my daughter looking out at the lake from behind that reminds me of freedom and childhood, and that is what I choose to put in a frame.
Choose the photos that give you that feeling, that stir joy in your soul. Do not feel like you need to put the photos you posed for on the wall. Sometimes these do not have as much meaning as the ones taken by surprise.
The right rug can take a cold space and turn it into a cozy retreat. It can also centre a conversation. Using a rug to anchor all of your furniture can make a living area out of a large space as well. My top tip: always purchase a rug that is large enough to have each piece of furniture on it, as least as much as the front legs. This is a great rule of thumb for rug size when you are in doubt!
Rugs can also be an excellent way to add your personality! Whether you like a modern rug such as is shown in these two designs, or a traditional pattern, it shows a bit more of who you are.
The modern geometric rug above gives off a vibe of a young and eclectic space. When the homeowners added in the mid century modern console table, they created a space that has a relaxing and inviting feel that just makes you want to hang out!
A rug is also a great place to add colour to an otherwise neutral living room. You can use the colours in the rug to pull together colours in your extra decor such as pillows, throw blankets or coffee table decor.
There is absolutely nothing better than sitting down on a couch in someone else's living room to have a good chat and a coffee and finding a cozy blanket right there to wrap yourself in. I have a great friend who has this essential down pat. She always has numerous throw blankets that work with her decor all over her couch, and when you sit down for a cup of coffee in her cozy space you feel welcomed and part of the family. What a great way to welcome a guest!
Keeping a basket or bin in the space with some extra blankets is a great idea. If your living room has a tv or is just a space you want to encourage people to come to rest and visit, then these are essential. Who doesn't love to cozy up with comfy blankets on a chilly evening to watch a family movie.
This big chunky knitted blanket adds a fun, modern feel to this otherwise more traditional space. How comfortable would that blanket be to wrap up in and settle down to read a great book? Having items in your space that give people comfort will make everyone want to visit your home and stay for a great visit.
Now that we've covered the basics, it's time to add YOU to the space!
What personal items can you add to make it your own? Pillows, plants, coffee tables, end tables and decor can take this room from beginner to perfection. But don't pick any old decor item: pick items you fall in love with and that bring you some sort of feeling.
You want to feel welcome and you want to feel like this room is not just a nondescript, well decorated space. Not long ago I purchased a small ceramic bird at Urban Barn. My maiden name is Sparrow and every single time I see that bird, it brings a warm feeling. My space would not be complete without that, and if a piece doesn't bring me that joy then why am I keeping it? Make this space one that makes you smile!
One of my very favourite ideas for clients when we are decluttering is to keep that item that brings good memories and frame it in a shadow box. My grandmother gifted me an old bible that belonged to my great grandfather and I have it in a shadow box on the wall in the living room. It adds history and a reminder of who we are as a family every time I am in the space.
While you're considering how to bring more of you and your family to the space, is there a utilitarian item that could work well in the living room? We have our piano in our living room and it is perfect for who we are as a family, infusing music into every part of our lives. In our old home it was in the basement and everyone forgot to play. Now the kids and I will frequently sit down to play a song and it adds so much joy to my days. What item do you have that you could place for easy access for your family?
Don't forget greenery! Plants can take any space from basic to clean and fresh in an instant. Whether you have a green thumb and love potted plants or you prefer artificial greenery, add some and see what it does for your space!
A welcoming and comfortable living room that has your sense of style and your favourite items will make your home into a place where your family and guests can dream and enjoy one another. And that is the heart of a home.