Design Tips For Styling a Living Room

Recently, Canadian House & Home published a great blog article, Styling a Room by Michael Penney. I completely agree with Penney; It’s the layers that make a room and pull it all together visually. In the before photo above, the living room has some nice design elements, but is unbalanced, uninviting and lacks a focal point.

The after photo below (via Country Living), shows what a little styling can do. As Penney points out, a few design elements haven’t change including the sofa, wing chair and wall color. Here are some principles and elements of design that come to play in this redesign:

Define the Space
The most obvious addition in the room is the striped area rug. In addition to anchoring the furnishings and defining the space, it also brings needed texture to the space. When purchasing a rug, it is important to find one that is large enough so that all your furniture fits (it’s okay if the back half of a chair or sofa are not on the rug, but the front half should).

Establish a Focal Point
New drapes, parallel furniture arrangement and artwork in a vertical pattern emphasizes the room’s architectural window and creates a needed focal point in the room. However, I would have added the same drapes to the adjacent window for a more balanced look. This leads me to my next tip;

Create Balance Through Scale and Proportion
The original room also had too much visual weight or mass. In the styled room, one wing chair is replaced with a lighter Windsor chair. Mixing materials can also help balance a room. In this case a metal coffee table takes the place of a wooden one (too many wood elements in the before room). Equilibrium is also achieved by the parallel furniture grouping.

Build Color Harmony
Pulling from the room’s wall color, solid yellow and green throw pillows are added to the sofa creating a more harmonious color palette. However, I would recommend at least one textile print for a pillow, window treatment or chair that pulls all of the primary colors in room’s palette together. Galbraith & Paul’s Donuts pattern in warm would be a good choice for this living room.

What elements of design helped you pull together a space?

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32 Responses to Design Tips For Styling a Living Room

  1. Susan Abramson December 9, 2010 at 8:27 pm #

    Wow am I going to go out on a limb here – I really don't like the after shot! Too much! Too many prints/plates on the wall, my eye is all over the place and two identical windows should be treated identically in the same room.

    The rug is great as is the coffee table and mixing in a statement chair, but overall, it is too busy for my taste.

  2. whitney June 21, 2010 at 3:38 am #

    Love what you did about the living room. The curtains alone can make the room different. uhm.. It is also good if we try to put some blinds for the windows to make it look more beautiful.
    Jane Taylor
    liverpool blinds Dress up your room without breaking the bank styling your room

  3. Ricky March 9, 2010 at 11:36 am #

    Yes. Penney was correct. This type beautiful house are easily available in Austin Apartments.

  4. Developing Designs March 1, 2010 at 2:32 pm #

    Nice to see tips so easily laid out and to show what a huge impact things like a rug or window treatments can warm up a space. xo

  5. Haven and Home March 1, 2010 at 2:56 am #

    I really could not agree more with this!

  6. Erin @ SYL: Slipcover Your Life February 28, 2010 at 3:55 pm #

    It's amazing how a little styling can COMPLETELY change a room!

  7. thelennoxx February 27, 2010 at 1:42 pm #

    Great post! The first thing that came to my mind when I saw the top pic was “that room is in dire need of an area rug”, lol! I also agree with putting up curtains on the window behind the sofa =)

  8. Marija February 27, 2010 at 1:49 am #

    I did not see the CH&H articl so I am so glad you wrote about it – and I love the tips you outlined! I absolutely agree that adding drapes on that other window would have helped with balance in this space…


  9. Kristin February 26, 2010 at 9:29 pm #

    I'm totally on the hunt for a fabulous area rug to give more focus to my living room!

  10. Deliciously Organized February 26, 2010 at 2:14 am #

    Really love this post. It's amazing what styling can do!

  11. Karen@StrictlySimpleStyle February 25, 2010 at 9:43 pm #

    I wish I could say that any of my rooms are completely pulled together. I love the idea of a multi-colored rug or art work as the inspiration for the color scheme that pulls a room together.

  12. AB HOME Interiors February 25, 2010 at 8:30 pm #

    Great outline on the importance of “finishing”. So many people purchase the bulk items and forget to accessorize. I have a similar post scheduled for next week. I will be sure to link this post in it!

  13. Lovely Scribbles February 25, 2010 at 8:07 pm #

    There are some really interesting points that I'm taking note of here. I love the finished room and the little elements that bring a sense of completion to it. Great tips, Cristin!

  14. The Zhush February 25, 2010 at 7:18 pm #

    Really, a great area rug is so important. This post just drives that point home so well. And fabulous throw pillows never hurt anyone either!

  15. LindsB February 25, 2010 at 6:32 pm #

    Love this post- seeing before and afters with just a few styling changes are my favorite. Michael Penney is so great at what he does!

  16. Laura Trevey February 25, 2010 at 6:30 pm #

    Gorgeous interiors… I love the fresh mint green color!!

  17. Struggler February 25, 2010 at 6:08 pm #

    Really interesting; I actually thought the first photo was very nice, but realize now I was focusing on the wall color, wood floor, and lovely daylight. But of course it was too 'woody'.
    I need to study the after and the changes made more thoroughly!

  18. Pinecone Camp February 25, 2010 at 4:37 pm #

    A rug really can pull it all together. I've been looking for one that works with our living room….it's proving to be difficult. Great post – thanks.

  19. SogniSorrisi February 25, 2010 at 3:48 pm #

    Very interesting post!

  20. La Dolfina February 25, 2010 at 3:30 pm #

    I wish I was that clear about the design elements of a space. I design from gut instinct and trial and error and must admit I've made my share of mistakes.

  21. My Domicile Style February 25, 2010 at 2:48 pm #

    What a difference a rug makes! Great tips and great visual examples of how to style a room.

  22. sara February 25, 2010 at 6:49 am #

    Nice Blog!! Metroloft is one of the Discount Furniture Store which has Huge collections of Discount Furniture.

  23. fromtherightbank February 25, 2010 at 3:12 am #

    Excellent post – those are great, simple tips that really do work. Like Averill, I thought they had painted the room too! ๐Ÿ™‚

  24. Chic Coles February 25, 2010 at 2:18 am #

    Boy did that rug make the difference.

  25. CDS February 25, 2010 at 1:57 am #

    what a difference a few little changes make eh? lovely space before…fantastic after.

  26. Heather February 25, 2010 at 1:44 am #

    I've learned that designing/styling a room is a balancing act. Whenever my husband and I get something new home, we always have to live with it for a day because initially, it's never how we thought it would look! After that, things work around the new item, and it ends up looking good (I hope!)

  27. Jackie Von Tobel February 25, 2010 at 1:40 am #

    Great visual! It's one thing to tell people what they should do to a room but another to be able to show what great effect it will have on the space. So glad you found my blog, now I've found you! I'll keep in touch.

  28. Maria Killam February 25, 2010 at 12:22 am #

    That room is so wonderful now, great tips you outlined!!

  29. Kathysue February 24, 2010 at 10:21 pm #

    wow this is a great before and after post.This will show readers a great How-to!!Simple and concise, very good post, Loved it! kathysue

  30. Averill February 24, 2010 at 9:38 pm #

    It's interesting because when I first saw the “after” I thought they had repainted! It's amazing how wall art, the rug and curtains can actually make the wall color stand out more. You're absolutely right that it's the accessories that make or break a room. So often I think people stop short before a room is really finished and then wonder why it doesn't feel right.

  31. Design Esquire February 24, 2010 at 8:41 pm #

    Great post! I remember that article in the magazine – I think their son redesigned everything. I love the layers he added (they also had great stuff to start with!). I like your take on the piece too, a lot of good tips.

  32. george February 24, 2010 at 7:06 pm #

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.