How to design a living room

Living rooms are the heart of the home, where everyone gets together and make memories.
So designing your living room should be a fun project, creating a space that reflects your personality and makes you feel at home.
It’s about creating a space that works well for you and your lifestyle, and that looks and feels like home.
So let’s look into how to design your living room step by step.

What you’ll find here

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Hi, I’m Nadine

Interior design expert, globetrotter and the creative mind behind this blog and NH.DESIGN.

I’m originally from Germany but have been living abroad for over 10 years, from Canada and the UK to Sweden.

So I ask myself the question what “home” means every day.
I have made it my mission to help as many people as possible to find their own answer to this.

Join my creative world on Instagram @nhdotdesign or find out more about me

Analyze your space and needs before diving into designing your living room

You won’t know what you need until you analyze your space and write it all down.
Imagine doing all the daily things you do in your living room and write them down, even the really small ones. 

Also keep in mind other people and how they’re using the space.
Living rooms are often multi-purpose spaces, meaning there are different activities happening during the day, sometimes even at the same time.

Do you also use your living room to work out?
A coffee table that’s easy to move is great to quickly make space.

Do you work from home and the living room sometimes (or all the time) becomes your office?
A dedicated workspace means you can separate the personal and professional.

How do you use your living room on a daily basis vs when guests come over?
Extra seating that doesn’t take a lot of space when it’s just you is a great idea.

You see, thinking about all the things you do in your living room will help you come up with the right solutions.

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    Determine your style and create a Mood Board for your living room design

    The first step in designing your living room is determining your interior design style, and choosing a colour scheme.

    Do you prefer a modern or traditional look?
    Do you want your room to be bold and colourful, or do you prefer a more neutral palette?
    Once you’ve determined your style and colour scheme, it will be easier to select the right furniture and accessories to complement your space.

    A Mood Board helps with these decisions because it’s a collection of images to visualize the style, design elements, colours, materials and the feeling you want to create in your living room.

    Without it it’s easy to blindly go into purchasing furniture and decoration, painting walls and putting things together that won’t look good at the end.
    You’ll spend time and money on something that doesn’t turn out the way you imagined.
    To avoid that, creating a Mood Board is key.

    Find tons of inspiration on my Pinterest account, or you can make your own Mood Board with Canva.

    Styling Secrets guide by NH.DESIGN

    Styling Secrets

    Learn how to style any room in your home like a pro with my Styling Secrets guide.

    Getting the layout right for your living room

    The layout is important in any space but especially in the living room where everyone socialises and many different activities happen.

    Depending on how you’re using the space there are a few key things to consider when designing your living room layout.
    Start by doing a needs-analysis for the space and write down all the things you do in your living room throughout the day.
    Also think about special occasions like Christmas or birthdays; you might have more people over during those times and need more seating, or you need a space to put the Christmas tree.

    Always choose a focal point in the room, whether that’s the TV, a fireplace or a large bookcase.
    Then arrange the main furniture like sofa, coffee table, TV units and other storage around it, leaving enough space to walk around.

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    Pro Tip

    A good walkway dimension around furniture is 90-100 cm (35-40”). The distance between sofa and coffee table should be around 30-45 cm (12-18”).

    The best living room layout for socializing

    If you’re having friends and family over a lot it’s good to have enough seating for everyone.
    That can be a large sofa or sectional, additional armchairs or flexible pouffes, foot stools or ottomans.

    Placing your seating arrangements so that they’re facing each other is great for long nights of conversations.
    When there are a lot of people in one space it’s also good to consider furniture with rounded corners for both safety and a more inviting flow.

    How to design your living room layout for movie lovers.

    The best living room layout for movie lovers

    In a living room focussed on watching a lot of movies it’s a good idea to create a cosy space to lay down and snuggle. 
    A deep, soft sofa pointed at a large TV or movie screen is a great solution here.
    You also want to consider things like smaller side tables to put a drink or popcorn bowl on, dimmable lighting to create the right mood and window treatments to block out daylight.

    The best living room layout for families

    Living rooms for families need to fill a lot of demands, from safety to easy to clean to storage solutions.
    In this case I always recommend going with a modular sofa because you can modify it as the family grows or people’s needs change.
    Rounded corners on coffee tables and other furniture are also a safer choice, especially with smaller children.

    How to design your living room layout for families.

    With any living room layouts it’s important to choose the right rug size. It should be proportionate to the room and the furniture in it.

    Nadine, founder of Malmö-based interior design studio NH.DESIGN.

    Design Consultation

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    During this 1 hour virtual Design Consultation you get my expert advice on your specific interior challenge.
    From finding the best layout, choosing the right colours to solving storage problems and styling tips – ask me anything!

    Choose the right colours and materials when designing your living room

    The right colours and materials are important when designing your living room.

    Now the word “right” doesn’t mean there’s a wrong choice, it just means it should be right for you and your lifestyle.
    To decide the best colour scheme and materials for your living room, ask yourself how you use the space.
    Look at your needs-analysis from the beginning, consult your Mood Board and based on those make your decisions.

    Choosing paint colours for your living room

    Lighter colours make a room look bigger but also show scuffs and scrapes more easily.
    Darker colours create a more cosy, intimate feeling but can also make a room look small.

    Generally, the rule of thumb when creating a colour scheme for any room is 60:30:10.
    That means that your main colour should take up 60% of the space, a secondary colour 30% and an accent colour 10%.

    Find out how to create a cohesive colour scheme for your living room with my colour guide.

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    Pro Tip

    For best durability and look, use eggshell or semi-gloss paint for your living room walls.

    Durable and easy to clean flooring for your living room

    The right flooring is key when designing your living room. It needs to hold up to lots of foot traffic, kids, pets, cleaning and more. Durable and easy to clean are the top priorities for most people when designing their living room.
    Flooring is also 30% of your colour scheme and should be considered carefully.


    Living rooms rely heavily on textiles. Sofas or armchairs, rugs, cushions and window treatments all bring colour and texture to the living room. I always recommend choosing the larger items like sofas and other furniture in neutral tones because they’re more expensive to change down the road. Changing smaller things like cushions and curtains is a lot easier if you want to freshen things up.

    The White Guide by NH.DESIGN is a helpful resource to choose the right white paint colour.

    The White Guide

    Not every white is the same, and choosing the right one isn’t easy.

    Learn everything about undertones and how to pick the perfect white paint colour for any room in your home with my White Guide.

    The right lighting for your living room

    A key element when designing your living room is the right lighting.
    There are 3 types: general, functional and mood lighting.

    General lighting should give the space an even, bright light level.
    You can imagine it like this: the light switch you flip when entering a room, that’s your general lighting.

    Functional lighting is, as the name suggests, meant to support specific functions or activities, like a reading lamp next to a sofa or armchair.

    Last but not least you have mood lighting, which is used to set the mood and create a cosy atmosphere.
    Choose the different kinds based on the activities you wrote down in your needs-analysis in the beginning.

    I like to choose statement lighting to create a focal point in the room.
    Other lighting entirely depends on where you need it, and what for.
    I’m also a big fan of dimmable lights or Smart Home systems because one light can have multiple different functions.

    Check out my favourite lamps for every room here!

    Set (and stick to) a budget for your living room design

    When designing your living room make sure you set yourself a budget.
    It’s easy to get side-tracked by all the beautiful inspiration out there and get your heart set on something only to find out it’s way out of your budget.

    It’s also important to track your spendings during your living room project; I use a Google Sheets Budget Planner I created.
    I set the overall project budget and then allocate different amounts to different areas of the project (like furniture, lighting, construction etc).

    It’s up to you to decide where to splurge and where to save when designing your living room.
    I personally like to spend a little more on statement lighting and less on a sofa because my cats scratch it.
    For that reason I always get IKEA sofas: they’re great quality at an affordable price but I can change and wash the covers as much as I want.

    If you want to know how much to budget for furniture, lighting and accessories for your living room, check out my post about average renovation costs per room.

    Struggling to put it all together
    and make your living room both functional and beautiful?

    With my virtual or in-person design services I’ll help you to design a timeless, functional and beautiful living room.
    Simply, a space that feels like home.

    Get in touch and book a free Discovery Call to chat!

    Styling tips for the perfect living room design

    Styling your living room is the final touch, the cherry on the top.
    After all, it’s where you invite friends, and spend time with family.

    The key things to consider when styling your living room are textiles.
    Making the sofa look comfy and cozy will instantly transform the look of the whole room.

    To nail your living room styling I’ve collected all my best styling secrets into on simple, step-by-step guide: Styling Secrets!

    Styling Secrets guide by NH.DESIGN

    Styling Secrets

    Learn how to style any room in your home like a pro with my Styling Secrets guide.

    With these design tips it’s easy to design your dream living room that’s both functional and stylish.

    Thanks for reading!
    If you enjoyed this post, follow along for more interior design tips and inspiration on my Instagram @nhdotdesign and sign up for my Welcome Home Letter.

    Take care, Nadine

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