"We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us" - Winston Churchill
The key to creating a living room with fabulous flow? Float furniture away from walls rather than pushing it up against them, which “actually makes the space feel smaller,” says Simone Howell, an interior designer with Decorist.com. Moving heavy sofas and chairs can be hard labor, so consult Floorplanner.com to map out a mock-up before breaking a sweat.
The most basic sofa can look photo-worthy if you decorate with the right throw pillows. The key? “Vary the sizes and shapes,” says Meridith Baer, host of Staged to Perfection and founder of Meridith Baer Home. A winning formula: a pair of matching 18- or 24-inch square pillows; a long rectangular pillow to anchor the center of the couch; then a pair of round pillows to break up the angles.
To upgrade an average-looking bed, cover a down comforter and four Euro pillows in crisp white Egyptian cotton, then drape a chunky textured throw on the end. “Stick with whites and one or two accent pillows to avoid piling on clutter,” says Howell. Even better? Invest in a pillow-top mattress pad to get that fluffy, hotel-style under-layer.
A well-decorated coffee table completes a stylish living room. The secret? Arrange a collection of odd-numbered objects—three or five—with varying heights. Howell’s go-to grouping: “Fresh-cut flowers or a houseplant, a white candle to add atmosphere, and a personal accessory,” whether it’s a bone-inlay tray from your recent travels or your favorite photography book. “Coffee tables are also notorious catchalls, so hide utilitarian objects like TV remotes in decorative boxes,” she adds.
Instead of installing Roman shades inside your window frames, hang them three to four inches above the trim. Flank the shade with drapery panels hung at the same height and “you’ll trick the eye into thinking the ceilings are much higher, and the windows are much bigger,” says Howell.
Choosing an area rug can be tricky as it needs to fit both the scale of the room and the furniture. Take Howell’s advice and pull out your measuring tape: “A rug should be no more than two feet and no less than six inches from the edges of the walls.” In the dining room, ensure the rug is large enough that all four chair-legs rest comfortably on top, that way no one’s teetering while trying to eat.
Mix and match prints like a pro by following the rule of three: First select a large-scale pattern with a variety of colors—like a vibrant floral—to use as your baseline. Second, pull in a medium-scale pattern like a stripe, which features three of those colors, then a small-scale geometric pattern with no more than two of those colors. “Everything has a common denominator which brings order to the look,” says Howell. Use large prints on big pieces like upholstered furniture, and more delicate prints on smaller items like accent lamps.