Tips for Creating a Stylish, Yet Comfortable Living Room

Living rooms are challenging to design because they need to be so many things at once: inviting, comfortable, stylish, but also functional. Pristine living rooms that are only for entertaining guests are now a thing of the past. 

These days, it’s more common to have the living room be both a family and an entertaining space. Regardless of whether you want your living room to be formal or casual, it’s worth your time to plan a space that’s welcoming for family and friends alike.

An easy way to balance the major elements of your living room is to follow the rule of thirds. For example, your sofa should generally be two-thirds the width of your area rug, and your coffee table should be two-thirds the width of your sofa. Another thing to keep in mind is that simple sofas are easier to style than ones with ornate details. 

Most living room rugs will need to be 9-by-12-foot, 10-by-14-foot, or 12-by-15-foot for a large room. If you have a small room and are having trouble finding a rug that’s just the right fit, try a rug with an unusual shape, such as a zebra rug. These kinds of “amorphous” rugs can fit into a variety of spaces.

A living room that’s all-white can seem too formal and cold. Meanwhile, an all-dark living room tends to feel cave-like, which is an ambiance you might want for your media room but not for entertaining guests. The safest color scheme is in the middle: a living room with both light and dark elements.

To give your living room some character, try mixing both new and old items. I personally always incorporate a few antiques into my designs. Make sure to plan your seating around creating conversation groups, rather than have all the seating facing the TV. In my designs, I like to conceal the TV in a large cabinet. 

If there’s one room in your home that you really need to get right, it’s the living room. Not only does it shape the way guests see your home, but it’s a room you’ll want to enjoy for yourself, too.

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Margaret Chambers

Margaret Chambers, a registered interior designer (RID) and member of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), leads Chambers Interiors and Associates. Her colleague Caitlin Crowley helped edit this column. Find more design advice at

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