Though you might be all about cozy living room ideas as the temperature starts to drop, a successful home design should feel comfortable year-round. A plush throw is simply not enough, but having one is certainly a plus. Think of the sitting area as something that incorporates all your needs—from a chic TV stand that won’t disturb the rest of the design to built-in bookshelves that double as a library and a display space for home decor.
Perhaps you’re looking to convert your modern living room into a multipurpose space that’s kid- and pet-friendly. In that case, a lush area rug and a spacious sectional with a mountain of throw pillows is in order.
Accent pieces such as floor lamps, sconces, and window treatments are other living room features that shouldn’t be an afterthought. Look for textiles that are soft to the touch but forgiving when it comes to stains and spills. After all, no one wants the living room to feel as if it is off-limits.
Read on for more cozy living room decorating ideas that are as eye-catching as they are comforting, according to interior designers across the nation—from New York to Louisiana to Chicago.
1. Soften the fireplace surround
You already know that a fireplace is a focal point of a space, and you can transform the surround to provide softness to a modern living room. Melbourne, Australia-based Georgia Ezra and Richie Morris, a husband and wife team behind Magnolia Network’s new show Design Down Under, created a bespoke design using eight-by-eight-inch unglazed zellige tiles from Tilesofezra, with a soft peachy color palette, that almost transform the surround into a subtle accent wall. “Creating a more organic and down-to-earth ambiance can help [the living room] feel cozier and more connected to nature,” Ezra says.
2. Swap armchairs for a chaise
Consider a chaise in lieu of more armchairs, especially if you have a small space or need extra seating. “They can help break up the monotony of sofas and chairs and are a little unexpected, says Megan Evans of Megan Evans Interiors in Covington, Louisiana. “Layer them up with pillows or a throw for the perfect napping or reading spot."
3. Invest in two of a kind
When it comes to choosing room furniture, consider doubles. “Think in pairs,” says Peter Dunham, the Los Angeles-based interior designer. “Pairs of chairs and poufs give a sense of symmetry and completeness. Pairs make the singular items, like this curvy sofa, stand out.” It makes the room look twice as nice.
4. Bring in bold color
White walls may seem like an answer to a minimalist approach to home design, but when it comes to selecting a color scheme for a cozy living room, give it a pop of color—especially if it is a family room that could do with a bit of character. Bold color doesn’t have to be brash. Devon Wegman, founder and design director of Devon Grace Interiors in Chicago, notes that paint color that focuses on deep blues, dark olive greens, or rusty reds are actually earthy colors that won’t disrupt the calm mood. For more drama, use it on bookcases (think of it as an accent wall). Moldings, trim, doors, and the ceiling are other good options. Wegman recommends selecting a satin finish to keep the paint color from feeling too heavy and help distribute the natural light.
5. Reconfigure room furniture for conversation
Rearranging the furniture in your living room is fairly easily, as long as you’ve got a strong and patient helper. Frank Ponterio of Frank Ponterio Interiors in Chicago says the goal is to create a central gathering area as well as at least one intimate area. Pull armchairs from the smaller grouping for additional seating, Ponterio adds. Dawson recommends two similar-size sofas directly facing each other or an L- or U-shaped sectional with a coffee table in the middle and club chairs right across the way to create a conversation zone. The table can be for snacks, games, puzzles, and cocktails.
6. Embrace white walls
Sure bold colors can awaken an otherwise sleepy living room design, but don’t dismiss crisp white walls just yet. “Cozy doesn’t have to equal dark or plain,” says Houston-based Courtnay Tartt Elias, principal and creative director of Creative Tonic Design. “White walls can sometimes read stark or sterile, but introducing a textural element like shiplap amps up the comfort of the space without sacrificing casual elegance.” Bonus: white shiplap walls provide a stunning canvas that allows the layers of the room’s furniture and home decor to really shine.
7. Pay attention to the finishes
Ponterio says creating a cozy living room means making sure there are layers visually and physically. For example, add a beautiful wood cocktail table that is wire-brushed or hand-scraped with an interesting stain or patina that reveals a deep grain rather than a stark and contemporary lacquer. Another way to layer is with snuggle-encouraging throw blankets, like the ultra-luxe alpaca covers from Alicia Adams and Italian-made cashmere from Loro Piana, some favorites of Ponterio. A microfiber throw from Sunday Citizen is another more budget-friendly option. For extra blankets, bring in rattan baskets to keep it all in order.
8. Dress up the coffee table with greenery
Don’t just leave coffee tables and side tables bare, even if you’re going for a minimalist or a midcentury modern aesthetic. Add a ceramic vase with flowers or greenery to soften the angular shapes of books. “Creating a natural and organic feel in a space involves incorporating elements that evoke a sense of nature, tranquility, and comfort,” says Kristina Phillips, principal of Kristina Phillips Interior Design in Ridgewood, New Jersey.
9. Plush upholstery for the win
Suzanne Dawson of Suzanne Dawson Interiors in New York City and a mom of two teens, says she is crazy about smart fabrics from Kravet, especially the velvets. “You can’t tell the difference between velvet that is washable and stain-resistant and a traditional velvet,” she says. Design-forward brands like Rove Concepts also stock durable velvets for sofas and sections, like the marshmallow-like Belia sectional that feels, and looks like a cloud. Dawson also recommends playing with bouclé as a durable and textured fabric to make your living room cozier. “Places like West Elm offer a variety of furniture pieces upholstered in this soft and loopy fabric,” she says.
10. Focus on built-ins
San Francisco interior designer Noz Nozawa gives a room depth with bookcases and shelves. “Layering is one of my favorite ways to warm up a room; especially in a multifunctional living room, built-ins around a fireplace can add warmth; around a TV they add more dimension and add an analog contrast to the screen, and the objects or picture frames fill the room with memories.”
11. Bring in floor lamps, sconces, and chandeliers
“Lighting plays a huge part in creating a cozy atmosphere,” says Ami McKay, founder and principal of Pure Design in North Vancouver, Canada. “Pendants, lamps, and sconces allow for ambient lighting at night.” Uplights behind plants, candles on the mantel, and floor lamps that light up the ceiling will create a beautiful glow.
Ponterio is also over recessed downlighting and canned lights, which he says are not great for conversation or watching a show. “You want to see the effect of the lighting and not see the source, that’s the trick,” he notes. One solution is to put those bright lights on a dimmer switch. Another thing you can do to achieve a soft and warm glow is to add table lamps or decorative light fixtures and chandeliers.
Nozawa’s alternative to overhead can lights is not only table or floor lamps but sconces too. “Don’t sleep on the walls,” she says. Sconces, whether you install them hardwired with an electrician or use a plug-in sconce, bring a warm glow at face-level and free up floor and tabletop space for other room furniture, home decor, coffee table books, and drinking glasses!
McKay recommends warm light bulbs. Tip: Install in-floor electrical outlets for floating room furniture arrangements.
12. Curate family photos
Yes, you love your kids and all the other family members, but scattering a dozen framed photos throughout the living room can be a bit much, not to mention messy. Dawson recommends curating them into a cool photo gallery wall with a smattering of current and back-in-the-day pictures that reflect your family’s personal story. To make a real statement consider painting an accent wall with teal or another bold color. You can opt for slim black frames for a room look that isn’t overpowering.
13. Go big with the coffee table
Dawson loves a large coffee table and promises that dressing it with books you enjoy and great accessories will warm up your living room. She sticks with a few chunky accessories that are easy to remove if you want to put your feet up during a Netflix binge. Ponterio’s approach to accessorizing is similar, sticking with a few choice items that reflect your interests.
14. Adorn the floor with an area rug
For instant warmth and coziness in a living room, Dawson is in favor of a foot-pleasing sisal area rug from Stark Carpet. Ponterio also loves a dark sisal, especially during the winter months when winter boots and mulled wine make an appearance. Porterio also installs a lot of indoor-outdoor rugs from Perennials Fabrics for his clients who crave coziness.
McKay is all about playing up the mood with warm colors. “An area rug with red tones will quickly add warmth and beauty to your living room,” she says. “A vintage Moroccan rug is a good choice. I would pair it with blues and neutrals, add layers and texture, and woven pendant lights, plants, and wooden pieces.
15. Introduce window treatments
Dawson likes curtains and hardware to feel detailed but not fussy. She recommends hardware that is shaped like an elbow and mounts directly to the wall without a finial. She also likes solid linens from Holland & Sherry and a simple trim from Samuel & Sons for polish. Ponterio’s style includes a woven shade from Conrad for an additional layer, complemented by a flat tape finish. The key is to make sure your window treatments still let in enough natural light.
16. Roll in with a bar cart
Ponterio insists that a bar cart is a must, saying, “It’s a real nice sign of hospitality when you have guests over to have a tray with a couple of spirits in your living room. This allows guests to feel comfortable and make themselves a drink.” Place a beautiful art print above it for wall decor that matches the style of the bar cart.
17. Involve throw pillows
Customizing throw pillows can turn a sofa into an irresistible crash pad. Dawson completed a living room makeover by mixing the throw pillows’ fabric patterns and sticking to a theme of blue and white. She played with dainty florals, mixed shades of blue, and used simple finishing details to create a polished yet inviting look. The goal was for the client’s kids to be able to plop on the two facing sofas and toss the pillows from one to the other without it impacting the design aesthetic.
18. Relocate tchotchkes
It is hard to edit sentimental items, Dawson acknowledges, but precious tiny Limoges boxes or Herend figurines don’t make a living room feel inviting, even if you have extra seating. Find a place for them in your main bedroom or bathroom. Group them together on a floating shelf or a cool tray to give them a fresh twist. Ponterio isn’t a stickler when it comes to kids’ toys in the living room. He notes that a large storage ottoman can hide a lot of Legos.
19. Scent the space
Not all living room decor has to be visible to make an impact and turn the space into a cozy enclave. Just like an accent wall, an accent scent can completely transform a space. While candles are always a nice decor touch, a diffuser is the way to go for someone who doesn’t want to worry about blowing out the flame. Look for a cold-air diffusion, like AromaTech AroMini BT, which breaks down the fragrance mist into nanoparticles that linger. We love the Fig & Orange Blossom scent that evokes a luxurious resort setting right at home. It also uses Bluetooth technology so you can control it with an app.