20 Simple Living Room Updates That Make a Big Impact

Check out these easy decorating ideas that will transform your living room from so-so to stunning.

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May 11, 2020

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Add Pendant Lights

Skip illumination with traditional table or floor lamps and try hanging a pendant light above your side tables. A modern trio, like these, adds height to the space and brings in a sculptural quality, courtesy of an extra-long cord (and a low-heat bulb).

Be Strategic About Styling

Create a stylish bookshelf by choosing items that work together and create balance. Pick two or three colors, then space the hues throughout the shelves evenly, but not symmetrically. Add stacks of books throughout the shelf to stagger the height of your accessories.

See More Photos: 20 Must-Know Tips for Styling Your Built-In Bookshelves

Mix-and-Match Accents

Inject playfulness into your living room with pillows. The key to combining a variety of fabrics is finding prints in similar colors, like the navy, light blue and white options designer Sarah Richardson chose for her summer house.

Use Area Rugs as Dividers

Add subtle definition — and create a sense of division without compromising an open floor plan’s airy character — with floor coverings that function as room dividers. Matching rugs, like these, help the eye differentiate between living and dining areas.

Include Oversized Art

Hang a large piece of artwork, like the vintage flag that designer Emily Henderson chose for this space. Not only does it create a focal point for the room, but it's also a quick and easy fix for filling an empty wall.

Incorporate Do-It-Yourself Details

Draw inspiration from these club chairs and try embellishing upholstered furniture with nail head trim. Even spacing between the nail heads is essential to creating a professional looking piece, but try different spacing widths for added visual interest.

Get the how-to: Add Nail Head Trim to Furniture

Add Some Greenery

Not only do houseplants clean the air around you, they also bring visual appeal to your living space. Seen here, the fiddle leaf fig provides added color and interest to the living room. While this is a simple update, make sure you don't forget to water your houseplants to keep them thriving for years to come.

See More Photos: 20 Forgiving Houseplants

Find the Perfect Coffee Table

Choose a coffee table that accents your style and also is a durable piece that can withstand whatever is thrown its way. Not only can a coffee table change the look of your space, it can also change how your living room functions.

See More Photos: 20 Living Room Coffee Table Looks We Love

Upgrade Your Lampshades

An easy way to change the look and ambiance of your living room is to replace your existing lampshades with ones that are more visually appealing. Before buying think about how the new shades will look during the day and night. The metallic shades in this living room tie in with the gold hues seen throughout the design, creating a compelling space.

Get the how-to: 3 Ways to Upgrade a Plain Lampshade

Refresh the Drapes

Swapping out your old curtains can do wonders for your living room's look. Choose a bold color like the lemon yellow curtains seen in this space or incorporate a high-quality fabric that will make your living room luxe. Either is sure to breathe new life into your space.

Layer Artwork

Modernize your mantel by putting a twist on a gallery grouping. Instead of framing and wall-mounting art, try a contemporary collage that allows pieces to overlap against the wall.

See More Photos: 20 Mantel and Bookshelf Decorating Tips

Reupholster Your Chairs

Reach for fabric with an unexpected, larger-than-life print to add personality to occasional pieces, like the serape stripes on this pair of chairs. Think outside traditional upholstery sources to infuse your pieces with extra character.

Get the how-to: How to Reupholster an Arm Chair

Try Casual Coverups

Slipcovered sofas are experiencing a modern-casual renaissance: once a practical rather than polished choice, they're now getting love from designers who appreciate their relaxed vibe. Refresh tired textiles in the living room by swathing them in unfussy white fabric.

See More Photos: Slipcovers for Sofas, Chairs, Ottomans and More

Invest in Grand Graphics

This modern two-story great room features floor to ceiling windows with mustard yellow drapes, a floor to ceiling floral accent wall, a pair of teal wingback chairs, a gold drum pendant light, and engineered wood floors.

See More Photos: 30 Wallpaper Designs for Every Room of the House

Play With Texture

Three-dimensional fabrics, like this cozy quilted houndstooth, make an unforgettable statement on the plush armchair. Surfaces like these draw instant attention and will be a conversation piece for your living space.

Cover Your Ceiling

Magnify the visual effect of a beautiful floor by repeating those tones across the ceiling, as with the pine planks in this lakeside guest house. Since wear and tear isn’t a factor for these materials, it’s reasonable to reach for thinner, cost-effective planks rather than thick hardwood.

Incorporate Vertical Bookshelves

A small space, like this reading nook, has precious little room for artwork or books — until you start thinking along both its X and Y axes, that is. This understated duo of stacking shelves provides both satisfying contrast with the wall decor and a handy frame for the Eames chair.

Paint Woodwork a Colorful Hue

The painted arms of this occasional chair tie in with textiles seen throughout the living room and lend contemporary personality to an otherwise traditional piece. Give a mediocre stained piece new life by resurfacing it in a bright new hue.

Use Bright Backgrounds

A humble pair of shelving units become the star of this cheery living room with fuchsia paint that matches its toss pillows, striped chairs and artwork.

Make a Double-Duty Desk

Console tables are tried and true partners for sofas, but for visual interest and functionality, try giving your sofa table an extra use. Look for a piece with a small footprint to create an unexpected design moment (and an excuse to add in an eye-catching chair).

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