Determine Your Living Room Needs

Before you begin your living room remodel, think about what you need to lounge, entertain and work.
Garage Converted Into Midcentury Modern Living Space

Garage Converted Into Midcentury Modern Living Space

Photo courtesy of Susan Jay

Photo by: Tom Bonner; Design By: Susan Jay

Tom Bonner; Design By: Susan Jay

Photo courtesy of Susan Jay

By: Susan Kleinman

Before you can start planning your renovation, you need to know what your ultimate goal for your remodeled space is:

  • Are you renovating your living room mostly to enlarge it?
  • Are you remodeling to update it?
  • Are you renovating to sell your home down the line?
  • How do you plan to enjoy your living room day in and day out, year after year?

Planning Guide: Living Rooms

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"Ultimately," says interior designer Sarah Zames, owner of General Assembly, "the best way to identify what is going to work best for your family is to think about how you really live. Are you the type of people who like to spend a lot of time together watching movies around a TV? In that case, make sure it's comfortable to watch. On the other hand," she says, "if you spend most of your time reading, you might want to find a way to hide the TV when it's not in use."

If you are going to use your living room for entertaining, think about what types of gatherings you usually host. Do you like to invite one or two other couples for a quiet night of wine and cheese in front of the fireplace? Or throw big stand-up fetes where everyone mixes and mingles? For seated events, pick large, cushy upholstery; for stand-up shindigs, keep the chairs and couches smaller-scale to leave as much room as possible for moving around. If you entertain formally, be sure you have storage space for less-fancy items such as your kids' toys and your stacks of magazines, so that you can stash them when company comes. And if your events tend to be boisterous and messy, you're going to want couches and carpets that are stain resistant.

Top Living Room Design Styles

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Traditional Elegance

A traditional living room should be graceful as well as timeless. For this luxe living room, key pieces from Baker's Stately Homes Collection, including the elaborately detailed Queen Anne Bureau Cabinet and a rare Irish rococo carved mahogany Puca Table, add character to the room. The Guinness Settee with tight back, tailored seat cushions and round tapered legs provides stylish seating. Photo courtesy of Baker

Clean and Contemporary

For this New York City high-rise condo with beautiful water views, eco-friendly designer Robin Wilson created a contemporary living room by using bamboo floors, a curved steel-frame sofa with cotton upholstery and a coffee table made from a single piece of recycled ship steel. LED light shadow boxes on the wall with ocean images continue the water theme. Photo courtesy of Robin Wilson Home

Photo By: Vanessa Lenz

In Transition

For this inviting San Francisco Bay-area home, designer Marysia Rybock of ScavulloDesign Interiors created a transitional living room that feels light and airy. Colors in an antique area rug inspired the room's palette, while a large custom chandelier above casts a pleasing glow at night. An all-bronze coffee table adds contemporary flair to the space. Photography by Doug Dun

Rustic Cottage

On a budget of $18,000, designer Anisa Darnell completely transformed a dated living room into a cottage-inspired family space. Cozy furnishings were combined with country-inspired accents for a comfortable family room.

Midcentury Simplicity

The sprawling layout and large windows of midcentury-modern homes are often complemented by clean details and simple furnishings. This welcoming living room with furniture and accessories from Room & Board features a button-tufted sofa with stretcher base, a classic round cocktail table and a large neutral area rug. Photo courtesy of Room & Board

Craftsman Design

Craftsman living rooms follow a design philosophy based on simplicity and practicality. Interior details are warm and inviting, showcasing dark wood elements and craftsmanship.

Mix of Modern and Contemporary

To complement the dramatic double-height window wall in this Menlo Park, Calif., townhouse, designer Marysia Rybock of ScavulloDesign Interiors created a stunning contemporary living room that combines the owner's existing curved midcentury sofa and European artwork with soft furniture pieces and a large silk area rug with a modern design that adds movement to the space. Photography by Matthew Millman

Photo By: Matthew Millman

Classic Coastal

Nautical art, salvaged fixtures and a rich color palette bring this seafaring living area to life in Maine. Design by Tyler Karu

Think about what secondary functions your space has to serve. Is your living room going to be just a living room, or will it be a living room and office? "More and more," says interior designer Karen Soojian, ASID, "we are combining rooms that used to be separate, such as a living room that doubles as a home office or a music room. If your home has limited space, designing the living room so that it can serve multiple functions is invaluable."

Make a list of everything you want to do in the space, so that you can plan accordingly. If you need to put your computer and printer in the living room, you'll require ample electrical outlets, and you might want an armoire in which to hide the electronics when it's quitting time. If the living room will double as your children's playroom, make sure your space planning includes toy storage and furniture that won't be ruined if someone spills a juice box.

If you need the space to do double duty as a guest room, make sure you budget and plan not only for a pullout sofa, but also for a coffee table that's easy to move away so that you can actually open up that sofa when guests come to spend the night.

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