Identify Your Living Room Style

For a living room you'll enjoy for years, learn what you love and what you don't.


Photo courtesy of Ann Lowengart

Photo by: Dacian Groza

Dacian Groza

Photo courtesy of Ann Lowengart

By: Susan Kleinman

Do you consider a sleek, modern living room sexy or do you think minimalism looks cold and forbidding? Does an eclectic assemblage of treasures from around the world feel exotic and exciting to you or is it just a jumbled mess? There's no right answer to these questions, but finding the answers (and the styles) that are right for you is one of the most important things you'll do when planning your living room renovation.

Take some time to look around you — at your own home, at your friends' homes, at the rooms design pros put together — and find the style that resonates. Then you can put your own twists on that style to create a living room that reflects your personality and individuality. Here's how.

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

Look At Your Home

If you're embarking on a renovation, you clearly want to change some things about your current space, but there are probably elements that you do like. What are they? Think about which room in the house is your favorite, and why: Is it the bedroom, because you love its romantic floral wallpaper? Do you love the kitchen you redid last year, because it's sleek and industrial? When you've identified the elements that make you feel most at home, you can incorporate them into your new living room.

Do Some Design Research

Gather an armload of decorating magazines, and rip out any pages that make you linger. Then analyze: What do the pictures you love have in common? Is it a minimalist sensibility? A Victorian vibe? A riot of color? A monochromatic palette?

When you can identify the elements you are drawn to, be sure to make note of what unites them. That consistent element is probably the key to your personal style.

Get Out of the House

"Open your eyes to the details around you," says interior designer Sarah Zames, owner of General Assembly. Not just on the Internet and TV, but in real life. Go to new restaurants. Visit museums you've never been to. Take a tour of a local historical mansion. "All of these places have design elements that you might want to incorporate into your living room redesign," Zames notes.

Do you like the rococo room at your local historical preservation society? You may not want to go quite as over-the-top with the gilding and carving as folks did 200 years ago, but maybe a touch of gold leaf on a lamp would appeal to you. That shiny new eatery downtown may be too sleek to live in day after day, but perhaps the super-cool lighting fixture you noticed while waiting for your appetizers would look great in your house.

Planning Guide: Living Rooms

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Eliminate the Negative

And pay attention to the restaurants you've walked past after peering in the window because you thought it looked uninviting, and the magazine pages you've flipped quickly while thumbing through those magazines because you just hated them. What turns you off again and again? Distressed-finish furniture? Too much ornamentation? "Eliminate the styles you don't like," says Bruce Graf, CR, CAPS, CKBR, owner of Graf Developments, a Dallas-based remodeling firm. "Don't let them clutter your thoughts. You may not know what you like yet, but you certainly know what you don't like."

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