No matter what decorating style you gravitate towards, everybody loves the look of elegance. Whether your dream home is replete with open spaces or small cozy nooks, or if you are going for a casual feel or a chic and classy vibe, here are some ideas to add up all your interior design elements into one elegant living room.

Teal and Purple Living Room

First let’s make sure we agree on the meaning of the term, elegance.

Merriam Webster defines elegance as follows:

Dictionary definition of elegance (noun)

In interior design terms, this equates to a perceived balance of proportion, scale, pattern, color, and texture. “Precision, neatness, and simplicity,” could be related to a lack of clutter, specifically of anything that is not intended to be a part of the design.

Sounds very right-brained, doesn’t it? There is structure in creativity, and it is meant to facilitate the process, not lock it down πŸ™‚

So how does one strike that balance and precision without losing the creative heart of a design?

Follow the process with me and watch the elegant design magic happen right before your eyes …

1. What’s The Point?

White Media/Library Room

Get your creative juices flowing – ’cause it’s time to brainstorm.

A well-defined room is an elegant room. So, your first consideration in redecorating a room should be, what’s the purpose? What activities do you do here?

The photo above easily reveals what takes place in this room. It is a great hangout for movies and video games, reading from that inviting book collection, and relaxing by the understated fireplace with one special person.

How about your living room? Do you need to include a station for homework, or crafting, or paying the bills?

Make sure you have firmly defined how everyone in the household will (or will not!) be putting this space to use and plan for its full potential.

2. What’s The Feel?

Log Cabin Living Room

What kind of atmosphere do you want the room to convey? Will it be rustic and casual like the room shown above? A cool and serene modern or art deco feel? Or very formal? Do you want the occupants to feel energized and productive or relaxed and welcomed?

Take note of your findings and move on to step 3.

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3. What’s Your (Color) Story?

Pink Chair Futon In Contemporary Living Room

Needless to say, clashing colors is not an elegant look!

There are a number of places to derive your color palette from. You can pull it from the exterior colors of the house. If you have a furniture piece, artwork or a rug you love and want to include in this room, pull your colors from that one piece.

Also, whatever permanent finishes you will be working with will play a big role in defining your color palette. These are what we call “dictators,” the tile, flooring, paint colors – whatever will not be changing with the project.

For a full explanation of selecting colors, read my previous post, “Choosing The Perfect Colors For Your Color Perfect Home.”

4. What’s Your Budget?

Couple Examining Bills and Budget

Here is where it gets real.

You should have a good idea by now of the general feel you want the room to have and what your needs are. Now we have to honestly determine what we can or are willing to pay for it.

Remember, elegance = balance. It doesn’t necessarily mean top $$$.

If you want the best of the very best, you are going to have to reflect that in the budget. But if you can only reasonably pay for middle-of-the-road retail, set that as your cost parameter and know elegance is entirely possible within your range.

5. Focus

Fireplace in contemporary living room

Walk into your living room. Try to imagine it empty. In the next step, it will be helpful to draw out the room when you are creating a floor plan. But for now, just give the structure of the room a good look-over.

Is the shape square? rectangular? multi-angular?

Follow the line of where the walls meet the ceilings. Does the height remain the same or are there dips or peaks to it?

Is there a structural focal point such as a fireplace, built-in bookshelves, bay window?

Take some notes and then let’s move on to the next consideration …

6. How Does It Measure Up?

Woman With Swim Goggles and Tape Measure

Grab a piece of blank paper and draw out the general shape of the room. You can label the walls if you want to minimize confusion later. Mark out where the doors, windows, and any other permanent architectural features are on your map.

Now it’s time to break out that tape measure. A good 25′ metal tape measure should do unless you have a larger room.

Run your tape against the base of the first wall, from corner to corner and lock it down. Make sure it lies even with the base of your wall. Start at 0″ in the first corner, and mark the opposite corner’s length. If there are doors, windows, or other features in the wall to consider, mark where the tape says they start and stop on your drawing.

Rough sketch of my great room with measurements
A rough sketch of our great room with measurements.

Move to the next wall and do the same thing.

You can now transfer this diagram to a piece of graph paper, drawing it to reasonable scale by determining 1 square = 1′. Or use an easy online app like Icovia or Room Sketcher.

5. Where To Start

Man Tying Bootlaces

Let’s put boots on the ground, People!

With your investigative reporting out of the way and diagram in hand, you’re ready to march on!

Make An Arrangement

Take your graph paper floor plan and determine where the focal point is on the map. This is ideally what your largest piece of seating will face. If you are creating a focal point by installing a flat-screen tv on the wall, your largest piece of furniture (probably a sofa) will sit across from and face it.

Get measurements of your sofa, or the one you intend to purchase, and mark it out in the appropriate space on the floor plan.

Have A Seat

Now that your biggest piece of furniture is on paper, you can arrange your remaining seating around it to create a conversation area. Enable that conversation by keeping seating distance less than or equal to 8′.

Because people like to face the person they are talking to or sit at a 90 degree angle from them, a horseshoe or L-shaped arrangement works really well.

Determine the rest of your seating options based on the space available in your conversation area. Get measurements for these pieces and plot them on your floor plan.

To make this area even more comfortable for guests or housemates, have a place for every person seated to place a drink. Coffee tables are perfect for this, but sometimes additional pieces are needed for seating that is too far away from it. End tables, small stools, or even an ottoman with a tray on it to create a stable surface will work well.

The perfect distance between a coffee table and the sofa is 18″. Be sure to place these pieces on your floor plan in the appropriate size to make sure there is no over-crowding.

You also want to be able to move around the conversation area, as well as in and out of the room, so allow for a 3-6′ path to maneuver through the space. Never block a door or entrance with furniture!

** A note: Most people have too much furniture in their living rooms. Based on the size of your room and scale of your furniture, try not to overstuff. Some rooms can only fit a loveseat and chair. Use your path recommendations as a guideline. Lots of mobility and a balance of the right amount of furniture will help create that elegance we are striving for.

Anchor It Down

At this point, you may find that your conversation area seems like it is floating out in the middle of nowhere and needs some “grounding” to give it visual weight.

Enter the area rug.

The beauty of drawing out a floor plan before you buy is that you can try out various sizes to see what scale of rug will tie all the furniture pieces together and fit the space perfectly.

The furnishings do not all have to be completely on the rug, but they do need to at least touch it. You can tuck it a couple of inches under the front of the sofa and place front legs of end tables and chairs on it and be fine.

Lighten Up

Lighting is more important to a design than most people give it credit for. Ideally, you want to have light coming from three different sources.

  • There is ambient light which is indirect and usually overhead like the fancy (I mean, elegant!) chandelier in the image above.
  • Then there is task lighting for reading or other close-up work.
  • Finally, you have mood lighting. An example of mood lighting would be downlighting to show off the items in a bookcase or uplighting a large plant or tree so it casts decorative shadows across the walls and ceiling.

How much lighting is enough?

An easy formula is to add up the square footage of the room. That result will equal the amount of wattage you want to distribute throughout the space with your various light fixtures.

If you require a lot of task lighting, as in the case of a homework station, your minimum total amount of wattage should be one and a half times that number.

So far, everything we have done has been on paper!

Elbow grease is in order at this point. Unless you are making structural changes to the living room, there is just one more thing to do before you start.

Give your walls some TLC.

Going A-Wall

Little girl painting the wall

Paint … Or Not

Remove everything from the space that will not be included in the design. Push what remains in the center of the room and drape it with a tarp to reduce damage by splatters.

Wipe down your walls. They collect dust bunnies, too, and this is the perfect time to clear the cobwebs. Literally. You can do this easily with a damp or dry microfiber cloth. Mr. Clean’s Magic Erasers make quick work of any marks remaining.

This may be all you need to improve their appearance!

If you are changing the color, now is the time to paint. You may want to make them all the same color, or just paint an accent wall. Set your inner Van Gogh free after testing out your elegant color choices, of course!

Testing paint color with decals
An elegant way to test color samples without the mess – and they’re reusable!!


Here comes the fun! Placing your perfectly proportioned, elegant arrangement!

  • Start with the rug. Place it so it is centered with the focal point.
  • Add seating as indicated on your floor plan, remembering that 8′ rule to keep people well within shouting distance πŸ™‚
  • Next, add tables.
  • Lighting, large artwork such as sculptures, and floor plants should complete the arrangement.

If it looks kinda dull, don’t despair – we’re not finished yet!


Couple hanging artwork on wall

With furnishings in place it is time to decorate those walls.

Unless you are doing a gallery wall that can go from floor to ceiling, you want to center your artwork or art groupings above a piece of furniture, like a chest or console. This anchors the piece to the rest of the room by giving it visual connection.

A general rule of thumb in hanging artwork is to measure approximately 60″ from the floor and mark it. This is considered eye-level for most adults and is the height the center of your picture or grouping should be.

If hanging a large piece or grouping over a sofa, try to ensure that visual connection by placing it so the bottom is around 2-6″ from the top of the back cushions.

And Now For The Pretties

Table top accessories including fresh flowers and tea tray on rustic table

Some will differ, but I consider tabletop accessories to be the jewelry of the room. Here are some tips on arranging your decorative pieces:

  • Arrange in numbers of 3 or 5 pieces.
  • Group like items together for the most impact.
  • Use items that are no smaller than a grapefruit.
  • Vary heights to guide the eye across the arrangement. Keep from using items that are too tall and block conversation.
  • A great tabletop formula is to include something shiny, something organic, something literary (magazine or book), and something of wood or ceramic.
  • Use trays to contain loose items and give visual weight.

Do you love an elegant farmhouse look? How about bohemian? Or industrial? If you never tied the word elegance to any of these design styles, now you can.

And you can accomplish that elegance regardless of your budget. It’s about balancing all those interior design elements into one common, luscious whole.

I hope you’ve gleaned some ideas here that will help you balance your living room design, whatever style you love, beautifully.

Elegantly Yours,

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