In the living room of Vivia Horn’s Japanese-style retreat in Hunter, New York, the leather-and-plastic Italian sofas, cocktail table, and wool shag rug were purchased in the 1980s at Bloomingdale’s. The Japanese-style fire pit and tin range hood are custom, the floor lamp is from the '70s, the sisal carpet is by Stark, the ceiling beams are Douglas fir, and a series of color lithographs from Japan are displayed along the pine wainscoting.
Painting the walls, ceiling, and floors white really lightened things up, and new 8-foot-tall windows and French doors (minus view-blocking wooden blinds) bring in much more sunshine. The all-white backdrop cleared the way for a crisp and cozy color scheme of grey, black, and green. Gingham curtains and plaid pillows play up the preppy country feel.

"The room doesn't get a lot of light, so I decided to make it cozy and turned it into an English-style portrait room, which is ridiculous, but fun," says celebrity chef Alex Hitz. Taking the cozy route in a living room without a ton of natural light is a great solution. And what's cozier than a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf with seating beckoning you to curl up on it? To display your books more creatively, offset them with artwork. In this room, a Peter Rogers portrait of Alex Hitz's close friend, the late Nan Kempner, hangs over the bookshelves to create some contrast.
Architect Luís Bernardo Brito e Abreu renovated his São Miguel home to reflect his family's artistic, maritime history. The living room features a vintage chair by Illum Wikkelsø, and the mantel and stone benches are both of local basalt. The sculpture of a head on the bench at right is by Ernesto Canto da Maya, and the wall sculpture above the mantel is a 16th-century naval decoration.
The living room is the social center of most homes. No doubt yours sees plenty of use. That’s all the more reason to dedicate some extra time toward making it amazing. Whether you’re on a tight budget or just enjoy doing things yourself, there are hundreds of surprisingly sophisticated DIY projects out there for aspiring amateur designers. We’ve put together an awesome list of 48 DIY living room decorating ideas to help you update everything from your coffee table to your throw pillows.
Think long-term. Remember to plan not only for this stage of your life, but for the next phases, as well. If you're newlyweds planning to have children in a few years, take those future kids into account when planning your renovation, so that you don't have to redo everything. Ask people who already have kids what works in real life and what doesn't; what they wish they had in their living rooms; what has caused safety issues or got broken so many times it had to be thrown away.
Dark, glossy walls create a sophisticated backdrop for simple, clean-lined pieces and even colorful, bold items. Use the small space to your advantage and make it feel like a jewel-box. Painting your ceilings the same color can enhance the sense of intimacy even further. Then have fun with brighter furniture throughout, as done in this small living room designed by Andrew Felsher.
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