Earlier this week, I shared a tour of our living room. You can catch that post here if you missed it! Today, I’ll share a few things that I’ve learned from styling our living room.
Like every space in our home, the living room has evolved over the last two years. I’ve moved the furniture around and switched out the rug. We hung curtains. I’ve transitioned most of the art and decor to look less like a dorm room and more like a house that belongs to adults. When Ben moved into the house before we were married, he had a few pieces of furniture and whatever I brought from my dorm room to make it more cozy.
Here’s a photo from the day we moved Ben into the house. (I was on a serious blue and yellow kick!) We were just happy to have a beautiful house and enough art to make the living room feel cozy.
After we got married and I moved in, we hung some lace curtains. I added more blue and yellow things. We hung up some Christmas lights. It felt cozy, but it also felt like a girl’s dorm room. It was a little too “decorated”, but didn’t reflect my style. I wanted to keep things cozy, but in a less dorm-y way.
We bought a rug. We brought home a pew from the church we attended together in college. I bought more blue and yellow things. Then one day I looked around and realized almost everything in the room was blue or yellow. The “decor” felt like too much. The row of plants, the gallery wall, the pillows and the curtains all felt excessive. I went on a long journey to simplify and “un-dorm-ify”. (Is that a word? It should be.)
I went through a phase a last year where I wanted everything in this room to be neutral. I hung white curtains and redid a Goodwill chair with gray pillows. I took out all of the color and almost painted the blue tables a neutral color, too. It felt more grown-up, but it didn’t feel like me. The simplifying was an important part of the process, though. By getting rid of everything that didn’t reflect my style, I was able to start over with a blank canvas of just the basics.
If you look around your living room, or any space in your home, and it doesn’t feel like an accurate representation of your style, start by taking away the things that don’t feel you.
You bought that painting at a thrift store but you don’t love it anymore? Take it back to the thrift store. You have accessories but you don’t love them? You probably don’t need them. Does your space feel cluttered? Walk around with a basket and take away the things that aren’t essential. Those pillows are comfy but the colors are wrong? Make or buy new covers instead of buying brand new pillows. (It’s way cheaper!)
I’m glad I took the step of removing everything that didn’t reflect my style. The room was pretty bare for a few months, but it gave me time to think about how I wanted the space to feel. Homes don’t happen overnight. We’ve lived in our home for a year and a half now, and it serves us well and feels like a good representation of our style. But, it didn’t happen immediately. It took smart subtractions and additions to feel comfortable with where the space is today.
Last Autumn, I started bringing color back. I made some floral pillow covers with fabric from Walmart.
After taking down the Christmas tree, we moved the furniture to where it is now and it is my favorite layout so far. It keeps the couch out of the center of the room, but still allows you to comfortably watch TV or play video games. The chairs all face the center of the room, which helps make it feel less TV centered and more conversation centered. This is a picture I snapped to send to my friend, Stephanie, asking if she thought the kitchen rug would look ok in here. I was afraid to bring back SO much color after my quest to neutralize everything. She told me I could always move it back, which was all I needed to make the switch!
It is WAY more color, but it also feels WAY less boring! I’ve tried to ignore it before, but I just love color! Our bedroom is super neutral. Everything is white, gray, or wood, which makes it very peaceful and serene. But in the living room, the warm colors in the rug and the styling make it feel so cozy.
That’s where we are right now. The living room once again has color and warmth, but it feels simple and uncluttered. I took out the gallery corner and just hung my favorite painting, some vintage books, and a sunhat. The end table has a lamp on a vintage trunk- not a lamp and a picture frame and a candle and a plant. I put a few decorative things on the bench by the front door, but even that feels a little “too much” for my taste. I like things to be simple without being boring. Cozy, but not cluttered. Minimal, but with color.
Here are a few things I’ve learned through the process of creating a cozy living room that reflects my style.
- Nothing you truly love is ever “out of style”. Neutrals are having their day, but this girl loves color. I sometimes wish I had an all-neutral space, and maybe someday I will. But right now, I love our big colorful rug and my stack of vintage books and my blue chair. Be true to your own style, not what you see on someone else’s Instagram. If you create your space around what is trendy, you’ll never be finished updating and chasing after the latest thing. Even the farmhouse craze is on its way out. It’s okay to participate in and enjoy trends, but don’t feel the pressure to redecorate every time a new home trend comes on the scene. Your bank account and your husband will thank you.
- Keep “decorations” to a minimum. One of my rules for home decor is that if it doesn’t hang on the wall, it has to serve another purpose. That’s why my bench with the plant and the globe will probably be tweaked. I originally had a bunch of knick-knacks in the living room, but they made it feel too cluttered for my taste. I love knick-knacks and vintage treasures and tiny things. I’ve just found that having them in my main living space makes it feel “too much”. There’s a shelf in my bathroom that houses a a lot of my favorite knick-knacks. I have some favorite tiny things in my office. If your living room feels cluttered, try taking away some of the things that are purely decorative and find another home for them.
- Don’t be afraid of color. Enough said. A room can be “minimal” without being all white. Minimal is about less clutter, not less color.
- Avoid overhead lighting. I probably drove my college roommates (and now Ben) crazy with my hatred for overhead lights. They’re just not cozy! I can’t relax when a space is too bright. A good rule of thumb is to have at least three different light sources in a room. Our living room has two lamps and two strands of Christmas lights. It works because the room isn’t very big. (I would also recommend avoiding “task lighting”. I have a cool lamp from Target with a gold globe instead of a shade. It looks neat, but it doesn’t diffuse the light in a cozy way. It’s more like a harsh spotlight. It is upstairs on our porch and serves as a great reading light. For a living room, look for lamps with shades that will create a warm glow.)
- Throw pillows should be useable. I love soft things. That’s why the pillows and blankets in our living room have to be soft. There are a lot of cute throw pillows out there, but mine need to be comfy for napping and touching and lounging. You don’t have to have a small army of perfectly karate-chopped throw pillows. Just find a few comfy ones that fit your style and call it a day.
Those are my tips! Be yourself. Don’t be afraid to move things around. Lamps are your friend. Keep it simple. Keep it cozy.
Do you have any tips for styling a living room? I’d love to hear how you style your space!