While the living room may have lost the title as “the heart of the house” to the kitchen, it nevertheless remains a vital organ to the proper functioning of a home: this is where your kids will bring their friends over to hang out, you’ll use it for family movie night, and it will be the spot for guests to gather during parties. Because it’s such an important space, I want to cover several key points for changes that you can make to create the living room you’ve always desired.

NEVER SETTLE WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR SOFA

When I am asked to “fix” a client’s living room, very often it’s because they’ve purchased a sofa that they liked in a showroom but did not consider fully whether it would actually work at home. Then, instead of cutting their losses and fixing the problem by choosing a different sofa, they attempted to fit everything else in around it, thereby compounding the problem. Let me help you avoid this pitfall by recommending that you don’t get seduced by sofa at the store; measure your room first, so that you know exactly what size will fit the space. Draw a floor plan (it can be a quick sketch) so that you can see exactly what size sofa will fit comfortably in the room. Think about things like views both inside the room and outside the windows, and how the sofa will enhance and not detract from them. And finally, go test several sofas that fit your room’s requirements to make sure that you find the most comfortable option that also works.

SHOWROOM VS. REALITY

While we’re on the subject of shopping, another common pitfall for homeowners is falling into the trap of recreating the showroom display of their favorite home store. That’s the fastest way to make a space feel impersonal-and your guests feel unwelcome! Instead, select one or two key pieces from the shop that you love (e.g. sofa, rug, or coffee table), and then purchase the rest from other vendors. Browse online shops and one-of-a-kind sellers to get unique finds that your neighbor won’t have in her home. This is how you start to create your own personal, unique style and a living room that truly reflects who you are.

THINK ABOUT PROPORTIONS

For a living room to feel welcoming and a place where people are drawn in to linger, you need to make sure that the space feels grounded (i.e. not a pass-through spot, but rather somewhere to stop and spend quality time). The best way to achieve this is by choosing the right size rug. If all the furniture in the room is sitting on top of a rug then it becomes a true zone of use. If there is no rug, or worse yet. the rug in the space is too small, then the pieces will subconsciously feel like they are floating in space, and guests will be less likely to want to relax and stay. Unless you have a small living room, a good rule of thumb is to avoid rugs that are smaller than 6’x9’. And most living rooms can handle at least an 8’x10’ rug. If you can go bigger-even better!

IT’S ALL IN THE DETAILS

When you think about the living rooms that you’ve been in or seen that you love, what is it about them that really speaks to you? Chances are, it’s not a single, individual item, but rather the overall feeling that you get when you’re in them. So, how do you achieve that elusive “feel”? It’s all in the details. Once you’ve selected your sofa, your rug, your coffee table-all the “big ticket” items, then it’s time to pull it all together with accessories both large and small: For lighting, choose a statement light fixture for the ceiling, get at least one floor lamp and possibly a table lamp as well. Hang artwork on the walls (see my blog on different ways to hang pieces). Find luxurious soft furnishing that invite you to take a seat, from accent cushions to throws. Candles and coffee table books are both attractive to look at and functional, so invest in some to place around the room. And don’t forget personal touches like family photos or items picked up while on vacations. These are the things that will truly make your house a home.

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