The living room is most likely the main gathering place in your home for friends and family. It is where you entertain, relax and socialize, and as such, it deserves to be styled and decorated in accordance with your personal taste. But sometimes we just can’t help but feel there is something missing from the space and we’re left to wonder, what are the key items every living room needs to in order to feel complete? From the elements of a well-styled coffee table to functional furniture, local design experts give us their suggestions for how to make a living room feel complete.

1. Functional pieces

“I prefer for living rooms to be more formal than family rooms, but still functional for everyday,” says Ashley Meier or Ashley Meier Linens | Interiors. “So incorporating a desk and using a living room as a secondary office is a great way to enjoy the room and get more use of it, as shown in this picture. There are many other dual uses that make sense, like doubling it as a music room with a beautiful piano. Also, I love to incorporate original art, layered lighting and beautiful textiles as well. This room has a gorgeous vintage Moroccan wedding blanket thrown over an ottoman that adds a touch of glamour to the room.”

©Alyssa Rosenheck

Incorporate a desk into your living room so it can function as a secondary office space. Image: Alyssa Rosenheck

2. A touch of green

“Whether it’s a fiddle leaf fig tree in your living room or cut flowers on a nightstand, plants add color and a natural element to any room,” says Julie Brown, co-owner of Providence Interiors. “Many of them improve indoor air quality too, which is an added bonus. If you have a black thumb (like me), try a snake plant. Its deep green color looks great in any room, and it’s nearly impossible to kill.”

3. A throw, an ottoman and drink tables

“Every living room needs a super comfy cashmere throw, a plush ottoman, and small drink tables scattered around the room to accommodate books and drinks,” suggests Julie Couch of Julie Couch Interiors.

Does your living room have Julie Couch's three essential items?

Does your living room have Julie Couch’s three essential items? Image: Caroline Allison

4. A definite focal point

“A definite focal point will create interest and help lead your eyes through a space,” says Mark Simmons of Mark Simmons Interiors. “While many living rooms feature a fireplace, this can also be accomplished with a great piece of art, beautiful antique, grand piano or any number of things to draw you into the space.”

Direct the eye with a definite focal point, suggests Mark Simmons. Image: Mark Simmons Interiors

5. Throw pillows (with removable covers!)

“No room is complete without fabulous pillows artfully placed throughout,” says Margi Hargrove of Margi’s Chair and Chair Alike. “As important as the perfect pair of shoes are to accentuate the perfect outfit, pillows are the essential accessory to complement the perfect sofa, chair, bench or window seat! They freshen and complement with color or texture, tying all elements together, and they create an inviting space to relax or entertain.”

Ashley Rohe of Ashley Rohe Home agrees about throw pillows, taking it one step further with this useful pointer: “My kids have recently begun tossing all of our sofa pillows and throw pillows on the floor to play, and because they’re all slipcovered, I can easily take them off and wash them when I feel like it. Even our decorative ones are easily cleanable and casual.”

6. Books, books and more books

Karrie Seaton, Principal Designer at J & K Design Studio, says books are an essential element that every living room should have. “You can never have enough books. A home is an extension of the people who live there, and there is no better way to show personality than through books,” she explains. “Show your love of travel, art or pop culture by incorporating books into your décor. Books can add height, texture and color to a console or cocktail table. Need a boost of height to display a prized object? Stack some books, and you have an instant focal point. Books as décor are often overlooked, but they can be the foundation for a well-styled bookshelf.”

Make sure your living room has books, books and more books.

Make sure your living room has books, books and more books. Image: Shelby Hornbuckle

7. A great side table

“No living room is complete without a great side table,” offers Beth Haley of Beth Haley Design. “Perched beside your favorite chair, this living room workhorse provides a resting place for a big cup of coffee, a reading lamp and an enticing book. Adding a vase of flowers completes the mood. Let the daydreaming begin!”

“We like to include in every living room some type of small table beside of all chairs —a place to rest a book or drink,” Roger Higgins of R. Higgins Interiors tells us. “We always like to place a some type of lamp there as well so that the spot is well lit. It’s important that it be lighting for that location and not just overhead for the room. Also, we always include fresh flowers so the room seems lived in, not just a space that you walk through.”

Pair your chairs with side tables to hold books, drinks and flowers.

Pair your chairs with side tables to hold books, drinks and flowers. Image: Reid Rolls

8. Something old

“We feel every space should have something old that tells a story and has a special meaning to the client, paired with something new that grabs your attention and starts a conversation,” offers Blair Parkes and Susan Lamb of Parkes & Lamb Interiors. “We love how this vignette has a modern piece of art and over-scaled dominos resting atop a primitive antique table that is over a hundred years old.”

An old, meaningful piece can spark conversation.

9. Great lighting

“Lighting sets the stage for a room and can really elevate the look and feel,” says Julie Brown, co-owner of Providence Interiors. “Sometimes simply changing the lighting can change the entire feel of the room.”

10. A fireplace

“Living rooms should be an inviting, warm place to relax with your friends and family, and nothing adds more warmth than a fireplace,” recommends Beth Haley of Beth Haley Design. “Picture yourself nestled in a comfortable chair warming up those cold winter nights. Imagine the ambiance a fireplace could add to your next party. Don’t have a fireplace? No worries. This ventless fireplace was added to a loft.”

Even if your home was not built with a fireplace, you can always add one in. Image: Andrea Behrends

11. A pop of black

Kathleen Evers of K Evers Interiors suggests adding some black to the space. “A black accent color grounds the room as well as adds the needed punctuation. This can be as simple as a mirror or picture frame, a lamp shade or table base. Black creates drama and depending on the material used, i.e. black iron or black marble, it can make the space casual or more formal.”

12. An eye-catching piece of art

“Artwork is an excellent way to bring in color and create a mood,” says Sara Ray of Sara Ray Interior Design. “I like to use oversized art or compose a gallery wall. The larger the piece or collection, the more drama it adds to the space. It’s easy to find artwork at every price point, whether it’s an original piece or prints. Helping clients select artwork is one of my favorite things to do. It adds the perfect final touch to a space!”

Artwork, no matter the size or price point, elevates a space. Image: Gieves Anderson

Thank you to these local design experts for helping us make our living room complete!


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