Furnishing

The living room: furnishing ideas and tips

Thomas Bott

Living rooms are places of relaxation as well as communication and entertainment. With so many different possible uses, the ideas for the design and furnishing of the living room can vary a great deal. We explain what to consider when planning your living room and show you different design styles for inspiration.

A young woman sits at a table in the living room and works on a laptop. Next to her are a smartphone and a notepad.
© Getty Images

In this article

The living room: general planning tips

Before we tell you more about specific interior decorating styles, we would like to answer a few general questions about designing a living room in a house or apartment.

Which room is most suitable?

There are two situations in which you, as a property owner, may have to decide on the location of your living room: either you are currently planning the layout of the rooms in your new house, or you want to move your living room to another room.

In both cases the following applies: large living rooms give you more design freedom and offer more space for furniture. But smaller living rooms can be cozier. In any case, make sure that as much daylight as possible enters the room, with floor-to-ceiling windows for instance. Not having enough natural light can soon put you under strain.

What sort of lighting is appropriate?

You won’t get by without any artificial light at all in your living room. After all, once the sun has set, you will often want to stay in the main room of your house to eat, watch TV or read. Since you use the living room for so many different activities, the lighting should be just as varied. We give you a few useful tips below:

  • Basic lighting: if you’re serving an aperitif to guests in the living room, you need lighting throughout the room. You can achieve this with a large ceiling spotlight.
  • Lighting zones: above the dining table, in the reading corner, for the couch area – all these places require a separate source of light. The most effective solutions are wall lamps, floor lamps, table lamps or low-hanging ceiling lamps.
  • Indirect light: to create striking effects in the evening, you can distribute indirect light sources around the living room, for example behind the TV or a shelf, in the baseboards or along a stucco strip on the ceiling.

Which type of flooring should you choose?

The various rooms in your house have different requirements in terms of furnishings. It’s very important to take these into account, especially in the choice of flooring. In a living room, the floor covering should always be soundproof, because this part of the house is generally quite lively. Your children, pets and guests will put a lot of stress on the surface, so it should be durable and non-slip. If a wine glass is knocked over, you don’t want to have to call in a cleaning specialist right away. And the floor should of course look good too. We therefore suggest the following options:

  • Seamless flooring: this flooring provides a modern, purist look, as well as being very resilient and easy to clean.
  • Vinyl: vinyl is available in many colors and patterns and can be partially replaced very easily.
  • Cork: a very natural option. This type of flooring feels warm underfoot, making it pleasant to walk on.
  • Carpet: this is the classic living room floor covering. It has a soft and warm surface and absorbs sound very well.
  • Laminate: this mixture of plastic and wood has a relatively low initial cost and is easy to install.
  • Parquet: this surface gives your living room a very sophisticated, yet cozy ambiance. It is also very durable if you take good care of it.

Furniture: must-haves or optional extras?

The design of your living room is obviously a matter of taste. Even so, there are certain standard elements that you always have to include, while some living room furniture depends on your preferences and the space available.

Must-haves:

  • Couch/armchairs/sitting area
  • Coffee table/lounge table
  • Wall units
  • Dressers/shelves/sideboards/wardrobes/cabinets

Optional

  • TV cupboard
  • TV armchairs
  • Dining table/dining chairs
  • Convertible couch
  • Room divider
  • Side table
  • Bureau
  • Stools

With or without a fireplace?

If you are toying with the idea of installing a fireplace in your living room, it is useful to take this into account when planning the room. While a Swedish or chimney stove can usually be installed later, a real fireplace requires a certain degree of planning and preparation. The work is much easier if the living room is not yet furnished.

Furnishing a living room: six different styles as inspiration

Once you have answered the basic questions, you can move on to the detailed design. Different wall colors, flooring materials and specially selected pieces of furniture make each living room unique. The various furnishing styles can nevertheless be summarized into a few broad categories. The following furnishing ideas generally work for both large and small living rooms.

1. The minimalist living room

In this style of furnishing, white and light colors dominate the walls and furniture. You can add small splashes of color with matching decorative elements. But here too, less is more. A few candles for a romantic atmosphere in the evening, a vase with some discreet flowers – that’s all it takes to strike an emphasis.

We recommend using clear lines for the style of the furniture. Bold patterns and decorations do not correspond to this look. Ideally, you should ensure that the TV set blends into the scenery, for example by hanging it on the wall. The fabric of the sofa and armchairs should not have any patterns on it, but should be kept plain white, beige or gray. In addition, placing items a little further apart from each other will give the room more depth. The lighting should be unobtrusive, even indirect if possible. Minimalist living rooms appear cool, but radiate a certain elegance.

A minimalist living room with subtle decoration and a few pieces of white and gray furniture.

The minimalist style is straightforward, open and avoids flashy colors. This creates more visual space.

2. The rustic-style living room

In this style of furnishing, the walls are usually painted in beige or similar shades. Partial wood paneling, natural stone or even translucent masonry fit very well into a rustic living room. Dark types of wood which appear as natural as possible are appropriate for the floor. The decoration is based on the same principle, as wood and stone also set the general design tone. A stone fireplace and carpets made of imitation fur visually complete the look.

The furniture is functional and kept as natural as possible. Its color matches that of the dark floor, making it stand out less. Instead of fabric, sofas and armchairs are made of smooth materials such as imitation leather. A wooden trunk with a glass top can serve as a sofa table, for example. Alternatively, a natural stone version fits in well with the overall concept. A few simple plants and elements made of wood or stone are added for decoration. Instead of pictures, antlers can be used as an embellishing feature. The lighting should also contribute to the ambiance through the use of warm colors. You might also like the idea of arranging some rustic candlesticks.

A living room furnished with wood and dark furniture. There is a chimney stove on the left-hand wall.

The rustic style gives a robust, natural and cozy impression. The focus tends to be placed on dark-colored furniture.

3. The country house living room

Light colors on the walls and floors are part of the country house style. White and beige are particularly good. A light-colored wooden floor fits in with the wall design. A chimney or chimney stove is used to generate heat. Ceiling beams and decorated wooden doors add the finishing touches.

Wood plays a crucial role in furnishing the room. Furniture is usually lacquered and decorated. Everything looks artistic – without losing its down-to-earth nature. The country house style is cozy, making fabric a better choice than leather for sofas and armchairs. Plants blend in well in the country house living room. You can also choose somewhat stronger colors. Lavender forms a particularly good contrast to the light-colored furniture and natural wood, for example.

Upholstered furniture, a fireplace, wood and light colors are seen when looking into a country style living room.

In the past, country houses were generally the secondary residences of wealthy families. The style looks cozy, and yet of high quality.

4. The retro-style living room

Retro styles make it seem as if time stood still a few decades ago. The term vintage is often used in the same context. What this means for furnishing your living room is for you to decide. The 70s or 80s are popular models. In both decades, strong colors were all the rage. The walls and the floor of a retro living room are designed accordingly. Wallpapers with patterns. Carpets with patterns. Cushions with patterns. And above all: everything is nice and colorful.

Bright colors and eye-catching patterns are also perfect for the couch and armchairs. Living room furniture such as cupboards, sideboards and dressers is not as plain as in other styles. Chairs with thin metal legs and a seat made of woven rattan or colorful plastic fit in well. Records from the relevant period with a matching record player are suitable as decoration. Artistic statues and house plants also fit into the overall picture. Tip: a neon lamp can represent the perfect last detail in an 80s style room.

A retro-style living room. In the foreground there is a yellow lattice chair and small tables in the form of cubes.

Vinyl, bright colors and unusual shapes are characteristic of the retro style. It is not unusual to mix several decades of home decor from the 50s to the 90s.

5. The Scandinavian living room

Many Swiss love the Scandinavian style (as do our European neighbors). It is characterized by a simple, functional look. The colors are muted, the walls are often simply left white. Wooden floors in equally light shades are designed make the room seem larger. As a result, the style also works well in small rooms.

The furniture in Scandinavian living rooms is modern, simple and functional. Clear lines are reminiscent of minimalism. The design is open and friendly, the legs of pieces of furniture are often slightly higher than usual. The sofa, armchairs and coffee table should not be placed too close together. The decoration consists of few, minimalist but stylish elements.

A green sofa with a green stool and some green decorative elements. The furniture stands freely in the room.

The Scandinavian style is calm, modern and functional. There are almost no limits to the colors you can use – leaving more scope for individuality.

6. The industrial living room

This style is as strong as the rustic style. However, an industrial living room relies more on metal than on wood. Open, large rooms that are flooded with light are suitable for this look. The walls do not have to be carefully painted or wallpapered. Translucent masonry is even expressly desired. A floor made of stone or untreated wood is a good choice.

There is one material which should be omnipresent in all the furniture: metal. It can be a steel construction with wooden inserts or made entirely of metal. Dark colors fit well but are not a must. Open shelves with a few objects arranged on them or a few decorative items add the feel-good factor to an otherwise somewhat cool-looking room. Old factory or advertising signs look good on the walls. There is a vast choice of lighting. It should be functional rather than artistic. Of course metal plays a key role here too.

An industrially furnished living room heavily featuring wood, with an uncovered stone wall and a gray sofa.

Industrial living-room furnishing is perfect for large, open spaces. Wood and metal dominate the look.

Conclusion: furnishing a living room is a very personal decision

It is of course entirely up to you how you design your living space and furnish your living room. Our aim in describing the above furnishing styles is simply to give you a few initial pointers. But your living room only becomes truly individual when you break a few rules and mix styles. We hope you enjoy planning your living room.

Read next

On our website we use cookies and analysis tools to constantly improve user-friendliness. This allows us to offer you the best possible service and personalize the advertising for you, both on our website and with our advertising partners. By using the website, you agree to the use of cookies. You can find more detailed provisions in our Privacy Statement).