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Living room interior design in 3 basic steps

What makes a comfortable living space? We think it is the MOOD, FUNCTIONALITY and PERSONALITY. An interior design that creates the right environment for your emotional wellbeing, serves your needs and reflects who you are. It is not an easy task, but with the right approach, you can reach a desirable result in avoiding costly decisions that you may regret in the future.

For those of you who want to know where to start, we put together a simple step by step guide that will help to determine what is it that you want to achieve. It will also help you stay on track and organise your thoughts before you go into execution. In this case, we focus on the living room styling, but there are some universal principles that you can apply elsewhere.

Please note, that we strongly advise to hire professional interior designers to guide you through any complex work* but if you are determined to take it on yourself, we have a few useful tips for you. So, where do you start?

STEP 1: Inspiration. 

Determine what is it what you want. Get yourself a Pinterest account and create your board. Now spend at least a couple of weeks tagging images that inspire you, make you feel the way you want your room to feel. Don’t analyse it at this point and don’t set any boundaries. Make sure you keep on browsing at various times of the day and in a different state of mind – let it reflect who you are. 

STEP 2: Mood board

When you feel that you have a decent selection – analyse it. Look for repeating patterns and skip impulsive choices that stand out, whether it is a bright colour that you happened to like on that particular occasion or a crazy design that caught your eye once.

Here are five main patterns you should look for:

Style – narrow down an interior design style reflected in your selection: modern or classic, minimalist, traditional, rustic, industrial style etc.. You don’t need to know how to classify it, but you can make a shortlist of photos that you think represents it best. There are many more styles out there but here are a couple examples below. You can see that all of them have very distinctive features, but it doesn’t mean you can not blend them together. Even though we are purists and it hurts to say this. But it is your design, so do whatever you want! 

Contemporary style with rustic elements

Traditional style

Industrial style

Scandinavian minimalism

Boho chic style

Colour palette – it is always better to stick to several shades of one or two colours than have multiple primary colours fighting each other. We recommend choosing neutral warm earthy colours that will work well with accent colour you will be adding later. You can see several examples of colour palettes below. 

Materials & Textures – What kind of materials would you like to see in your interior: wood, metal, stone, fabrics etc.? Any particular textures, colours of wood or metal finishes you see reoccurring in your selection? Add up to three primary materials to your mood board.

Details – where there any details or objects that inspired you most? Elements of decor that represent your personality? It can be as specific as a certain art, a design object, piece of furniture or a pattern.

Mood – now this is a relatively broad and abstract pattern. It can be an art or an image, architecture, landscape, portrait or fashion photography that summarises the mood that you want your interior design to reflect. 

Create a mood board using these five main elements. Don’t rush it. You may have to spend quite some time on it before it feels well balanced and uniform. It is crucial to complete this stage before you go into specific selections. Mood board will serve you as your security checkpoint, a brand book that will stop you from impulse purchases and will keep your idea intact. We created one for you as an example below. 

Images used as style reference only.

STEP 3: Selection

Now you can finally move on to being more specific. At this stage, you will be choosing your materials and finishes, lighting, furniture and decor. Preferably in that order. When you find something you like, check it against your mood board. Does it belong there? Not really? Then keep on looking. It will save you tons of time and money.

There are also several steps to this stage: 

Room shell

Let’s start with the base. Here you are going to be working with all your plains. First, decide on the colour of your walls. Remember, it must work well with all other colours and textures, so keep it simple. If you want something more complex, you can combine it with an accent colour or a texture. It can be a wallpaper, a decorative plaster (micro cement, tadelakt or polished plaster), panelling, tiles or bricks. 

What is your floor going to look like? Are you going for a wooden floor (parquet, engineering board or solid wood), a carpet, vinyl or porcelain tiles? Do you want to go for underfloor heating, are you allowed to get rid of carpets? Do you need specific sound insulation? These are essential questions, so please do your research; otherwise, it may cost a fortune to fix it. 

Now order some samples and put them all together. Test them in different lighting conditions. When you find that perfect selection, test it again in a week. Still happy? Let’s move on! 

Lighting

At this point, you will select the main light source and an atmospheric/decorative lighting. 

The main light source may be a ceiling or pendant light (if the ceiling hight allows you to install one) spotlights or tracking lights. A pendant lamp can create a cosy atmosphere but it is best to combine it with spotlights for better practicality. Please also consider adding two or more dimmable switches, so you can create zones and adjust the lights according to your needs.  

Atmospheric/decorative lighting includes table lamps, floor lamps, wall lamps or even candles. Think of how you are planning to use it. Make sure the light is soft and diffused unless it serves as your dedicated reading light. 

You will notice that light bulbs vary in colour temperature from cold blue light to warm yellow light. Arguably the best temperature for bulbs used for a home environment is 2700K, a reasonably warm light. But this is a whole different subject. 

List of furniture

Determine the essential pieces of furniture for this particular room. What are you going to use this room for? Avoid looking for anything else until you select the furniture you truly need. Start with a sofa, coffee table/side table, an armchair, storage (TV unit, shelving). You may opt for a corner sofa if you don’t have space for an armchair and so on. 

Before ordering, request for fabric and finishes samples and make sure everything looks nice together with your room shell finishes.

Also, try using a masking tape to mark the size and shape of your furniture on the floor. Do you have enough space to walk around? 

Check the sizes and make sure it fits through all your door frames, staircases or windows. Take a note of the access to your property for the delivery. Inquire if the furniture comes assembled or not. 

Finishing touches 

And now it is time for interior decor and accessories. Always start with essentials: window treatments, cushions, throws, vases, bookends, candleholders, art, mirrors. Go through things you already have and keep items that work well with your new interior. Buy more if something is missing. That’s when you bring in your accent colours and let your personality shine. These items are easily replaceable and give you the freedom to express yourself without serious consequences.

Here we made an example of a basic selection:

It is very important to have a complete selection before you order anything. Even better if you create a spreadsheet with all items, their sizes, colours and finishes, prices (incl. delivery prices) and other information. In this way, you can keep track of your budget and you can clearly see where you can make any savings.

SUMMARY

Now your living room interior design idea is complete. The 3 easy steps we offered you above, will give you a much more desirable result than a senseless shopping spree. The most crucial thing is preparation. Start with things that inspire you, get to know yourself better, determine what is it that you want. Then create a mood board that will carry you through the overwhelming amount of choices you have to make along the way. And finally, invest in something that you will enjoy for a long time. Colourful interiors have the shortest lifespan, so let your decor take care of the colour. 

* Please note, that interior design goes beyond the furniture and material selection and requires an in-depth knowledge of construction, safety regulations and thorough, meticulous planning. Going with professional help is the only way to ensure that everything is taken into account. Your circumstances may limit your options, and this article only gives you a basic insight into a creative thinking process.