where_you_live_living_room.jpg1.    Open it up. A bigger space, or the illusion of one, will make your family and guests more comfortable. Take down a wall to open up an adjoining area or replace solid doors with glass ones.

2.    Group your furniture for better circulation. Make little furniture clusters. Examples: Join together the entertainment cabinet and the sofas, or group the accent chairs with the side tables. With this rearranged living room, you’ll have trouble-free access to windows and light switches.

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3.    Make an impression with red. Painting may be the easiest way to brighten up your space, and with this shocking color, you’ll be the talk of the town. If you’re feeling a little hesitant about this bold choice, go with berry red. It is strong and deep but not overpowering.

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4.    Breathe new life to [a] wood floor by painting small blocks (about 4”x4” in size) all over it. The more random and far apart the placement, the better. Use neutral or earthy colors, like gray or mocha, for a more sophisticated look. A little distressing will also look good against the natural texture of the wood.

5.    Create an impact with fabulous lighting. Chandeliers have a lot of character and can act as the focal point in any room. The design of the modern chandelier goes from traditional to industrial, and its materials and colors are now more diverse. If you’re adventurous enough, look for a fixture with very brilliant colors.

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6.    Hang your pictures, paintings, or posters lower. This is a quick and inexpensive way to make the room cozy and comfortable. Position one on the wall with its midpoint a little bit above 57” from the floor.

7.    Go for painted stripes. You don’t have to paint [your walls] entirely in one color—stripes can transform the room from frumpy to funky. Vertical stripes make the ceiling appear higher, while horizontal stripes make the room seem wider. If you’re not ready for a completely striped interior, try this more conservative approach: Find a focal point, like a painting or an armoire, and sandwich it between two wide, vertical stripes.

8.    Look at your wall as a blank canvas ready for a masterpiece. Though murals are usually associated with traditional design and period interiors, new styles have already emerged. You will see them in restaurants and clubs. Get a good artist and have a theme or a look in mind. For first-timers, we suggest a mural that is very light, almost monochromatic, and blends with the color of your walls on small, specific areas.

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9.    Use framed maps instead of paintings. Maps, especially the authentic ones, are always interesting to look at. Attractive maps can be found at any bookstore. Get three different pieces of the same size (preferably less than 20”x20”), put them in similar frames, and hang them all in one row.

10.    If you have neutral-colored walls, paint the ceiling the same color, only a few shades lighter. The change is subtle but effective, and the result is a more attractive and well put-together interior.

11.    Get wall vases, and put fresh flowers while you’re at it. Can’t find them? Make your own by using colored frosted tumblers or aluminum containers, which are safe alternatives to breakable ceramics.<

12.    Use your books as decoration. Look at pictures of book-laden coffee tables in interior design magazines for inspiration. But don’t think that the more books you display, the better. For decorative shelves, it’s better to put only a few. This leaves enough space for earthenware, stoneware, or figurines.

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13.    Remove your Venetian blinds and Roman shades. Sheer, romantic window treatments provide an airy and relaxing atmosphere. Find a sheer curtain with a simple design and cut, with less lace and frills. For a punch of color, layer the sheers over a thin, colored fabric.

14.    Together with the rug, cushions on the floor also provide comfort. Not only do they serve as extra seating during big gatherings, they make your living room seem more inviting and luxurious as well.

15.    Good quality area rugs add a touch of personality to your living room, too. For a more up-to-date look, position your rug so that it is slightly at an angle and not directly parallel to your furniture.

where_you_live_flowers.jpg16.    Bring nature in. The soothing sound of running water is always welcome inside the house. Create a place in the room for a water feature, like a lighted niche or an accent table. Look for granite water fountains or mini-bamboo fountains.

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17.    Undo the sala set look. There’s nothing wrong with a uniform living room, but the trend nowadays is to go eclectic. Just make sure that the pieces share a similar characteristic. Try combining upholstered sofas with woven rattan armchairs, pairing metal with bamboo, and mixing wood with leather.

18.    You can’t go wrong with fresh flowers. Simple displays bring out the natural beauty of blooms. Use an everyday kitchen item, like a mug, to display gerberas, daisies, or lilies. Cut them so that only a little stem can be seen above the rim.

19.    Change the shades of your table lamps. Brand new shades are a good way to brighten up your living room. Buy something totally unlike your old ones, but choose wisely: Go for shades with a timeless design and in classic colors.

20.    Turn your living room into a sanctuary with floating candles. Use a big, deep white bowl filled halfway with water to float your candles on. Pretty it up by adding fresh flower petals and blooms.

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where_you_live_white_couch.jpg21.    Place a mirror either above a door or against a wall. This will give an illusion of a larger space and let more light in.

22.    Mix old designs with new shapes and textures. Use a vintage throw on a simple, modern-style sofa. Place a traditional runner over a minimalist-type coffee table. Find new antique-inspired pieces to accessorize your space.

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23.    Done the “Wright” way, glass art and stained glass are appealing and classy. Famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed his windows with linear, geometric patterns and minimal color. Look up his designs [on] the Internet for more ideas.

24.    Draw inspiration from Spanish Mediterranean style homes: incorporate arches into your interiors. Passageways that lead to and away from the living area will most benefit from an arched head. These will make the room’s design seem more sophisticated and polished.

25.    Show off your collections. Whether you’re a collector of toy cars, dolls, or vinyl records, there’s no reason to keep your prized possessions enclosed [in] boxes. Creatively incorporate them into the design of the room: frame and mount them like posters, or place them on baskets or cantilevered shelves.

26.    If your living room doubles as an entertainment center, find an entertainment cabinet that is both beautiful and functional—preferably one with a lot of space for CDs and with doors that can hide the TV when not in use.

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27.    Don’t be afraid to combine colors. Purple and green? Cobalt blue and terracotta? Normally, you won’t find these colors together in the world of interior design. But you’ll be surprised at how much pleasure and excitement unexpected color combinations can bring. Add flavor to your living room by playing up a lilac wall finish with soft green lamps and a chocolate brown sofa.  

28.    Display photographs of family and friends in unique ways. Black-and-white’s been done, so choose colorful graphic versions of your pictures. After scanning your favorites, use the Filter-Artistic-Cutout feature of Adobe Photoshop to turn them into digital works of art. Mount them on your wall like frameless canvases.

29.    Hang decorative plates of different sizes and designs above a mantelpiece, a shelf, or a low cabinet. You can also arrange them to form a column in an empty corner.

30.    Have fun with cushions. With a plain, neutral-colored sofa as background, cushions make pretty additions. Personalize your existing throw pillows by using textile paints and stencils. Or intricately embellish them by gluing or sewing on assorted ribbons, beads, sequins, or stones.

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31.    If you can’t let go of your dingy but beautiful old curtains or sofa fabric, cut out a few small pieces and frame them. Display them close together for an eye-catching wall display. It will make for a great conversation piece [at] your next dinner party.

32.    Cover up a blank wall with fabric. It is effortless and gives your room that dramatic ambience. Look for fabric with colors that best complement the room. Woven ethnic fabrics, for one, work best in modern Filipino style interiors. Attach the fabric with strings in strong colors, screw eyelets, and wall plugs.

33.    Use a slipcover to give your sofa a new lease on life. This way you don’t need to buy a new one, and it’s pretty easy to clean. Choose a light-colored fabric for a fresher, more flexible look.

34.    Allocate a place where the kids can play to limit the mess. Furnish it with beanbags, pillows, and a little table with lots of coloring books and toys.

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35.    Bring in small pieces—they make the room look more lived-in and familiar. You can look for benches, ottomans, and low tables at the home section of department stores.

36.    With a little touchup, you can change the look of an old table lamp. Paint the base of the lamp in white if you’re going towards a more country-style, shabby chic look. Or paint it chocolate brown for a more modern, dramatic look.

37.    Something as simple as a small bowl of fruits on a coffee table can make a big difference. And get real fruits!

38.    A cute way to personalize your cushions: Sew on stenciled materials and cutouts of your family members’ initials.

39.    Instead of a floor-standing lamp or a table lamp, use pendant lighting or hanging fixtures to illuminate dark corners. Find three sets of one kind and hang them together, in different heights, to create a useful and interesting light installation.

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40.    Decorative displays. Woven baskets or antique ceramic jars and vases look good together.

41.    Cleanliness is important in order to keep your home in tip-top shape. Do cleaning checks to keep the room looking fresh.

42.    Personalized accessories have an Old World charm and add warmth to your living room. Decorate your own picture frames using old buttons, beads, tiles, and broken glass. Don’t stick with just one material per frame. Mix and match to get more interesting results.

43.    Revitalize and revamp your existing wood floors by using stamps. Find a stamp with a sophisticated, understated design (a floral motif will look natural on wood) and use a dark wood stain to create a border design all around the edges of the room.

44.    Wall sconces, besides being decorative pieces of art, are useful in creating a certain mood when placed in strategic locations. Essential when entertaining guests or when there’s an intimate gathering.

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where_you_live_bookshelf.jpg45.    Use multifunctional furniture to free up space in your living room. There are a lot of pieces now that serve more than just one purpose. For example, you can find a side table that also functions as a magazine rack. Or you can use an old storage chest as a coffee table.

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46.    Put a sweet treat. Add a hint of color by displaying candies with bright wrappers inside glass containers.

47.    The ultimate storage solution: floor-to-ceiling cupboards and bookshelves. It can accommodate your souvenirs, memorabilia, awards, and books—all in one quick-to-find, organized location.

48.    Make a wall showcase. Dedicate one wall to a particular theme. Display photographs of your favorite places and hang them gallery-style.

49.    Replace your big and heavy sofas with smaller, cozier two-seaters to give you a more flexible layout. Just by squeezing in additional single seats or a couple of beanbags, your living room can either be an intimate setting for small gatherings or a venue for big parties.

50.    Try to design your living rooms in such a way that the focal point is a dramatic chandelier or a series of wonderful pictures. Arrange seating so that it encourages socialization and communication. Turn your living room into a true family room.

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(First published in Good Housekeeping, April 2006; photo source: sxc.hu 1, 2, 3, 4)

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