Update a Living Room with These Easy Steps

Seating area with blue couch, violin, and framed artwork
Photo: Kim Cornelison

If you're ready for a change, but not prepared for the expense of a total style overhaul, try one of these easy living room updates, including quick furniture makeovers, simple design swaps, and no-cost refreshes.

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Consider the Coffee Table

Living room with couch, coffee table, painting
Jay Wilde

Create a cohesive look in your living room by echoing colors or finishes from the room's centerpiece—the coffee table—throughout the accessories. For example, the metallic sheen of this gold coffee table repeats in ornamental candleholders gathered on a neutral serving tray. Not sure where to begin with your coffee table update? Favorite books, fresh flowers, and treasured travel mementos all are fashionable contenders.

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Contain Clutter

family room

A little storage can go a long way in updating your living room. In this color-coordinated room, two bookcases are filled with office supplies, documents, magazines, and more, though guests might never know, thanks to clever clutter-busting tips. Use spare oversized glass containers for office supplies or small toys. Large baskets or boxes conceal papers and magazines in style. Stack them in a bookshelf for easy access that saves on floor space.

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Update Artwork

Seating area with blue couch, violin, and framed artwork
Kim Cornelison

Stuck in a style rut? Simply swap out your living room's photographs or paintings. For a quick fix, keep the frames in your gallery wall arrangement and change out the images for new artwork in the same sizes. This is an easy way to get an updated look with little effort.

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Roll Out a Rug

living room

An updated traditional living room can be achieved without replacing expensive furniture or painting the walls. Take this room, for example. A bright patterned area rug incorporates style underfoot. To create dimension in size, color, and texture, layer a smaller rug on an oversized area rug. A sofa slipcover and contemporary art put the finishing touches on the refresh.

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Rearrange the Furniture

Living room with area rug and shelves
Paul Costello

For room updates on a tight budget, the best ideas won't have you reaching for your wallet. Instead of heading to the store, rethink your living room furniture arrangement. Start by ditching the norms. Pull your sofa away from the wall or bring your wicker patio furniture inside. Whether you have an open floor plan, tend to gather around a TV, or prefer cozy conversation, a new arrangement can inspire and revitalize a room.

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Slipcover a Sofa

neutral tone living room with 2 side chairs and couch

Living room decorating ideas don't need to revolve around dated furniture. A simple slipcover in a neutral color gives your space a blank slate for stylish accessories. If you're feeling creative, consider dip-dying the slipcover for a modern ombre effect. For an eye-catching look. pile the couch high with colorful pillows in different sizes and textures.

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Punch Up Throw Pillows

living room with plush yellow couch
Nathan Kirkman

Modernize your living room in an afternoon with throw pillows. Although they might seem like an afterthought, they're an easy solution for trying out new patterns and colors without making a major commitment. Keep seasonal pillows related to the holidays in storage until you need to make a swap.

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Organize Bookshelves


Consider rearranging your bookshelves for a no-cost living room refresh. For loose symmetry, gather a variety of collectibles in a similar color scheme and place them between books. Other options include arranging your books by color and presenting collections in groups of three. Before you decide on an arrangement, you can refresh the look by painting the shelves and installing adhesive wall or shelf paper to the back wall.

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Reupholster a Chair

blue red decorated living room furniture and art
Annie Schlechter

Updated living room decor starts with the textiles. In this case, a cozy armchair was in serious need of a new look. With good bones, a worn chair can easily be rescued through reupholstery. Pick a fun fabric and use your creativity to give flea market finds a modern look. Save scraps or leftover upholstery fabric—they can be used for curtains, a pillowcase, or framed as artwork.

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Change Your Lighting

Living room with end table with plant and large vase
Kim Cornelison

Lighting has the ability to set a mood, make a small space appear larger, and illuminate a color scheme. To brighten a dark living room, consider swapping existing bulbs with LED versions. Other simple changes include trading lampshades, painting the base of a floor lamp, or incorporating a new ceiling fixture. To set an ambient mood, choose a floor lamp with a drum shade that evenly distributes soft light. For targeted lighting—something you may want in a reading nook—find a fixture that directs light to one area.

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Update Window Treatments

farmhouse style living room brick mantlepiece
Nathan Schroder Photography

You don't need brand-new blinds to update your living room's window treatments. Improve existing curtains with a pom-pom trim, a contemporary paint treatment, or ombre dye. Or try your hand at custom striped curtains or DIY Roman shades. Even new tiebacks can renew the look of your curtains. Small changes in updating decor can make all the difference at an affordable cost.

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Incorporate Greenery

Sitting area with coffee table, seating, and green cabinets
Annie Schlechter

Modernize your living room and transform it into a happy and healthy space by integrating plenty of lush houseplants. Small trees turn a blank corner instantly chic, while potted indoor varieties update surfaces like side tables and consoles.

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Try a Nailhead Trim

living room

Add sophistication and a traditional touch to your living room with nailhead trim. For a high-end look for less, this inexpensive embellishment can be customized and applied to any number of upholstered pieces.

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