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One of the main rooms in which people like to express their personal style is the living room. Because it’s such a public space, often the living room is top priority when beginning to decorate a whole home.

Living room designed by Steven Gambrel

Above, you’ll see a dynamite living room designed by Steven Gambrel. Its classic sophistication is something we all dream of achieving at home — but how?! So many of my friends are just starting out in new houses or apartments and have no clue where to begin. Rather than give them all a personal call, I thought I’d lay down the law here. So listen up — you know who you are!

Every good living room starts with some basic building blocks: a sofa, area rug, coffee table, side chair(s), lamps and window coverings. Get these right and you’re off to a great start. It’s smart to go with classic shapes and timeless styles with these pieces so that once you have the foundation of the room laid, you can take its style in any direction, whether sleek and modern, rustic and comfy, or quirky and fun. Remember, paint is cheap — drapes are not.

Living room inspiration

I truly believe in investing wisely, and buying the best that you can when it comes to such foundational furniture, but I know it’s tough out there and people are looking for stylish, affordable options. Not everyone can invest in a sofa that will last a lifetime. So I humbly offer you this selection of building blocks to get you started. Invest where you can. But in the meantime, these options are great for recessionistas!

Sofa, Karlstad by Ikea, $449. The simple silhouette of this sofa will never go out of style, and don’t freak out about the colour — just throw the slipcover in the wash! Just think of all the cushion combos you could create on this blank canvas.

Area Rug - Jute Boucle by West Elm

Area rug, Jute Bouclé by West Elm, $39-$399. I know House & Home has harped on sisal, seagrass and jute for years but it’s for good reason. Natural area rugs work with almost any style: they soften a modern interior by adding an earthy layer, and they relax a traditional interior and make it less fussy. They are a designer staple used over and over because they work and these ones are a great price.

Curtains and rod by Ikea

Ritva curtains $40, Taljäre rod $25, both by Ikea. Now, drapes are important. Most people stick up blinds and call it a day, but you’d be amazed at how finished your room feels with drapes. The simplest option is no-fuss panels hung from a handsome dark rod. Just treat each window the same, even if the window has some crazy builder arch (just hang the rod below the arch or above it, depending on whether you want to highlight it or not). For more tips on drapery and blinds for arched windows, check out Covering Curved Windows. The panels create vertical columns that draw the eye up, they widen the look of the windows and add so much softness. The Ikea panels above come in this lovely grey, but also cream and brown and …

So take time getting these building blocks right and you’ll have a beautiful room you can build on over time.

Living room - inspiration

For more living room ideas, see our Living Rooms photo gallery.

Photo credits:
1-2, 6. Country, Hamptons,
Steven Gambrel
3. Karlstad sofa, Ikea
4. Jute Bouclé rugs, West Elm
5. Ritva curtains, Taljäre rod, Ikea

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