15 Decorating Risks You Should Be Taking in Your Living Room and Beyond Right Now

updated Feb 18, 2022
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Credit: Minette Hand

New year, new you… right? Well if your living room is still looking the way it did a few months or even a few years ago, you might feel as though that’s the furthest thing from your reality. Maybe you’ve spent the better part of the past year and a half sitting in said living room, and even though you’re likely the only one who notices any flaws, you can’t help but not see them when you walk in the room now. No worries! A simple decorating risk — yes, I said risk — is about to make all the difference.

In short, it’s time to think outside the box. This is your year to embrace color, even if you’re generally averse, and to consider texture by way of everything from throw pillows to major pieces of furniture. And why not invest in art if you have a little more financial wiggle room? To help you in this particular decorating journey, I spoke to a handful of designers to hone in on 15 decorating risks you should be taking in your living room (and beyond!) that will pay off in major ways this new year. Pick one or pick a few; it’s totally up to you.

1. Try lacquer paint

“Changing the wall color can transform a room even if you do nothing else,” says designer Lane Blank, owner of Palley & Southard (and with whom I work on an antique and estate jewelry business). Want to take it one step further? Consider using a high-gloss lacquer paint instead of your typical matte or semi-gloss. “Lacquering is just a technique that gives the room a different feel.” What’s more, a new wall treatment is one of the easiest ways to completely change the feel of your space. My only advice here? Be sure to hire a pro or watch plenty of YouTube tutorials (and practice!), since lacquer can be harder to work with than paints that are flat or have a high sheen. A smaller spot like a powder room — or even a piece of furniture like the console you see above — might be your best bet here.

2. Consider more saturated colors for walls and furniture

“Go bold with color,” designer Alexia Sheinman, director of Pembrooke & Ives, suggests. “Some people shy away from this, but color can add so much personality and character.” Designer Emily Wolowitz agrees, adding that you should “consider paint colors such as cobalt blue or emerald green, especially in small spaces such as powder rooms and bars.”

Credit: Lana Kenney

3. Change your trim work and/or moldings to something other than off-white

Odds are you have off-white or cream-colored trim in your rooms, as many people do. “Change it to bright white to make everything feel more crisp and defined,” suggests Blank. “Another option is painting the trim a darker version of the wall color,” she adds. You can also try something in a contrast color, like the bold red hue shown above. No matter what you choose, Blank suggests painting trim in a semi- or high-gloss paint to really brighten up the room.

4. Wallpaper the ceiling

Blank suggests taking a step out of your comfort zone and wallpapering the ceiling instead of just painting it white. “It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s a fun detail,” Blank says. If you’re intrigued by the idea of focusing on what you see overhead but are not one for pattern, “You could also paint the ceiling a contrasting or complementary color if wallpaper seems too bold,” she suggests. Wolowitz agrees. “The ceiling is too often forgotten!” she says. “Add warmth to your room by painting it a subtle shade of blue.”

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

5. Embrace vintage furnishings

Wolowitz firmly believes that antiques and older items add soul and character to a room. If you’ve shopped most of your space at big box retailers, a little more history might be just the thing that you’re missing. “Online estate sales through LiveAuctioneers and Everything But The House (EBTH), Etsy, and local antique shops have become my go-to for sourcing,” the designer says. “If something is in good structural condition, it can always be polished or recovered to go with a room’s existing decor scheme. Not only is it the best way to avoid today’s long lead times, but it’s also a more sustainable way of decorating.”

6. Treat your TV like furniture

With the rise of flatscreens, maybe you’ve fallen into the rut of treating your television like a painting, but that shouldn’t necessarily be the case. In fact, Sheinman suggests taking the TV off the wall and putting it back on a piece of furniture, or, in some cases, maybe even an easel or an unconventional “media center,” like the stacked suitcases shown here. “By treating the TV more like a piece of furniture, it no longer necessarily has to be the focal point of the room, and you can dedicate more wall space to art,” says Sheinman.

Credit: Julia Steele

7. Add a super-colorful rug underfoot (or on your wall!)

“Changing the rug can alter the entire feel of a room,” shares Blank. “Perhaps you have monochromatic colors right now and purchasing a rug that will add some color and contrast will make all the difference.”

Though you might consider a rug more of a design essential as opposed to a design risk factor, this textile often encompasses the largest uninterrupted surface in many living rooms (other than the walls or the ceiling). Using a colorful style can electrify a space, and you might even consider hanging one on a wall instead of artwork, too, for an extra risky move.

8. Think about lighting

For the ultimate living room ambiance, Sheinman suggests minimizing the use of overhead lighting. “In a living room, it can be really effective to use just table and floor lamps for a cozier, more intimate atmosphere,” she says. If you’re already a lover of tabletop lighting, Wolowitz further suggests investing in the details in your table lamps. “Something as simple as replacing lampshades can really transform a space,” she shares. “For example, a lot of people keep the default white paper shades that come with most lamps but updating them with a gathered silk in a saturated hue or patterned paper shade can really pull a room together.”

She also suggests adding black silk string shades to marble table lamps, since their translucence adds such beautiful, diffused warm light to a space. Another simple fix? “Put everything on dimmers so you can adjust the mood of the room,” says Blank.

9. Move your furniture

Enlist a few pals or family members to help you totally rearrange your existing furniture. This decorating risk is a zero-cost option that will completely transform your space. “We all get stuck in ‘furniture ruts,’” Blank cautions. “Try an arrangement you have never tried before.” If you don’t like what you come up with after living with it for a few days or week, just move your items back to their original spots. You can also swap accessories and art in between rooms as well, which allows you to see these pieces in new decorative contexts. You may even appreciate or use certain things more in their new locations!

Credit: Minette Hand

10. Don’t forget your windows

“One of the first things I recommend to my clients is that we address the windows,” Wolowitz. Your windows might seem like an afterthought in your space, but that’s not the case, especially when it comes to window coverings. “It’s incredible what custom Roman shades in a simple woven wood or airy linen drapery can do for a room,” Wolowitz says. Designer Marie Cloud, owner of Indigo Pruitt Design Studio, also suggests making your room appear taller and airier by mounting your drapery well above your actual window. “Hang them as high as you possibly can,” she says.

11. Embrace animal prints

“Go wild,” suggests Wolowitz. “A hint of the right animal print will work in pretty much any room and is an instant way to elevate your space.” How, exactly? She suggests trying a set of velvet tiger print pillows or re-covering an antique chair in leopard. If you want to really make a statement, you can also use animal print underfoot, as seen in this living room’s faux zebra hide rug.

12. Take a chance on a piece of art without knowing where you’ll hang it

Consider the pieces you hang on your walls just as much as the furniture that’s placed within them. “You’ll never regret buying art that you love, even if you don’t immediately have the wall space for it,” Wolowitz says. “If I don’t have a place for a piece of art that I’ve purchased, I’ll often prop it up on a mantle or console table and layer it with other pieces.”

Whether you’re shopping for new art or simply want to use what you have, Blank suggests shopping your home by moving around what you currently have (as suggested above). “Changing art placement can affect the balance of a room and the general mood,” she shares.

Credit: Minette Hand

13. Incorporate texture

“If there’s anything we have learned in 2021, it’s that comfort in a home matters,” says Wolowitz. “Incorporating different textures is a crucial element in making a room more layered and dynamic, whether that be through chalky lime wash wall treatments, bouclé and velvet upholstery, or tweed pillows.”

Into more subtle showings of the same affect? “Another way to add texture and soul is to introduce an antique piece of furniture that has been lovingly worn and boasts a rich patina, imperfections and all,” Wolowitz suggests. “People tend to immediately think of adding a print or color when making updates to a room, but adding texture and depth certainly won’t disappoint!” Cloud seconds the need for texture, citing it as a way to bring warmth into any space. Designer Rebecca Rollins also adds: “Textures are everything! Layers of linens, velvets, patterns, and woven fabrics are so swoon-worthy and will create an everlasting look.”

Credit: Minette Hand

14. Consider black

Even if your wardrobe might consist solely of this tone, black doesn’t get utilized in design nearly enough for fear that it might overpower or darken a space. Cloud believes that shouldn’t be the case though. “Incorporate it somewhere in the space to add sophistication and drama,” the designer suggests. Rollins seconds that notion and suggests doubling-down on this hue by using it in a big way. “Take that risk and do black or even a bold earth tone on your walls or cabinets, and watch your space come alive,” she says.

Credit: Minette Hand

15. Make some tweaks to your sofa situation

“Mix and match your sofas,” suggest Rollins.“I know it sounds crazy, but bringing in two different sofas that still pair well together in two different coordinating fabrics will make your space feel so unique and different.”

Whether you have room for one or two sofas, Cloud believes whole-heartedly in the floating sofa. “Leave breathing space around to open the flow of the room,” she says. You could even pull apart a sectional, as shown in the space above. It’s all about making tweaks — big and small — to help you to see your room anew.