7 Living Room Decorating Hacks That Are Totally Free — I Promise!

published Jan 15, 2021
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Living room with two small side tables instead of a coffee table

There’s no better time than the new year to spruce up your space, but if a full redo’s not in your budget right now, don’t worry. There are plenty of ways to revamp your living room without spending a single penny.

Don’t believe me? From fresh furniture arrangement ideas to impactful decor swap outs where you “shop” from what you already have in your own home, here’s what living room decorating tricks designers use that won’t cost you anything to execute. 

Credit: Julie Soefer

Decorate with free foliage from your own backyard

A little greenery can go long way in elevating the ambience of your living room. “It’s amazing how much life is breathed into a space when you incorporate elements from nature,” says designer Marie Flanigan.  Before you splurge on a pricey houseplant or store-bought flowers, Flanigan recommends foraging for your own foliage for free. “Head to your backyard and trim a beautiful tree branch — or look for one along the street — to display in a vase,” she says. Pretty branches or twigs can also be fun focal points on a mantel or coffee table, too.

Credit: Mike Schwarz

Move the furniture towards the center of the room

Strategically rearranging furniture to create a fresh flow is a favorite way for designer Elizabeth Krueger to reinvigorate a living room for free of charge. “Pull all of your furniture off of the wall and then move pieces around to create a moment in the center of the room,” she advises. “Allowing for circulation around the seating arrangement will make the room feel more spacious.”

Credit: Julie Soefer

Switch up your throw pillow scheme

No budget for a living room makeover? No problem. Designer Emily Spanos of Emily June Designs says you can forge a whole new vibe for your living room by simply swapping out your current throw pillows. “Switch up the throw pillows from room to room in the house,” she advises. “Pair them differently to find fresh color and pattern combinations that work together.” 

Credit: Courtesy of DBF Interiors

Stagger floating shelves on the wall

You probably already have some kind of living room shelving, but chances are you’re not leveraging it to its full decorative potential. That said, it might be time to bust out your toolbox and rehang those perches to give them — and the design accents they’re displaying — a new point of view. Along with providing extra storage opportunity in a small living room, designer Dominique Brielle Fluker of DBF Interiors says installing wall-mounted shelves at varying heights can help draw the eye upwards and create the illusion of more space. “Intentionally placing floating bookshelves at different heights creates visual interest and sets the tone of symmetry throughout a living room,” she explains. Even better if you can mix up each shelf’s tableau so you can rediscover your own favorite pieces in brand new combinations.

Credit: Josh Wells

Switch up the focal point of your living room

Let’s face it: Most of us arrange our living rooms around our TVs, which is why designer Sarah Latham of Latham Interiors says switching the focal point of the space to another area can make a massive impact, no moolah necessary. “Facing a sofa towards a fireplace or a piece of artwork doesn’t cost any money and can shift the focus of a living room to a valued item that may have otherwise gone unnoticed before.” 

Credit: Courtesy of Jenelle Lovings

Swap out accent lighting

A warm, ambient lighting scheme can transform a humdrum living room into an inviting indoor sanctuary in minutes. Instead of splurging on brand-new lighting fixtures, designer Jenelle Lovings of Jenelle Lovings Design Studio recommends swapping out your current table lamps, sconces, or pendants with ones in other areas of your home for fresh take on accent lighting in your living room. “Repurposing items you already have is a free way to breathe new life into your living room,” she explains. “If you have lamps in a guest bedroom that barely gets much use, consider moving them into the living room where you can actually enjoy them.” It might be worth bringing brighter — or dimmer — bulbs from other fixtures into the living room, too, to help you further set the mood for relaxing.

Switch out your large coffee table with small side tables

To make the most of a tight living room, designer Larisa Barton of Soeur Interiors suggests swapping out a bulky coffee table with smaller accent tables. “The smaller pieces can achieve the same functionality of a larger table, however, they are easy to move around to accommodate different functions that your living room might serve,” she explains. “They can also be used as drink tables when you are entertaining!”

If you don’t have a spare side table in one of your other rooms to swap in, you can always use a spare stool, pouf, or ottoman this way, too. Just be sure to bring in a tray or some other solid surface to top anything that’s soft and upholstered, that is, if you want to use the piece as a place for laying down glasses or plates.