The 10 Greatest Living Room Design Hacks We’ve Heard Recently

updated Jun 16, 2020
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Living room by Sarah Barnhard

Have you ever looked at your living room and thought of all the details you’d change? Me too. While a complete design overhaul may seem out of the question (and budget), there are still some simple ways to get a little closer to the design scheme of your dreams. From framed wallpaper art to clever furniture repurposing, these tips from top interior designers will transform your living room in no time. The best part? Many of these ideas can also be used in other rooms of your home, too.

1. Combine credenzas

Finding furniture that’s exactly sized to your space can feel a little bit like looking for a needle in a haystack. As a fix, designer Natalie Kraiem of Natalie Kraiem Interiors says sometimes two pieces are better than one, especially if you’re trying to fill space and want to avoid going the custom furniture route. “For this Manhattan apartment, I combined two credenzas to make them look like one,” she explains. “They function almost as a built-in, and we were able to maximize the room’s footprint while still allowing for plenty of storage.”

2. Use multifunctional furniture 

Many apartment dwellers know the woes of limited square footage. According to designer Kimberly Valente of Brick + Beam Studio, however, the key to the lack of space problem is finding furniture that pulls double duty in a room. “Select furnishings that can serve multiple functions to make the most of your budget and square footage,” she explains. “This coffee table is pulling triple duty: It functions as a coffee table, there is space inside for hidden storage, and the top lifts up to create a raised surface for eating or working.”

3. Hang curtains high

File this one under something that you can do in an afternoon to make your living room look a little bigger and better. To create the illusion of higher ceilings, Modsy’s Alessandra Wood suggests drawing attention to the room’s windows with this curtain mounting technique. “If you hang your curtains a bit above the window, closer to the ceiling, and let them hit the floor, you’ll create the illusion of higher ceilings,” she explains. “The illusion of higher ceilings makes your room feel a bit larger and less cramped, as it draws the eyes up.”

4. Create a kitchen “window” 

Your living room is probably where you spend the bulk of your time—and it’s also the place guests will gather again someday, so making the space practical for entertaining is key. For that reason, Kraiem suggests creating direct access to a kitchen counter with a cut out that bypasses the need for a traditional bar setup. “We incorporated a small concealed window that could be left open or closed to grab a drink at any time of the day,” she explains, which is pictured above. If you can’t alter your floor plan, no big deal. Just add a bar cart to your living area for that same sense of convenience on the cheap. 

5. Frame something unexpected for easy, custom artwork

Sometimes, wallpaper patterns can seem too overwhelming for full walls. According to Beth Diana Smith, owner and principal designer of Beth Diana Smith Interior Design, there’s an easy fix for this problem: using a favorite wallpaper swatch to create your own custom art. “I love to frame unexpected items such as fabric, wallpaper, and gift wrap,” she says. “The pattern choices are endless, and I’m usually inspired by the pattern itself or the colorway.”

Designer Luciana Fragali of Design Solutions agrees. “Wallpaper brands have been incredibly creative and luxe—the products are rich in texture, color, and layouts,” she explains. “You can buy one roll of a wallpaper that you love and frame it into any size you need.”

6. Turn your TV into wall art

Oversized televisions don’t have to be an eyesore in your space. “I help my clients find video art to play on a loop when the TV isn’t being used, turning something unattractive into something inspiring,” says designer Kammi Reiss of Kammi Reiss Interior Design. In her project shown above, a homeowner plays “Divide” by Peter Campus.

If you want to hide the television all together, Joy Street Design founder and principal designer, Kelly Finley, found the solution. “We have a moveable art piece on a track that hides the TV,” she says of the smart solution in her own home. You can also try incorporating your TV into a gallery wall or painting the wall behind it black to downplay its prominence.  

Credit: Amy Bartlam

7. Be strategic about your storage

When it comes to stashing those miscellaneous living room objects, it’s sometimes hard to find the perfect spot. According to designer Jennifer Muirhead of Jennifer Muirhead Interiors, the best solution may actually be something you already own. “Use unexpected objects such as containers for your odds and ends,” she explains. “For example, I keep a large blue and white cachepot on my fireplace hearth stocked with firestarters—it’s much nicer looking than the packaging. Stash remotes, matches, and batteries in decorative boxes with lids.” Here, Muirhead filled an apple barrel with firewood and stashed her matches in a domino tin.

8. Repurpose a piece from another room

Sometimes the best living room furnishings are borrowed from other rooms. “I love using antique dressers as living room side tables,” says designer Sarah Barnard of Sarah Barnard Designs. “For a recent Arts and Crafts bungalow project, I repurposed a Victorian-era marble top chest of drawers on one side of the sofa. The imperfect marble and wood patina is an elegant nod to the design’s history, while the ample storage allows the homeowners to hide away blankets, candles, and other lounging necessities.”

For designer Courtney McLeod, principal of Right Meets Left Interior Design, a black lacquer secretary, which you’d typically find in a home office or bedroom, is the focal point of her own New York City living area. “You would never know that’s where I store my sheets and towels!” she says

9. Let lucite give your living room a clear advantage

Adding more furniture to create more space may seem counterintuitive, but according to blogger Chelsey Brown of City Chic Decor, it’s all about the material of the pieces you choose. “Lucite or acrylic furniture will always create the illusion that your space is more open than it actually is,” she explains. “An acrylic coffee table can make your living space instantly feel less cluttered. The best part about lucite is that it can practically go with any interior style, and you can find amazing options online for under $200.”

Credit: Nate Sheets

10. DIY luxe look window finishes

To make a small tweak to a living room, designer Tamara Day says one of her favorite hacks is adding a unique finish to windows. You may be thinking that long, heavy drapes will bring your room down, but there are way more ways to trick out your windows. In fact, according to Day, renters and homeowners alike can easily make their own custom window trimmings for a song. “I found some leftover fabric and decided to use it to create a valance,” she says. “I took a 1×8 piece of lumber, cut it to the size of the window, and then used a staple gun to connect the fabric around the wooden board,” she explains. The result? These luxe looking window treatments that add an extra pop of color and pattern to her living room—without the loss of any natural light at all.