5 Ways Make Your Living Room Feel More “Grown Up,” According to Home Experts

published Feb 1, 2020
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From cheap hand-me-downs to those old posters you can’t seem to take down, parting ways with your starter apartment’s decor and furniture can be hard. (Trust me, I’ve been there. It took a lot of coaxing to trash my beloved “Gilmore Girls” poster from undergrad.)

Whether you prefer to host and entertain or just snuggle up on the couch, you’ll find the task of outfitting a comfortable yet classy living room can be a transformative one. It’s high time to take the training wheels off your apartment.

Here, home stagers and real estate agents share their tips for establishing your space as a “grown up” one. (And no, you don’t have to get rid of those trusty bean bags or futons just yet.)

Clean first, personalize second

You’ll want to KonMari your space with the help of Marie Kondo. Clear away excess knickknacks and avoid cabinets with open shelving to reduce visual clutter, says Michelle Minch, CEO of Moving Mountains Design.

After cleaning, choose colors that soothe you and settle on a theme, be it industrial-chic or mid-century modern. Then, incorporate your personality into your vision, says Boston-based real estate agent, Darlene Umina. There’s no need to ditch all your old stuff—sprinkle in familiar throw pillows or wall mirrors you’ve kept through the years.

Spring for an ottoman

From a design perspective, ottomans strike the perfect balance between cozy and practical. Use them as seating or transform one into a coffee table by placing a tray on top for drinks, says Umina. “It can go from sophisticated to cozy to cuddling—whatever you really need,” she says. 

As for additional seating, no need to throw out the bean bags of your youth. Adults can still kick back in ‘em. DIY your old bean bags by covering them in patterned fabric or denim to add fun flair to the room, says Minch. 

Grow a few plants

If there’s one tried-and-true way to kick your space up a notch, it’s by adding a house plant. The options are endless, but you can never go wrong with low-maintenance succulents or cacti. “It’s going to help with your air quality,” Minch says. “And your outlook on life. It brings the outdoors indoors.” What’s more grown up than that?

Credit: Alexis Buryk

Don’t rely on overhead lighting

Flipping on the light switch only to be blinded by harsh white lighting is for dorm rooms, not grown-up living rooms. Soft lighting is key for a mature, laid-back look. To complement your existing overhead lights, set up floor-length and table lamps around the room. Umina recommends buying a set of matching or similar lamps of various sizes to tie the space together.

Be choosy with your (framed) wall decor

When it comes to wall art, paintings and photos are for accentuating a space, not overshadowing it, says Melanie Haselmayr, CEO of CURATED Home Staging. Larger works create less visual noise and can neutralize a room. That said, you’ll need to get your art framed—even if your “art” is a poster. It elevates a look instantly.

For an added level of comfort, incorporate personal photographs, Umina says. You can do this by installing a metal rod on the wall and hanging your pictures with thread or delicate chains. 

“That’s the art piece that brings in your personality,” she says. “Bring in the things that make you happy, but try to stick with your ‘theme’ so that the space doesn’t feel overwhelmed.”