The Anatomy of an Instagrammable Living Room

updated Jan 24, 2020
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(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

I don’t know about you, but I’ve basically all but given up on Pinterest searches for decorating inspiration. Because Instagram makes it so easy to browse other people’s feeds, search hashtags for inspiration and capture images for future reference in what basically looks like Pinterest board anyway. When you’re on the ‘gram regularly—a fair amount for work and for fun too over here—you start noticing certain items popping up time and time again. And that’s kind of how trends are born these days, at least in the social media world. So we thought it’d be fun to scroll through Instagram to figure out what makes for a double-tappable design scheme in each room of the house. Let’s start with the living room, since it’s a place that gets a lot of attention, from both you and your houseguests.

1. That Tan Leather Sofa

(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

But first, the sofa—and right now, it’s hard to find a living room on Insta that doesn’t have a caramel colored leather sofa. Call it the Sarah Sherman Samuel effect, but man, is this neutral staple having a moment. There are a few things at play behind this trend. First off, leather is pretty durable, and it’s comfortable. And you don’t have to worry about every little stain in the same way you do with the off-white linen couch that was uber popular five years ago (been there, done that myself and never going back… I used to worry about people in dark jeans sitting on my sofa!). So I think buttery caramel leather has become the compromise between form and function for a lot of people. Caramel leather has a ’70s vibe that’s very on-trend in the world of style right now. To find one for yourself, we recommend this super discounted pick from West Elm or this budget-friendly find from Urban Outfitters (leather sofas typically go for at least $2,000).

2. Beni Ourain-Style Rug

(Image credit: Carina Romano)

If Insta is any indicator, the Beni Ourain rug is still going strong in the living room. But what started as mainly cream rugs with a black, dark gray, or brown linear diamond or zigzag pattern is now moving into lighter, brighter territories. These days, you’re seeing more Benis with cream bases and soft gray designs that are even more intricate and geometric, like this one spotted on AllModern that’s currently on sale.

And color is finding its way into the equation as well, adding a dose of boldness to these relatively subdued styles. If you’re not seeing a Beni Ourain, then there’s likely either one of two things in its place—a vintage Heriz or a super neutral sisal. Rugs just aren’t as crazy graphic as they once were before in the living room, at least when it comes to the Instagram set, but people do seem to be taking more chances within the Beni Ourain category.

3. Solid Coffee Table

(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

A few years ago it seemed like everyone (including me) had the clear acrylic CB2 Peekaboo Table. And they’re still around a bit. But I think Instagram helped kill this trend off, because ghost tables and chairs simply don’t photograph that well. Most people use these pieces because they want them to recede into space, making a room seem visually lighter. But Instagram is all about the vivid picture—not the actual way a room functions. Clear is complicated so these days, it’s marble topped or light colored coffee tables that are having their moment. They’re still pretty airy, visually speaking, thanks to their largely white tops and often leggy metal or wood bases. But they are substantial enough to pop in a picture, so there you go. Wayfair has a ton of options, like this narrow marble-topped table that’s perfect for small spaces, or this round option that’s only $160.

4. Plants Galore

(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

With the rise of the Jungalow trend, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find a living room without houseplants these days. People tuck trees and palms into corners, hang ferns from the ceiling, scatter succulents on their windowsill, and usually plop a pretty potted plant on their coffee table.

Plants add lush life and color to a room, and they’re guaranteed to get you those likes. They’ve become indispensable to most living rooms on Instagram, I think, because relative to art, books, and decorative objects (not counting the bigger tree and tropical styles), they offer a lot of decorative bang for the buck. I mean, you could take a white box of a living room, add a sofa with one big piece of art over it and a bunch of plants, and you’d have more than enough color and texture going on for a room to feel complete. Not sure where to begin? Check out our Best List of indoor house plants.

5. Art on Art

(Image credit: Emily Billings)

Gallery arrangements are still the choice over the sofa or blank living room wall treatment. Though Insta is now showing us that tapestries and neon signs are also totally fair game to bring into the mix of framed prints, paintings and drawings. Considering this expansion, there’s more of a balance between framed and unframed pieces than ever, and compositions are much looser on the whole. Oh, and white walls are still king for living rooms on Instagram probably because they offer the greatest flexibility for the least amount of work painting, since so many apartments and homes have white walls to begin with.

6. One Wall Wonder

(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

If you don’t see a gallery wall, then you’re likely to encounter either one huge piece above the couch, still likely on white walls, or an accent wall of wallpaper that’s probably a geometric or a floral pattern.

Why? Papered walls kill it on the ‘gram, and they’re kind of a one-and-done solution, meaning you don’t have to go crazy hanging art over them because they hold their own decoratively. The availability of more affordable temporary wallpaper options has also made it easier to achieve these looks, even in a rental.

So there you have it—these are the keys to an Instagrammable living room. Are you already on your way to social media success? Or are you forging your way into new decorative territory and think your living room might be the best big thing on Insta?