7 Living Room Decorating Tips You’ve Never Heard Before—I Promise

published Oct 6, 2020
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Wall with fluted wainscoting

When it comes to living room decorating tips, there are a lot of them. And I’m in favor of the majority of the ones out there, from rug layering and small space hacks to painting walls and using mirrors to brighten up a room. The possibilities are certainly endless when it comes to adding accents and personality to your home.

But do you ever find yourself wondering, “What else can I do to switch things up?” I’ve definitely been there before, which is why I put together this list of surprising, under-the radar decorating tips that I feel like I’ve truly only seen a handful of times, if not less. These unique rooms and ideas got me hankering to give my living room a little seasonal refresh, so let’s see if that’s the case for you, too.

Credit: Jono Fleming

Use plants as a living wallpaper

Greenery adds life to every space. Even a small plant can be mighty, completely transforming a corner or wall in your home. Why not get more creative with the placement of your plants in your living room though? In particular, pothos and heartleaf philodendrons are known for their long, trailing vines and can be propped up on a wall to give the illusion of a “living wallpaper.” This is a great way to amp up or frame out a gallery wall arrangement, too, as is the case in the living room of designer Jono Fleming shown above. Here, vines are displayed horizontally, as though they’re a modern, living version of a wallpaper border.

Another option is to set a bunch of trailing plants on a shelving unit and let them just cascade over the entire thing to fake the look of a living wall installation. All of these options are not only cost effective, but they’re also easy on the eyes and fairly simple to execute—and reverse—should you find yourself in a rental and want to make it feel more like home. 

Credit: Meri Meri

Place a garland on your sofa instead of a wall

Dressing up your sofa doesn’t always have to involve switching out your pillows and throw blankets. Sometimes it’s as simple as using a garland or bunting to give your tired piece a new look. All you have to do is tuck one of these pieces under the seat of your sofa (or cushions) and get the placement right so it isn’t skimming the floor. Voila: You now have a new, fun, no-sew trim on your couch.

Since there’s a decorative garland for practically every occasion, this little trick can be a great way to spiff up your living room seasonally or for special celebrations. Halloween sofa garland, anyone?

Mobiles aren’t just for nurseries

That’s right: Mobiles can add charm to adult living areas, too. Artist Abbey Chiavario recommends using mobiles to maximize floor space and add a bit of whimsy to a room. “I had a corner in my house that felt cluttered when I tried to layer it with [multiple] plants on the floor, so I just went up [with a mobile],” she says.

The best part of this idea? If you don’t want to buy a readymade mobile, you can make one out of almost anything. Chiavario used what looks like an assortment of pom poms and ceramic disks attached to spray painted sticks with string, but metal, paper, wood, and even tassels can be used to create one of these art objects. While mobiles are ideal for saving floor and tabletop space, if you wanted to try one of these on a coffee table or living room shelf, you can often find stands to set them up on as well.

Display your keepsakes, travel souvenirs, and favorite objects as art in unique ways

The items I cherish most in my living room are the ones I’ve collected over time: mementos and pieces that remind me of a certain point in my life. Avoid trend fatigue by curating your home with things that aren’t just pulled from a catalog and switching up the way that—and where—you display them.

Think 3D when it comes to a gallery wall: Why not include an object like an old tennis racket or a license plate from a state you used to live in if it means something to you? Don’t stop at one favorite textile just draped over your sofa if you have a bunch that you love; bring in a ladder and use it to show off old quilts or even a tablecloth that you generally only use for special occasions. The corners of this display piece can be used like hooks for a special hat, bag, or even necklace. The easiest way to make your home feel more like you is through showcasing these personal and one-of-a-kind pieces, even if they don’t conventionally “belong” in what you’d typically find in a living room as decor.

Credit: Minette Hand

Think beyond the gallery arrangement

There’s a lot to love about a gallery wall, but if you’re indecisive and looking for an almost fool-proof option, a photo or picture ledge might be a better bet. Photo ledges allow more flexibility with changing the art you choose to display. Moreover, gallery walls can feel daunting if you aren’t sure what you want to use or if you’re worried about how the pieces will all fit together.

On a frames without art in them for a more eclectic look. You can also display a few unframed pieces canvas side out to break up a bunch of darker, more saturated prints or pieces.

Add architectural detail with an unexpected style of wainscoting

This one goes out to anyone with a blank living room wall that’s begging for a transformation. Personally, I was shocked to learn that with just a few simple, relatively inexpensive big box items—plywood, half-round moldings, and a nail gun—you can dramatically change the look of a bare wall like Instagrammer Cynthia Moreno of HotPinkPineapples did in her place.

“Apartments generally have little to no architecture, so I was trying to figure out a way to bring in some much needed texture,” says Moreno. Instead of sticking to more common decorative wall treatment like beadboard, shiplap, or box panels, she added visual interest around the perimeter of her living room with fluted wainscoting similar to what you’d find on a classic column. The end result is modern and striking, and Moreno even managed to add curved plywood shelving to her setup for extra storage.

Credit: John Turpin

Let your walls do the talking

Put your old cinema lightbox or letterboard aside for a second and let big, bold letters take center stage in your living room as wall decor. You’ve probably seen these at your local antique fair or vintage shop, and take my word for it: Individual letter signs can add so much personality to your space. Add a pop of color to your wall and spell out whatever makes you happy. You can also found new, oversized letters on Etsy if you’re having no luck with vintage.