12 Things Every Living Room Needs to Be Complete

The living room is most likely the main gathering place in your home for friends and family. It is where you entertain, relax and socialize, and as such, it deserves to be styled and decorated in accordance with your personal taste. But sometimes we just can’t help but feel there is something missing from the space and we’re left to wonder, what are the key items every living room needs to in order to feel complete? From the elements of a well-styled coffee table to functional furniture, Southern design experts give us their suggestions for how to make a living room feel complete.

1. A mix of old and new

Cindy McCord of Cindy McCord Interior Design, Inc. in Memphis, TN, says, “Every good living room showcases a mix of old and new. I have an appreciation for personal collections and inherited family pieces. I also love to see a beautiful painting or large interesting mirror in the living room. Beautiful yet comfortable sofas are a must!”
Amy Morris of Amy Morris Interiors in Atlanta, GA, echoes Cindy’s advice. “A living room is meant for relaxation and conversation,” she says. “Every living room should have an item that tells a story whether it is an antique, an old photograph, or something collected. Mixing the old with the new builds a room’s character.”
2. Books, books and more books

Karrie Seaton, Principal Designer at J & K Design Studio in Nashville, TN, says books are an essential element that every living room should have. “You can never have enough books. A home is an extension of the people who live there, and there is no better way to show personality than through books,” she explains. “Show your love of travel, art or pop culture by incorporating books into your décor. Books can add height, texture and color to a console or cocktail table. Need a boost of height to display a prized object? Stack some books, and you have an instant focal point. Books as décor are often overlooked, but they can be the foundation for a well-styled bookshelf.”


3. A fireplace

Lee W. Robinson of The Lee W. Robinson Company in Louisville, KY, says it’s a fireplace that completes a living room. “A real wood burning, not gas,” he underscores. “I believe in involving all five senses in every room, and a wood-burning fireplace does just that. The crackle of the wood, the warmth of the flame, the scent of fire … there’s just nothing like it.”

4. A focal point

“Every living room should have a focal point that captures your attention and draws you into the room,” recommends Joanna Goodman, Director of Interiors at Christopher Architecture & Interiors in Birmingham, AL. “Whether that is a fireplace, a large window or a fabulous chandelier, with comfortable seating grouped around that focal point you will naturally want to hang around for a while. Layered with fluffy pillows, personal accessories and decorative lighting, living rooms are places families gather to entertain, lounge and enjoy one another’s company.”


5. Seating groups

Offering several areas in which to mingle is a must for a comfortable living room, according to Lee W. Robinson of The Lee W. Robinson Company in Louisville, KY. “Seating groups allow people to mingle with different groups and move around a room during a party.”
6. Art

Traci Zeller of Traci Zeller Designs in Charlotte, NC, insists that art is a living room staple. “And preferably original,” she adds. “You can’t replace the spirit and personality of art in a room. I encourage my clients to invest in art when they find a piece that resonates with their soul. Don’t worry about whether it ‘matches.’ You’ll find the right place for it.”
Selena McAdams, interior design and owner of spruce in Memphis, TN, agrees. “I think every living room needs a comfortable place to land and a stunning piece of art to fix your eyes upon,” she says. “Throughout my designs, I levitate toward clean lines and deliberate accessories to complete the story, which is always a true reflection of each particular client.”
Laura Casey of Laura Casey Interiors in Charlotte, NC, adds, “When designing a modern or traditional living room, art is the most important aspect to incorporate, as it brings personality and character to the space. Art must be representative of the homeowners’ style and give the room a sense of cohesiveness. I source art from both talented emerging artists at a range of price points and high-end original art from galleries all around the Unites States. Selecting art with my clients is one of my favorite parts of the process.”


7. A touch of green

“Whether it’s a fiddle leaf fig tree in your living room or cut flowers on a nightstand, plants add color and a natural element to any room,” says Julie Brown, co-owner of Providence Interiors in Nashville, TN. “Many of them improve indoor air quality too, which is an added bonus. If you have a black thumb (like me), try a snake plant. Its deep green color looks great in any room, and it’s nearly impossible to kill.”
8. Comfortable seating

Jill Gaynor of Home Staging Specialists in Louisville, KY, insists on comfortable seating in a living room. “A comfortable couch can serve many purposes — from lounging on a rainy Sunday with the paper or a good book, to entertaining friends with a great spot for conversation. It will be a quiet place to read, take a nap or entertain. I am a pillow girl,” she adds, “so I will need pillows on the couch, usually comfortable ones and possibly ones that can be changed out for the seasons.”
Liz Williams of Liz Williams Interiors in Atlanta, GA, agrees. “There is nothing worse than being uncomfortable in your own living room, even in the most formal living rooms. Of course, you want your guests to be comfortable as well. You do not have to skimp on style these days to find comfortable, well-made upholstery. It’s worth the splurge to acquire quality pieces that you can enjoy for years to come (and reupholster when needed instead of putting on the curb!).”


9. A television

“It might seem tacky, but I think every living room needs a television to truly be a ‘living room,’” says Marjorie Johnston of Marjorie Johnston & Co. in Birmingham, AL. “Whether visible or camouflaged, TV brings the 21st century to an otherwise formal, rarely used (high holy days only) room. With time and space being the last luxuries, I advocate living in every inch of your home.”

Rachel Gray of Rachel Gray Interior Design & Consulting in Memphis, TN, takes it a step further. “The key to living room design is making a television screen disappear (or attempt to disappear). A simple solution is to paint the wall supporting the television monitor a color that matches the finish of the client’s television, most likely a dark tone.”


10. Something old

“We feel every space should have something old that tells a story and has a special meaning to the client, paired with something new that grabs your attention and starts a conversation,” offers Blair Parkes and Susan Lamb of Parkes & Lamb Interiors in Nashville, TN. “We love how this vignette has a modern piece of art and over-scaled dominos resting atop a primitive antique table that is over a hundred years old.”

11. A properly sized rug

“In my opinion, every living room needs a properly sized rug! Nothing can make a living room feel incomplete like a too-small rug,” says Meredith Gregory, designer at Carriage House Interiors & Home Furnishings in Louisville, KY. “If possible, the front legs of your upholstery should be able to sit well on top of it. This automatically grounds the space, and gives you credit for the size of your room. It’s a small change that makes a huge difference!”
Paige Albright of Paige Albright Orientals in Birmingham, AL, also advocates for rugs. “A rug has the ability to make the single largest impact on a space,” she says. “It grounds the room while adding color and texture.”


12. Proportion and scale

“Proportion and scale are key elements to consider when creating your ‘living’ spaces,” says Rachel Gray of Rachel Gray Interior Design & Consulting in Memphis, TN. “While individual pieces are important to making rooms complete, living rooms that are multi-dimensional (good use of proportion and scale) are more interesting and more desirable. There should be an intentional play between design elements — color, shape, texture and size. When these elements come together, a more harmonious living space is born.”
Now go put these expert suggestions to good use and get your living room in shape. And thank you to these talented Southern designers for sharing their wealth of knowledge!

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