Easy Living Room Design Tricks to Completely Transform Your Space

Interior Design

5 Easy Design Tricks to Give Your Living Room a Refresh for the New Year

New year, new living room.

January 15, 2019

We've partnered with American Signature Furniture to show you how to give your space a fresh new start for 2019. Like the furniture you see in the video above? We got it all from American Signature Furniture.

Two years ago, I moved into a cozy (read: small) one-bedroom that would be home to no one but me, myself, and I (heaven!). After a few weeks of cleaning every square inch of the place, figuring out the right floor plan that worked with all my furniture, and adding those final little touches to make it feel like home, I could finally throw away my to-do list and enjoy my brand new dream house.

Fast-forward to now, and I still love my apartment. But at this point, I'm a bit tired of that same floor plan and those little touches I so excitedly laid out when I first moved in...especially in my living room. It's where I spend most of my time at home, so it's also where you'll find the majority of my clutter (aside from the closet, but let's not even go there). I don't necessarily have the time or the budget to buy all new stuff, so I've been feeling a bit stuck.

Want to steal our look? We got this comfy couch with hidden storage, modern rocking chair, handsome side tables, and cozy rug from American Signature Furniture. Photo by Mark Weinberg

That is, until I sat down with Food52's art director and certified decor-ganizing pro, Alexis Anthony. She walked me through the easiest, speediest ways to refresh a living room without having to start from scratch. Take a peek at her tips below, or get inspired by watching her totally transform a living room in five easy-to-follow steps (all of which you can apply to your own home, for a refresh of your own):

1. Switch up the flow.

When talking about the flow of a space, you're really just talking about how you move around the room in relation to the furniture, says Alexis. And when it comes to flow, a few small tweaks can go a long way. If your space is pretty open, you may want to add in a chair facing the sofa to give the layout a new dimension. "This creates a different edge to the space and could maybe make it feel cozier or defined," she explains. If you share your space with family members or are often entertaining, it also allows people to sit comfortably and chat face-to-face, instead of side-to-side, which can change the whole dynamic.

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Top Comment:
“I went to the American Signature Furniture website but can not find the open bookcase with drawers that are featured in this picture. Can anyone help me locate it? Thanks!”
— Ming L.

If you're thinking about overhauling the layout on a larger scale, Alexis recommends to start by figuring out where the largest piece of furniture (usually, the couch) will find its new home. Her tip: If it’s the thing you’re going to be sitting on the most, consider what you're looking at when you’re sitting there. Even if the overall space is small, "if your couch is facing an open window, then it can make the room feel larger," she explains.

2. Get rid of the clutter.

Ah, clutter. I know it well. From old magazines to little odds and ends that have collected over time, there's plenty of stuff that's taking up space in my, well, space. How can you be sure what counts as clutter? "I think of it as anything that doesn’t have a defined home or purpose," says Alexis. And the new year is a great time to wipe the slate clean. "I know people talk about spring cleaning, but I always feel like I need to do a good winter cleaning because that's when you’re going to spend a lot more time inside in your place and you want it to feel fresh," she explains.

Ridding your space of clutter has two major benefits. For starters, it allows your eye to be drawn towards things in the space that you want to highlight, like a favorite collection of books or special piece of artwork—instead of piles of mail. And second: "I personally feel a lot calmer when I’ve cleared all the clutter," Alexis adds. I'd have to agree with her.

3. Swap in new accessories.

Bringing a few new accessories into the mix can totally change the vibe of a room, according to Alexis. There are a few ways you can approach this, but she likes to start by swapping out textures depending on the season. Example: "Maybe you have linen pillows in the summer and wool pillows in the winter just to help you have a cozier feel," she says.

Another easy trick is to refresh your palette using items you already have on hand. "Anything of the same color palette or material can be grouped together to give that same impactful feeling," she explains. In the video above, Alexis took a bunch of neutral-toned pitchers that had been stored away in a cabinet and displayed them all together, creating a nice, thought-out accent with very little effort. (If you don't already have knick-knacks to work with, try hitting up a thrift store or estate sale for similar charming finds that won't break the bank.)

4. Organize, organize, organize.

What to do with all that stuff you simply can't bear to part with? Give it a defined home in the space that contributes to the overall vibe you want to create. A simple way to do this, according to Alexis, is to steal a tip from the accessories department: pair like with like. For something like big stacks of books, "putting all the books of one color together can make it feel calmer and more like a unit, instead of a bunch of individual objects," says Alexis.

For anything you don't want to live out in the open, like toys, extra blankets, or electronics, baskets are your best friend. For a uniform, clean look, you could buy multiples of the same basket to use throughout your house. In her own home, Alexis has a ton of baskets of different shapes and sizes scattered around the house; they still fit in seamlessly because they are all in the same color palette as the rest of the space. For an even more streamlined look, you might want to consider investing in a sectional with plenty of hidden storage underneath to keep those belongings completely out of sight.

5. Bring in some plants.

Plants—or even just fresh flowers—are the easiest way to bring in some color and enliven a room. Alexis usually goes for something eye-catching over a specific varietal. "I like to pick plants that have a really interesting shape and something that might draw someone’s attention," she says. But there is one type of plant she recommended by name: "I personally love succulents because I have a brown thumb and they don’t need a lot of care."

Don't forget about the planters and room flow when you're incorporating a plant into your space. Does the color and material of the container work with the rest of the items in the room? Is the container the right size for where it's going to live? Whether you've got a big corner to fill or a tiny side table, you just want to make sure that greenery isn't encroaching on your space.

Give your living room a whole new feel! With help from our partner American Signature Furniture, makers of thoughtfully-designed, wallet-friendly furniture that turns a house into a home, we're excited to share tips and tricks for refreshing your living room for the new year. Like the furniture you see here? You can find it all—including the Mayson sectional and Sonoma area rug featured here—at American Signature Furniture.


See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Ming Lee N Prospero
    Ming Lee N Prospero
  • Sylvia Swann
    Sylvia Swann
  • Shelby Moravec
    Shelby Moravec
  • frecklywench
  • Linda Kennard
    Linda Kennard
Erin Alexander is the Brand Partnerships Editor at Food52, covering pop culture, travel, foods of the internet, and all things #sponsored. Formerly at Men’s Journal, Men’s Fitness, Us Weekly, and Hearst, she currently lives in New York City.


Ming L. January 27, 2019
I went to the American Signature Furniture website but can not find the open bookcase with drawers that are featured in this picture. Can anyone help me locate it? Thanks!
Sylvia S. January 19, 2019
Love this but tired of no-color environments. The plants are pretty much it here.
Shelby M. January 19, 2019
I’m sorry, but buying books because they have the same colored spine is ludicrous. There’s nothing “cluttered” about a neat stack of books.
frecklywench January 15, 2019
What's this perfect blue-gray paint color?
Linda K. January 16, 2019
Sherwin Williams...Cadet blue