How to Make Your Living Room More Inviting: 5 Tips I Learned the Hard Way

My living room has always been difficult for me. I’ve lived in this house for six years now, and I have never been happy with the way my living room was working. It was always just clunky and nobody ever really wanted to spend time in there. Guests would come over and the living room always felt awkward and uninviting. I hated it.

My house is over 100 years old and the living room is right in the center of the floor plan with every other room on the main floor flowing into it. This means that there are six (SIX!) doorways in the living room and four windows. Oh, and a fireplace! Which means there isn’t a lot of wall space for either furniture or decor.

In fact, there is really only one wall that is suitable for having furniture next to it, and I have put bookcases there for the last six years. This resulted in the couch having to be pushed forward to the middle of the room, and a very awkward furniture arrangement.

IMG_5688 Tree decorating 2012 web
Awkward couch arrangement #1
Awkward couch arrangement #2

I should add that these were very cheap bookcases from our years in student housing—I think I paid all of 50 dollars for both of them, and that felt like a huge splurge back then! Well, about a month ago, they completely fell apart. I was lucky we noticed it in time, because we were able to get everything off of them before they gave up the ghost.

Having your bookcases kill themselves like that presents a great opportunity to reassess the room and figure out a better way. I originally thought that I would just replace them and keep the arrangement the same, but while I was sans bookshelves, I moved the couch back into their spot and I couldn’t believe how much the room opened up!

I have finally figured out the secret to a functional living space, and after a trip to IKEA, I am very happy with my living room. The best part is that people use it—the kids are in here all the time doing homework, reading, or just sitting around enjoying each other.

Want to spend more time in the living room? Here are 5 tips to make it your favorite room in the entire house!

How to Make Your Living Room More Inviting

I may have learned them the hard way, but here are my five best tips to making your living room inviting:

1. Brighten it up

As you could see from the old photos, when we moved in, one full wall was dark wood paneling. It was pretty, but so gloomy! Actually, it wasn’t pretty and I really hated it. A couple of years ago, I decided I would just paint it a cream color—I figured if it looked bad it couldn’t be worse than the dark paneling. And while I was worried about how it would look with our beautiful wood trim, I was pleasantly surprised! It turned out beautifully—and the best part is that it brightened the whole room up.

And then I went and put two big, black bookcases over the new light walls. Once I moved the couch against that wall instead, I was amazed at how much brighter the room was when the bookshelves weren’t taking up all the room.

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The other three walls in the room are painted a lovely olive color, and the white helps to keep that color from being too gloomy, as well.

2. Open it up

My biggest mistake was pushing that furniture forward to accommodate for the bookcases. It was too hard to navigate to the couch or the chair, making it awkward for guests. They never really knew how to use the room, and the arrangement wasn’t super comfortable or conducive to good conversation.

By pushing the couch back three feet, the space opened up. Then I could add not just one, but two chairs flanking the fireplace. I also added a coffee table, and even though that takes a little extra space, it adds coziness to the room. There is still plenty of space to walk through the room.

I got rid of a lot of books, and only replaced one of the two bookcases. It has a perfect spot next to the fireplace with one of the chairs in front of it. The room feels bigger now, and people can easily navigate the furniture situation and have no problem choosing a place to sit. We actually congregate here now, which hasn’t happened for six years.

While I was at it, I turned the piano from its old position and created a lot more space by putting it under the window instead of against the wall. The music corner is now much more functional–and inviting!– than it once was.

Little Maestro
Old position of the piano—scroll down to the next section to see how great it looks now!

3. Declutter

Too much stuff is a huge turnoff for a living space. I have learned that that (unfortunately) includes books. I finally bit the bullet and got rid of quite a few books, and even though that was difficult for this bookworm, I am so glad I did it!

The bookcase I purchased has three open shelves and a cupboard on the three lower shelves. I liked this, because I could put things we needed to keep but that aren’t very pretty in the lower shelves. I chose only our nicest, prettiest books for the open shelving and stashed everything else (mostly vocal music and opera scores) down below. I always hated the eyesore all my music created in the bookshelves, so this is a lovely solution.

Next project: Fix the piano bench cover!

I also ended up buying a smaller bookcase to put next to the piano to hold our most oft-used music. This helped cut the clutter that was always going on around the piano area since nobody ever bothered to put their music back into the shelves. Now, they mostly do. (Though you can see there’s still plenty left out…proof my children practice anyway!) The basket next to the piano holds their various music bags for orchestra, piano, violin lessons, quartet rehearsal, etc.

The coffee table I bought also has a lower shelf, so I hid a bit of the necessary clutter that had lived in the old bookshelves in baskets under the coffee table. The rest I happily got rid of.

In order to hide the electronics clutter, I devised a charging station made from a wine cabinet I purchased at Target. The drawer hides all of the cords, and sometimes even all of the devices. But, as you can see, we leave devices on top of it pretty often, too.

4. Personalize it

An inviting living space has personality. It showcases the things you love. I’ve read before that you shouldn’t have too many family photos, but I couldn’t disagree more. I love family photos and I want them all over my house! So, they are all over my living room. (You’ll have noticed by now that my dog is also all over my living room!)

Related: How to Decorate Your Home with Canvas Prints

My Mother’s Day gift this year was a huge canvas of my favorite family picture (taken by brockit, inc.). Don’t you love it? It gives a fabulous focal point to the room and highlights what I love most. I also have photos from that same shoot on the fireplace and the coffee table.

Other photos in the room include several that I took myself when the girls were much younger (such as the ones near the piano), the temple we were married in, and a painting that The Maestro’s grandmother did (hanging above our charging station). I also put up a cute chalkboard sign to remind the girls to practice. I’m not sure it actually works, but it’s something fun that gives the room personality.

If something has great meaning to you, keep it and find a way to make it work. Otherwise, get rid of it. It’s no use keeping something that doesn’t bring you joy or that serves an important purpose. Especially when it comes to the living room.

5.  Clean it up

Clutter is one thing, dirt and dust are quite another. Vacuuming and dusting often are essential to keeping your living room a place where people want to be.

You may have noticed that we have a lot of laminate in the living room. The bookcases, the coffee table, the charging station cabinet, and even the digital piano are all laminate. And I don’t know about your house, but mine collects dust very quickly!

I love that I can quickly refresh the living room with a quick wipe down with Pledge Lemon Clean. I also love that the girls can quickly refresh the living room with Pledge, too. In fact, my youngest daughter thinks dusting is the best job ever and routinely does the entire house for me. I don’t have to worry about the Pledge stripping or clouding the laminate at all because it is pH balanced. The fresh lemon smell is my favorite though. Nothing like lemon to invite you into a room!

I’m seriously thrilled with how my living room has turned out. I love how we gather there every night as a family and enjoy being in the space. It only took me six years to figure it out, but what a WONDERFUL difference!

What are your best tips for making a living space more inviting?

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

This post may contain affiliate links, for more information, please see my disclosure.
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Kim (The Kim Six Fix)

Great tips!! I think a family room should represent your family more than any other room in your house. If you surround yourself with things you love, you will love to be there!

Bekah @ re•solve

Ah yes, we had the wood paneling as a kid, too. Painting it white gives such a fresh look that I love! I have a historic home as well and love it, but yes, dust can be a beast if you don't stay on top of it.

Jessica Abegg

The house I grew up in had wood paneling! My parent's painted it (it took ages to get it all completed, as the paneling soaked up so much paint, and was dark to begin with!) and it made the living room much, much brighter!
I agree with you on the family photos thing – your house should be able to be decorated however you want, and if that's photos of the people you love most, that's more than enough reason to keep them hanging up! We don't have plans to hang photos, but we are in the market for some posters for our living room – it's our space, we'll decorate as we please!

I love your piano nook – having the books handy and organized in one place certainly makes it that much easier to practice!


Making favorite meals, desserts and activities.


i posted a tweet here:

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maria cantu

For Mother's Day we usually go out to celebrate.
MCantu1019 at aol dot com

Angel Jacklyn


Angel Jacklyn

2ND ENTRY TWEET [email protected]


Our favorite Mothers Day and Fathers Day tradition is grilling out on the Big Green Egg.

Denise L

We always combine Mother's Day and my daughter's birthday celebration into a BBQ party. dmarie824 at aol dot com

Denise L

tweeted –

Kim Hilbert

Our favorite tradition is to see my parent's on those days, although we don't really 'celebrate' as we feel it's more of a Hallmark holiday.

Karen Drake

Our favorite Father's Day tradition is having a family dinner at home.

Kim Ripley

We go to a Polish buffet for Mother's Day. For Father's Day we have a backyard bbq.


We don't have any specific traditions but enjoy spending time together that day, playing board games and staying off all electronics!


We usually have a family cookout or bbq

tbarrettno1 at gmail dot com



tbarrettno1 at gmail dot com

Thomas Murphy

I like to take my mom out to dinner on mother's day.

rounder9834 [at]

Thomas Murphy


rounder9834 [at]

Tina W

The Mother's Day tradition I started after my mom passed away was to spend that day delivering for Meals On Wheels – it is a great time to give all the regular volunteers a day off so they can finally do something nice with their families.

Tina W


Wild Orchid

Our favorite way to celebrate is by having a picnic at a scenic location!

Thanks for the chance to win.

wildorchid985 AT gmail DOT com

Wild Orchid


wildorchid985 AT gmail DOT com

kathy pease

We like to make a nice family dinner on mothers and fathers day

kathy pease


Just getting to sit down with my parents and spend quality time together is the best way to celebrate — especially if there's some food to go around too.
pixelberrypie at yahoo dot com




I love cookouts with the family on Mother's Day and Father's Day.



Joni Dolniak

On Mother's Day we always go out for dinner and on Father's Day we always cook out.