Room by Room Interior Design Tips: Living Room, Kitchen and Dining Room

A drawing of a small house at the bottom right of a page is ticked with a red ink. A note is plastered over the sheet.

It’s important to have a master plan and determine the different functions for each room before you jump into the design process. (All photos courtesy of Lindsay Pennington)

Once you have the home of your dreams, you might be wondering were to begin decorating. 

Consider starting with the more activity-filled and intricate rooms, such as the living room, kitchen and dining room. 

Before you jump into buying new furniture and getting all your things perfectly placed, you should take some time to relax in your new home and get to know how you will really live in it. Faith Phillips, vice president of Retail Store Experience for La-Z-Boy, recommends having a master plan for the entire home.

“Determine what the focal point is in each room: the traffic flow; the purpose or usage of the room,” says Phillips. “Many rooms today have to serve as multi-functional (rooms), such as a family room with a small homework station or a second bedroom that serves as a guest room and home office.”

Living Room 

The living room is usually the predetermined focal point of a home. Because of all the activity in this space, the living room should be designed with the most thought. 

Seating 

“Keep in mind that you want to have multiple options for seating: a place for watching TV, room for entertaining and, if space allows, even a quiet corner with a comfortable chair with a small table and lamp for reading,” says Lindsay Pennington, a Los Angeles interior designer.

“I think every living room should have at least one upholstered ottoman. These function as additional seating, add texture and dimension and are a much comfier place to put your feet up than a wood or metal coffee table,” says Pennington.

Colors and Patterns

To make sure your living room design is up to par, you may want to take note of fresh design trends.

“Colors are coming back, gold is coming back and so is pattern,” says Lori Miller, Huntington, N.Y.-based interior designer and CEO of Lori Girl Creations. “One must take into account the style of the house, the size of the rooms and personal taste. Large, oversized sofas will never work in a 10-by-12-room and the right colors vary according to what type of light is provided for in each room.” 

Anchor Pieces

As trends come and go, you should always implement anchor pieces in your living room. Anchor pieces are solid, neutral-toned and act as a flexible backdrop for changing art and accessories. For example, a beige couch always pairs well with different colored and textured pillows. 

Pennington adds, “Don’t forget a soft, comfortable and sizeable blanket (solid, not patterned) for the inevitable guest who stays over or the much-feared sick day when you‘ll be planted in front of the television.” 

Kitchen

No matter what your master design plan may be, you must incorporate continuity in the design from one room to another. Phillips says this is very important to consider.

“This means using many of the same colors and finishes,” says Phillips. “This is why people love going to model homes, because one room flows into the next and the home feels ‘put together.’ Having one room painted red, the adjacent room purple, the hallway painted green, etc., creates a non-cohesive, jarring effect.”

White and Bold Colors

If you were to search “dream kitchen” on Pinterest, you’ll likely see many photos of pristine, white kitchens. This trend is classic and timeless. If you really want to make this essential room “pop,” you should consider integrating some bold, colorful pieces as well. 

“If your kitchen feels dated and needs a facelift, I suggest painting all the cabinetry and walls white or off-white for a unified and bright look,” says Pennington. “Most countertop materials look terrific with white cabinets and it is always in style with stainless steel appliances, sinks and faucets. Although, I love to have lower cabinets or an island painted in a contrasting color, such as gray, red or blue.”

Personal Touches

Even though kitchens are mostly function-driven rooms, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t add a little flavor to it. Pennington suggests lining kitchen drawers and splurging on new kitchenware.

“Since few people will see the inside of your kitchen drawers, consider lining them with a fun, patterned contact paper or lining to add personality,” says Pennington. “Splurge on a few new dishes or some new glassware for entertaining and for everyday use. Your friends don’t want to drink red wine out of mismatched coffee cups collected from your college days and early 20s. It’s also time to ditch your plastic cooking utensils and purchase ones made out of wood and stainless steel and an investment in a Le Creuset Dutch oven in a fun accent color will last you a lifetime.”

Dining Room

The key to making the most out of your dining room is to design it to be multi-purposeful with contemporary furnishings.

Multi-Purpose Space

When you aren’t formally entertaining guests, you should be able to use your dining room in other ways.

“Set up a reading nook or children’s play area in a corner or add bookshelves to house your collection to ensure traffic through this room,” says Pennington. “I love a simple wooden table in a dining room, which can serve as an eating surface, a workspace surface, a place to pay bills or even as an arts and crafts space for children.”

Pennington also suggests placing a large cabinet or buffet in your dining room.

“You can store placemats, napkins, extra silverware, candles and table decorations behind those closed drawers for use only when you need them,” says Pennington. “With a lamp on top, you can also use the surface as a buffet for serving. Truly a multi-purpose piece of furniture.”

Contemporary Furnishings


The trend of using contemporary home furnishings, such as reclaimed wood and recycled pieces, may especially be innovative in a dining room.

“Contemporary-style furnishings continue to remain strong, as does the color gray as the No. 1 neutral,” says Phillips. “I was at the World Market this week and observed a great deal of blue being shown, all shades from soft sky blue to a beautiful navy. Rustic, reclaimed finishes on wood pieces are also still very popular.” 

Miller also suggests using reclaimed and recycled furnishing pieces.

“Pre-fabricated wall panels, use of old storage crates to create the shell of a home, recycled glass, solar panels, cork and bamboo flooring, just to name a few,” says Miller. “Restoration Hardware created the trend of nailheads, washed barnwood, etc. Add some of these items to your décor.”

The most important part of designing each room in your home is to incorporate those pieces that have sentimental value or have been passed down through your family. After all, the home expresses the personality and values of the homeowner, reflecting the most important things that make a house a home.

Amy Olivarez is a contributor to NewHomeSource.

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