5 interior designers share their favorite living room finishing touches

Want to update your living room quickly and cheaply? Here's how to do it according to our fave interior designers

white living room with dark grey sofa and large mirror
(Image credit: James Balston)

We've said it before, and we will say it again, the living room is our fave room to update. Purely because it's so easy to make the space feel totally different without having to spend a ton of money or even go to much effort. Sure, you might think switching out a cushion here or changing up your lighting there won't have much impact, but we swear by these small changes, especially as the seasons start to shift and we want our living rooms (much unlike ourselves right now) to feel refreshed.

So we asked some of our favorite interior designers, for their top tips on how to freshen up a living room with just a few key finishing touches...

1. Switch up your throws and cushions

Living room with wooden beams and rustic decor

(Image credit: Design by Emily Henderson Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp)

Our personal fave way to change up your living room is for sure the easiest. Switching up your soft furnishings is really affordable too – you could even shop your own home for 'new' pieces that will refresh your space. 

'I'm a huge believer in the power of changing up your textiles. Either steal some pillows and a throw from one of the other spaces in your home or maybe find a few new pieces to buy that you love. I promise even the simple switch of a throw pillow will make the space feel new and fresh.' says Emily Henderson.

2. Add  layers to your living room 

Bringing layers and textures into your living room is a simple way to give that more 'lived in' feel. Giving a room a bit of extra depth with something as easy as houseplants could give that lift you are after. 

'I often think these smaller bits are so easily underestimated (I'm talking trays, books, candles, botanicals, cushions, vases etc) - yet the impact they have is huge. They add such dimension and depth, texture and color and even more importantly they add layers. Adding layers to a living room is key in making it feel lived in and loved. If I had to name just one finishing touch I would without question plump for botanicals.  Botanicals have this unmatched ability in bringing areas to life from a bookcase to a coffee table adding interest, intrigue and color plus they are one of the cheapest things you can do. Win win!' says Abigail Ahern

3. Soften up your lighting 

Matthew Williamson lighting

(Image credit: Matthew Williamson)

You's be surprised how much changing the lighting in your living room will make a difference to the feel of your space. Try dotting a few smaller light sources around to give the room more of a cozy, inviting glow. If you have lampshades in your living room, switch those out too for a cheap update. 

'When it comes to lighting your living room, choosing lamps should be like selecting accessories to complement an outfit. Setting the mood rests entirely on the lighting you choose. Forget about using one main lighting source in favor of illuminating a few lamps around the room for a more interesting, flattering lighting scheme. This way, you can be more flexible with what you intend to light. For example, a reading corner would benefit from an elegant swan-neck wall light, while a piece of art would look spectacular on the wall between two table lamps on a credenza or sideboard.' advises Matthew Williamson.

Find plenty more living room lighting ideas in our gorgeous gallery. 

4. Add plenty of accessories 

When it comes to updating your living room quickly, some new accessories are guaranteed to freshen up the space. Picture frames, statement candle holders, vases, will all bring in your personality – try shopping your own home for accessories that could find a new life in the living room. 

'Accessories are a huge part of my design process, and unfortunately, an element that many neglect as a project evolves. These details provide the character and nuance to a space that ultimately completes your story.' says Rayman Boozer of Apartment 48 Interior Design

5. Get your DIY on

Living room with curtains behind cupboard

(Image credit: Laurel Chick)

It's not all about buying brand new pieces, finishing touches can be achieved when you don your DIY dungarees and get creative. Painting a coffee table, tiling a fireplace, or like this fab idea, updating your cabinets...

'I recently added simple fabric curtains behind some glass doors in our sitting room. I made them myself, by creating a channel at the bottom and the top of the fabric using iron-on hemming tape. Then they have been hung using curtain wire which is incredibly easy to install.' says Laurel Chick.

'Not only has it been a great opportunity to add color and pattern into our neutral, rented space, it has also softened what were very hard surfaces, making the space feel much more homely and cozy.'

For loads of easy DIY projects that you could make work in your living room head over to our Ikea hacks page.

Hebe Hatton

Hebe joined the Real Homes team in early 2018 as Staff Writer before moving to the Livingetc team in 2021 where she took on a role as Digital Editor. She loves boho and 70's style and is a big fan of Instagram as a source of interiors inspiration. When she isn't writing about interiors, she is renovating her own spaces – be it wallpapering a hallway, painting kitchen cupboards or converting a van.