The living room has changed over the years, transitioning from being a more formal entertainment space to being the primary living and entertainment space instead.
This dual role creates some interesting design challenges, we well as some exciting possibilities.
Where formal living rooms looked more like museum settings that should have a velvet rope across the entrance, today's living rooms can be vibrant, homey spaces that not only make guests feel welcomed, but serve your day-to-day needs as well.
You don't have to be a professional interior designer to decorate your living room.
All it takes are some basic design principles and some tricks of the trade to turn your living room into a homey place that looks and feel fabulous.
As always, it's best to start with an empty space.
Before you make a single design decision, you have to get rid of all your preconceptions.
Even if you have a favorite chair or work or art, you can't make it off limits as it will influence all your decisions.
Start with a blank canvas and you'll find it far easier to decorate your living room.
The first thing you'll want to do is decide on a general style for the room.
It can be traditional, contemporary, retro, modern, shabby chic - there's any number of directions you can go.
There's no right or wrong here, except that it should reflect your tastes.
Ultimately, you're not decorating the living room with others in mind.
You're decorating it for you, since you're the one living in it all the time.
Paint is by far the cheapest and easiest way to give your living room an entirely new look.
Best of all, if you don't like the color, you can always change it down the road.
For less than $50 you can rejuvenate a tired room with a few coats of paint.
Thanks to the new mixing technologies, you can match just about any color you can imagine.
If you do have a piece of furniture that you just love and which will serve as the focal point of the room, you can take one of the pillows with you to the paint store and pull off the perfect complementary color from it.
The same is true for works of art, your grandmother's quilt - anything that has a color that you want to use to set the tone of the room.
Remember, you don't need to paint an entire room the same color.
You can use a bold color on a single wall to really make the whole room pop.
The other walls can stay white.
If you have a smaller living room, you can open it up using a darker color with contrasting molding.
Or add mirrors to create the impression that the space is larger than it really is.
Mirrors can also reflect the light from a window, making the room feel sunnier and brighter than it would be otherwise.
Another way to add drama to the walls is to add art.
Thanks to the Internet, it's easier than ever to purchase your favorites online.
You may also find a real treasure at an estate sale or gallery.
The goal is to find one major piece of art so it dominates the space and sets the tone for the furniture and other decorative items.
Bringing the outdoors inside is another good strategy when decorating a living room.
Flowers and plants can make a room feel more natural and organic.
They can also help purify the air without the need to add artificial fresheners.
If you're not sure what will work in the room, ask someone at your local garden store.
They should be able to help you pick a plant or flower that will grow well in the space you have in mind.
While many people have shades in their homes these days, give drapes a second look.
Just as having the right frame on a painting can make the work pop visually, the right window treatment can make a window with a nice view become a real focal point and create a bridge between indoor and outdoors spaces.
Lighting is another easy way to update the look of your room.
If you have overhead lighting you may want to not use it and use lamps instead.
Track lighting can add emphasis to art or focal points in the room.
Be sure to place lamps around the room so that they support their uses.
For example, you want to put a good reading light next to a chair that you like to read in.
If you've just moved to the location, remember that you don't have to do everything at once.
Let the room speak to you in terms of design.
It's easy to make mistakes by forcing a design solution that may not match the room's personality.
For example, a contemporary loft in the city may not look right if you add traditional furniture to it - you may need to go with contemporary or modern furnishings to make the room feel right.
Conversely, if you have an old Victorian, modern furniture can look totally out of place.
Finally, remember that you don't have to do everything at once.
You can start with an overarching theme to determine the style, then move on to painting a single wall or finding that one defining piece of art or furniture to build around.
From there you can build slowly until you have a living room that you love to be in.
Living room aren't the showrooms of old anymore.
Instead of looking like a stuffy museum exhibit, a successful decorating job will make your living room the favorite room in your house.
Put the velvet ropes away and enjoy a room that is comfortable, cohesive and uniquely yours.