Good decorating ideas stand the test of time. Which is why looking backwards can help you go forward and create a future proofed design that you’ll be happy to live with for years to come. The quickest way to create a shortcut to creating a timeless look is by learning from ideas of times gone by. Considering the work of interior designers and how they have made a complicated living space workable and incorporated different decorative elements will give you those tried and tested interior design concepts that you can build upon. So, whether that is how to manage a vast open plan living room, make the most of an awkward small room or create a gallery wall that stops visitors in their tracks, we’ve got 10 of the best ideas for stealing the timeless decorating ideas of the past.
Decorate your living room in a dark or rich colour
Colour has made a huge comeback in interior design in recent years, but it has always been a staple for the elegant and bold home. Using dark or rich colours in your living space can take your living room ideas to the next level and shows a living room decor understanding and swagger that adds a sense of design confidence. As well as setting a mood using colour can create visual interest even in a simple design in a small room, because dark colours can make a boxy and awkward small room seem like a precious jewel of a hideaway, making the available wall space more of a statement. Using a dark blue, black or charcoal will make the interior design feel bold and sophisticated. Deep green or burgundy will create living room decor that has a nod to the historical living room ideas of the past and produces a regal feel. A rich mustard or yellow will feel energetic in the day, and with low lighting such as lamps or wall lights, will feel sensual and playful at night. This Belleville Louis fabric in Lucky Yellow has several complimentary colours contained in the design, all of which would work brilliantly as the starting point for choosing a tone for your wall. Try it on curtains, cushions or a modern shaped footstool for a contrast style twist. Another natural pairing with dark interiors is sumptuous fabrics: find out how to bring them into your design with our ultimate guide on How to use printed velvets for opulent interiors.
Let your fireplace take centre stage
Even in the most elegant and arresting architectural property a room needs a focal point to focus the decorating ideas. This is why the fireplace has seen a big return, as nothing quite gives a sense of peace and warmth to a contemporary living room decor (or even a bed or bathroom) like a flickering flame. Even if yours is not a working fireplace, it can still give some much-needed structure, especially in an open plan living room. This Velvet Wonderland One Thousand and One fabric based on an old carpet design, suits the refined classical proportion of this traditional fireplace, but a modern graphic fabric would also work just as well. If your fireplace is blocked up, try placing a mirror in the opening and use pillar candles stood in a decorative grate or bowl to add a focal point which will also double the effect of the light when the candles are lit. Not as warm as roaring logs, but they will add a sense of warmth and a sensory glow.
Welcome pops of colour
An ever-popular trick of the interior designer is the use of standout details in colour to add visual interest. A vivid colour like our Juno Mantis linen-blend weave is an ideal way to create a modern colour pop with the added benefit of a subtle texture in a contemporary living room. The acid yellow of the square cushions in this design adds an extra zing to the already bold living space, and this layering ties the scheme into the tones of the rug, which makes the scheme feel harmonious and restful. In this design, proportions are everything. Ensure that you have a colour that makes up about 60% of the design, (here that is the apple green), 30% of the secondary colour (which is white) and the accent colour, which is the remaining 10%, shown here as yellow. This stops the scheme from seeming too busy and unfocussed, and instead gives a confident, considered appeal.
Build a stylish study space
Working from home is not just a modern phenomenon, and a study was often part of homes where the living space was less restricted. If you do have a small room that may suit itself to a dedicated study space make it count, design wise. Choose a wall space and make it a gallery wall, incorporating standout decorative elements such as our English Oak wallpaper in Blue. The tones range from sky blue, golden brown and sapphire, which would pair beautifully with a warm wood desk and chair. These rooms can give you a chance to run wild with more dramatic decorating ideas and will inspire some creative thinking in your stylish study space. Don’t forget lighting is key here, as you will want your desk area to be bright during an overcast working day but also lower light in the evening, so you can still transition towards bedtime even if you must work late. As with any living space, it needs to be fit for purpose. So, if you have a south facing room, ensure you have blinds to filter some of the light out (we’ve used the complimentary English Oak matt velvet) or the brightness will not only disrupt your workload, but it will also make it harder to work through a sunny summers day if you can see everyone else frolic outside.
Make a statement with frilled sofas
A joyous decor detail that has heralded the return of playfulness and whimsy and is a favourite of interior designers the world over, is the frill. Despite the fact they were once the detail of choice in a bedroom they work wonderfully for living room ideas, or in fact any living space that needs an injection of personality or a show-stopping focal point. This printed linen, Albertine, (featured in style bible Homes and Gardens) evokes afternoon tea in a British summer country garden and is the ideal fabric to use for frills in curtains, blinds or upholstery. Frills work wonderfully on slip covers on furniture which has a good shape, but also hides details such as turned legs in old fashioned wood tones. (And using a floor length frill can create also some extra hidden storage). Add in some block colour cushions with a contrasting trim for a graphic finish. Remember to incorporate some areas that are less busy to give the eye somewhere to rest, or the whole scheme can seem contrived and overwhelming. An expanse of wall with a matt paint or some plain fabrics in a curtain or a decorative element such as an upholstered chair.
Embrace padded headboards
A padded headboard may seem the preserve of the 1980s, but its tactile, cocooning detailing deserves to be entertained in every bedroom. A pattern in strong colours can create a bold focal point on a wall space that lacks character. But even a subtle scheme such as this taupe and aqua bedroom can benefit from the addition of this simple curved delicate pattern in Small Prints Buttons Pond. Deceptively low key, the elegant colour way options in this quirky trellis design makes a great basis for an interior design scheme. A padded headboard also adds some subtle sound insulation, ideal for a room that feels cold. The muffling quality may be subtle, but it will add to the sensation of quiet luxury.
Zone your bedroom with a bed canopy
From a regal pelmet in the master suite to a tasteful upgrade to a guest bedroom, a bed canopy can create the drama and visual interest that would make an interior designer weep with envy. This elegant Linwood Arcadia fabric in a mix of linen and viscose, has a subtle soft grain yet holds its shape, making it ideal for a pleated canopy. Fixed to the wall canopies are useful where space is limited: where light pollution is an issue, a larger canopy that covers more of the bed can add some much need privacy, as well as evoking the glamour of a regal boudoir. Visit the treasures of the National Trust either in person, or online from the comfort of a warm sofa for dramatic inspiration from some of Britain’s most refined houses. (These are also wonderful source of inspiration for living room ideas, where the placement of furniture and creation of zoned areas is masterclass in making living room decor feel artful in an often vast, open plan living room).
Optimise your space with a window seating area
Window seats have a special charm to which no other spot in the house can compare. As well as turning often neglected corners at home into a focal point, a window seat can add visual interest to a small room or turn a corridor into a living space that draws the whole family (pets included). Ensure the window seat bench can lift to provide extra storage. Either upholster the whole lid or create cushions that can be removed: to keep them in place use some non-slip matting. A window seat suits a variety of cushions and shapes in sizes, but to keep things sophisticated, ensure that the palette is kept quite tight, such as the pinks, ochres and greens of these Elba linen cushions.
Opt for matching wallpaper and curtains
Try an updated version, like this wallpaper and blind combination in Linwood Lumen Dusk, printed on our latest parchment paper, which subtly amplifies the luminescent qualities of the design. Add in the sumptuous tactile richness of the Wild Life Lumen Metallic velvet fabric, this wisteria pattern can feel modern or traditional depending upon the decorative elements that surround it. This mustard panelling in this contemporary living room and the addition of Kala fabric on the sofa brings a homely charm, with the informal hand blocked feel of the print on this pure linen fabric contrasting with the graphic structure of the wood behind it. A classic technique that feels thoroughly at home in a contemporary living room.
Go for pelmets
Back in fashion in a big way the pelmet now adorns even the most achingly contemporary homes. The key to bring back traditional features is to ensure that they feel modern rather retro. A pelmet can create a wonderfully dramatic frame around a window, making the rooms focal point, and if you have a window that you may not even be especially fond of, it can hide a multitude of sins and might even transform it into a real interior design star. And if you have space, combining it with a window seat is the ultimate whimsical design fantasy. The bountiful, blousy rose print Albertine Classic Rose adds some traditional chintz charm, which works perfectly with some textured plains. This linen is suitable for general domestic use and machine washable so practical as well as beautiful, an excellent combination. Paired here with the soft pinks, it transforms a low-key scheme into living room decor that no-one will want to leave. And that’s what really makes a home stand the test of time.
For more ideas on how to bring classic decorating ideas into your home, read our article on choosing timeless fabrics.