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How do I update my living room?

We don’t live in Instagrammable homes. We just tidy them up for the photos. So let your personality shine when it comes to renovating your relaxation quarter.

Guest Author
Words by: Matilda Battersby


Whether you’re going for a complete overhaul with new lighting, sockets, fireplaces and radiators, or an update with fresh furniture and a lick of paint, here’s how to get started on renovating the kick-back-and-relax room in your house.

Before you start anything, having a good declutter is a transformative experience for any room you’re about to decorate.

All of those old books/magazines/toys/video games that you no longer need? Get rid. 

Donate, sell or recycle what you can to make way for a fresh new start - in a room that will now feel like it has a lot more space.

And let’s begin.

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1. Mood boards and furniture planning

Living rooms are all about super soft, slouchy comfort.

A mood board is a great place to start when decorating any room. Collecting textures, colours, swatches and swathes of fabric will help you to set the atmosphere for your relaxation space.

How to create a mood board

Pinterest is brilliant for collecting ideas for inspo, while the big sofa shops like Loaf offer collections of colour swatches for you to take home and compare.

Gather samples for curtains, blinds, wallpaper and carpet and you’ll soon see your look coming together.

Think about lighting too, you’ll definitely want ambient warmth for cosy evenings.

2. Choosing a colour scheme

It’s all about organic colour schemes right now. If it looks natural, then go for it.

“Expect living rooms to be hued in cool blues, soft, crisp whites and neutral greys and beiges,” says interior designer Rudolph Diesel.

From the colour of sand and pebbles, to sea or sky blues, gentle greens, earthy mid-tones and vibrant terracota, the great thing about organic colours is they go together perfectly.

3. Prepare the space

Clear, wrap and box up everything you can from the room. 

If the sofa needs to stay for now, cover it in protective sheeting and shift it to the centre of the room.

4. Lighting and electrics

Are you planning to change the position of plug points or light fittings? You’ll need a qualified electrician to do this - and it might involve chasing the walls, so it’s best done before any plastering happens.

If you’re putting in bookshelves, do you want a table lamp to sit on them? In that case, a handy socket half way up the wall between the shelves will save trailing cables later.

Ambient lighting is essential for the lounge, so think about where you’ll want your table lamps and floor lamps for that soft evening glow.

Are you moving the television? Do you need a new aerial socket? This work will need to be done before the walls are finessed with plaster and made smooth.

5. Heating

Are you replacing the fireplace? This is likely to be the most expensive part of a lounge refurb and your new surround will need to be ordered several weeks in advance.

From wood burning stoves to traditional gas, there are plenty of styles to choose from. 

And today’s eco friendly bioethanol options mean you don’t even need an open chimney for the ‘real fire’ experience.

Are you planning to move the radiator or replace it with a new one? 

Radiators come in all shapes and sizes, from space saving tall ones to solid Victorian styles.

Most are now available in a range of colours too, so they can either blend in with your walls or become a standout feature.

6. Walls and ceiling prep

Next it’s time to make sure the walls and ceiling are looking nice and smooth.

Are you replastering or simply filling and sanding?

If it’s the latter, work your way around the room with a fine toothed comb, filling in any cracks, picture hook holes and dents, then smooth over once dry.

Next, give all the woodwork a good wipe down and sand it smooth, filling any holes or cracks as you go along.

7. Painting

Run masking tape along the top of the skirting boards when painting the walls. 

Run masking tape along the bottom of the walls when painting the skirting boards.

You’ll need at least two coats of paint for complete coverage, so allow for two to three days for painting.

Keeping things simple lets your accessories do the talking.

Interior designer Shanade McAllister-Fisher advises:  “Choose no more than three different colours or shades to make sure everything flows seamlessly.

“Painting your skirting boards or door frames an interesting colour (not just white) enables them to be made into a feature, instead of just fading into the background.”

8. Flooring

Whether you’re choosing carpets or engineered wood flooring, the floors should go in last.

Carpets offer more warmth, but can be unforgiving with any TV dinner spills, so wood flooring and a big soft rug might be a more practical option.

If you’ve got an existing solid hardwood floor but are bored of the look, why not shake things up?

"Solid hardwood can be painted or stained to change the style of any room," says Sylvia James at

“It can easily be sanded and stripped when you’re tired of the aesthetic.

"Apply a darker coat of stain to give that classic, luxury feel to your home, or go bold with paint to match your décor.”

9. Window dressing

Shutters, rollers, roman blinds or curtains? 

If you’re choosing shutter blinds, MDF can be a cheaper alternative to solid wood (and looks exactly the same, so who's going to know?).

Likewise, roller or Roman blinds can be bought online and self-installed at a much cheaper price than having professionals come in and fit them.

10. Sofas and chairs

Remember sofas can sometimes take several weeks (or even months) to be delivered. So if you’re ordering a brand new one, check in with the seller on delivery times. And order at least three months in advance.

Many companies offer to take your old sofa when delivering your new one for a fee.

Alternatively, you could arrange a collection through your local council, which might work out cheaper. 

A new sofa is expensive and precious, so it’s reassuring to know that lots of sofa companies offer fabric protection for an extra fee. Leaving you to relax in the knowledge that if you spill something on it and can’t get it out, the sofa covers can be replaced.

Well worth investing in if you have small people living at home.

Budget tip: “Creating your own cover will save you hundreds, all you’ll need is fabric to match your new vibe, sewing utensils and a decent YouTube tutorial,” says Sylvia.

11. Tables and storage

Important things to think about:

1: Have you got anywhere to put your tea when you sit down on the sofa? If the answer is no, you’ll need to find a side of coffee table to meet this essential need. 

2: Do you have anywhere to shove the toys when guests turn up or you want to reclaim the space for adult time in the evenings?

There’s some great storage out there for living rooms, from fancy sideboards to plush pouffes which open up and are perfect to stow armfuls of mess in moments.

Again, it’s about understanding the flow of the room, how the space is used and which corners can be utilised for hiding those pesky piles of paper and the gifts that need to resurface whenever relevant guests arrive.

Wicker baskets for storing logs or magazines or folded fancy blankets are another nice touch too.

12. The finishing touches

Now it’s time for the fun bit! Soft furnishings from cushions to snuggly blankets can lend warmth, glamour and personality to any living room.

Plants will always add life and interest to any interior. A collection of artistically displayed greenery can work wonders on both the air quality and sense of calm in any room.

Likewise, pictures on your newly painted walls can bring all the jumbled colours in an interior together in one harmonious aesthetic.

Carefully chosen prints, original art and framed photographs can make a room feel styled rather than thrown together.

As with anything, if you like it then it belongs in your living room. We don’t live in Instagrammable homes. We just tidy them up for the photos. So let your personality shine.

We try to make sure that the information here is accurate at the time of publishing. But the property market moves fast and some information may now be out of date. Zoopla Property Group accepts no responsibility or liability for any decisions you make based on the information provided.