20 Décor and Design Ideas to Steal from These Formal Living & Sitting Rooms

best formal living room ideas

Design: D. L. Rhein; Photo: Amy Bartlam

While durability and comfort are certainly priorities for any living room design, you don't have to sacrifice your sense of decorating to enjoy your space. Since this room doubles as a place for both lounging and entertaining guests, it's only natural to make it a place that you're proud to show off.

To find the balance between function and style, take a cue from interior designers with ideas from modern to traditional, eclectic, industrial, elegant, and more. Brainstorm your next living room design and find inspiration that reflects your style preferences and sense of comfort at the same time.

Keep scrolling for the best formal living room ideas, along with tips and tricks for creating a fancier flair and dressing up your space without compromising on that relaxing feel.

01 of 20

Add Luxe Texture

best formal living room ideas

Design: Indigo & Ochre Design

Though this room features warm pastels that feel casual and cozy, the rich velvet upholstery and streamlined silhouettes of the armchair and sofa give the space a more sophisticated feel. Thanks to the bright white walls and modern accents like angular side tables, a round glass coffee table, and touches of fresh greenery, the seating adds just enough comfort to the room without detracting from its sense of elegance. If you aren't ready to invest in expensive furniture, start small by introducing a velvet throw pillow or chenille blanket.

02 of 20

Hang Statement Art

best formal living room ideas

Design: Amy Elbaum Interior Design, Photo: Amy Bartlam

Since the main attractions of a living room—like the sofa and coffee table—should inspire comfort, focus on beautifying other areas of the room that don't need to offer as much functional value. Dress up an empty nook or bare corner with accent furniture and striking artwork. For example, this structural bench isn't exactly what we'd want to lounge around on, but it's the perfect piece to prop up those glamorous throw pillows, and it also makes the gorgeous artwork pop even more.

03 of 20

Choose Beautiful Furniture

best formal living room ideas

Design: Liljencrantz Design

Though furniture needs to be practical and serve a function, there's no reason it can't also be beautiful. The coffee table in the living room is a prime example. It's artfully designed and unique, making the entire room feel a lot dressier. Paired with warm leather armchairs, black-and-white artwork, and gold accents from the floor lamp to the candelabra, this design finds the perfect intersection between comfort and formality.

04 of 20

Mix in Plush Materials

best formal sitting room ideas

Design: Annaleena

With plenty of cozy accents (like the throw blankets, pillows, and plush ivory carpeting), this living room is a relaxing oasis. Yet thanks to the rigid, linear shapes throughout the space, it also brings out a modern industrial feel. Mix soft, inviting décor with pieces like angular light fixtures, a sleek sofa, and sharp coffee tables to make your space feel formal.

05 of 20

Add Metallics

best formal sitting room ideas

Design: Jessica Helgerson Interior Design

We love how this living room plays with different design traditions for a unique and friendly space with just a touch of glamour. The low-key wooden coffee table and cozy seating are inviting, while the gold accent table and artful light fixture boast a more formal aesthetic. Neutral walls set a simple background that allows colorful furniture, abstract artwork, and a patterned area rug to stand out with an eclectic vibe.

06 of 20

Avoid Clutter

best formal sitting room ideas

Design: Catherine Kwong Design

This living room is a gorgeous representation of how to style a formal space that isn't at all pretentious. The blue daybed, textured carpet, and simple coffee table work together to create a calming environment. The hidden storage and clutter-free surfaces also maintain a sense of formality. And, of course, a gorgeous bouquet of flowers makes the space feel fresh, relaxed, and inviting.

07 of 20

Add a Touch of Playfulness

best formal living room ideas

Design: D. L. Rhein; Photo: Amy Bartlam

Between the playful yet grown-up pendant light, mirrored coffee table, and plush throw pillows, we can't get enough of this perfect living room. Though silver tones can feel icy and austere, this space softens them up with a cloud-like sofa and cheerful wall art. The overall vibe is polished while also leaving room for a sense of whimsy and fun.

08 of 20

Be Bold With Color

best formal living room ideas

Design: Indigo & Ochre Design

There's something about rich jewel tones that make interiors look much more regal. Case in point? This gorgeous shade of deep turquoise paint plays on the velvet green daybed for a hint of contrast that also feels blended. The industrial coffee table and sunburst wall art also add a nice metallic edge.

09 of 20

Embrace Tradition

best formal living room ideas

Design: Elizabeth Roberts Architecture

We love how you can curl up in this living room with a good book and a cup of tea for a quiet, laid-back night in, or use the space to host friends for a dressier cocktail party. The traditional fireplace and large Persian rug carry an air of opulence and formality, while the furniture is inviting and lounge-ready. Small hints of color pop from the library of books, vibrant wall sconce, and minimal hues on the accent seating.

Play up old-school architectural bones like a Victorian fireplace by incorporating modern elements throughout the room and a traditional piece of artwork above the mantel.

10 of 20

Experiment With Layout

best formal living room ideas

Design: Elizabeth Roberts Architecture

Everything about this design feels balanced thanks to the living room's layout, attention to scale, and proportion. Aside from the mirror and throw pillows, there aren't any decorative pieces in this room—yet it's still bursting with personality because all of the items are uniquely oversized. The ornate gilt mirror, striking Art Deco carpet, and low-profile, rounded leather couch hold their own while complementing each other perfectly.

11 of 20

Focus on the Floor

best formal living room ideas

Design: Black Lacquer Design

We love a good color contrast as much as the next design enthusiast, and this living room's dark patterned rug against the sky blue sectional is next-level beautiful. So why does it work? There's some lightness in the rug for visual depth and texture, but not so much that the contrast gets lost. An easy way to add a touch of personality to your formal living room is to pick a floor covering that really speaks to you instead of going with the one that feels like the safest bet.

12 of 20

Give Vintage a Try

best formal living room ideas

Design: Black Lacquer Design

The good thing about design is that it mixes a variety of different styles. Case in point: This über-contemporary living area expertly styles a neon sign alongside vintage Oluce lamps. As long as it feels cohesive, vintage décor can really up the wow factor in your living room.

13 of 20

Make It Green

best formal living room ideas

Design: Bespoke Only

You'd be surprised how much impact plants can make, regardless of what design style you choose. If you're blessed with high ceilings, go big (literally) and opt for a tall indoor tree. The best part is that greenery can complement just about any color scheme, so whether your style leans toward vibrant maximalism or soft, neutral hues like this inviting formal living room, a plant can always liven up your space.

14 of 20

Opt for a Monochromatic Look

best formal living room ideas

Design: Bespoke Only

Even though this room is mostly decorated in gray hues, it doesn't feel dreary because there are so many different tones and shades of the hue. The variety of texture, along with multiple light sources, gives the space a flair of charisma. This Brooklyn living room is a perfect lesson in decorating monochromatic spaces that work in all the right ways.

15 of 20

Commit to a Theme

best formal living room ideas

Design: Sasha Bikoff, Photo: Patrick Cline

In this New York living room, designer Sasha Bikoff went for a whimsical Rococo look inspired by none other than Marie Antoinette. The luscious shades of blue, blush, and cream make us want to throw a party in this living room ASAP. Lighter elements, like the luxurious window treatments, gently patterned wallpaper, and fluffy throw pillows soften the space in the best way.

To dress down a formal living space that feels too elegant for your taste, introduce large wall art with fun pops of personality and a playful character.

16 of 20

Curate a Collection

best formal living room ideas

Design: Sasha Bikoff, Photo: Nicole Cohen

It's easy for a collection of knickknacks to appear a bit tacky, but when they're displayed in such an organized fashion, they take on a more sophisticated appearance. In this living room, Bikoff kept a bit of space between each item, letting the custom bookshelves shine without getting taken over by clutter. Bright colors in the wall art and accent seating make the space feel more relaxed, while displaying objects of various heights on the bookshelves keeps the design dynamic.

17 of 20

Design a Gallery Wall

best formal living room ideas

Design: Charlie Ferrer

We can all appreciate a well-proportioned gallery wall, so if you have enough art to display one, try creating your own in your formal living room. Opt for frames of the same color for a sleek, minimalist aesthetic, or change up the hues for an eclectic look. We're also loving the giant rose quartz crystal styled on the floor for a laid-back vibe in this elegant sitting area.

18 of 20

Paint the Walls a Dark Shade

best formal living room ideas

Design: Becca Interiors

Swathing your walls in a glossy navy blue à la interior designer Becca Casey may feel a bit daring, but hear us out: It adds a unique, formal factor like no piece of furniture or art can accomplish. Especially if your furniture is quiet, let the dark walls do the talking.

19 of 20

Get the Right Light

best formal sitting room ideas

Design: Katherine Carter Design

A unique light fixture can set the scene in your living room. For instance, this large-scale disco ball-inspired piece, paired with the structural black floor lamp, makes a serious statement in this light and airy room. Smaller warm elements, like the woven accent chair and cozy throw blanket, add an inviting vibe to the dressed-up space.

20 of 20

Get a Colorful Sofa

best formal living room ideas

Design: Katie Martinez Design

One of the easiest ways to elevate your living room is to bring in a pop of color by way of the sofa. For instance, in this mostly beige design, the aqua velvet sofa totally ups the cool factor. An oversized area rug brings a more lived-in vibe to the space, offering a plush place to rest your feet and curl up with your favorite reads.

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